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What Israel and Global Jewry Learned from this Latest War with Hamas

Jews remain a magnet for hate crimes, but the world’s impulsive hatred of Israel has turned antisemitism into a rebound human right derived from Palestinian suffering.
[additional-authors]
June 7, 2021
A person holds a sign that reads “Abolish Israel” during a pro-Palestinian rally on May 22, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

This most recent war between Israel and Hamas lasted just eleven days, but it provided a lifetime of lessons for Israelis and global Jewry. All sorts of information previously unknown was revealed, along with the occasional surprise.

For instance, the vaunted Iron Dome was excessively battle-tested. The result was both reassuring and troubling. No longer can Israelis eat outdoors in restaurants along Rothschild Boulevard and rejoice at a solitary rocket, nearly running out of gas, exploding harmlessly overhead.

Hamas may not have won Israel’s respect, but they surely got its attention. Palestinians can now fire 150 rockets at a time from Gaza, all of them reaching Tel Aviv. Iron Dome ensures that all but 15 will never reach ground. Still, that leaves enough risk for Israelis to skip the aerial show and scuttle for bomb shelters.

It is this scene that had Hamas declaring victory, despite the widely, and predictably, disproportionate death toll.

When the war began, Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s prime minister. Not long after the called ceasefire, he was a mere Member of the Knesset. Given that most Israelis wanted the fighting to continue until Hamas was sufficiently degraded, he may have made a costly political mistake.

Instead, Israel’s most seasoned wartime prime minister was treated like Great Britain’s Winston Churchill after World War II. Bibi, you have a corruption trial to defend against, and we have a new chapter to turn.

A coalition of eight disparate parties, featuring several former Netanyahu proteges, will now give Israelis a new face and direction. By all metrics that measure a nation’s standing in the world—booming economy, national defense, regional influence, Abraham Accords and, yes, gift-giving Trump alliance—Netanyahu’s stewardship should be remembered not only as the longest, but also singular in its accomplishment.

Despite his many triumphs, a new government, which now includes even an Islamist party—a first in Israel—has unseated him.

It is a fitting demonstration of Israel’s robust democracy. In what other Middle Eastern or Persian Gulf nation could such a political changeover take place—and with Jews in the government?

Maybe that’s where Bella Hadid should look for her mythical “apartheid state,” since neither Hamas nor Fatah have held democratic elections since 2006 and 2005, respectively—the only ones they ever allowed.

Meanwhile, the world held Jews responsible for this latest conflict no matter where they lived, given star billing in a faraway theater of war while being manhandled at home. Perhaps for the first time as American citizens, Jews were afraid to walk the streets. Colleagues and neighbors expected to hear an apology for the way Israel fights its wars.

The United Nations, a feckless, irrelevant body, smearing the Jewish state is one thing. But social media influencers, in our culture of a la carte truths, have the power to impart false information to millions of followers who have read even fewer books than they have—and know even less about the Middle East.

With everyone an expert, evil is assigned and prejudgments are made. Hollywood elites, rock stars and fashion models, aided by the silence of their colleagues, are making antisemitism fashionably acceptable—again. An old bigotry now, suddenly, may no longer represent a prejudice at all.

An old bigotry now, suddenly, may no longer represent a prejudice at all.

When it was discovered that Google’s head of diversity (irony, obviously, does not get picked up by algorithms) had written a social media post charging Jews with an “insatiable appetite for war and killing,” he wasn’t fired—nor was he cancelled by social justice overseers who always overlook bigotry against Jews.

Apparently, Jews are no longer considered a minority or a protected class. White privilege dispensed with those categories. Jews remain a magnet for hate crimes, but the world’s impulsive hatred of Israel has turned antisemitism into a rebound human right derived from Palestinian suffering.

The rights of citizenship, worldwide, are shattering for Jews.

In America, as some had feared, Israel, once the darling of the Democratic Party, now has more in common with the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy than with the former New York Senator himself. Kennedy visited Israel soon after graduating from college, coincidentally, right before it declared statehood.

In his dispatches for a Boston newspaper, Kennedy clearly signaled his favoritism for a Jewish state. It’s what ultimately cost him his life. At the time of his murder, a year after the Six-Day War, he was the standard bearer of the American progressive left. Today his plank of the party is headed by Senator Bernie Sanders, who as a young man also lived on a kibbutz, along with his anti-Zionist backup group, female congressional Representatives known as “The Squad.”

How surprised would Kennedy be to discover what progressive politics looks like today: hostile to the lone democracy in the Middle East, and openly supportive of a terrorist outfit that places its children in harm’s way, torches homosexuals, and treats its women as chattel. In a twisted bipartisan reordering of priorities, Israel is the wrong-skin-colored underdog, and the hard truths of the Middle East languish as spam.

Meanwhile, Jewish leadership is nowhere to be found. Elected officials jockey to take any bullet for Black Lives Matter while Israel contends with 4,500 rockets. Jews are beaten on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Seattle. No outcry.

Useful idiots have never been this useless.

Jewish Democrats, whether they run for public office or simply vote, are being forced to choose between Israel, social standing and personal safety.

Before it was enough to simply support the “two-state solution.” Now the stakes are much higher, the catechisms more elaborate, and the rites of passage more daunting. Israel must be wholly rejected as a global menace. And whatever harm may come to the Jewish people, regardless of where they may live, need not be taken personally.

The apparent unwillingness, or cowardice, of many American Jews to identify with the existential dilemma of Israelis—and its spillover effect on Jews walking on American or European streets—is appalling. The cautionary, parallel tale of the cosmopolitan Jews of 1930s Berlin and Vienna, now long since murdered, is lost on everyone.

The right to exist, which Israel’s enemies always denied, now carries over to the Jewish people at large. Denying the existence of Israel—the lone nation in the world where such an opinion is shared—always had the ring of the Final Solution, localized on the Jewish state. Today, all Jews are stand-ins for that state.

The right to exist, which Israel’s enemies always denied, now carries over to the Jewish people at large.

Antisemitism is not just some idea, an ancient prejudice casually invoked. Wiping Israel from the map, soon may no longer be enough.


Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”

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