It's been a long time since an appearance was made in New York as affecting as that at the Regency Hotel Thursday morning by Karnit Goldwasser. She is the wife of one of the Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah. She spoke under the auspices of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, which is launching an appeal in respect of its emergency humanitarian effort for Israelis whose lives have been disrupted by the war. The head of the Federation, Morris Offit, and Mayor Bloomberg spoke at the event. Mrs. Goldwasser will be remembered for years for the simple eloquence with which she conveyed the human dimensions of the war crisis.
This is a time to remember that we are not alone. It may be that some of the world leaders are falling away or, like the French president, playing a despicable double game. The intensity of their maneuvering for an immediate cease-fire may grow in direct proportion to the prospects for a catastrophic loss by the enemy. But sometimes it takes a crisis to gain a sense of who one's friends are, and friends of America and Israel have seen several emerge in the current conflict, particularly Prime Minister Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Harper in Canada.
The European Union may refuse to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. But when Mr. Howard was asked whether he planned to take Hezbollah off his government's terrorist list, he replied, "No chance, full stop. No chance at all." The Australian reports that "a defiant John Howard has personally told Australian Muslim leaders that the federal Government will not budge on its support for the disarming of Hezbollah" and that the prime minister "rejected demands by the Muslim leaders for the Government to support an immediate and unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah." A Muslim leader told the paper that Mr. Howard "said in a war like this when the fighters are hiding behind the civilians, then civilians are bound to die."
In Canada — the El Dorado of America's liberals — the country's leaders have been no less stalwart. The foreign affairs minister, Peter MacKay, called Hezbollah a "cancer" and a "terrorist army" and said the Conservative government believes "it is not a difficult choice between a democratic state that was attacked by terrorists and cold-blooded killers." He told the Commons foreign affairs committee that there "cannot be simply a temporary solution to allow for the rearmament of the terrorist body and simply begin the violence again."
Prime Minister Harper, in remarks that outraged diplomats at the United Nations, called Israel's air strikes a "measured" response to Hezbollah's terrorist attacks. When a Canadian serving as a U.N.peacekeeper was killed, Secretary General Annan immediately accused Israel of deliberately targeting the peacekeeper. Mr. Harper responded that he doubted it was deliberate and instead questioned why the U.N. hadn't withdrawn their peacekeepers beforehand. When seven Canadians were killed by an Israeli air strike Mr. Harper again refused to blame Israel, saying "We are not going to give in to the temptation of some to single out Israel, which was the victim of the initial attack."
And few will forget Prime Minister Blair, who blocked European Union calls for an immediate ceasefire and told the British state broadcasting arm, the BBC, "It cannot be that Israel stops taking the action it's taking but Hezbollah continue to kill, kidnap, and launch rockets into the north of Israel at the civilian population there." And President Bush is turning in a performance that will be remembered for decades to come. None of these are without political cost to any of the leaders. Mr. Harper had a hard-fought campaign to gain his prime ministership and his strong stand has cost him in some quarters. Phone calls to the White House are reported to be running strongly against the war, though the call-in effort may be well-organized. All the more cherished will be the support of these leaders when the smoke clears and this war is seen as an existential moment for Israel and a great strategic test of the West more generally in its struggle to remain free.