The Right Coast

November 28, 2004
Arafat's Soul
By Mike Rappaport

Jeff Jacoby writes:

My correspondent was commenting on a recent column about the death of archterrorist and mass-murderer Yasser Arafat -- and specifically on my criticism of President Bush for having said, on first hearing of Arafat's death, "God bless his soul."

"God bless his soul? What a grotesque idea!" I wrote. "God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity."

Jewish tradition holds, with Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to hate. The Hebrew Bible enjoins us to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) and to love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19), but that love has its limits. We are not expected to love savage thugs or to ask God's mercy on them. On the contrary, we loathe the unrepentantly cruel because we believe God loathes them too.

It defies reason and upends morality to claim that God loves both Saddam Hussein and the innocent Kurds he gassed to death -- that He bestows His love on Osama bin Laden no less than on the 3,000 souls he butchered on 9/11. Of course we should pray that an evildoer will repent and atone for his crimes. But to love him even when he hasn't? To bless him when he dies? God forbid! To bless the Hitlers and the Arafats of this world is to betray their victims. That we must never do.

Hatred is dangerous even when justified, Soleveichik cautions, and must be directed only at the truly vicious and depraved. "We who hate must be wary," he writes, "lest we . . . become like those we are taught to despise."

But when hatred is called for, he notes, it serves a vital function. "Hate allows us to keep our guard up, to protect us. When we are facing those who seek nothing but our destruction, our hate reminds us who we are dealing with. When hate is appropriate, then it is not only virtuous, but essential."
The vital function of hatred reminds me of the 1970s view that guilt was a useless emotion. Is there any more damning criticism of the 1970s than this? Could people during that decade really have failed to understand that guilt would deter people from wrongful behavior?