You know you’re making progress if people start screaming, “You can’t say that!” That’s especially true when the “that” is something that is so obviously true.
The illustration of this principle is the outrage from the Jewish and non-Jewish political left over the fact that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett accurately identified the parties to the only dispute in the Middle East that Westerners care about. Her crime? Barrett actually said—out loud and from the bench—that the dispute is between the Palestinians and “the Jews.”
For this, the good justice has been wildly denounced. Esquire magazine explained that the only people who think this ridiculous thought are “conservative American Christians whose interest in Israel’s survival is based on anticipating the time in which, some Scripture says, all the Jews will return to Israel, one of the precipitating events leading to the return of Christ and the Final Judgment at the end of the world.”
MSNBC talking head Ayman Mohyeldin similarly complained that “the right-wing in America continues to shape this as a religious conflict to advance their own end-of-time narrative much to the detriment of Palestinian human and civil rights and respect for Judaism as a monotheistic religion rather than a vehicle for Christians to exploit for their own biblical prophecies.”
Let’s put aside, for present purposes, the ignorance revealed by these critics, who have no understanding of Christian Zionists who are not supercessionists—i.e., who neither believe that Christianity has replaced Judaism or that the ingathering of the Jews will lead to the end of the Jews.
But in response to the harangues by Esquire and Mohyeldin, and ones issued by many others, including left-leaning Jews who have long evinced a horror of evangelicals, it’s worth asking: If you don’t think the dispute between Israel and its neighbors is a war against Jews, then who do you think the parties are?
To this, the left has imaginative answers: It is a dispute, they say, between white people (Israelis) and people of color (the Arabs). Never mind the fact that most Israeli Jews are indeed people of color who “immigrated” to Israel because they were running for their lives from pogroms in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries where they and their ancestors had resided for millennia. Or it’s between Western colonialists who showed up in the region for the first time in the last 150 years, on the one hand, and people indigenous to the region whom the Westerners dispossessed. Never mind the continuous Jewish settlement in Israel since before the Roman destruction of the Jews’ Second Temple in the year 70; never mind the aforementioned pogroms and their consequences; and never mind the fact that the Arab population of what is now “Green Line” Israel, which was then called southern Syria, grew exponentially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Oddly, no outrage was detected from MSNBC or Esquire magazine, or any of the aforesaid left-leaning Jews, at the remarks of Zahra Billoo, who identifies as a Muslim civil-rights attorney and who leads the San Francisco office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Billoo spoke recently at the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine, where she explained that she does not support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There’s no need for any such compromise. Why? Because “Allah has promised us victory,” she said.
Billoo also warned her listeners that the enemies of the Muslims—those who suffer from an irrational fear of Islam—include a surprisingly wide selection of, you know, Jews. “When we talk about Islamophobia, we think oftentimes about the vehement fascists,” said Billoo. “But I also want us to pay attention to the polite Zionists. The ones that say, ‘Let’s just break bread together.’ ”
“They are not your friends,” she warned American Muslims. Among these haters who must be feared are such “polite Zionists” as the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federations, campus Hillels and “Zionist synagogues.” Muslims must be on guard against these organizations as well.
The ADL, Federations and Hillel houses are hardly fire-breathing right-wingers. They are instead, as Billoo acknowledges, the people who want to sit down and talk to Israel’s enemies. They all officially support a two-state solution, with Israel recognizing the right of the Arabs in the territories to have their own country there. So what is the sin of these dangerous haters? Billoo makes that clear, too: It is Zionism. Zionism at all, of any kind.
And why and against whom is Zionism a sin?
To answer that question, one need only consider what Billoo meant when she said, “Allah will give us the victory.” In particular, one need only ask, who, in Billoo’s mind, is “us”?
The answer is obvious. In the sentence “Allah will give us the victory,” “us” means the worshippers of Allah. She means her audience, which is an audience of Muslims. Allah—to proceed in baby steps for those reluctant or unable to get more quickly to the truth—is the Muslim name for God. According to Billoo, it is Islam that is offended by the sovereignty of Israel over the territory of Israel—any of it.
If Billoo’s remarks are not enough to make clear that Barrett was right in understanding the anti-Jewish basis for the Middle East conflict, one need only read the Hamas Charter. That foundational document makes clear even in its English version that Hamas is committed not only to the destruction of Israel (see Article VI, in which Hamas promises to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine”), but to the plain, good old-fashioned murder of Jews (Article VII, which explains that “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews”). And don’t be fooled—that means not only in the streets of Jerusalem or the disputed territories or Tel Aviv but also in the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Southeast Florida, London and Jewish neighborhoods everywhere that have seen attacks this year.
In the face of this, it should both surprise and offend no one that Israel a few years ago took the trouble of declaring itself the nation-state of the Jewish people. The declaration was hardly needed for people who live there. Hamas knows exactly whom it’s fighting; its declared enemy is not “Israel” but “Jews.” The nation-state law was simply an update for Westerners who haven’t been paying attention and who wish that the Arab-Israeli dispute would fit into their own woke ideological framework.
Justice Coney Barrett did these people a big favor by speaking plainly to them. Rather than denouncing her, the Mohyeldins of the world should start paying attention. They could begin by actually listening just to the people whose side they claim they’re on: Listen to the Billoos of the world and read the Hamas Charter. Then let’s talk about whether the conflict in the Middle East is a war against the Jews.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus is director of litigation and Jerome A. Marcus is president of The Deborah Project, a public-interest law firm that fights anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in education.