Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.
For more than five years, China has subjected its 11 million mostly Muslim Uyghur minority to imprisonment, as well as forced labor and other repressions. Yet, there is no mass worldwide movement to boycott, divest and sanction made-in-China products, as has arisen against those made in Israel.
Serbia has long been targeted as a country that routinely subjects dissidents, as well as its Roma and other minorities, to systematic human rights abuses. Yet there has been no concerted effort to expel that country from the United Nations, as the world body has frequently been called on to do with Israel.
And for years, Egyptian border patrols have blockaded the movement of goods from Gaza into Sinai, causing hardship to the 2.2 million residents living there. Yet, Hamas didn’t attack Egypt, just Israel, firing on civilians, taking hundreds hostage, and apparently murdering them.
While other nations—including the U.S. and the United Kingdom—have established empires, repressed minority populations within them and perpetrated belligerent acts many consider war crimes, no other country in the history of the world has been regarded as an international pariah as has Israel.
Yes, Israel has committed human rights violations. Binyamin Netanyahu’s ultra-right-wing government is only the latest determined to de facto annex Palestinian territory that Israel won during the 1967 Six-Day War. It is also bent on nullifying that country’s supreme court veto power over the government, as well as coercing Israel, where most residents are secular, into becoming a Jewish theocratic state, which it was never meant to be. And perhaps most egregious of all, during the Lebanese civil war, in 1982, Israeli soldiers stood by as kill-crazy Christian militias massacred as many as 800 occupants of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut.
But the world has rehabilitated other nations which have committed some of the worst atrocities in human history such as Rwanda and, of course, Germany. Not so Israel.
No, there’s something different about hatred of Jews, which has been genteelly euphemized as “anti-Semitism.”
As the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it:
Antisemitic hate groups seek to racialize Jewish people and vilify them as the manipulative puppet masters behind an economic, political and social scheme to undermine white people. Antisemitism also undergirds much of the far right, unifying adherents across various extremist ideologies around efforts to subvert and misconstrue the collective suffering of Jewish people in the Holocaust and cast them as conniving opportunists.
With the acceptance these days of ultra-right-wing authoritarianism, many have tried to justify what Nazi hunter and Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel famously called an “irrational disease” and what former Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman referred to as “a spiritual and psychological illness.”
As recently as 2017, mobs fearing the diminution of white, Christian people marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” And pro-Palestinian groups have pounced on the acknowledged human rights abuses of various Israeli governments, and alleged desecration of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, to justify the violent uprisings against Israel known as intifada, which included numerous terrorist attacks against Jewish civilians.
Arab reaction to Israel is by no means monolithic. The peace between Israel and Egypt, signed as the Camp David Accords in 1979, remains firm. In 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which controls the West Bank under Israeli auspices, signed the Oslo Accords, recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. In 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed the Abraham Accords, a road map to “establish full diplomatic relations, to promote lasting security, to eschew threats and the use of force, as well as advance coexistence and a culture of peace.” Even as Hamas attacked, Israel and Saudi Arabia were conducting talks that might yet result in diplomatic relations.
So let’s not, as many would exhort, laud pan-Arabism for this latest assault on the Jewish state. It is Hamas, and its ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah—both supported financially and, according to sources, militarily by Iran—that have launched this latest invasion. And there is nothing geopolitical about it. It isn’t about which faction gains hegemony in the world’s major oil trough. It’s not about human rights, although the world knows the 2.2 million Gazans under Hamas control are the ones who have suffered.
Rather this latest invasion, by a faction whose charter calls for erasing the Jews from the Middle East, and whose tactics have included death-dealing attacks on civilians, including at least eleven Americans, is about yet another attempt, in an endless series of them, to exterminate Judaism.
Many consider Hamas a freedom-fighting group. The U.S. State Department considers it a terrorist group. Its mission is to replace Israel with a Muslim state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. It is nothing less than the Terminator of the iconic 1984 sci-fi film, in which a cybernetic organism travels to the past to preemptively destroy humanity before it can prevail in its war of survival to come against machines. In explaining to the film’s heroine, Sarah Connor, what they are fighting, the human agent Reese, who has been sent back through time to fight the killer cyborg, tells her: “Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!”
This realization is why we are seeing American Jews of disparate religious and social attitudes standing together: right-wing fundamentalist Orthodox Jews and left-wing progressive Reform Jews; the pro-Netanyahu American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J Street, a lobby urging Israel to adopt progressive foreign and domestic policies.
This is about family; mishpakha, as we say in Yiddish. We can argue about dietary laws and other religion practices, who speaks what language and how we pray or don’t pray. We can even debate Israeli foreign and domestic policy and all their ramifications.
But when you attack our family, we are firmly a family.
We must remain so, to survive.
Because, make no mistake about it: A lot of people in the world, including in America, don’t want us to.
In the Jewish sacred text known as the Pirkei Avot (“chapters of the fathers”), Rabbi Hillel famously said words used by peoples throughout the world to defend themselves: “If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?”
At this hour, we are for us. Let the world think of us what it wishes.