Western denialism is similar to isolationism before Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor
Israel’s battle against Hamas might seem limited to the Gaza Strip, but it’s far bigger than that.
The Hamas massacre inside Israel threatens world peace. The millions marching in support of Hamas’s crimes in New York, London, Paris and Sydney prove that the terrorist group enjoys sympathizers worldwide. Today, the attacks target Israel, but tomorrow any democracy could be targeted.
Regrettably, much of the world remains ensnared in an illusion we recognize from the early 2000s when Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide bombers attacked Israeli buses, cafés and restaurants.
As Israel defended itself in Gaza and the West Bank, it repeatedly warned that what was happening here would one day spread. Yet, the Western world ignored these admonitions. It was easier to decide, as people do today, that this was an isolated battle, the result of years of Israel’s supposed mistreatment of the Palestinian people who were simply fighting for independence.
Then, tragically, Israel’s prediction came true again and again and again. In 2001, al Qaeda terrorists struck New York and Washington on 9/11. In 2002, Jemaah Islamiyah’s bombings murdered 202 people in Bali.
Among other assaults, Islamic terrorists attacked Madrid commuter trains in 2004, the London Underground and bus system in 2005, and the Charlie Hebdo offices, a Jewish supermarket, and a music concert in Paris in 2015.
Such democratic denialism is not new. Most citizens in Western democracies are so peace-loving it’s easier to overlook your enemies than confront them — and it’s easier to assume they are reasonable like you rather than consumed by evil. Throughout the 1930s, for example, most Americans remained isolationist, even as Nazi Germany and totalitarian Japan menaced the world.
Even after President Franklin Roosevelt warned that, “Never before since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock has our American civilization been in such danger as now,” telegrams, letters, and postcards bombarded Congress demanding neutrality. After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 North Dakota Senator Gerald P. Nye insisted the European war was not “worthy of the sacrifice of one American mule, much less one American son.”
Then, as now, students and professors wanted American’s head buried deep in the sand. A Harvard sociologist, Pitrim A. Sorokin, proclaimed in October 1939, “I prefer unjust peace to a long war.” In 1940, only 33% of Princeton freshmen were ready to fight overseas.
In October 1941, two months before the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into war, only 17% of Americans overall, favored a declaration of war. As a Harvard Crimson editorial explained, “If only blood can wash away the strange quirks in the human mind that breed war… there is still no reason why it must be done with American blood.”
The West, and particularly the U.S., cannot fall into the same trap again. Today we need a clear stance recognizing Hamas’s October 7 massacre as the latest round in the 21st century’s war of good against evil. The values and liberties that the West holds dear must defeat the darkness that comes with Islamic extremism.
Global responses to Israel’s actions in Gaza have been alarming. While some are rallying in support of Israel against the most heinous attacks in recent memory, millions worldwide are supporting the marauders who butchered children, Holocaust survivors, pregnant women and more.
In London, over 100,000 people took to the streets in support of Hamas and the Palestinian cause, with disturbing chants of, “Jihad,” effectively calling for religious warfare against Jews – and the West. Similar provocations occurred at anti-Israel demonstrations worldwide, accompanied by images of individuals tearing down Israeli hostage posters with callous indifference.
At George Washington University in Washington D.C., a pro-Palestinian student group projected messages such as “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” and “Glory to our martyrs” on the school’s Gelman Library.” Free Palestine” might sound like an innocuous slogan, but “from the river to the sea” means the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel.
Most disturbing – as of this writing – locals swarmed an airport in the Russian Republic of Dagestan on Monday, hoping to follow in Hamas’s footsteps by targeting Israelis and Jews.
These mobs do not represent another round of everyday protests. They expose a more profound issue, one that should worry responsible leaders around the globe.
The battle that Israel is now fighting against Hamas is no different than the war America and Western Europe waged against al Qaeda in the early 2000s or the more recent war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Hamas might have a different name and claim to be fighting for Palestinian freedom, but that is clearly not the case when it burns babies and cuts off the limbs of children in front of their parents – before slaughtering young and old alike.
There is a way to defeat this culture of death. It starts by standing with Israel in its time of need, while making it clear that calls for Israel’s destruction or support of Hamas and its actions will not be tolerated. The world has an opportunity to stand on the right side of history. It should not be missed.
Professor Gil Troy, a senior fellow in Zionist Thought at the Jewish People Policy Institute, is an American presidential historian
Yaakov Katz is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post where he remains a columnist, and the author of three books on Israeli military affairs.