Tuesday, May 25, 2021

It Starts With the Truth

Many American Jews are now hiding their identity in public. Even in New York City, observant Jews are removing their kippah on subways and in the street. A spate of antisemitic attacks in the last two weeks have shaken the community; and all of these attacks are associated anti-Israel protestors. The connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism could not be clearer; when people say they hate Israel, they hate Jews as well.

There is a direct line from anti-Israel hysteria in the streets to the cacophony of celebrity condemnation on instagram. Criticizing Israel is a fashionable form of virtue signaling, and that is why comedians like John Oliver have decided to jump on the anti-Israel bandwagon. They call what Israel is doing “war crimes”; and now, that slander sticks to every Jew, who are being accosted in the streets as accessories to the killings in Gaza.

The real problem behind these accusations is that they substitute catch phrases for the truth. John Oliver said there was no need for context and complexity; he knew what was right and wrong. Sadly, if he was looking for the truth, he didn’t look hard enough.

Much of the discourse assumes that somehow, Israel takes joy in civilian tragedies. But if you care about the truth, you would know Judaism's attitude towards bloodshed. It is a tradition that commands one to love the stranger, and not to rejoice when your enemy is killed. Every Israeli soldier is trained in a code of “purity of arms”, and carries a card affirming its values.

But if you care about the truth, you would know who deserves ultimate responsibility for the deaths of Gazans: Hamas.

Hamas has long waged war on its own citizens. Freedom House, an NGO which advocates for democracy and human rights, gives the Hamas government an 11 out of a possible 100 rating, or simply “not free”. Hamas regularly imprisons, tortures, and kills its political opponents. During this most recent conflict, Hamas was surprised at how much Israel knew about its internal movements, and how many of its own people were spying for Israel. And that is in large part because many Gazans are deeply disenchanted with Hamas’ despotic and violent rule. Hamas regularly uses children as human shields and hides military installations among civilians. They spend international aid on terror tunnels and rockets instead of taking care of their own population.

If you care about the truth, you would remember that in 2005 Israel disengaged from Gaza, and offered Gaza the opportunity to pursue its own destiny. But instead of building their own homeland, Hamas set out to destroy Israel. Since then, there have been six conflicts in just 16 years. And there would have been more, had Israel not thoroughly degraded Hamas's military abilities in several of the conflicts.

Simply put, if you care about the truth, you would recognize that Hamas is against human rights, against democracy, and anti-Semitic.

Disproportionality is another word thrown about by critics. But if you cared about the truth, this is what you would call "disproportionate". You might vehemently disagree with the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. But if in response you shoot rockets at civilians, that's wildly disproportionate. Perhaps, those giving lectures and what is proportionate and what is not should talk about that first.

But what is not disproportionate is to destroy the rockets of an organization that wants to kill your children. It is not disproportionate to try to defend families who have to spend night after night in bomb shelters. It is not disproportionate to respond to an attack by destroying the enemy’s military capabilities.

By the critics' definition of disproportionate, the United States shouldn't have started a war with Japan over Pearl Harbor; they should have bombed one Japanese base. The Allies shouldn't have pursued the destruction of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan after those enemies lost the military capability to attack. But there are times when an absolute victory is necessary to achieve security, especially against fanatical opponent that will continue to attack you at every opportunity.

Israel does everything it can to ensure civilian life. Yaakov Katz, the editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post noted last Wednesday that “the Israel Defense Forces has bombed over 1,000 targets in Gaza, many of them homes, buildings, tunnels & Hamas positions. The number of dead – which sadly includes civilians – is, according to Hamas, 227. IDF says at least 160 are terrorists. That means approx. 60 of the dead were civilians….over 1,000 bombs dropped on over 1,000 targets and 60 civilians killed. Every life should be protected, but now go tell me that the IDF is disproportionate.” Judgements about “war crimes” are being discussed without even giving the slightest thought to what has actually occurred. If we compare Israel's record to that of the United States and her allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel's is as good or better. Yet none of the people worried about disproportionality have ever said a word about those wars.

Particularly disturbing is the practice of many media outlets. The reports about the war that emanate from Hamas and Israel are given equal weight; some seem to give the reports of Hamas priority. But it should be obvious that a group that is willing to murder both Israeli civilians and their own citizens for political gain would also be willing to lie to newspaper reporters.

But those who make quick judgments of right and wrong assume that the underdog is always right; John Oliver offered a variant of this thesis. More to the point, the assumption is that the Westernized country is always wrong. And it is because of these assumptions that the critics believe that Israel must always be wrong. It is a bitter irony that the state founded by a people persecuted for two millennia around the world is now the scapegoat for all the sins of colonialism.

If you care about the truth, you would abhor Hamas. If you care about the truth, you would support Israel. And if you care about Jews, you wouldn’t slander the Jewish State.

Sadly, Jews around the world now have to take cover because too many prefer virtue signaling to telling the truth.

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