columnIsrael at War

Israel’s global isolation is caused by antisemitism, not bad policies

The answer to the Jewish state’s diplomatic dilemma is victory. Heeding the world’s demands to stop the war and let Hamas win will only make it worse.

Israeli flag. Credit: Pixabay.
Israeli flag. Credit: Pixabay.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Israel’s critics and outright foes are right about one thing: Nearly six months after the Oct. 7 massacres, its isolation is growing. With each day that the war against Hamas continues, more allies of the Jewish state are turning into critics, and more critics are turning into outright enemies. And those enemies are increasingly open about their belief that the problem isn’t so much the supposedly brutal tactics of the Israel Defense Forces in pursuing the elimination of Hamas terrorists as it is their belief that the one Jewish state on this planet is illegitimate.

The sense of impending doom is accentuated by press coverage such as the recent cover story in The Economist titled “Israel Alone.” Such articles are practically a daily feature in The New York Times with the latest being a report claiming that Germany is gradually getting over its post-Holocaust guilt and starting to distance itself from its traditional diplomatic posture of support for Israel.

It’s accentuated by the vicious nature of the anti-Israel protests we see in places like New York City. The scene outside Radio City Music Hall in Midtown Manhattan this week as a mob raged against a campaign rally for President Joe Biden, where he was supported by former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, spoke to the way open antisemitic hate has become normalized. Not even Biden’s pivot away from a position of support for the war against Hamas was enough to persuade those demanding victory for the terrorist organization to stand down or cease their expressions of hate for Jews.

The reason why so many people around the world are moved to demonstrate their sympathy and solidarity for the perpetrators of the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust isn’t much of a mystery.

Double standards and antisemitism

That Israel is being judged by standards applied to no other nation on earth is obvious. Even if the Hamas casualty statistics that are accepted by the mainstream corporate press are utterly bogus—and they are—it’s true that the post-Oct. 7 war has taken a terrible toll on the Palestinians in Gaza. Still, the scale of the fighting is nothing when compared to other recent wars fought in Syria or the Congo. And although pro-Hamas propagandists and their fellow travelers call what is happening a “genocide,” the human cost of conflict is minuscule when measured against actual genocides, such as those that have occurred in recent decades in Africa or the ongoing campaign by China against its Muslim Uyghur population.

Suffice it to say that there was no international movement—let alone mass demonstrations—in the streets of the world’s cities about any of those conflicts and genocides. Even the reaction to the illegal and brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led to the United States and Western Europe responding with a massive effort of military aid the cost of that dwarfs the assistance the Americans have given Israel over the years, has not been quite so uniform. (Russia has maintained the support of China and many Third World countries, as well as Iran.) It also hasn’t generated the same kind of intense passion in the form of public demonstrations from those who call themselves “progressives.” Nor has the cause of Ukraine lit a fire from students on college campuses in North America and elsewhere.

The near unanimity about the awfulness of Israeli conduct at the United Nations isn’t surprising since the world body has specialized in singling out the Jewish state for opprobrium almost from its inception. But that drumbeat of incitement in the international community and the support for lawfare aimed at further isolating Israel in agencies like the International Court of Justice in The Hague is increasing.

All of this points to the conclusion that there’s only one kind of fighting that international opinion considers truly beyond the pale—and that is the wars waged by Israel. It’s true even when they are in response to clear violations of international law, not to mention the sort of barbarism that deserves to be compared to the Holocaust, like the Oct. 7 atrocities perpetrated by Hamas on Jewish communities in southern Israel.

Illogical proposals

Of course, many who say they are for a ceasefire in Gaza claim to be supporters of Israel. The Biden administration and the increasing number of congressional Democrats who seek to limit military aid to Israel and force it to accept a Palestinian state when the war ends fall into this category. Yet there’s something particularly baffling about the illogic of a position that is predicated on support for Israel’s security but equally insistent that a Hamas state in Gaza, whose only purpose is to destroy the Jewish state and slaughter Jews en masse, be essentially reconstituted and allowed to take over the even larger areas of Judea and Samaria, something that would be made inevitable by a ceasefire.

It’s not quite so baffling, however, when this position is viewed as being impelled by a campaign of antisemitic incitement against Israel, rooted in misinformation about the war being conducted by progressives who have enormous influence over American journalism, popular culture and sway over the activist wing of the Democratic Party.

To the chattering classes who are pushing for Israel’s isolation, the answers to its dilemma are clear. They believe that Israel should end its war on Hamas, enabling those who planned and carried out the largest mass slaughter of Jews since World War II and the Holocaust amid a spree of rape, torture and kidnapping that occurred on Oct. 7 to get away with their crimes. They say this is the only way to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and to rebuild Gaza. And they believe that this must be followed up by a renewed push for peace that will be based on the idea of creating an independent Palestinian state in Gaza, as well as Judea, Samaria and part of Jerusalem.

Few Israelis are ready to buy into this scenario. While there was broad support in the Jewish state for the 1993 Oslo peace accords that were based on the “land for peace” formula, three decades of Palestinian terrorism and rejection of Israeli/U.S. offers of statehood have sobered Israelis up about the intentions of their Arab neighbors. The Second Intifada—five years of Palestinian suicide bombings of civilians on buses, and in restaurants and schools from 2000 to 2005—the creation of a Hamas state in Gaza after the total Israeli withdrawal from the Strip in the summer of 2005 and now the horrors that took place on Simchat Torah last fall have created a broad consensus mandating both the elimination of Hamas and opposition to Palestinian statehood for the foreseeable future.

But those carrying on about how isolated Israel is—in sanctimonious tones in which they claim to be speaking more in sorrow than anger—are not interested in any of that. Nor do they care about Palestinian culpability for the war or the fact that polls show that an overwhelming majority of them support Hamas, as well as the atrocities of Oct. 7. That the same is true of those cheering the spilling of Jewish blood on the streets of New York and college campuses is also not taken into account when discussing this anti-Israel consensus among the so-called enlightened left.

Concessions breed isolation not popularity

The problem with their formula is, however, not just that Israelis reject it. It’s that those who make these proposals either don’t understand or are deliberately ignoring the root cause of Israel’s problem. Its isolation is not caused by bad policies, a right-wing government or the inevitable suffering caused by even the most justified and moral war. If the outrage about its conduct would never be applied to any other country, then those most critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition must acknowledge that the problem is antisemitism.

In the heyday of Oslo optimism in the 1990s, the late Shimon Peres, who had ushered that foolish effort into existence while Israel’s foreign minister, used to preach that Israel didn’t need hasbara—good public relations or pro-Israel advocacy. What it needed was good policies that led to peace. Once that happened, he said, the Jewish state would be popular everywhere.

But he was wrong. Neither the territorial withdrawals of Oslo nor Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza made Israel popular. The same was true of the offers of statehood made by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert in 2000, 2001 and 2008. In fact, the opposite was true.

The more Israel took risks for peace by giving up its rights and endangering its security, the more despised it became around the world. Rather than convincing the international community of its good intentions, concessions to the Palestinians made Israel appear to be a thief returning stolen property to its rightful owners. By discarding arguments that insisted upon Jewish rights to the land of Israel—as guaranteed by international law, in addition to history and justice—the Israeli peace camp helped legitimize the anti-Zionist narrative of the Palestinian nakba, the “catastrophe” of the establishment of a modern-day Jewish state.

Tragically, the spectacle of Jewish suffering, victimhood and humiliation on Oct. 7 had a similar impact on world opinion. Rather than demonstrating the barbaric nature and genocidal goals of Israel’s opponents, the anti-Zionists either denied the evidence of those crimes provided by the perpetrators or argued that the Jews—falsely labeled as “settler-colonialist” oppressors in the one country in the world where the Jews truly are the indigenous people—had it coming. The spilling of Jewish blood has, as it has so many times in the past, only incited more hatred against Jews.

Difficult though the task facing the Israel Defense Forces may be, if the current war ends in anything but total victory over Hamas, Israelis should expect no wave of sympathy or understanding. Not only will Hamas be able to declare itself vindicated—and by its commission of unspeakable crimes, assume primacy in Palestinian politics—but the international pressure on Israel to grant them more triumphs will only continue.

An ‘Iron Wall’ is still needed

Sadly, nothing will make Israel be loved by the world. The Jewish state cannot be “rebranded” to associate itself solely with its stellar economy, scientific accomplishments, or the beauty of its scenery or the genius of its people. The only formula for Jewish survival is the one that Zionist statesman and thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote about in his 1923 essay “The Iron Wall,” in which he preached that only when the Arab world realizes that it can’t defeat the Jews can peace be possible. 

It should be remembered that the alliance with the United States, which is Israel’s greatest diplomatic asset, was not a gift given to the Jews by a benevolent American government in 1948. There was no alliance with Washington until after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, when it demonstrated its military strength and acquired the strategic depth that made its survival not quite so precarious.

That belief in Israel’s dominance was also what impelled some Arab states to give up the fight leading to peace deals like the 2020 Abraham Accords. However, if Hamas is allowed to emerge from the war it started by breaching Israel’s defenses not only alive but crowned as the victor, antisemites will not merely be encouraged. They will think that for all of its strength and accomplishments, the Jewish state that Jabotinsky envisioned lacks that iron wall that it still needs.

Those who care about Israel must take these lessons to heart and realize that the only solution to its current situation is for Jerusalem to ignore its critics and push through to victory, no matter how difficult that might be in terms of its military and diplomatic challenges. Only by clearly beating the Hamas criminals, as well as their many supporters and enablers, can circumstances ease a little. Anything less and a nightmare scenario envisioned by antisemitic foes—in which Israel truly becomes a pariah state—will be the inevitable result.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

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