hen the war ends and the commissions begin, Israelis will reexamine the “conceptzia,” the blinding assumptions that failed to prevent October 7.
When the war ends and the commissions begin, Israelis will reexamine the “conceptzia,” the blinding assumptions that failed to prevent October 7. Meanwhile, Diaspora Jewry must stay united too, supporting Israel wholeheartedly, apolitically, until our hostages are returned home, and Israelis’ sense of safety is restored. Still, with memories of the Jew-hating viciousness so fresh, with Israeli soldiers endangered, and the hostages enduring unimaginable abuses daily, it’s time to start re-examining “the conceptzia” that distorted the American Jewish community conversation about Israel for so long.
Israel’s “Black Saturday” was followed by Sobering Sunday for many American Jews. If in the 1980s, you defined a conservative as a liberal who’s been mugged, today’s new liberal liberals are woke liberals who’ve been bombed – or seen innocents slaughtered cruelly by Hamas.
I am less dismayed by the loud, vicious minority that found the bloodshed “exhilarating” and celebrates paragliders used to slaughter 260 concert-goers as some symbol of “resistance.” Exploring how some Jews accepted these inhumane fanatics as allies, as they forged a new form of Jew-hatred through their Zionophobia, is for another time. So, too, is the fascinating ideological and sociological question of how this “social justice” ideology, which cheered the most ungodly, inhumane attacks, so seduced so many American Jews into forgetting that “tikkun olam” – repairing the world – is done “bemalchut shaddai” – under God’s sovereignty.
Far more disturbing were the pale, generic denunciations from more mainstream liberals of “the violence” – as if it were a natural phenomenon, not carefully-planned Palestinian war crimes. Cornell University’s president, Martha Pollack, declared “The loss of human life is always tragic, whether caused by human actions such as terrorism, war or mass shootings, or by natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires or floods.” With donors revolted and revolting, she apologized.
Clearly, grade-grubbing radicals and simpering centrists ignored the facts – just how personal, antisemitic, and barbaric, Hamas’ evil was. Today’s young liberals waking up to the heartless cruelty of these MacBook revolutionaries should realize: you didn’t betray your ideals; you’re supposed allies betrayed your shared ideals – and you, too.
As well-meaning Americans support Jewish students or “our Jewish friends” in distress — they still fail to get it. These Palestinians and their campus Kapos assaulted civilization, not just Jews. Few Americans turned their fury against Vladimir Putin’s invasion into an outreach to Ukrainian-Americans. Most of us recognized Russia’s offensive as on assault on the good, threatening us all.
Reeling from good people’s inability to process new facts, in a spirit of education not recrimination, I propose that we reassess some of the communal blindspots we’ve developed when discussing Israel – and the challenges the Jewish state faces.
For decades, too many American Jewish leaders swallowed the Palestinian narrative. Even as polls showed most Jews pro-Israel, a growing number of rabbis, professors, and community activists kept blaming Israel far more than the Palestinians for the conflict. Beyond treating Hamas as “pragmatic” and Palestinians as “victimized” and thus forever blameless, the language of “cycle of violence,” “disproportionate response,” “two-state,” “West Bank,” “occupiers,” “settlers,” “the settlements,” became mainstreamed, even among those who avoided the more delegitimizing language of racism, colonialism, imperialism, and Jewish supremacy.
Sometimes, historical cataclysms shake-up opinions. To misread politics is human; to refuse to update is diabolical.
Targeting civilians so brutally, along with the Palestinian mob’s sadistic delight in parading hostages and degrading bodies, exposed the kind of enemy Israel faces. We saw their Jew-hatred, their misogyny, their evil. Can anyone who has seen these horrific images still believe that this is merely a territorial dispute, that if Israel only had conceded more territory, the Palestinian leadership would make peace? Can anyone today make a convincing case that Israel should just trust these neighbors to act peacefully?
Some of us didn’t need this traumatic wake-up call. Even before this unhappy Simchat Torah, we recognized Palestinian rejectionism and extremism. I am not foolish enough to claim Israel is perfect. But no one should be blind enough to overlook the consistent rejection in mainstream Palestinian culture of Israel’s existence, let alone genuine peace.
To blame Israel constantly – pressuring it to make more concessions no matter what the outcome – you already had to ignore many facts, before October 7.
You had to ignore Palestinians’ refusal to compromise. It began by repudiating the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan. It continued with Yasser Arafat’s unwillingness to negotiate with Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000. It was confirmed by the 2005 Gaza withdrawal’s failure to spawn a peaceful neighbor. And it culminated with Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Ehud Olmert’s offer of all but 6.3 percent of the West Bank in 2008.
You had to ignore Palestinian political culture’s sexism, homophobia, and hostility to democracy. We judge societies by how they treat their weakest and most vulnerable – why aren’t Palestinians held to such standards? Calling the Palestinian Authority “moderate,” is like calling carbon monoxide “safe” because it takes longer to kill than cyanide. True, the PA is less awful than Hamas, but it remains a dictatorship that abuses its people while crushing dissent.
You had to ignore Hamas’s antisemitic charter which seeks to destroy Israel. Do any Peace-Nowers doubt that if Hamas ruled, liberals would be the first in line to be shot?
You had to ignore Palestinians’ culture of negation. While I hope for a solution, and, as a nationalist, respect Palestinians’ desire for national self-determination, “two-state solution” often negates Jews’ ties to the land. Treating the “West Bank” as an organic whole, exclusively belonging to the Palestinians, misses Jews’ deep connection to Hebron, Shiloh and many other places. It overlooks the randomness of the hastily-drawn 1949 armistice border, which became sanctified as THE Green Line defining THE West Bank.
You had to ignore the toxic impact of enabling Palestinian terrorism, which has murdered thousands. In that silly debate about “which is worse, right-wing antisemitism or left-wing antisemitism,” liberals emphasize that right-winger Jew-haters killed more Jews, especially at Pittsburgh. But the Palestinian-generated death toll dwarfed those numbers – even before October 7. Many terrorists are hopped up on a Jew-hatred unintentionally validated “cycle of violence” talk.
You also had to ignore the patriotism and survival instincts of liberals’ natural allies on the Israeli left. Oslo’s failure disillusioned many Peace Now types and two-state solution cheerleaders. Once Palestinians turned away from negotiations to terrorism in 2000, many Israelis realized that another slice of territory here or there would never satisfy Palestinian maximalists – who crush Palestinian moderates. Even more Israelis sobered up seven years later, when the Gaza Disengagement delusion disappeared as Hamas brutalized fellow Palestinians to take over Gaza. This debacle turned what could have been the Riviera of the Middle East into a cesspool for dictators, terrorists, sexists, homophobes and theocrats. Watch Israel’s protest leaders – they detest Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, but, despite their threats of refusal, mobilized to defend their home.
Finally, you had to ignore the Abraham Accords. Admittedly, Donald Trump and Netanyahu have their fingerprints on them. But they prove that Israelis are not anti-Arab, only opposed to those Arabs who target them; they prove that many Israelis and Arabs want to work together; and they prove how toxic the Palestinian boycott is. Boycotting Israel negates the people-to-people and business-to-business ties the Abraham Accords facilitate — and the Saudi agreement would generate. Like Hamas’s actions, they expose the end game, showing how fanatically anti-Israel too many Palestinians continue to be.
Admittedly, from afar, it seems easy: just draw a line in those faraway sands, give everyone something, and peace will prevail. Hmm. Time to approach Israel with solidarity, empathy, understanding, and humility.
This is our defining moment. Western civilization must see this fight against Hamas as a fight for democracy and decency. Our non-Jewish friends must understand that we are all in this together. And we, Jews, from left to right, must reevaluate our now-outdated assumptions, finding new visions and new policies – while upholding our core ideals.
Professor Gil Troy, a Senior Fellow in Zionist Thought at the JPPI, the Global Think Tank of the Jewish People, is an American presidential historian, and, most recently, the editor of the three-volume set, Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings