Those who assumed we were post-history thought those days were long gone. They fervently believed that in the wake of the Holocaust and the repeated attempts to destroy the State of Israel, Jew-hatred was a vestige of some ancient era, like eighty years ago. They attributed modern Jew-hatred to the political issues surrounding Israel, all resolvable if only Israel would make the requisite (and limitless) concessions. With those assumptions shattered, it was good for American Jews to stand together at the Washington rally last week if only to find comfort in mutual support. The way forward will not be simple for a variety of reasons.
Certainly, it is gratifying to realize that Jews are not completely friendless. Rallies across the world and on almost every continent demonstrate a reservoir of goodwill emanating from good people who appreciate the Jewish contribution to civilization, spiritually and materially. It is disheartening to contemplate that a significant and growing base of the Democrat Party is hostile to Jews and to Israel, sharing that antagonism with a fringe element of the conservative movement. They not only blame Israel for existing, but they also blame the Jews, apparently, for forcing their confederates to murder, rape, and kidnap us. The gap between sympathy for Israel and the horrific massacre and blaming the Jews for bringing this suffering upon ourselves (known in diplomatic parlance as “context”) was measured not in days or weeks but in hours. That antagonism, fueled across the West by the growing population of radical Muslims who have emigrated (legally or not) to what were formerly bastions of civilization now enduring steep declines in their native populations, will only increase over time.
Additionally, those who call themselves “progressives” have created not only a political and social movement but also a faux morality, even a religion, with its own laws, ethics, saints, and sinners. They do not tolerate dissent from the heretics and, foolishly, their intellectual meanderings and perverted moral notions are celebrated by much of the liberal media that control public discourse and deem themselves arbiters of what views should be embraced and what must be reviled. Even worse, the American political and legal establishment has largely turned away from enforcing the law, arresting, prosecuting, and jailing rioters and purveyors of mayhem under the guise of permitting free speech. If an end is to come to the American Jewish experience it is not because – as has been warned for decades by those fighting the last war – that American Nazis or white supremacists will seize power; it will be because the institutions of society – government, law, police, press – have abandoned Jews to the violence and viciousness of the rioters and cowardly given those haters free rein to attack, burn, destroy, and devastate Jewish communities because clamping down on the marauders opens them to facile and frivolous charges of racism and Islamophobia. That is how societies disintegrate.
Perhaps even more shocking to American Jews is that the explosion of Jew hatred has intruded on a community that – as in the Germany of the 1920’s and 1930’s – is largely assimilated and mostly ignorant of its Jewish heritage. If anything, American Jews are collectively the fulfillment of the American dream, the descendants of immigrants who became materially successful, politically prominent, culturally dominant, and intensely loyal and law-abiding. (The few exceptions are notorious for that very reason.) The average Gentile would not recognize the average Jew in the street. American Jews assumed they had finally made it, once and for all, the pleasant, permanent exile. Now that dream threatens to turn into a nightmare.
A paradigm shift in thinking is required – but it will require a readjustment that is rooted in understanding Jewish tradition and history as well as a renewed commitment to Jewish uniqueness. Assimilation will not help Jews hide. A rejection of Jewish faith and observance does not help Jews blend in. A return to Jewish tradition as the source of a revival of Jewish pride is the way forward as well considering Israel more than just a place to visit. That will demonstrate resolve to our enemies who have nothing to offer but hatred, violence, lies, empty slogans, threats, and intimidation. American Jewish leadership would do well to foster that return and revival rather than disseminate cliches, placards, entreaties, and hopeful wishes that education, dialogue, conversation, blind faith in any political party, or more legislation will accomplish the same goal. And a more robust self-defense would also be appropriate.
In Israel, a different paradigm shift is necessary to dispel the fantasies produced by the decades of politicians who concocted the Oslo process and the Gaza Expulsion and the geniuses (that is meant seriously, not facetiously) who devise the defensive weaponry that wards off the enemy’s rockets, missiles, and other weapons.
Let’s get real. It is not just about Hamas, today’s bogeymen, who are distinguishable from Fatah only in tactics and not at all in objective. The problem is more profound, and we have long chosen to ignore the reality that stares us in the face.
Israel is the only country in the world whose citizens can be subjected to daily attacks from hostile forces who live next to us and within our boundaries. It is not normal to drive a car and consider that someone might shoot you, stone you, or toss a Molotov cocktail your way. It is not normal to stand on a street corner and wonder if a vehicle will ram you. It is not normal to walk on the sidewalk and speculate whether someone will stab you. It is not normal to sit in a café or on a bus and contemplate whether someone has placed a bomb there. And it is not normal to be the recipients of enemy rockets and missiles on a regular basis.
No citizens of any country – no self-respecting country in the world – would tolerate that. And yet, we do, and we have for decades. We build defensive mechanisms to thwart the enemy – bypass roads, bullet proof cars and vests, stab proof jackets, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, etc., without addressing the real problem, which is the relentless hatred of our enemies who assume they have the right to murder us. Some of us comfort ourselves by saying “it is hard to be a Jew” or that “it was worse in Europe eighty years ago.” (The former is false; the latter is true.) The pious among us will quote the Talmud (Brachot 5a) that “the land of Israel is acquired through suffering.” That is assuredly true but that does not mean we have to accept it, reconcile ourselves to it, or console ourselves with it as we eulogize our victims of terror. Any thinking person would conclude that this cannot continue, and that no normal country would tolerate this. But we have convinced ourselves that this is the burden we must bear for the privilege of living in Israel, and so we endure these ignominies, these assaults on our lives and our dignity, and then even the calumnies of the “international community” when we finally defend ourselves.
The real problem is that we have too many people living here who do not want to be here. That is, too many people who do not accept Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel and wage holy war against that concept. No country on earth deals with such a antagonistic local population.
The simple response – simple in theory and common sense, less so in implementation – is that no one should be allowed to live here who does not want to be here, in the Jewish state. To flesh it out further, that means that no person should be allowed to live here who does not accept the seven Noachide laws – the basic tenets of a moral society – and refuses to accept Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel. Period.
That also includes members of Neturei Karta, the infinitesimally small group of quacks known for allying themselves with those who want to exterminate us, who are outliers (sort of like blacks who join the Ku Klux Klan). They should go live in Teheran.
For sure, there are many Arabs who want to live here and accept Israeli sovereignty – and who can blame them? It is a wonderful country, and they have more freedoms here than in any Arab country. And those Arabs have every right to live here, and many contribute enormously to Israeli society in a variety of spheres. But we must be cautious.
We are surrounded by enemies, although fortunately that there are peace treaties of varying degrees of stability with Jordan and Egypt and other Arab and Muslim countries. But we have tolerated antagonistic neighbors in Gaza and Lebanon who for years have shot rockets and missiles at us, live uneasily with them in Judea and Samaria where they stone and shoot at will, and 20% of our fellow citizens are Arabs who – if past is prologue – often seem to be a hairsbreadth away from exploding in rage and violence against us. (It should not be shocking how many Israeli-Arab doctors, lawyers, professors, and performers, who have all benefited from the freedoms and good life we have given them, have issued pro-Hamas statements in the last month, with only some of them paying a personal price for it.)
There is no moral or rational reason to allow them residence in this small, holy land. The next “raid” will be into Kfar Saba and Raanana, the Israeli Arabs of Lod and Ramla and Umm al-Fahm will someday soon again riot and plunder, and Jews will continue to be targets day after day after day. We have too many people living among us who hate us, want to murder and maim us, and categorically reject Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel. This problem will persist and exacerbate regardless of the conquest of Gaza, may it happen soon.
People who accept Jewish sovereignty in Israel and are law-abiding should be welcomed and embraced. People who reject Jewish sovereignty in Israel and wage an incessant and bloody war against us should not live here. No country would tolerate otherwise.
The question is how we reach that desired state, and I am open to suggestions that are rooted in the Torah’s morality, common sense, and reason. But at the very least, the time has come for us to acknowledge the question and the problem and propose real answers. That, too, would be a paradigm shift.
The Gazan invasion should have brought home to us the real dilemma we have going forward. We thought the days of Arabs wanting to drive us into the sea were ancient history. They are not. And we also enjoy the more pleasant reality that there are other Arab countries today that are more open and enlightened and see the value in good relations with Israel. Those relations should be nurtured.
People who do not want to live in the sovereign Jewish state of Israel should not live here. It is better for them, better for us, and better for the world. We should not have to drive on the roads, ride the buses, and walk the streets of our beautiful country fearing that someone might shoot us or blow us up. That is not normal. No country in the world accepts that for its citizens. What is normal is building a proud, robust, spiritual, and Jewish state, one whose morality reflects the Torah and no other system. That, too, will further the redemption of Israel and all mankind.