OpinionIsrael at War

This is not 1938

As chief rabbi of South Africa, I call on Diaspora Jewry to take the fight to those who demonize the Jewish state and its supporters.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Rabbi Warren Goldstein is the chief rabbi of South Africa and the founder of the International Shabbat Project.

The International Court of Justice has delivered its interim judgment on the South African government’s “genocide” charge against Israel. Even a political body appointed by the U.N. General Assembly whose members are mainly non-democratic states couldn’t bring itself to order Israel to accept a ceasefire in its war against Hamas. But we should not be grateful for that. The ICJ had no moral right to the power to order Israel to cease its just war of self-defense in the first place.

What these so-called judges should have done is express the gratitude of the international community of civilized nations for the bravery and sacrifice of Israel’s young soldiers, who are going door-to-door to fight the forces of barbarism in the Middle East. They are doing this so that many of you reading this column, who live in the free world, will not have to do it yourselves in your own cities to protect your own children and grandchildren.

This is not 1938. It is 2024. The Jewish people do not have to go on their knees to beg for the right to defend themselves against those who seek to exterminate us.

With God’s blessing, we have a sovereign Jewish state for the first time in almost 2,000 years, protected by a powerful army that ensures Jewish blood is not spilled with impunity. The Oct. 7 attacks were the bloodiest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. But we are not living in Holocaust times. The IDF is defending Jewish lives and making sure such an attack can never be repeated. In time, the vicious jihadi terror group that perpetrated this massacre will be defeated, disarmed and removed from power.

God has given us another blessing. While around half the Jewish world lives in the sovereign State of Israel, around 95% of the other half lives in free democracies, where we have built strong, proud, vibrant Jewish communities.

Enjoying full political and civil rights, we are flourishing as contributing members of our societies, wielding influence and power, and playing vital roles in changing society for the better. We have the right, the resources and the capacity to support and defend the interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people in this just war of self-defense.

And unlike 1938, we are not alone. We have allies around the world: Fair-minded, decent citizens and free democratic governments who are fully behind Israel and the Jewish people at this moment of crisis. Our allies can see clearly the justice of Israel’s cause. Unlike the ICJ, they know who are the real genocidal forces.

They support us because it’s the right thing to do. Justice demands it. But also because they realize that this is not just a war against the Jews. This is a war against the most cherished values of the free world: human dignity, freedom, tolerance, the rule of law and basic human rights. Around the free world, there are many who are grateful to the IDF for fighting terrorists in Gaza so they will not have to fight them in the U.S. or Europe.

We have seen this support manifest itself in many different ways. There is rock-solid support from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Indian governments, as well as from African countries including Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia. Other democracies around the world have joined them. Germany heroically pledged to stand by Israel in the dock at the ICJ proceedings. Moreover, the historic Abraham Accords with important Arab countries have weathered the storm of the Gaza war. Except for a handful of signatories, not one Arab nation sanctioned or joined the ICJ proceedings.

The countries that support South Africa’s ICJ application are almost exclusively dictatorships that feel threatened by free democracies. But we also have opponents within democratic countries. Like the African National Congress Party and its government in South Africa, there are forces within the U.K. Labour Party and the U.S. Democratic Party, among others, who are enemies of Israel.

But the forces of good are achieving significant victories, such as prompting the resignation of the presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania after they failed to unequivocally condemn calls for the genocide of Jews.

There was also the recent publication of a bipartisan letter by more than 200 members of the U.S. Congress expressing their disgust at South Africa’s ICJ filing, saying that it “perpetuates false and dangerous allegations against the Jewish state” and encouraging “allies to join us in speaking out against this unfounded attack on Israel, particularly at the United Nations and in other intergovernmental organizations.”

The Jewish world is strong and we have allies in the fight against genocidal movements, who threaten not only us but the civilized world, exactly as the Nazis did.

We are not the Jews of 1938, the Roman expulsion or the Spanish Inquisition. We are not the Jews who were massacred in the pogroms of Europe. When confronted with fearsome enemies, Jews of previous generations had no choice but to take flight. This generation can and will fight. We will fight back with every measure possible—with dignity, strength, self-belief and a sense of justice for our cause.

But we have to be aware of our strength, our purpose and our dignity. We have to go forward with confidence and conviction. In 1938, vulnerable and fearful, with nowhere to run and no allies in the world, we were sent to our slaughter. Today, with God’s blessings, we have risen from the ashes of the Holocaust.

We are a proud, great people with a long history that began when we were born at the foot of Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago. We have a presence stretching across the globe with an independent Jewish state in our biblical homeland, incredible resources and loyal allies.

God has blessed us. We need to believe in ourselves and send the message to all of our enemies that we will not be cowed, we will not be pushed around, we will not be slaughtered with impunity. This is a moral charge. We will defend the survival of our people and, indeed, the free world from the forces of barbarism.

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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