How important is the State of Israel to the Jews of the world? How important is the strength of that state to the safety of the Jews who don’t live there?
We now have a controlled experiment that tells us the answer.
The day after Oct. 7, Jews around the world were threatened, as they have been ever since. This was before a single Israeli soldier had set foot in the Gaza Strip, before anyone could claim that they were rioting because of civilian deaths there, because there hadn’t been any yet. The only thing motivating these threats to American, French, British, Belgian and Australian Jews was the image of 1,200 tortured, raped, murdered, burned and mutilated Israeli Jews, whose death had not been prevented by the Israel Defense Forces. The threats to the Jews around the world came then and because of that.
What does this mean?
It means something very simple: The people who celebrated these deaths and threatened more found them “exhilarating” and “energizing,” and thought them a beautiful thing. They threatened Jews around the world for one reason—because as a result of Oct. 7 and Israel’s momentary weakness, these people smelled Jewish blood.
That’s what they found “exhilarating” and “energizing.”
And they wanted more of it.
Today, two months later, at the Deborah Project—the public-interest law firm where I serve as president—we are contacted every day and night by parents of children at public schools, and at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States, because their children are being physically threatened. By mobs. Mobs that are left entirely free to intimidate Jewish students. Mobs that feel free to denounce and silence Jews who speak in favor of the millennia-long Jewish commitment to Zion and the land of Israel.
But also Jews who simply publicly reveal themselves as Jews—who wear a Jewish star, who wear a kippah. These people are harassed, stopped on campus sidewalks and prevented from walking by people wearing (and sometimes, hiding their faces in) the checked scarf that has become the trademark of Palestinian activists. The loyalty of these Jews to kidnapped Israelis marks them as enemies of the mob.
The people who are committing these acts were here before Oct. 7, but they weren’t doing these things with anywhere the same frequency or at anywhere near the same volume. What changed?
What changed is the ability of this mob to visualize the defeat of Israel and the destruction as a Jewish state. For a moment, it became possible for these people to imagine that the Jews really would be driven into the sea, or all the women raped to death or forced to flee to somewhere else.
The IDF’s campaign in Gaza has been deliberate and slow; this has been no Six-Day War and even just in Gaza, it may not even be a six-month war. So there has been no knock-out punch thrown by the army of the Jews—in part, of course, because that army has attempted as best it could to avoid killing the non-combatants among whom Hamas has hidden its fighters and its weapons, as well as the hostages whose capture is a categorical violation of international law.
That absence of a lightning strike that destroyed Hamas in a day or a week has enabled more people to believe that the IDF is struggling, that its defeat of Hamas is uncertain and, perhaps, that its defeat by Hamas is possible. No one with any sophisticated awareness of the facts entertains such fantasies, but we’re not talking about people who know or care about facts. We’re talking about ideologues and people who want to advance their own fevered Jew-hatred.
What the lack of an immediate Israeli victory has done is convince the Jew-haters who were always there that it is safe to come out and say what they really think. This is made all the easier by the pathetic submission of the prestigious universities that house American thought leaders to the hatred of Jews. So, as we learned at a congressional hearing this week, calling for the death of Jews is not ambiguously wrong, even though calling for the death of fill-in-the-blank-with-any-other-minority would be condemned and stopped immediately.
Thus, no one would suggest that any student at Harvard University or the University of Pennsylvania had the “right” to stand on campus and call for the death of blacks, or use the “N”-word, or announce that gays are sick or that Muslims are terrorists. But announce that the Jewish state—and anyone who is loyal to it or believes it has the right to exist—is a terrorist and that you can call for the genocide of all such people, and the university will stand dumb and unable to condemn you. Those who despise and blame everything on Jews are allowed to say what they really think, when the haters of anyone else (except perhaps white males) would be silenced in a moment.
That moral bankruptcy has merged with the newfound courage of the Jew-haters, spurred by their conviction that Israel’s defeat is possible, and so the silencing of Jews everywhere is possible. It is the perception of Israel’s weakness and the smell of Jewish blood that enabled these people to raise their heads.
The story is told of a young Israeli girl who was taken to visit the concentration camps in Poland. When it was explained to her what happened there, she asked in all innocence: But why didn’t our army come and save them? The answer, of course, is that in 1942, the Jews didn’t have an army. So the mass murder of Jews the world over could not be stopped by the IDF, and it was not stopped by anyone else until six-sevenths of European Jewry had been burned in the ovens of Auschwitz.
What has energized Jew-hatred in America today is the glimpse of a world where that could be possible again.