When I began to watch the news this weekend, the first words that came to mind were those of Col. Walter Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, “The horror, the horror.”
Seeing the way civilians were massacred and corpses desecrated. Watching a video of a woman taken by the hair and dragged into a jeep bound for the Gaza Strip. Hearing a mother describing a phone call with her 12- and 16-year-old sons as terrorists broke down their door, voices in Arabic and then silence. Recalling the episodes of “Fauda” depicting the torture of Israeli captives.
I’ve spent more than three decades—my whole professional life—working to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, educating the public about Israel, and refuting the myths perpetrated by antisemites and Israel’s detractors. It’s exhausting to make the same arguments over and over. I like to think I’ve made a difference, and the positive feedback I often receive is reassuring. Still, I’m just one relatively insignificant man engaged in the Sisyphean task of influencing the conversation about Israel.
Living in Washington, D.C., I am close to the most powerful government officials but have no delusions of influencing their decisions. I also do not expect that Israel’s leaders 6,000 miles away are interested in my opinion. Moreover, I have always believed that it is not the job of armchair quarterbacks in America to make decisions about war and peace for Israelis who can express their wishes at the ballot box. Israeli adults and their children, not me, serve in the military and must live with the consequences.
My beliefs have not changed, but my stake in those decisions has. For many years, my Israeli friends told me about their sleepless nights during the two or three years their sons and daughters did their mandatory service. Now, my son has been called upon to defend Israel. I am proud of my son beyond words, but I confess that I never thought he would internalize my commitment to Israel, make aliyah, and fight for the lives and future of our people.
It was difficult for my wife and me to be so far away during his combat medic and paratrooper training, but we felt fortunate that he saw no combat. It’s about two years hence, but when the call this weekend came, he did not hesitate to report to his unit. He cannot tell me his assignment, but it’s not difficult to imagine where he’ll be and the danger—unlike anything he has faced before—he will confront.
My wife and I had our first night of fitful sleep on the day of the Hamas invasion. We have watched TV almost nonstop since the fighting began, and I have been in constant dialogue with friends and colleagues online, trying to learn the latest news. My wife breaks into tears when I relate the casualty toll and some of the horrific attacks. I try to be stoic for her, but my anxiety is at 11.
Intellectually, I knew how Israelis felt when their children were forced to fight, but it’s a different experience when your flesh and blood are in imminent peril. Any war would be terrible, but the thought of our son—and the sons and daughters of Israelis facing the Hamas barbarians—is almost beyond human endurance. Like Israeli parents, we do not know when we will hear from him. He is a lone soldier who thankfully has host families to care about his welfare.
Meanwhile, I am sickened by the media, most of which refuse to use the word “terrorists” to describe the monsters who murdered and kidnapped men, women, children, the elderly and the disabled. In the interest of “balance,” Palestinian propagandists are interviewed who justify Hamas savagery and repeat their mantra that Jews deserve to be murdered because of the “occupation.”
Unsurprisingly, the “human rights” organizations and Palestinian advocates support Hamas. The former executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth (who was given an academic position at Princeton!), said the White House shouldn’t use the term “terrorism” to describe one side and should instead warn Hamas and Israel that it’s a war crime to target civilians, overlooking the fact that only one side does that. Amnesty International, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jewish Voice for Peace were among those who blamed Israel for the violence. More than two dozen Harvard organizations signed a statement holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” The BDS movement issued an “urgent action alert” to “show immediate and meaningful solidarity with Palestinians now.” The word “Hamas” does not appear.
We are seeing who believes that Jewish lives matter. The masks of the antisemites hiding behind the words “Israeli” or “Zionist” have come off.
The usual pundits bloviate about a “cycle of violence,” equating the arsonists of Hamas with the Israeli firefighters. They pontificate about ending the “occupation” and implementing a two-state solution.
They are lunatics.
Have they learned nothing from the repeated slaughter of Jews by Palestinians? More than 1,400 were killed between 2000 and October 6, 2023. Nearly that number was murdered last weekend. Israel withdrew every soldier and civilian from Gaza in 2005, ending the occupation there, and we are now seeing the result. No, that’s not true. We’ve seen this movie repeatedly since the disengagement.
How many Jews must die before everyone recognizes that the Palestinians do not want a state; they want the Jews to disappear? If this were the 1940s, these same appeasers would have been lobbying for the Allies to give Hitler whatever he wanted under the ludicrous belief that he would have ended the war and stopped exterminating Jews. Many now want Ukraine to surrender to the genocidal autocrat in Moscow for “peace.”
Every Palestinian and advocate for them can thank Hamas for guaranteeing that they will never get a state.
It does not take a mind reader to anticipate what will happen in the coming days. The shift in attention has already begun from the invasion and massacre of Jews to the poor, blameless Palestinians who allow terrorists in their midst and support a regime whose raison d’être is the destruction of Israel. Terrorists are being targeted in what is speciously called “the most densely populated area in the world” to end the Hamas threat permanently.
You’ll soon see the scoreboard of Palestinian versus Israeli casualties. The media will repeat whatever fictitious number the Hamas health authorities give them, making no distinction between the terrorists and their human shields. Israel will be accused of using “disproportionate force” as if the world would prefer that Israel engage in a proportional response by butchering Palestinians, and taking their women and children hostage. Israel is expected to allow more of its citizens to be killed to even the score.
In the meantime, I will pray that my son fights bravely to defend our homeland and that neither my child nor those of any Israelis become a number on the media scoreboard.