Hiding in plain sight

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

Imagine, for a moment, you have fallen on hard times. You’ve lost your job, you’re being evicted or foreclosed, and you have nowhere to go. However, your parents, who built a rich, prosperous life out of their meager immigrant beginnings, invite you to stay with them, for as long as you like. And you breathe a welcome sigh of relief—you’re not going to have to sleep on the street!

But little by little, you discover some excruciating and unsettling facts about the people who are beckoning you home.

You discover they have repeatedly been investigated, not only local police but by international law enforcement, for crimes including theft, property destruction, assault, and even murder. Despite the apparent circumstantial and documented evidence, they repeatedly evade conviction, no less prosecution, because of their coziness with higher-ups in politics, the police, and the district attorney.

While this could be a premise for an HBO TV series, the analogy is real. And it was recently documented in The New York Times Magazine.

But it’s not about a Sopranos-type crime-ridden family extending haven to their down-on-their-luck naif. It’s about what the state of Israel has become. And every Jew who expresses unequivocal support for Israel should read it. 

I believe a state that shelters Jews, of any persuasion, from anywhere in the world is absolutely, unequivocally imperative. From 586 before the common era (BCE), when the Babylonians expelled Jews from their Kingdom of Judah in the Middle East, creating the diaspora, Jews have been subjected to hundreds of incidents of organized ostracism, hatred, persecution, violence, and murder, frequently officially sanctioned by the governments of the lands they migrated to. 

Zionism—the need to re-establish a Jewish haven in the area of their historic ancestral homeland—arose in the late 19th century, and developed throughout the 20th, as trickles of immigrants legally purchased land from largely absentee Arabs and established farms and cities. It was only after the unspeakable atrocity of the Holocaust was laid bare, and external and internal political and military pressure against Britain, which had controlled the territory since the end of World War I, reached the boiling point, did the United Kingdom give up its control of the so-called Palestine Mandate. The nascent United Nations voted in 1947 to divide the region into a Jewish nation and an Arab nation, side-by-side. 

The state of Israel was proclaimed a year later and won a war against the Arab nations in the region, who sought not a two-state solution but an Arab state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Twenty years later, Israel once again defeated combined Arab state forces and occupied additional territory, including the Old City of Jerusalem. The nation of Jordan, which had won control of that sector during the 1948 war, had denied Jews access to their sacred city, with the Western Wall of the destroyed Temple, although Muslims were free to visit their holy site in that city, the Al Aqsa Mosque. 

A third war followed in 1973, which Israel again won. But a decade later, Israel was subjected to two formalized Palestinian civil uprisings, or intifadas, often consisting of suicide attacks by West Bank Palestinians. Israel enacted harsh security measures to prevent such terrorist incursions; the New York Times magazine article by Ronan Bergman and Mark Mazzetti documents many of those as including the destruction of Palestinian property and violence committed by Israeli soldiers. 

Those measures, and the rapid burgeoning of the Israeli economy, were accomplished as scores of anti-Jewish occurrences, including property damage, assaults and homicide, in the diaspora increased, notably within the past decade. Anti-Jewish attitudes among Americans have increased as well. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks antisemitism, reported in February of this year that nearly one in four Americans endorse six or more antisemitic traits, up from one in five just two years ago. 

Which is why world Jewry needs a sanctuary, such as how Israel stated its purpose in its declaration of statehood: “The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew … ” 

However, as the Times article convincingly argues, this purpose been subsumed by extreme Jewish religionists, who believe in the notion of a “greater Israel,” not unlike extreme Muslim religionists, who believe in an all-Islamic Palestine. In doing so, the Times article reports, Israel’s succession of center-right and right-wing governments since the 1980s have ignored—and worse, whitewashed—documented acts of violence against Palestinians by fanatic and often illegal settlers, who seek to de facto annex the Arab West Bank as part of this “greater Israel.” 

I continue to firmly believe that the existence of a Jewish haven is critical to world Jewry’s survival. We have seen that without such a haven, pervasive Jew hatred could break free of its already long leash. 

But to continue to exist, the Israeli people must accomplish regime change. No other solution is possible.

As Times columnist Bret Stephens—an unapologetic supporter of the existence of the state of Israel and its war against Hamas—recently wrote, long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brazenly allied himself with Israel’s most reactionary, zealous, and hawkish elements to retain power. He faces several corruption charges. Stephens wrote:

It’s dangerous for a country at war to be led by someone the people neither support nor trust. Seventy-one percent of Israelis want Netanyahu booted from office, according to polls released [in early April], and 66 percent want elections called early, which could happen if a handful of members of the ruling coalition defected. Wishing Netanyahu gone is the most mainstream position possible — and one sincere friends of Israel should never be afraid to express.

But as the Times Magazine article explains, it’s not only Netanyahu who has to go; the unintended notion of Israel as a Jewish theocracy has to go too. The Chief Rabbinate maintains an official position in government, commanding the ear of the ultra-right, who use the idea of a God-given Israel to justify their policies, which often include thinly disguised hatred of Arabs.

It is apparent that many protesters are using their legitimate outrage about the deaths of thousands of innocent Gazans to exact their hatred of Jews. But it is also apparent that behind their feelings lies a kernel of truth. 

It is disingenuous for diaspora Jews to continue pretending that Israel, under its present leadership and right-wing governance, which has persisted for decades, remains nothing more than the home of our parents, saving us from an uncertain and fearful life on the streets. We need to recognize that for decades, those who wield power in Israel, throughout government and close to it, are damaging its very existence. 

Am Yisrael chai — the people of Israel and the nation of Israel live. And must live. To ensure that, we must open our eyes to what we are afraid to see. And talk about. And act upon.

Top image: The flags of Israel and Palestine are both made of texture. Concept illustration depicting the conflict war between Palestine and Israel. Created by Andy.LIU, available via Shutterstock.

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