Israel is no cancer

BLOOMBERG Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, speaks at a news conference in New Yor in 2001. When the Iranian President … Continued


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, speaks at a news conference in New Yor in 2001.

When the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad compares Israel to a cancer, I take it personally.

On Monday, you see, I traveled to Israel to co-officiate at a wedding. And I have cancer.

I’ve been in remission from lymphoma for several years and I visit Israel on average once or twice a year. So, as someone who claims a perverse expertise, permit me to point out three problems with his analogy:

First, cancer is, by definition, spreading. “Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell” Edward Abbey memorably wrote. Therefore a cancerous nation should, by definition, spread and grow large. Yet Israel (even if it annexed every bit of the West Bank) has given back far more territory than it ever conquered.

The Sinai Peninsula dwarfs the other lands that were captured in a war that Israel did not start. Indeed, the lands Israel returned (over 20,000 square miles) are larger than Israel itself. Israel is around 8,000 square miles, smaller than New Jersey, and Iran, which is 167,618 square miles, is slightly larger than California. Of course, this does not count the other Arab and Muslim nations of the world, of which there are over 40, as opposed to one Jewish state. So on behalf of those who suffer with cancer and poor math skills everywhere, I wish Ahmadinajad would demonstrate a mathematical awareness consistent with his PhD in engineering.

The second problem in the analogy is that healthy cells predate cancerous ones. Cancer is something that afflicts a body after it is formed. Since the state of Israel goes back 3,000 years, and Islam began the 7th century (thus dating 1,500 years). It seems anachronistic, to say the least, to imply that Israel is an alien growth. Here, of course, a trained engineer may be forgiven for his ignorance of biology and history.

Finally, may I say as someone who has gone through two neurosurgeries and chemotherapy, at this stage of cancer treatment we know only how to either cut it out or blast it away? So how does one eliminate a cancerous people? The analogy leads inevitably, inexorably, to the prospect of genocide. When you define a nation as a cancer you imply the solution is mass murder. My cancer was put into remission by a line leading into my vein that dripped life-giving poison. What would the Iranian leadership use as a “cure” for Israel? Radiation, no doubt.

Ahmadinejad’s accusation is neither an idle threat nor overblown rhetoric. Iran eagerly pursues nuclear weapons. And as Abba Eban memorably said, there are things in Jewish history too terrible to be believed, but nothing too terrible not to have happened.

Do you suppose the world community will stir at this outrage? When “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the world’s most notorious anti-Semitic forgery, is available in hotels in Jordan and on TV serials in Egypt, are there rounds of condemnations at the United Nations? Will Ahmadinajad no more be invited to international gatherings and symposia? Will the Muslim nations arise and say as one that we do not speak of people and nations in the manner? Will the world recognize that the Iranian leadership dreams of combining the two great warning signs of history, Hiroshima and Auschwitz?

No, this is what will happen: The furor will abate, the world will persuade itself that he doesn’t really mean it, or he doesn’t really have power. He will be applauded on the streets of Arab capitals, and the nations will swallow some sleeping draught composed of complacency, indifference, foolishness and a pinch of anti-Semitism.

As I walk in Israel, I will see the eyes of a people who have never, not for a single day since the founding of the state, been accepted by their neighbors. I will know that if tomorrow, the military situation were reversed and Israel’s enemies had her firepower and she had theirs, there would not be roadblocks, housing and land disputes and voting discrimination as now exist against Palestinians, but wholesale slaughter. I will remember that whatever one thinks of the settlements, there were unremitting attacks against Israel before a single settlement existed.

In the background I will hear the voice of a malevolent man with power. It is not an unfamiliar voice in Jewish history. Thousands of years have taught us that when evil speaks it is always in earnest. Asked what was the lesson of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel answered, “That you can get away with it.” Ignore this voice and we will learn that lesson once more.

Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, David Wolpe is the author of seven books including “Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times” and his latest, “Why Faith Matters.” Follow him on Facebook.


  • WmarkW

    Israel is a cancer only because Islam is a territorial faith.

    But claiming Jews’ claim on the land is twice as old as Islam’s, when their kingdom lost its sovereignty 2.5 millennia ago, is a specious argument.

  • motherof3

    No, it is not a specious argument. We never gave up the land. We never agreed that it now belonged to anyone else. If someone steals your house and your car, and 5 years later you manage to get them back, is it fair to say that since you lost them, you may not have them anymore? That land is ours. No one ever legally or rightfully took it away. They stole it. We got it back. And we’re keeping it.

  • Kingofkings1

    Rabbi, your article is too one-sided on the suffering of the jews. You are able to so nonchalantly ignore the suffering of the palestinians that has been ongoing for over 60 years, that I am questioning if you are really a rabbi. For a more practical comparison, let us that some people come in your house with guns (under the protection of distant neighbors), claiming that the land on which your house stands belonged to their forefathers 3000 years ago, and have you in despicable confinement in the basement if the house. I doubt you would want to call these people the best thing that ever happened to you

  • emilupland

    All nonsense!!! The land was divided by vote of the United Nations; the Arabs attacked the Jews but lost. Accept that!

  • ttraub

    How exactly are the Arab squatters you call “Palestinians” suffering, again? They have their houses, their schools, their ineffectual and corrupt government, and their every meal paid for by the most generous aid system in the history of the world. Never before has a people been designated as refugees for multiple generations, kept by their Arab brethren in camps to anger and frustrate them, used as pawns against the only people in the Middle East who allow their own Arab citizens the rights of freedom of speech, the power of the vote, freedom of religion, and of course freedom to leave, which they don’t obviously because Israel is a better place than the surrounding Arab nations.

    Sixty years ago, indeed seventy, eighty, and ninety years ago, the Arabs were brutally attacking Jewish villages. Everything Israel has done to defend itself has been met with vicious condemnation by the Arabs and their useful idiot allies in the West. Israel must remain strong and must ultimately take down this petty dictator and his puppet masters the woman-hating mullahs of Iran.

  • Kingofkings1

    Your diatribe reminded me of a thief who comes into someone’s house, hijacks the family, binds them in chains, inflicting torture and humiliation, says “you should be grateful for what I’m doing to you”

  • yowcow


    There are legitimate claims to territory on both sides. After 1948, almost 1,000,000 Jews were exiled from Arab countries where they had lived for centuries. Their land claims alone come to 4x the current landmass of Israel.

    Any “land for peace” or other considerations involving land should take that into account, since the Palestinians are indistinguishable from other Arabs, particularly Jordanians, in terms of language culture, and religion. The population exchange that took place between India and Pakistan at the same point in time was far more extensive.

    So your “analogy” makes less than no sense.

    The PAlestinians blew up Israeli civilians with suicide bombs, and have sent nearly 10,000 missiles into Israel in the last 10 uears.

    in 2010 180,000 Palestinians were treated in Israeli hospitals.

    The Palestinians are largely responsible for their own problems, and could have had peace long ago if that’s what they were interested in.

  • yowcow

    If any analogy is appropriate, given the non-stop Arab violence against Israel. it’s the child who murders their parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.

    Repeating, Palestinian problems are largely of their own making. Their sole focus is the elimination of the state of Israel, rather than improving their lives and the lives of their children.

  • yowcow

    “But claiming Jews’ claim on the land is twice as old as Islam’s, when their kingdom lost its sovereignty 2.5 millennia ago, is a specious argument. ”

    Wrong. Jews have lived continuously in Israel for thousands of years.

    For that matter, Jews lived in what is now Saudi Arabia until they were massacred and exiled by Mohammed.

    If we take your argument seriously, then it’s just a matter of time before all arguments become moot – all Israel has to do is continue to hang in there, and your argument implies at some point the Palestinians will no longer have any claims.

  • jeffmast

    in 42 Muslim countries ALL other religions are illegal.In the middle of those 42 countries sits the nation of Israel.That is why the Muslims hate Israel.4 times in over 50 years the Muslims have attacked Israel and 4 times the Muslims have lost.Think about this-no one but no one slaughters more Muslims than,you guessed it-Muslims!!And yet Muslims believe that Israel is their worst enemy.God is Muslims worst enemy

  • Kingofkings1

    The only country that can be compared to Israel is South Africa from about 1900 to 1996. The world found a way to put pressure on South Africa to reform. Unfortunately, no such united pressure is forthcoming regarding Israel. But it’s necessary to set things right. History is not kind to oppression – sometimes it takes a few years, few decades, or few centuries, but the type of oppression Israel engages in is just not sustainable

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “No different than Christians thinking that one day the whole world will be the Kindgom of Jesus (upon his return).”.

    In response to yowcow writing:
    “Today Israel, tomorrow the world.
    Anjem Choudary said (on”this week with christiane amanpour” on ABC TV)
    “The flag of Islam will fly over the White House”"

    Actually, quite a big difference, Islam, in the scenario that you are speaking of, is about the subjugation of the world thru violence and intimidation and the Kingdom of Jesus, as you put it, coming about by the return of Jesus.

  • xexon

    The cancer is the 100 year old zionist movement. “Herzl” zionism to be exact. It has gutted true Judaism and replaced it with nationalism.

    And seeing how it has jumped to Christianity for power, financing, and protection, I’d definitely say it’s spreading.


  • bright4

    I just wonder why all of the media always censor the definition of zionism (or zionists) by Ahmadinejad. in his latest speech Ahmadinejad again said that zionism is a political party with 7 to 8 thousands members who are behind main powers and have control over main media and wealth in the world. in other words they are controling current world order that the majority of nations are against it. in fact he is against zionists and said zionist regime which is the symbol of zionism is like a cancer. but media intentionally claim he wants to destroy israel or he is against jews. doesn’t it mean that really main media are under zionists’ control?

  • perkin

    Another apologist for a regime that routinely discriminates against women, stones adulterers to death, hangs suspected homosexuals, promotes hatred of Jews, whose president denies the most well documented genocide in history and hob nobs with the likes of David Duke.

  • perkin

    Do you sleep well at night knowing you provide cover for a regime that routinely discriminates against women, stones adulterers to death, hangs suspected homosexuals, promotes hatred of Jews, and whose president denies the most well documented genocide in history and hob nobs with the likes of David Duke?

  • ThomasBaum

    Just because you think you know what others think does not mean that you do.

    Even if some of them might think as you seem to believe all of them to think, does not mean that this is what will come to be.

    God, the True Living Triune God, has a Plan which God has had since before creation and God’s Plan which is for ALL to be with God in God’s Kingdom, will come to Fruition.

    Jesus, God-Incarnate, went to hell, everyone’s hell, since He took everyone’s wrongdoings upon Himself and in doing so He “won” the “keys” and will use these “keys” in due time, God’s Time.

    The god of islam, satan, claims Jesus as his prophet but gets mighty upset if anyone says that Jesus is Who He Is, God become Man, just like satan to claim God-Incarnate as his spokesperson and deny Jesus’s Incarnation but as Jesus told us, satan is a liar and a thief and I would add, a sore loser.

    God’s Victory is TOTAL, the dead shall rise and the captives shall be released, as I said Jesus won the “keys” to hell and in case you don’t know Jesus also “won” the “keys” to death (spiritual and physical).

    As I have said before, the True, Living, Triune, Triumphant God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof, it doesn’t matter what anyone’s beliefs are, Truth is Truth, however God does take into account a person’s beliefs since God looks at the whole person and this is part of the wholeness of a person.

    The seventh day, the new heavens and the new earth, is coming but the night of the sixth day will arrive beforehand and it seems as if this night just might be approaching in the not too distant future.

    See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.

  • xexon


    You’re nothing but another hasbara to me. You’ll point out the faults of others to divert attention away from your own.

    The Iranian government sucks. But so does the Israeli government. Ahmadinejad has been quite specific in his condemnation of Israel. It’s focused on the zionist leadership, not the people simply because they’re Jews. This is about political ideology, not religion. The zionists who control Israel are atheistic nationalists. “Fake” Jews. They even have their own tainted Rabbis to make themselves look legitimate.

    Iran has a sizeable Jewish population. Israel had better give that some thought before throwing the first punch. Or the zionists will use them like they used the European Jews. Expendable souls in pursuit of an agenda of power and domination.

    Israel was founded by such people and they control it to this day.


  • Kingofkings1

    Mr Wolpe,
    Israel may be many things to many people – but a model democracy ain’t one of them, even though our politicians won’t tire from saying so

  • Howard4Israel

    That is RABBI Wolpe to you!

    Show me a MORE democratic country in the Middle East. A country that grants FULL RIGHTS to people who loudly promote the ELIMINATION of Israel.

    The ONLY nation in the Middle East where ALL religions are safe, and the SAFEST place for Christians (Mr. King of Kings).

    Tell me the truth—WHY are you anti-Israel? Will the elimination of Israel make the World a better place?

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