I grew up Jewish. When I was growing up, being Jewish meant you supported Israel. I lived through the 1967 war (I was a toddler), the 1973 war (I was in third grade), and the “troubles” since then. Israel always seemed invincible.
As I got older, things became more complicated. Today I read about Jews of my generation who question their loyalty to Israel, who, in fact, disclaim Israel as their birthright, as if it were something that could be disclaimed.
Certainly, the images of dead Palestinian children can make anyone with a shred of human decency’s heart break. I sympathize with those Jews who choose to remain “neutral” in the current war with Gaza.
I have to take sides. I can’t just say “I just want everyone to live” and hope for Kum-Bay-Ya. I can’t give in to hate or fear. I can’t engage in some fantasy where somehow everyone will learn to live with each other tomorrow. It’s not going to happen.
Fantasy is dispelled by facts. The facts about Israel and the Palestinians speak for themselves.
First, there is not, and never was, a state called “Palestine”. By “never” I mean, going back through all recorded history in one of the oldest civilized parts of the world, never.
The Romans, in 70 A.D., after destroying Herod’s Temple and sacking Jerusalem, expelled most of the Jews from Judea. Emperor Titus was so weary of ruling Judea as a province that he expelled most of the Jews (not all) and named the place after Israel’s historical enemy: Philistia, or the Philistines. There was no Palestine as a state. There were no Palestinians living there.
Palestinians are of various origins: Izzedin Al Qassam (after whom a terror organization is named), was a Syrian. Arafat was Egyptian. Many of the Arabs lived in the land for centuries, some as Bedouins, some as landowners.
Jews have continuously lived in the land in every century since 586 B.C. That’s 2600 unbroken years of Jewish history in Israel since the end of the Kingdom of Judah, or over 3200 years if you include the kingdoms. I think that’s enough history to connect Jews to the land.
But the current hostilities are not about the land, and not about “who was here first.” It has never been about that.
Israel is the size of New Jersey, and surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Israel is 8,522 square miles, compared with 1,120,018 sq. mi. of her bordering states, which combined equal the entire southwest U.S. (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California). Land is not the issue.
Resources are not the issue. Israel has no oil, only one source of potable water for irrigation (the Jordan), which flows in from Syria, and no natural resources like gold or diamonds to speak of. It’s a patch of desert with mountains in the north and the Mediterranean to the west.
The issue is Jews. When Jews started emigrating back to Palestine in the late 1800’s, the Arabs, guided by their political and religious leaders, would not accept Jewish settlement in the Levant, which they held as theirs, though most of what’s now Israel was a stinking, malaria-infested, barren wasteland.
Two years after the end of WWII, there remained 600,000 Jews in the death camps, who had not perished. During the war, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem helped the Germans recruit Bosnian Muslims for the Waffen-SS. He personally appealed to Hitler to establish a Palestinian Arab state to oppose a Jewish homeland. When the Nazis lost, he eventually fled to Cairo, and ended up in Gaza, which was ruled by Egypt in 1948.
Husseini is a Palestinian national hero today. He was an Arab Nazi.
Israel fought a bloody two year battle against five Arab armies to win its independence. Over a half-million Arabs, most of whom were encouraged to leave their homes and promised a share in the Jews’ spoils, became refugees after the war. No country ever, upon winning a war of its own independence has been forced to repatriate its land to the losers. Yet Israel’s critics, even Jews, suggest exactly that.
Following that logic, the US should have honored King George’s land grants in 1783. We should have let British troops remain in New York City and Charleston.
Israel had no obligation to return the land to anyone. Syria, Egypt, and Jordan all barred these refugees from entering, even if they were born in those countries or had family there (most of them did). These families were forced into statelessness. Generations of these families have now been born into refugee status. This is not about land, it’s about the most stubborn, inhuman governments on Earth showing not a shred of decency to people who have done nothing to earn their fate.
Not taking a side is impossible for a Jew. Being a Jew forces you onto a side, not by who you support, but by who is against you.
As a Jew, and as a decent human being, I have to take sides. There is only one side to take: Israel stands for civilization, life, and peace. Hamas stands for death, conquest, and oppression. Don’t support Israel because you are a Jew. Support Israel because Israel supports you, and Israel is all that stands between you and the monster of Jew-hatred.
Don’t be naive. Don’t think that because you are a modern, assimilated Jew who doesn’t agree with Israel that you are immune from the monster. Don’t think that because you married a goy and attend church instead of synagogue that you are safe. Don’t think that because you support liberal causes that somehow the monster won’t come for you.
Genocide knows no excuses; there are no hall passes. When Jew-hatred comes to your city, and there are marches with slogans “death to the Jews”, don’t expect that you can walk up to the demonstrators and tell them how enlightened you are, and that you aren’t like the Jews in Israel who they hate. Hate sees no distinctions. When the monster comes for you, it won’t care what you believe. It will only care that you are a Jew, or a half-Jew, or a quarter-Jew. The monster doesn’t pause to consider exceptions.
Don’t think you can change history or alter the future in one generation. Jew-hatred has been around for millennia. It is taught in Arab schools, in Palestinian schools. It is written into the scripts of Palestinian TV shows for preschoolers. “Kill the Jews” is being taught to three year olds.
There is no easy solution to this. As the generations before us learned, the only way to root out hatred is to eliminate the leaders who promote it. Those leaders protect themselves well, with armies willing to die for the cause. It’s only by the complete and utter defeat of Hamas and their supporters will the world be able to recover, and salvage the next generation before the learn the way of death.
I won’t speculate on the reason much of the world hates Jews. If you’re a Jew, you might think hard about that. Your own humanity and decency come from thousands of years of Jewish teaching on the value of life. Your heart breaks over the dead Palestinian children. Mine breaks too.
Taking a side isn’t about supporting Jews or Palestinians, but about humanity and decency against inhumanity and barbarism. For Jews, or any civilized person, determining which side to take is not difficult or complex. The moral bar is astonishingly low.
Hamas, the elected government in Gaza, has enshrined its beliefs in its charter. Their guiding principle is “Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief.” Hamas has plenty of reason to kill its own people, as long as it’s for the “case of Allah.” As for a two-state solution, Hamas believes that “Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations.” They do not accept Israel’s legitimacy as a state among nations, regardless of what the UN, or other countries, say. As for peace, they believe that “[there] is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”
Based on this, we can expect Hamas to refuse to submit to any conditions of negotiated peace, continue to sacrifice its own people, including children, for their cause, and continue to attack Israel, civilians and military alike, any way they can, until the Jewish state ceases to exist.
This is the definition of “genocide”: the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.
Hamas, its father the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who rule the Palestinians are bent on genocide. If given the opportunity, they would kill every Jew in Israel. Asking Israel to give them the opportunity to prove that this is true is insane. That’s like me asking you to stand in front of a speeding tractor trailer to prove that you will die when it hits you.
I don’t need to prove that Palestinians will slaughter the Israelis and commit genocide if Israel laid down its arms.
In 1994, in Rwanda, the Hutu people were incited to kill between 500,000 and 1 million Tutsi people, up to 70% of the Tutsis living in Rwanda at the time. Also in the mid-90’s Bosnian Serbs erupted into a genocidal “ethnic cleansing” of Bosnian Muslims and Croats.
In both of these genocide attempts, nobody asked who was there first. Nobody blamed the Tutsis for defending themselves against the Hutus in Rwanda (in fact, the Hutus massacred several thousand Tutsis in Burundi a few decades earlier). Nobody blamed the Bosnians for fighting back against the Serbs.
Yet, the Jews remain a special case in the world. Anti-semitism—Jew hatred—remains strong, and manifests itself in attacks on Israel. Israel is strong. If Israel wanted to commit genocide, at any time since 1950, it only had to decide to do it. Today, if Israel wanted to kill every living thing in the West Bank and Gaza, if it decided to systematically eliminate every Palestinian, it has the technology and army to do so.
What Israel lacks is the inhumanity.
Every IDF soldier carries a copy of the “Spirit of the IDF”, their basic values. After #1 and #2, defense of the State and loyalty to the State, #3 is Human Dignity: “The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to preserve human dignity. All human beings are of inherent values regardless of race, creed, nationality, gender, status or role.”
Of the ten additional values of the IDF, #1 is Human Life, #2 is Purity of Arms: “A soldier must preserve his humanity at all times, even in the heat of battle. His weaponry must only be used in fulfillment of his mission.”
These are not the values of people capable of genocide. Nowhere in the IDF credo or the Basic Law of the State of Israel do you find words that denigrate the Palestinians to subhuman or second-class status. In fact, there’s a section in the Basic Law entitled “Human Dignity and Liberty”, which is more strictly written than the American Bill of Rights. This is not the law of an apartheid state.
I have to take sides, and I side with love, not hate. It’s that simple. Not siding with love means you are allowing hate to win. When hate wins, the very values that break your heart at the sight of dead Palestinian children will not matter, because those who hate seek to kill you anyway.
When hate wins, your neutrality will betray you, and love will flee when they come for you. Don’t be fooled, it’s not because of their love for you that they don’t come. It’s because there are people in the world willing to sacrifice their money, their freedom, and their lives to protect you.
Revered Israeli PM Golda Meir summed it up well: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
Wishful thinking will not offer a solution to Jew-hatred. Neither will it cause the Palestinians and Israelis to somehow get along. Only the victory of love over hate, the conquest of the hateful and evil by the good and upright will give the world a path out of this hell.
You can deny your birthright to Israel, but you can’t deny the hatred of Jews around the world, and you should be glad Israel is there. Supporting Israel is not optional for a Jew, it’s a matter of self-preservation.