OpinionJewish Diaspora

Amichai Chikli’s rescue remedy

Diaspora Jews must put the nation back into religion, and Israeli Jews must put religion back into the nation.

Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Likud MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Dec. 28, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Likud MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Dec. 28, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to: melaniephillips.substack.com.

The current pandemic of vicious antisemitism targeting both Israel and Diaspora Jews has prompted many to wonder what can be done to tackle a deranged prejudice that is frighteningly out of control.

It has also prompted many to wonder yet again why Israel is so ineffective at putting its case across.

I raised this a few days ago with Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli. A combative member of the Likud Party, Chikli has socially conservative views that have caused Diaspora hackles to rise. This reaction is myopic. His thinking is sharp, coherent and insightful.

What did he make of the antisemitism and incitement in the anti-Israel encampments on campuses in America and Britain and at the massive street demonstrations over the Gaza war?

While acknowledging the involvement of the hard-left and several revolutionary anti-West and pro-Palestinian funders, Chikli stressed the role played by Islamic radicals.

Unlike Muslims who don’t have imperialist aspirations, Islamists treat Islam as a political movement whose aim is to impose Islamic rule across the world. This is the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood, which developed in the early decades of the last century and in the late 1980s spawned Hamas.

For Chikli, this is the link not just between Gaza and the demonstrations and encampments but with the progressive Islamization of the West.

The Brotherhood, he said, is a diffused, decentralized movement. It’s not controlled by one body. It operates through mosques, community centers, charities and welfare services. Its subversive agenda is therefore difficult to pin down. But it certainly exists.

Documents from Israel’s civil command of Gaza in the late 1980s, said Chikli, observed that the greatest threat came from these Brotherhood groups, but they were small and difficult to erase because they were spreading throughout society. Today, the Brotherhood links Gaza to Minnesota and Michigan, London and Leeds.

We learn this, said Chikli, from their identical language, ideology and texts. The spiritual guru of Hamas, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, was based in Qatar, which today remains Hamas’s patron and funder. It was Qaradawi who said Muslims don’t need to fight to dominate Europe because Sharia law would come to dominate British society in any case.

In Britain, this agenda erupted into public consciousness in last week’s municipal elections. These elections choose local councilors to deal with issues such as garbage collection and park maintenance.

Last week, however, dozens of Muslim councilors were elected on an agenda of Gaza and the Palestinians, with one declaring in his victory speech, “We will not be silenced. We will raise the voice of Gaza. We will raise the voice of Palestine. Allahu Akbar!” 

Aghast, Britain discovered that it had given birth to sectarian politics. A Muslim political bloc formally announced itself, presenting 18 demands that it said the Labour Party, expected to win power in the next general election, must meet to gain its support. These included boycotting Israel and severing military ties, junking anti-extremist measures and ensuring “sharia-compliant” pensions in every workplace.

Given the cult-like brainwashing of the Palestinians, their Western acolytes and the Muslim world, should Israel and the West be attempting to deprogram them through education?

“I’m not sure deprogramming is possible and not sure this is where we should put our efforts,” Chikli replied.

Instead, he prioritizes increasing Jewish resilience. The most important thing, he said, is to educate the Jews both in the Diaspora and in Israel. What he meant by that was reconnecting Jews to both their religion and their nation.

Accordingly, Israel is delivering millions of dollars to the United States and Canada to train Jewish educators.

“There’s a relationship between Jewish education and antisemitism,” he said. “It’s very hard to stand and fight for the truth if you don’t know the history; if you’re not well-educated about your Jewish identity.”

That also applies to Israel. It wasn’t enough for Israel to be based upon drained swamps, medical discoveries and high-tech genius. It had to rest upon a history and principles that go back to Abraham. It had to be based on an authentic Jewish way of life comprising faith, transcendent truth, the distinction between good and bad, taking responsibility for choosing your path and being accountable for your actions. The other side—the liberal universalist, progressive world—rejects moral clarity, rejects personal responsibility, rejects all of this.

Chikli is optimistic. He believes that the profound shock of Oct. 7 will increase the number of those who understand this. He even detects some awakening in the notoriously post-Zionist Israeli universities, where he hears some academics ruefully acknowledge that before Oct. 7 they were divorced from reality.

The campus insurrections in America, Chikli said, are also opening eyes. These anti-Israel movements, he said, are supported by the adversaries of America and the West from both the left and radical Islam. The left is against religion, family, patriotism and the nation-state. Radical Islam is against America.

“These are two totalitarian movements cooperating against a common enemy,” he said. “The benefit of what’s happening on American campuses, with young Americans springing up to protect the American flag, is that most Americans can now see this in front of their eyes. They can see we’re on the same side.”

Until now, however, Israel has failed to tell the West what it needs to hear and what so many don’t know: That the Jews are the indigenous people of Israel; that the Arabs are the colonizers; that the Palestinians are driven to destroy Israel according to the dictates of Islamic holy war. Israel has never had a coherent strategy to educate the West.

Chikli nodded. “We need a different strategy based on truth and facts and the mutual struggle that we share,” he said. “We are fighting a mutual fight against an extremely dangerous enemy in radical Islam.”

Now, however, he sees new allies springing up. Across Europe, there’s a backlash against mass immigration and radical Islam, with conservative movements growing in power.

Chikli said he finds many friends of Israel in Europe among certain Spanish and French politicians, the Swedish Democrats, some Flemish parties in Belgium, Britain’s Nigel Farage and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

So, he meant the “populists”? “Conservatives,” he said firmly. In other words, these are all mainstream politicians and not “far-right” bogeymen as they are portrayed in the West.

While he is optimistic about Europe fighting back, Chikli thinks that it may be too late to save Britain. There are just too many Islamic radicals there, he said, making inroads into politics and society that are now too deep and widespread to be contained.

As for Britain’s Jewish leaders, he said, “I see a lot of cowardice. I think they think more about themselves than the Jewish people.”

Chikli draws his main comfort from the younger generation everywhere. In Israel, he sees the young soldiers bound in unbreakable brotherhood by a historical identity, fighting for a nation to which they are committed with heart and soul; and who, he said, will transform Israel’s political and cultural landscape.

In Britain, too, he sees exceptional young Jews in organizations such as StandWithUs UK, Campaign Against Antisemitism and UK Lawyers for Israel who fight unambiguously for Israel and the Jewish people by rejecting the groveling timidity of Jewish leaders terrified of being identified as part of the Jewish nation.

And in America, 450 Jewish students at virulently anti-Jewish Columbia University bravely published a letter expressing pride in Israel and love for their Jewish faith.

In summary, Chikli’s message is that Diaspora Jews must put the nation back into religion, and Israeli Jews must put religion back into the nation.

He grasps what many are slowly coming to understand: that the Jewish people and the West are joined at the hip; that the progressive world poses a mortal threat to both of them; and that this is an inflection point not just for Israel and the Jews but for civilization.

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