2014 — Year of the Bully

2014 — Year of the Bully

2014 will be remembered as the year of the bully. The just-past 12 months have been characterized by the ferocious bullying of the international community by rogue governments, oppressive dictatorships, and evil regimes.

By now, the word “Putin” has become a synonym for “bully,” and indeed the year started with the Russian dictator invading Ukrainian Crimea and rattling the sabers of war. The episode devolved in eastern Ukraine until a Malaysian civilian jetliner would be downed over Donetsk in mid-July, with all 298 of its passengers and crew murdered. Putin, as usual, blamed the Ukrainians even while every shred of evidence pointed toward his pro-Russian separatist thugs.

In the middle of the year, we witnessed the arch-bully Hamas attempting to terrorize Israel into submission by firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rightly stood up to the bullying, launching an aggressive invasion designed to limit Hamas’ capacity to intimidate Israel and murder innocent civilians using rockets and infiltration-tunnels. But just as soon the war was over, pro-Palestinian forces around the world unleashed their army of campus bullies in the form of Students for Justice in Palestine, who bully Jewish students with their laughable Israel-apartheid walls and eviction notices and bully universities with their coercion campaigns for a boycott of Israel. Sadly, all too many universities capitulate.

Throughout the year, ISIS, evil incarnate, thought it could bully the West into extortion payments by chopping off the heads of innocent prisoners. Many Western governments, especially France, Germany, and Italy, have capitulated, thereby putting a bounty on the head of any Westerner within ISIS’s reach. So far ISIS has raised well over $100 million from Western governments from ransoms, which are funding its operations. Very few governments, the United States among them, chose not to bend and instead launched rocket attacks against the monsters. In the coming year we all look forward to the good news that ISIS’ executioner-in-chief, Jihadi John, will be blown to hell, where he will roast for eternity.

Just a few weeks ago we saw one of this year’s most ferocious samples of bullying as North Korea attempted to punish Sony for its movie The Interview, with its plot about an attempted assassination against the brutal dictator Kim Jong Un. Rarely have I seen such a more blatant act of outright thuggery. Apparently, North Korea’s cyberterror worked. Not only did Sony announce a decision not to release the film, but after North Korean agents threatened terrorist action against anyone screening the film, the four biggest cinema chains dropped the movie, too. (Later, the movie was released in some small theaters and became widely available online.)

What a victory for terror. For the world’s most thuggish, brutal, and psychotic government, this episode has been an easy win.

Last September, I was invited to an international peace conference in Seoul, South Korea, where seven other religious leaders and I spoke to 100,000 people in Olympic Stadium. Each leader spoke of the need for reconciliation, harmony, and world peace. When it was my turn, I looked at all those faces in front of me and said, “Peace, as Martin Luther King said, means not just the absence of tension but the presence of justice. There can be no peace with a brutal dictatorship to the north that starves millions of its own people and threatens its neighbor to the South with nuclear annihilation. There can be no peace with evil.” All those people rose to their feet and cheered. They were sick of being bullied.

Equally serious was the cyberterror attack against Sheldon Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands by the government of Iran.

In December of last year I hosted a panel discussion at Yeshiva University on Iran’s repeated threats to annihilate the State of Israel and its Jews. Mr. Adelson, the world’s foremost Jewish philanthropist, was on the panel. He was joined by Pulitzer-Prize winner Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal and Yeshiva University’s president, Richard Joel.

I asked the panelists what America should do to show Iran that under no circumstances whatsoever would we allow the world’s primary sponsor of international terrorism to acquire a nuclear device. Mr. Adelson said that an atomic bomb should be detonated in an empty Iranian desert, to serve as a warning to Iran that the United States will never allow it to obtain nuclear weapons. Mr. Adelson emphasized that the nuclear demonstration in a desert wasteland should “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes.”

The next day Mr. Adelson’s spokesman, Ron Reese, said that he had used “hyperbole to make a point that … actions speak louder than words.”

No doubt Mr. Adelson also was trying to demonstrate the double standard to which Israel is subjected constantly. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly threatened that Israel would be destroyed. Doing so would require the murder of six million more Jews in a second Holocaust. Despite his clearly stated genocidal intent, Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at Columbia University and repeatedly at the U.N., where he was clear about his intentions toward Israel. His stated intention of a second Holocaust did not stop him from being invited to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Yet Mr. Adelson’s glib comments about nuking rattlesnakes seemed to rattle Iran’s leaders pretty seriously. While they lie to the world and continue to pursue doomsday weapons that would make it possible to annihilate Israel, Mr. Adelson’s comments provoked a nuclear cyber attack against his company, Las Vegas Sands. A full-on devastating hacker assault nearly shut the company down until, against the odds, the attack was rebuffed. True to form, Adelson refused to be cowed.

But look at the silence from most quarters on Iran, even as it continues to shoot down its own people if they dare protest the government. Even as it continues to hang gays from cranes in streets.

Bullies bully because they can. They target weak and compliant people whom they can exploit and ultimately subdue. The United States was built on the premise of standing up to tyrants and bullies even when they’re just taxing tea. George III didn’t know what hit him when the colonists decided they would no longer be bullied.

The same was true of Hitler, the most evil man who ever lived, after Churchill became Britain’s prime minister. The easy ride Neville Chamberlain gave Hitler – the ogre was allowed to swallow whole countries without repercussions – was over. After Churchill defied Hitler’s attempt to bring Britain to its knees with the battle of Britain, we hear an increasingly shrill and desperate tone in Hitler’s addresses to the Reichstag. He could not understand this Churchill guy, who refused to be bullied.

The same thing is true of the incredible courage exhibited by Prime Minister Netanyahu last year. The world doesn’t know what to do with Mr. Netanyahu. They thought he would be okay with rockets fired at his cities. They thought he would bend to American pressure on settlements rather than insist on Jews and Arabs being allowed to live where they please. Now we see him attacked from every angle. The man who will not capitulate. The man who will not be bullied.

But as everyone knows, when you stand up to a bully the bully falls apart. The bullying ends and the bully is left as he truly is – utterly pathetic.