Good riddance to 2014, a not-so-banner year for Jews and Israel

Click photo to download. Caption: A burning factory in the southern Israeli city of Sderot that was hit by a rocket fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza on June 28, 2014. Credit: Natan Flayer via Wikimedia Commons.

By Laura Fein/JNS.org

As 2014 draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on this year’s dramatic increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks, and hope that the coming year will see more Jews actively join the fight to reverse these trends.  

In Israel itself, 2014 saw another round of the now-familiar cycle: Israeli concessions to “advance” the fake peace process, Palestinian Arab rejection, and increased violence against Jews.  This year’s violence included the murder of the three teenage boys, car attacks killing adults and infants, multiple murders by stabbing and gunfire, the bloody butchery of rabbis at prayer, acid hurled at children, and the deaths of some six dozen souls in Israel’s response to Hamas’s relentless rocket and tunnel campaigns against civilian centers. And that is just what made the news. Dozens of other attacks, often resulting in serious injury, are never reported in the English press.  

In the U.S., this year saw the Obama administration break new ground in both rhetorical assaults and concrete action against Israel. From personal attacks on Israeli leaders, to frequent public condemnations on even municipal affairs, to the closing of flights to Israel’s airport, to the withholding of routine weapons transfers in the midst of a war, this administration has made it clear that it will use all means at its disposal to pressure Israel. Just recently, Secretary of State John Kerry declined to rule out future U.S. support for a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting a Palestinian Arab state—a way of rewarding a rejectionist Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership that incites terror and refuses to acknowledge the right of Jews to live in any part of Israel. Moreover, the extended negotiations with Iran signal the prioritization of expanding U.S.-Iran relations over stopping Iran’s nuclear aspirations.    

In Europe, this year saw chilling echoes of the 1930s, both in overt anti-Semitism and the appeasement of evil. Violent attacks on Jews have increased sharply and threaten to drive out the remnants of European Jewry. Jewish businesses are subject to attack and boycott. Aliyah from France has nearly doubled, as more French Jews feel threatened and believe they need to leave to protect their safety as well as that of their children. Thankfully, this time they have a place to go.

But no Jew can afford to take the Jewish homeland for granted. Whereas once calls for Israel’s complete elimination were on the fringes or at least delivered in Arabic, we now routinely hear “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and there is no mistaking the intention. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has gained tremendous support, yielding results in municipalities, on college campuses, in organizations such as Presbyterian Church USA and the American Studies Association, and even among some Jewish groups—despite the fact that the BDS founders openly call for the destruction of the Jewish state.  

Indeed, ever-more powerful voices attack Israel’s existence as the nation-state of the Jews. We see this in the widespread condemnation of the proposed “Jewish state” bill, as if confirming a nation’s dominant ethnic or religious culture were contrary to democratic principles. (If it were, there goes European democracy, since virtually all European countries have an official state religion, language, and ethnicity.) We see this in the rush of European nations to endorse statehood for Palestinian Arabs, despite the fact that the leaders of all PA-affiliated parties openly incite violence against Israelis and Jews worldwide, use international funds to pay salaries to terrorists, and defiantly refuse to recognize a Jewish state of any borders.  

Hamas, meanwhile, was recently removed from the European Union’s (EU) terrorism blacklist by the General Court of the EU. The explanations and excuses were manifold, but as Zionist Organization of America National President Mort Klein stated, “Steps like the court decision are precisely the sort of softening-up steps which precede a political decision to legitimize a terrorist group.” To disregard Hamas leaders’ open support of the murder of civilians and the group’s Nazi-like charter, which explicitly calls for the annihilation of every Jew worldwide, puts Hamas on the same path to legitimacy that worked so brilliantly for the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA, whose diplomatic aims are routinely granted without regard to their sustained support for terrorism and direct incitement of murder. While the U.S. has not changed its designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization, it did not stall diplomacy nor cut funding to the PA as a result of its (now-collapsed) unity government with Hamas.  

Laura Fein

Perhaps the policy implication for Zionists in the U.S. is the need to remind the current administration, the American public, the Western world, and ourselves of the value of having Israel, a pro-Western capitalist democracy, physically confronting our common enemies in the Middle East. Where would evil actors train their gaze if Israel did not exist? What nation would stand as proof that capitalism and democracy can work in that part of the world? Israeli economic success, without oil riches, shows that an educated population is the most important natural resource. Israeli civil liberties and freedoms show its neighbors that authoritarianism is not the only way to control an unruly populace. Israeli defensive military dominance shows that no matter what political divisions may exist, Israel’s citizens are united in their willingness to fight for their country.  

Israel is certainly worth fighting for, whether as a sanctuary and protector of Jews worldwide, a front line in the West’s war against jihadist threats, or a beacon of human rights and pluralism. In 2015, let us rededicate ourselves to ensuring the endurance of a modern miracle, a strong Jewish state of Israel.  

Laura Fein is the executive director of Zionist Organization of America-New Jersey (ZOA-NJ).  She can be reached at ZOANJ@ZOA.org or https://www.facebook.com/ZOA.NJ

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Posted on December 24, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S., World.