OpinionIsrael at War

Oct. 7 is apocalypse now

A language of lies and hate threatens to conquer the mind of the West.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses attendees at a Trump Tax Town Hall hosted by Tax March at Events on Jackson in Phoenix, Ariz., in February 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses attendees at a Trump Tax Town Hall hosted by Tax March at Events on Jackson in Phoenix, Ariz., in February 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.
Donna Robinson Devine
Donna Robinson Divine
Donna Robinson Divine is the Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Government Emerita at Smith College's Department of Government.

Nancy Pelosi’s call for the suspension of arms deliveries to Israel made me stop for a moment in disbelief. There is a profound irony when someone who has quoted Israeli songwriter Ehud Manor’s lyric “I have no other country” evinces no understanding that weakening Israel’s military can destroy the Jewish state and inflict horrific damage on a people who actually do have “no other country.”

I also wonder about the limits of the intellectual dexterity of progressives who worry about a climate apocalypse unfolding on a long timeline but are prepared to stop sending vital weapons that will help Israel stave off the threat of an apocalypse now. I wonder about the flattening of distinctions between Israel’s military campaign and Hamas’s atrocities, as in recent remarks by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This not only holds the Jewish state to impossible standards in defending its citizens but also gives vigor to broader anti-Israel hostility, including blood libels. It washes away the kidnapping, hostage-taking, rape, torture, beheadings and more filmed and posted online by perpetrators proud of their savagery.

There are some possible explanations. As the IDF has dismantled Hamas brigade by brigade, it has uncovered something like Gaza’s “zone of interest,” composed of multi-layered ties between Hamas and the institutional structure of international humanitarian aid. This raises inevitable questions about the extent to which donors, distributors and recipients of this aid have created a system that depends financially on the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps it is also dependent on specific outbreaks of violence.

Of course, the Oct. 7 atrocities risked the Palestinians’ image as the ultimate victims. It is thus no surprise to see international leaders who initially rushed to condemn the atrocities now proclaiming that the moral test for Israel’s military operations is the number of civilian casualties.

But let us be clear about what this means if it leaves Hamas in place: Oct. 7 thrust the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into an apocalyptic realm. It replaced the widely accepted policy of “two states for two peoples” with the genocidal slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The possibility of coexistence has been jettisoned in favor of perpetual violence.

The current admonitions from the White House and the Democratic Party do not just work to delegitimize Israel’s war effort. They aid and abet the Hamas supporters who celebrated the butchery as soon as it was reported. Let’s remember the rapture of intellectuals on and off campus who adulated the barbarism as the dawn of liberation for the wretched of the earth.

Clearly, the Palestinians and their supporters’ genocidal war has gone global. They no longer seek land or self-rule, but rather deliverance from a past in which the “wrong side of history” is said to have prevailed. Only a blood sacrifice can compensate for a history gone so horribly wrong. Such a view places absolutely no limits on what can be done to reverse what is seen not as the founding of a Jewish state in 1948 but rather as the release of a demonic force.

Having adopted this view, Israel’s detractors are indifferent to evidence. They render their judgment according to their catechism. For example, a series of tragic mistakes on the hazy Gaza battlefield resulted in the deaths of seven aid workers. This was instantly transformed into a crime against humanity justifying a frenzy of deranged accusations. There was also the Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket that killed scores of people in the parking lot of the Al-Ahli Hospital. It was instantly marketed by major Western media outlets as an Israeli atrocity that caused 500 casualties. Hamas and its supporters needed an Israeli war crime; so they invented one.

Life is now subordinate to fiction instead of the other way around. Defamatory words become agents of change. Hamas’s barbarism galvanized those who claim to be fighting against “white privilege” and the remnants of colonial exploitation. To these “activists,” massacres have an almost messianic power to bring them into the streets and campuses to defame and attack Jews. The “demonstrators” believe Hamas has proven that anything can be justified in a sacred cause.

Progressives now loathe Israel because they see it as the embodiment of all their enemies, including the state as a source of meaning for its citizens. The language progressives use, endlessly repeated in the classroom, in the media and on the streets sets the tone for critical policy considerations, even though this language is irrelevant to the situation of a pluralist, democratic society fighting for survival.

Zionism promised to uplift the citizens of a Jewish state; to give them the chance for a new kind of solidarity and moral development; to empower them to shape their own destiny. Everything that has happened since Oct. 7 has shown that all Israelis are willing to risk their lives to keep that promise. Let us hope that, enthralled by the language of lies and hate, America does not stop Israel from completing the mission for which it was founded.

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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