OpinionAntisemitism

Discovering old truths

These truths were as real before the massacre and its terrible aftermath as they are today. If they seem surprising, it is because we didn’t focus enough on them in the past. 

Los Angeles police officers clash with anti-Israel protesters outside Adas Torah, an Orthodox synagogue, preventing access to an event on June 23, 2024. Photo by David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images.
Los Angeles police officers clash with anti-Israel protesters outside Adas Torah, an Orthodox synagogue, preventing access to an event on June 23, 2024. Photo by David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images.
Morton Schapiro. Credit: Courtesy.
Morton Schapiro
Morton Schapiro is the former president of Williams College and Northwestern University. His most recent book (with Gary Saul Morson) is “Minds Wide Shut:  How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us.”

The reaction of many Jews to the horrific times in which we find ourselves calls to mind the “Christopher Columbus problem”—conflating what’s new to us with what’s actually new.

Has the world really changed since Oct. 7, or have a number of enduring truths suddenly become all too evident?  I propose that it is the latter.

Here are a dozen examples:

1. Many hold Israel to a very different standard than any other nation. Countries that kill gays, subjugate women, slaughter minority populations and murder dissidents will often get a pass. But any failure —real or imagined—related to the Jewish state draws disproportionate outrage.

2. Universities will call out any inkling of racism, misogyny, homophobia and the like on their campuses, but when it comes to antisemitism, “free speech” rules the day. Can you guess what the response would be if pro-lifers set up a right-to-life encampment on the college green? Would that also be considered an acceptable exercise of free speech?

3. Some of our “allies” love us when we support their causes with our time and money, but when we need them most, their silence is deafening. Let’s never forget. In the immortal words of Pete Townshend, “I’ll get on my knees and pray we don’t get fooled again.”

4. The pride that older Jews feel for our ancient homeland isn’t necessarily replicated by the younger generation. We need more programs like Birthright that expose them to the reality of Israel, not the alleged oppressor state that “progressives” are so eager to condemn.

5. Some of our most ardent friends—personally and politically—are non-Jews. Without those righteous gentiles, we would be in an even more precarious situation than we currently face. Don’t take them for granted. Let them know what they mean to us.

6. Jewish organizations—Hillels, synagogues, community centers—are places of revitalization and hope. They rely on our generosity. Without it, they might not be there when we need them most.

7. Jew-haters will always find a reason to despise us. We are weak and vulnerable yet control the world’s politics and economics; we are both ruthless capitalists and communist agitators; we are lesser because we are not really white and at the same time privileged oppressors. To them, what we say or do doesn’t matter.  

8. Jews who lend their names to the effort to delegitimize Israel embolden its sworn enemies. These “useful idiots” (Vladimir Lenin’s evocative term) naively ignore the fact that they are at least indirectly supporting a plan not just to wipe Israel off the map, but to kill all Jews everywhere. What do they think “globalize the intifada” means?

9. The number of people in leadership positions far exceeds the number of genuine leaders. Too many of them are more interested in doing what is expedient, than in doing what is right. The failure of universities in particular to hold students, faculty and staff responsible for their words and actions constitutes an utter abdication of their duty to educate.

10. We might justifiably abhor some of the policies of the current Israeli government, but not the nation it leads. Governments come and go, but we must never turn our backs on our forever homeland.

11. There is a limit to the usefulness of our attempts to engage in civil discourse. Choose your spots with great care. Some people pretend that they want to learn from you, but only seek to vilify that which you hold most dear.

12. If we don’t promote our own mental and physical health, we will not be able to help others.  Our adversaries relish sending us down the rabbit hole of self-destruction. It’s OK to turn off the news, to stop watching videos of atrocities and of the rabid mob, and to rejoice in our family, friends and faith.  

None of this is new. These truths were as real before the massacre and its terrible aftermath as they are today. If they seem surprising, it is because we didn’t focus enough on them in the past. If there is a silver lining to all this misery, it is that our eyes are now wide open to the realities that have long beset us.

Originally published by the Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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