After more than a week of diplomacy, it appears that a great miracle has occurred: Pakistan will allow the State of Israel to participate in efforts to aid the victims of the earthquake that took the lives of tens of thousands. How exactly should dispassionate observers react to this development?
Cynics are entitled to a sardonic chuckle at the spectacle of a Third World nation with limited resources (albeit a nuclear power) thinking it was doing Israel a favor by allowing it to help save their citizens. That the Pakistanis would even consider refusing aid from Israel is the stuff of farce. But when it comes to Israel, the illogical is the rule, not the exception.
On the other hand, optimists about Israel's role in the world can certainly view this development as an indication that things may be starting to change. Pakistan's military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, needs the support of the United States, and has been trying to shore that up by overtures to American Jews.
But let's not get carried away.
A recent meeting with Jewish leaders in New York provided a lot of nice talk by Musharraf - who's mindful of the fact that his shaky legitimacy could be further undermined at home by appearing too friendly - though it was too soon to speak of Pakistan having diplomatic relations with Israel.
There are good reasons to see Musharraf's flirtations with the Jews as evidence of his desire for good relations with Washington, but not Jerusalem. And while Israel is right to seize upon any crack in the wall of Muslim hate, we should not imagine that this is the first step toward anything like normal relations. Pakistan remains a stronghold of Islamist hate.
That said, our reaction to the plight of earthquake victims ought not to be affected by the transparent motives of Pakistan's leaders. Our duty as a community informed by the values of the Torah dictate that we must do what we can to ease the suffering of those who have been affected by this disaster. The fact that many in Pakistan might celebrate similar disasters in the United States or Israel should not mean that we should lower ourselves to that level.
No one should harbor any illusions that earthquake aid will convince Pakistanis or any Muslims that Israel should be allowed to live in peace, or that hatred of the Jews is wrong. It almost goes without saying that assisting Pakistan will be a good deed that will not go unpunished. But it's still the right thing to do, A Question of Faith
When President Bush said last week that he regarded Harriet Miers' religious faith central to her qualifications to serve on the United States Supreme Court, he made sure that a debate that should never have started got even worse.
Faith and good works speak well for anyone, and certainly, no one should hold her beliefs against Miers. But faith is not a qualification for a seat on the high court. Yet by making this part of the argument for her fitness to serve, the president has unfortunately made her religion an issue when it should not be.
We we take no sides in the no-holds-barred partisan warfare that's part and parcel of the nomination process these days. But we must - as anyone who cares about the Constitution and its ban on religious tests for office must - deplore the injection of this issue into the debate.
No one wins when religion is made the reason for or against any judicial nomination. u