The West’s rot from within

The increasingly vitriolic hatred of Israel and Jews should be ringing alarm bells about Western civilization itself.

In an anti-Israel "Christmas is Canceled" protest, hundreds marched on Rockefeller plaza and in Midtown Manhattan on Dec. 25, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
In an anti-Israel "Christmas is Canceled" protest, hundreds marched on Rockefeller plaza and in Midtown Manhattan on Dec. 25, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at: dougaltabef@gmail.com.    

Like almost everyone else, I watch the news about the latest wave of anti-Israel hate—and increasingly Jews in general—with a sense of the surreal. Is this really happening? Who are these monstrous haters? And where is the reaction, the condemnation, the revulsion in the face of this vile stuff?

The tropes are all too familiar: Israel is attacked as a genocidal, apartheid, colonialist enterprise.

What is increasingly unnerving to me, however, are the wider implications of this hate. In other words, putting Israel aside, what does all this venom say about those who spout it and the societies from which they are emerging?

Simply stated, the disdainful rejection of Israel represents the disdainful rejection of what has made Western countries successful, prosperous and strong. Israel is the present-day embodiment of the spirit, energy, resolve and courage that were once characteristic of Western societies, particularly the iconoclastic United States of America.

We need to distinguish between political hatred and metaphysical hatred of Israel. Political claims can be countered with the facts. There is rampant ignorance that can be addressed, and the historical record can be clarified. Whether the other side has any interest in these facts is another question, but errors can be corrected.

Far less susceptible to any kind of engagement are the metaphysical differences between Israel and much of the West, differences that are becoming increasingly, even jarringly, apparent.

These differences are manifold, but are perhaps based on the fact that Israel is still a “project,” a “cause,” an evolving movement that can be addressed and impacted by any and all of its citizens.

Israel is still an adventure. That adventure requires an appreciation and embrace of Israel’s particularity. Israel proudly sees itself as pursuing its own unique destiny, one that seemed in danger of dissolution on Oct. 6, but which received a painful but necessary corrective the following day.

Religious Israeli Jews see that destiny as the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Jewish people that we would be restored to our own Land. Many other Jews see it as an opportunity to build a homeland for the historically embattled and besieged Jewish people. They believe this is a world-class undertaking in and of itself, regardless of any theological dimensions.

This is the stuff of dreaming, creating and, yes, adventure.

My organization, Im Tirtzu, founded in 2007, took its name from Theodor Herzl’s clarion call: im tirtzu. “If you will it, it is no dream.” The reason we chose this name was simple yet profound: Israel must continually be willed into existence.

Israel was born as a state in 1948, but its existence is formative, fluid and always dependent on the efforts and resolve of its citizens.

The same mindset and resolve are the roots of the founding of the United States. The Puritans were, like the Hebrews, a covenanted people with a particular mission. That sense of mission empowered and directed generations of Americans, culminating in Abraham Lincoln’s prophetic-like awareness of the need to cleanse the horrific stain of slavery from the soul of the nation.

But can we say that such awareness still exists?  In an America that increasingly prizes victimhood rather than excellence, that seems to prefer dumbing-down into a morass of identical misery to a nation in which some uber-achieve, can we say that the America of Lincoln can still be found?

I believe that, to an increasing cohort in the West, Israel has come to represent an enemy that is the same enemy they perceive in their own societies. Call it neo-Marxist, call it nihilism, call it whatever; it is a spirit of resentment of that which has traditionally been extolled and prized.

America’s rush into wokeism and DEI repression has inevitably led to hatred of both Israel and the American Jews who somehow, unaccountably, punch above their weight in American society.

To the woke mind, Israel’s success must be a product of oppression, because this mindset cannot accept that differently abled people and peoples could possibly succeed without rigging the system.

It is frightening for Israelis to see the hatred on ready display on campuses and in communities across the United States. But it is far more frightening to consider the corrosiveness, the self-destructiveness that such madness represents for the West itself.

Whether it is the craven fearfulness of England’s political class or the clueless leadership of America’s elite academic institutions, those of us who root for the West and understand that, while particular, Israel is not an island unto itself, shake our heads and plaintively ask: What will turn this around? Can it be turned around?

For Israelis, I believe, Western nihilists’ growing irrational hatred of us and of themselves must be seen as a red badge of courage—a reminder that we are doing something profoundly 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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