We'd rather be alive and have the bad image.
Here we Jews are again, put in yet another position to fend for ourselves, against age-old hypocrisies, contradictions, and double standards.
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I knew it was bound to happen.
On Sunday, October 8th, 2023 — just 24 hours after some 3,000 Palestinians invaded Israel and brutally massacred hundreds of people, while kidnapping more than 240 others — I knew that the news media and social media would quickly turn their “thoughts and prayers” for Israel, into heavily biased empathy for the so-called “innocent Palestinians” and Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.
Then, when U.S. President Joe Biden flew to Israel on October 18th, he said all the right things like, “We will not stand by and do nothing again,” a reference to the United States’ lackluster response during much of the Holocaust.
I have no doubt that Biden meant what he said, but it would not shock me if he was also trying to attract Jewish and pro-Israel votes for the U.S. presidential election in November. In recent years, Biden’s Democrats have appeared to be far less pro-Israel than their predecessors, and certainly compared to the staunchly pro-Israel Republicans.
Hence why I also knew that it was only a matter of weeks before the United States and other countries would start shifting their public messaging to reveal more private pressure and disagreements in their discussions with Israeli officials, against the backdrop of growing international and domestic outcry about Palestinian casualties amid Israel’s war against Palestinian terror.
The chronological script has looked something like this:
“Israel has the right to defend itself!”
“Israel has the right to defend itself, but it should be careful in doing so.”
“Israel has the right to defend itself, but the poor Palestinians!”
“We are deeply concerned about the poor Palestinians, but Israel has the right to defend itself.”
“The poor Palestinians!”
“The poor Palestinians — we must give them a state!”
The U.S. has stressed that backing for Israel is “wall-to-wall” but that “public opinion” is making it more difficult for the administration to extend such support.
This week, both the Americans and the French flew to Israel to scold the Jewish state, even as military experts agree that the civilian-to-combatant death ratio is among the most impressive across the world (around 2-to-1, compared to the international average of 9-to-1 according to the UN).
Speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, France’s foreign minister said it was France’s role as a “friend” to tell Israeli leaders some truths they “may have difficulties hearing.”
“For four months now, the people of Gaza have been living under bombs and an almost full siege. They are being deprived of the minimum aid they need to treat their wounds, protect against epidemics, and feed themselves,” he said.
“The tragedy in Gaza must end,” added the French national. “We call for international humanitarian law to be respected by all and for an immediate and lasting ceasefire and a massive influx of humanitarian aid.”
Then, in a stinging rebuke of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel that it does not have “a license to dehumanize others.”
“We cannot, we must not, lose sight of our common humanity,” he said, even though it is the Palestinians who have historically rejected living side-by-side with a Jewish state. But when you are in the heat of a re-election cycle, history does not matter, now does it?
You see, in theory, it is pretty easy to support Israel and its mission to eradicate Palestinian terror. In reality, this means accepting that there will be plenty of civilian deaths, since Palestinian terrorists have patented the use of human shields and civilian infrastructure, and everyday Palestinians largely support it.
So, if your waning support for Israel’s campaign eventually turns into you questioning Israel at every commotion of more dead Palestinian civilians — the source of which is a terrorist organization (Hamas) — then you are not very different from the politicians who shared in Jewish sorrow during the Holocaust, but who ultimately refused to bomb the railroad tracks that were used to systematically deport millions of Jews to their deaths.
Israel, meanwhile, is dealing with the impracticality of its war against Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. If it stops short (or if it is politically pressured to stop short) of eradicating Palestinian terror, this will be a resounding victory for fundamentalist Islam, and terrorists will start planning their next attacks against the Jewish state.
If Israel completes the long, costly, and treacherous work of eradicating Palestinian terror, the result will also be thousands of “innocent Palestinian” deaths which will increasingly anger people across the world.
Israel has to decide which is more essential: To look good in the eyes of the West, or to terrify those in the Middle East. As former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir aptly said, “If we have to choose between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.” I safely presume that most Israeli politicians and everyday Israelis would agree with her today.
And, yet, even if Israel tries to look good in the eyes of the West, it will never be able to successfully do so. For decades, Israel has developed the world’s most humanitarian army. Israelis have unleashed innovation after innovation — from medicine and defense, to hi-tech and agriculture — used by much of the Western world. Israeli first-responders attend to virtually every major natural disaster, wherever it is in the world.
But here Israelis are again, defending ourselves against the Palestinian pogrom on October 7th — which involves going above and beyond to ensure such horrors won’t happen again. And here, again, is much of the West, scolding Israel, even as they enjoy from Israel’s existence, and even if Israel stands for much of the West’s values in one of the most dangerous and anti-West regions on Earth.
And so, here we Jews are again, put in another position to fend for ourselves, against age-old hypocrisies, contradictions, and double standards. What is only new now is that we have a state and, thus, political responsibility to both Israeli citizens and our partners across the world.
This creates an exponentially impossible dichotomy between, on one end, waning international endorsement of our war on Palestinian terror; and, on the other end, ensuring the vast majority Israelis will be satisfied domestically with a resounding victory that sees justice unequivocally served and security painstakingly restored.
Of course, this assumes that the war remains between Gaza and Israel, geographically speaking. Once Iran senses that international support is no longer potent, the Iranians could open up additional fronts on Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria, and across the Red Sea in Yemen. With little or no real international support, Israel could be left to deal with these fronts alone, and Iran itself could be waiting in the waters.
By then, Europe will be fractured in its response, and the U.S. presidential election cycle will be in full swing, making it increasingly difficult for Biden to act decisively without hurting the Democrats’ chances of re-election.
Meanwhile, Iran and other theocratic governments in the Middle East will realize that their tribalism and martyrdom can easily overpower the West’s largely virtueless emphasis on individuality and economics.
Some of us (perhaps naively) thought that the creation of the State of Israel would be the end of endless Jewish suffering, that the centuries upon centuries of Jewish agony and despair would be totally worth every ounce of it so long as it presented us with our own country, for our own people, with our own traditions and customs, in our indigenous homeland.
The reality, at least up until now, is more in line with what Israeli novelist and author, Amos Oz, famously wrote:
“When my father was a boy in Poland, streets of Europe were covered with graffiti. ‘Jews, go back to Palestine.’ When my father revisited Europe 50 years later, the walls had new graffiti. ‘Jews, get out of Palestine.’”
So, as the West recklessly becomes more and more divided, thus deepening Israel’s precarious position, thus perpetuating the centuries-old Jewish plight, we Jews will do what we have always done best: Hope and pray for a miracle.