That's the position the people and politicians of Israel have found themselves in since the country was created in 1948. For decades, Israel has battled its enemies with measured bluntness, often pulling its punches for humanitarian reasons. The most recent salvo was fired this week off the coast of Gaza.
Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla of ships attempting to run a legal blockade aimed at keeping weapons out of the Palestinian territory. Five ships were peacefully boarded. On the sixth, the Mavi Marmara, passengers wielding knives and clubs attacked the commandos. In the ensuing battle, nine activists were killed, dozens injured -- including commandos -- and hundreds taken into Israeli custody.
The incident has touched off a diplomatic maelstrom for Israel -- again. It's a drama that has been playing out for decades.
Just a little over sixty-five years ago, the world was picking itself up after 50 million people were killed during World War II. It was about then that many people looked around and realized that among the dead were six million Jews who had been systematically executed by the Nazis, not because they were enemy combatants, not because they were terrorists, not because they posed a threat to the Third Reich.
No, Jews were demonized to rally the masses toward war and murdered for one simple reason -- virulent anti-Semitism. The German people's moral compass was knocked askew and the country went berserk -- good became evil, evil became good. And for awhile it all made sense.
Out of the ashes and madness, a Jewish homeland was created on land that had been part of the Jewish experience for thousands of years. From the beginning there have been problems and from the beginning the Jews of Israel have made it clear they will fight for what is rightfully theirs to defend.
Sadly, we live in a world that has once again been turned upside down -- good has become evil and evil has become good. Terrorists lash out at Israel and are hailed as heroes. Unruly mobs demonize the Jewish homeland, its people and supporters. Politicians in Europe and across the Arab world cynically play to their constituents, telling them what they want to hear. The pattern recycles every couple of years and the death toll mounts.
The problems remain huge, a brierpatch of thorny issues that could easily take another generation to resolve. But this much I know is true. A picture is still worth a thousand words and the political cartoon above captures at least one simple truth. There may have been some peaceful protesters attempting to reach Gaza earlier this week, but terrorists were behind the effort.