Joan Rivers was stopped by an impromptu interviewer and asked about the war in Gaza. She answered that if New Jersey were shooting rockets at New York, “we’d wipe out Jersey.” The interviewer continued to pry her with questions about Gaza’s civilian casualties. Joan, incredulous, erupted, “They started it. You’re all insane. They started it!!”
In the eyes of Israel’s advocates, the necessity for the war against Hamas is as indisputable as a mathematical equation. Support for the ground invasion of Gaza spans Israel’s political spectrum. According to a poll taken last week, 91% of Israeli Jews support Israel’s military campaign (the first time in anyone’s historical memory that 91% of Israeli Jews agreed on anything!). To us in Israel it is simple and clear: Hamas, committed to the destruction of Israel in its Charter and in its actions, poses an existential threat to our lives and the lives of our children.
Yet, no matter how clearly Israel’s advocates state their case, diplomats around the world, leading news outlets, the UN, and even the American administration, all people who are certifiably sane and even smart, don’t seem to get it. In Israel it feels like we’ve fallen down a rabbit hole where everything is topsy-turvy, and nothing makes sense.
It doesn’t make sense that Israel is accused of “genocide” for killing a thousand Palestinians, most of them terrorists.
It doesn’t make sense that Israel is accused of “genocide” for killing a thousand Palestinians, most of them terrorists, when tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed or starved to death in Yarmouk, Syria, with barely a peep from the international community. It doesn’t make sense that according to a 2003 survey, most Europeans consider Israel “the greatest threat to world peace,” more than Iran, North Korea, or Afghanistan. It doesn’t make sense that of all the United Nation Human Rights Council’s resolutions, 38% have been directed against Israel, a democracy that grants equal rights to women, religious minorities, and gays. It doesn’t make sense that throughout America, colleges observe “Israel Apartheid Week,” while Israeli Arabs enjoy full citizenship, are enrolled in every one of Israel’s universities, get equal treatment in and are on the medical staff of all of Israel’s hospitals, are represented in the Knesset, and even boast an Arab member of Israel’s Supreme Court.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge Israel has made a concerted effort to present the facts to the world: that Gaza is not occupied, that every Israeli soldier and settler left Gaza in 2005, that Israel did not impose a naval blockade until Gazans elected the terrorist organization Hamas in 2007, and that Israel warns civilians to get out of harm’s way by dropping thousands of Arabic fliers, phoning them, sending text messages, and “knocking on the roof” before an aerial attack. The world has responded to these facts by violent anti-Israel demonstrations, four South American countries recalling their ambassadors, America pressuring Israel to stop the war while leaving intact hundreds of infiltration tunnels, and a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel.
The ever-cerebral Jews are left scratching their heads.
Blood Libels Then and Now
The cries of “disproportionate deaths” in the current war are as irrational as blood libels. Blood libels, the accusation that Jews murder Christian children and use their blood in making matzah, have persisted from the Middle Ages well into the age of computers. Anyone who knows anything about Judaism knows that blood is as unkosher as pork. The Torah forbids the eating of blood, and kosher meat must be soaked and salted to remove all blood. Notwithstanding these basic facts, for a thousand years individual Jews or whole communities were tortured and killed for allegedly murdering Christian children to use their blood in matzah. Even during the Renaissance, when medieval superstitions gave way to the rule of reason, when in 1588 a two-year-boy named Simon of Trent disappeared, 15 local Jews were sentenced to death and burned for his murder, and Pope Sixtus V canonized the “martyred” child.
The 20th century’s first pogrom, in Kishinev, Russia, which left 49 Jews dead and hundreds wounded, was incited by the accusation that Jews had murdered a Christian boy, Mikhail Rybachenko, and used his blood for matzah. Blood libels were also perpetrated in 1910 in Iran, in 1913 in Kiev, and in 1928 in Massena, New York.
In 1986, Mustafa Tlass, the Defense Minister of Syria, wrote a book called, The Matzah of Zion, accusing Jews of ritual murder. By October, 2002, the book was enjoying its 8th printing and was being translated into English, French, and Italian.
A thousand-year-old canard: All you need is a dead non-Jewish child to “prove” that the Jews are vicious bloodsuckers.
As long as you look through the lens of logic, the world’s prejudice against the Jewish State is incomprehensible. But when you’re in the optometrist’s office trying to read the letters on the chart through the black gizmo with different lenses, when you can finally see the “E” clearly, the optometrist knows he’s got the right prescription. The world’s attitude towards Israel only makes sense when you’re looking through one lens: anti-Semitism.
”We are potentially looking at the beginning of another Holocaust.”
In an emergency session at the Knesset on July 28, Vladimir Sloutzker, head of the Israeli-Jewish Congress, declared, “Never before since the Holocaust have we seen such a situation as today. We are potentially looking at the beginning of another Holocaust.” And he warned portentously, “These events will only grow in scale across Europe.”
The meeting, which included representatives of Jewish communities and diplomats from France, Greece, Hungary, Belgium, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Germany and Italy, noted that in the violent demonstrations sweeping across Europe, the cry is not, “Kill the Israelis,” but rather “Kill the Jews.” The fig leaf of anti-Zionism, which in the seven decades since the Holocaust has been the respectable disguise of Jew hatred, has been ripped off by the war in Gaza.
As Hebrew University Prof. Robert Wistrich, an expert on anti-Semitism, declared, “We have entered a new, very difficult era in all of Europe.” He asserted that there is no longer a facade of anti-Zionist expressions not being anti-Semitic.
Although all the Jewish representatives gave hair-raising accounts of anti-Semitism in their countries, the few solutions offered, such as demanding that the national governments condemn anti-Semitism, were like erecting a picket fence to hold back a tsunami. In order to deal with anti-Semitism, you have to start by understanding that it operates by no logic and no rationality.
Two Solutions to Anti-Semitism
The 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries witnessed two massive attempts to combat anti-Semitism. The first, Reform Judaism, which originated in Germany in the mid-18th century, was based on the concept that anti-Semitism arises because Jews stubbornly dress differently, eat differently, and act differently. The solution of Reform was to eliminate those differences. In the early period of the movement, Hebrew was replaced by German, Germany was declared the “New Zion,” and the Sabbath was celebrated on Sundays with organ music and other trappings that imitated the Protestant Church. After doing away with mitzvot such as kashrus, Shabbat, and circumcision, Reform German Jews became almost indistinguishable from their gentile neighbors. By 1933, the intermarriage rate in Germany was 42%.
Rather than quell anti-Semitism, Jewish assimilation became the excuse for the rabid Jew-hating of Nazi Germany.
Yet, rather than quell anti-Semitism, Jewish assimilation became the excuse for the rabid Jew-hating of Nazi Germany. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 pointedly prohibited Aryans from cohabitating with Jews, and banished Jews from practicing professions and teaching in universities, where Jews were blamed for trying to take over. The German “Final Solution,” of course, made no distinction between an intermarried Jewish jurist and a Hasidic Jew with long beard and peyos. Assimilation-as-antidote-to-anti-Semitism went up in the flames of the crematoria.
The second logical answer to anti-Semitism was Zionism. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, believed that Jews were persecuted because they lacked a state of their own, and the only way to extirpate anti-Semitism from Europe was to physically remove the Jews to Palestine. Herzl, the dreamer, could not have dreamed that once a Jewish State was established, anti-Semitism would simply transmogrify into anti-Zionism. Jews who had been vilified for their homelessness would now be vilified for their homeland.
Anti-Semitism, which defies all natural laws, is in truth supernatural. The history of the Jews is unintelligible without God. And God’s will for the Jewish People is clearly stated in the Torah: "A nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9)
Jews are bidden to be "a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6) A light stands separate from that which it illuminates. The Divine charge to the Jewish people is to "be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:1) This is a mission from which we cannot resign because it is embedded in the Covenant between God and the nation of Israel.
The Covenant, which God introduced in His promises to the Patriarchs and which was accepted by the entire Jewish nation at Sinai (where all Jewish souls were present), stipulates the following:
On God's side, He promised:
- That the Jewish people will never cease to exist (Genesis 17:7).
- That He will never totally abandon the Jewish people (Leviticus 26:44).
- That the Jewish people will inherit the Land of Israel (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 15:18).
On Israel's side, we promised:
- That we will be faithful to God and keep His Torah (Exodus 24:7).
Unlike most covenants, this one is unconditional. Even if Israel reneges on its obligation, God, in the merit of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, will never annul His Covenant with us.
Just as a teenager wants to be accepted as “one of the guys,” Israel wants to be accepted as one of the nations. This was the oft-repeated ideal of the early Zionists. Even Benyamin Netanyahu entitled his first book, A Place Among the Nations. The Torah’s designation of Israel as "a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations" is hardly a prescription for popularity.
Anti-Semitism is the Divine equivalent of the parent of a diabetic child locking the cookie jar.
Since assimilation is antithetical to God's design for the Jewish people, what can God do to keep His promise that the Jews will never become extinct? A cornerstone of Jewish monotheism is the insistence that everything – everything – comes from God, the only operative force in the universe. At the same time, human beings have free will to choose between good and evil. (And make no mistake, the miscreants who hate and kill Jews are accountable for their actions.) But what if all the Jews in any given generation choose to assimilate into extinction?
That's where anti-Semitism comes in. Anti-Semitism is the Divine equivalent of the parent of a diabetic child locking the cookie jar. A Jew in 20th century Germany or 21st century Netherlands may want to blend in with the surrounding society, but anti-Semitism eventually finds him, stamps him, and excludes him. Anti-Semitism keeps the Jewish people from dissipating into oblivion.
Anti-Semitism has another salutary effect: It unites us. Just a couple months ago, the fabric of Israeli society was ripping apart at the seams of its political and religious divisions. The brutal kidnapping of our three boys by Hamas terrorists united us. At the funerals of our fallen soldiers, we all stand together. And in the bomb shelters of Beersheba, Ashdod, and Tel Aviv, when the Code Red siren goes off, we are a single family. The more we are attacked by the Jew-hating world, the more we cling together.
It’s a steep price that we do not volunteer to pay. But when the payment is extracted from us, we find ourselves with two precious possessions: our true identity and reunification with our family.