ISRAEL IS AT WAR
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OpinionIsrael at War

It’s about time for a global reckoning

After Oct. 7, we now know that this is the ultimate contest of good vs. evil.

A Jewish home destroyed on Oct. 7 when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90.
A Jewish home destroyed on Oct. 7 when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

My staff and I had the profound honor this week of taking Or Got of Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel to Capitol Hill. Kibbutz Be’eri has been a beautiful oasis of convivial neighbors, family and friends, mostly left of center, sitting right near the Gaza border. Or is a handsome young man in his mid-30s, but his face is etched with anxiety and pain.

Or is alive today because on Oct. 7, he happened to be visiting a friend in Tel Aviv. He found out from a Hamas video that his mother was murdered in the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists that Saturday morning. He was speaking to her by phone at the time of her abduction when he heard Arabic and then nothing.

He does not know the whereabouts of his sister and sister-in-law. Hopefully, he says, they are still alive and being held hostage somewhere in the mass underground city of tunnels that wraps around Gaza like a deep, suffocating boa constrictor. I marvel at Or’s courage to recall the nightmarish hell that he and his entire community have had to endure repeatedly to members of Congress in the desperate hope that they might be able to do something.

Many of us have seen the images of babies decapitated, butchered and burned—of young people in the prime of their lives slaughtered in the most sadistic way possible or abducted along with elderly Holocaust survivors. One would think that by now the world would understand what Israel is up against.

We Jews were shaken to the core at the reaction—just days after this savagery—of thousands of people demonstrating against Israel’s right to defend itself in London, Paris, Madrid, Athens, Rome, and in the streets of U.S. cities and on American college campuses. As I write this, a mob is trying to attack Jews landing in an airport in Dagestan, Russia, in a modern-day pogrom.

Why the double standard for Israel and Jews? Why, only in the case of Israel, is it accused of “settler colonialism?” According to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, every nation has the essential obligation to defend its citizens from acts of violence.

There is just one word for this exception when it comes to Israel: antisemitism.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has already asked for a premature Israeli ceasefire stating that “the Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of occupation.” Regarded in context of Israel’s withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip of 2005, this is a loathsome, one-sided statement.

Guterres prefers to swallow these unexamined old canards rather than look squarely at the brutalities Hamas perpetrated earlier this month. He also fails to acknowledge that much of this emanates from the constant and steady diet of antisemitic brainwashing that is ubiquitous throughout all aspects of Palestinian society. This includes from the textbooks of his own agency, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Calls by members of Congress to change these textbooks have been going on for years, yet they are routinely ignored.

Now is a time we must acknowledge what most of Jews have tried so hard to den—that much of the world’s response is motivated by pure, unadulterated Jew-hatred.

It is also time to re-evaluate the fundamentally flawed premises of the international foreign-policy establishment, led by the United States, towards the Middle East.

A paradigm shift is well overdue. Certain premises that have been accepted as commonplace, unexamined axioms must finally be examined.

‘Land for peace’ does not work

First and foremost: We have seen through the Gaza withdrawal of 2005 that the “land for peace” formulation simply does not work. We remember with profound sadness how in 2005, approximately 8,000 families were forced to leave their homes in Gaza, evacuating 21 communities. Gaza was supposed to become “the Switzerland of the Middle East,” with Jewish philanthropists donating to the cause “to make Gaza a vibrant economy.” This internally divisive decision of the evacuation from Gaza tore apart the very soul of the State of Israel. Men, women and children were ripped from their homes, some forcibly. People age 60 and above who had spent their lives in agriculture were asked to develop new skills, and to find new housing and communities. Jewish billionaires bought the greenhouses so that the nascent Palestinian state would have some sort of an economic infrastructure. Many rabbis argued that Israel should leave the synagogues because they would be turned into mosques. As soon as the blue-and-white flag of Israel was lowered, those synagogues and greenhouses—and every remnant of Jewish life in Gaza—were savagely destroyed.

And that constituted the first heralding of the true feelings of the inhabitants of Gaza towards Jews. Elections were held in Gaza in 2006, and Hamas was victorious. In 2007, a coup was held in which members of the Palestinian Authority were thrown off rooftops by members of Hamas, as Fatah Party members shouted words such as “I am not a Jew. You are treating me like a Jew,” plunging to their deaths.

This fatally flawed “land for peace” paradigm has been a cornerstone of U.S.-led international policy ever since the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War. America and other world leaders have consistently misinterpreted U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which states: “Israel must withdraw from territories.” It never said that Israel is obligated to withdraw from ­all of the territories that it had captured in Israel’s defensive war of 1967, which has been part of a widely promulgated disinformation campaign.

In fact, many people have argued, with moral clarity, that Israel has already fulfilled this obligation, with its withdrawals from all of Sinai, Gaza, and many settlements in Judea and Samaria. Resolution 242 also applies to “every recognized state in the area.” It certainly does not apply to areas that are under the full control of Iranian-backed terrorist entities, such as Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Resolution 242 also calls for “secure and recognized boundaries.” What “secure and recognized” implies is that Israel, like any other nation, must have defensible boundaries to protect its civilian population. Israel simply lacks the strategic depth to be able to defend itself from not only state actors, such as Iran, but its terrors proxies in Syria, Lebanon and in the West Bank. This war—waged not by a standing army but by a brutal group of barbaric terrorists—has proven the impossibility of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, where it would be 9 miles wide in its narrowest waist. Just one missile from the West Bank to Ben-Gurion International Airport, a little more than 5 miles away, would cut off all air traffic, isolating the Jewish state from all air traffic.

The Israelis know this. No Israeli, even well before the war that Hamas inflicted upon Israel, speaks about “land for peace” anymore.

‘The martyr is beloved’

We all wish that Israel had a rational negotiating partner on the other side of the table. Wishful thinking, however, does not make for sound foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Palestinian children—whether they live in Gaza or Ramallah, or throughout the West Bank—have been taught that Jews are evil incarnate, that the State of Israel will be eradicated from the map and replaced by Palestine amid a horrific cult of deification of death and martyrdom. For years, we have been following the highly antisemitic textbooks that the Palestinian children learn from. Palestinian Media Watch and other groups document this constantly.

One recent posting of PMW shows a group of children about 4 years old holding another child saying “we are playing martyr,” as they are giggling. “The martyr is the most beloved of Allah.”

The Taylor Force Act was passed in both the Congress in the Israeli Knesset in 2018 to prevent the lavish inducements that the Palestinian Authority gives to the families of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs. On Oct. 15, Palestinian Media Watch posted that the P.A. will be paying an additional $2,789,430 to the families of 50 Hamas terrorists. (This sum is likely to increase since it was posted in the beginning of the war.)

The Palestinian Authority has long been regarded as the non-religiously based, more “rational” secular alternative to Hamas. It has also been routinely acknowledged that the P.A. sees this as a dispute about land and borders—not about theocracy—and that once they have acquired a tangible area of land, there will be two states living side by side in peace and democracy.

 On Oct. 18, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas’s religious advisor, posted on his Facebook page: “Palestine is not just a cause of land and borders and a political cause. Palestine is a religious cause and a cause of faith.”

 The Palestinian National Charter has never been repealed. All 33 articles (except the last, which is procedural article) talk about the qami (“duty”) to “liberate” all of Palestine from the hands of the Zionists. In 1996, the Palestinian Legislative Council met to agree to promise to amend the Charter. However, no members of a committee were ever appointed; there was never a committee meeting; and the charter has never been amended.

The new axis of evil

According to a Wall Street Journal report of Oct. 8, Iran helped to plan the Hamas surprise attacks over several months. Whether or not one can clearly connect the dots between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the events of Oct. 7, Iran, with the support of Qatar, has been the main funder of Hamas and Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al-Nusra Front (ISIS in the Levant) and other terror entities.

It is abundantly clear that Iran has long been part of the new axis of evil, along with Russia, China and North Korea. Over the last two years, the United States has squandered a great deal of expense, energy and effort to embolden Iran, trying to seduce it back the 2015 nuclear deal. Throughout this period of attempted negotiations with Iran, the Iranians would not even deign to meet as its nuclear centrifuges kept spinning. Recently, U.S. military troops and bases in Iraq and Syria have been attacked by Iranian-backed forces, making it apparent as to which side of the divide the Islamic Republic views the United States.

We now know that this is the ultimate contest of good versus evil. We are hopeful that as scenes of what young survivors like Or Got have etched into their memories from Oct. 7 are being replaced by those of the war in Gaza, the United States will remain on the side of what is moral, what is good and what is right.

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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