Thought for the day

Michael Oren is the prominent historian and Israeli ambassador to the United States. His 2015 memoir Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide remains timely and illuminating. He writes in his Free column “A war against the Jews” (November 20):

This war is not simply between Hamas terrorists and Israelis. It is a war against the Jews.

The insight began with the international media’s coverage of the conflict. Again, it wasn’t the press’s insistence on calling mass murderers “militants” or citing Hamas and its “Health Ministry” as a reliable source. For close to fifty years—as a student activist, a diplomat, a soldier, a government and military spokesman, and, above all, as a historian—I’ve grappled with the media’s bias against Israel. I’ve long known that the terrorists are “militants” solely because their victims are Jews, and only in a conflict with Israel are terrorists considered credible.

Instead, it was the media’s predictable switch from an Israel-empathetic to an Israel-demonizing narrative as the image of Palestinian suffering supplanted that of Israelis beheaded, dismembered, and burnt. It was the gnawing awareness that dead Jews buy us only so much sympathy.

In fact, there is probably a formula. Six million dead in the Holocaust procured us roughly 25 years of grace before the Europeans refused to refuel the U.S. planes bringing lifesaving munitions to Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Fourteen hundred butchered Jews bought us a little less than two weeks’ worth of positive coverage.

Europeans, it’s long been said, never forgave the Jews for the Holocaust. Their guilt was collective and their antisemitism no longer socially acceptable. What a relief many of them felt when it became de rigueur to call Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians Nazi-like. Similarly, haters of Israelis can’t forgive them for being massacred by Hamas terrorists on October 7, and were relieved when, on October 19, they could go back to vilifying the “colonial apartheid state.”

October 19—that was the date of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital incident. Hamas claimed that an Israeli bomb hit the hospital and killed 500 civilians. Again, there was nothing new about Hamas blaming Israel for atrocities that never happened and counting as dead the many who didn’t die. What was unprecedented was the speed at which the world accepted this triple lie—not a hospital but its parking lot was struck by a Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli bomb, killing far fewer than 500. Nevertheless, reflexively, the world imputed evil to Israel.

Within hours of the al-Ahli bombing, both Israel and the United States revealed the truth behind it. Still, almost no one in the media apologized. A full week after the explosion, The New York Times was still bringing in “experts” to intimate Israel’s guilt. After all, the paper was subtly telling us, Israel is perfectly capable of bombing hospitals and, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, possibly bombed this one as well.

What was previously an inkling became, October 19, an epiphany. It marked the moment when I finally peered behind the headlines and recognized their ancient, vicious, core….

Oren continues further down in the column:

[T]he humanitarian crisis in Gaza is purely Hamas’s fault. As a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office, in 2017–18, I was tasked with improving living conditions in Gaza. I learned how Hamas used Gaza’s water pipes to make rockets and dug tunnels under the aquifer and drained it. I learned how Hamas diverted electricity to illuminate its underground bunkers and drastically limited the supply of basic commodities to the population, keeping it dependent on the terrorists. I learned that, when it came to Hamas, everything I knew about human decency was irrelevant.

These are my responses to the journalists. They listen but are seldom, if ever, convinced. Much of the press, I’ve learned, has internalized the ultimate antisemitic myth: that Jews just have it coming.

Accordingly, Noam and Yishai Slotki who, waking up to the news of the attack on October 7, instinctively put on their reserve uniforms and left their families to fight only to die and be buried side by side in Jerusalem—according to much of the media’s interpretation of this war, both Noam and Yishai deserved it. By the same token, Tamar Kedem-Siman Tov, a community activist, who, together with her husband and three beautiful children, was gunned down by Hamas, got her comeuppance.

The media is both a mirror and a disseminator of ideas, its two-way function incalculably amplified by the internet. So, the assumption of Jewish guilt and Palestinian innocence permeates the petitions signed by Hollywood stars and Starbucks workers that scarcely mention Hamas’s unimaginable crimes while emphasizing Israel’s imagined ones. So, the image of Jews as both child-killers and God-like in their powers translates into accusations that Israelis actually enjoy murdering women and children, deliberately targeting journalists, and crucifying the pure and powerless Palestinians. The notion that we Jews have it coming to us informed the letter, signed by more than 30 Harvard student organizations, claiming that Hamas’s barbarism “did not occur in a vacuum,” and that “the apartheid regime is the only one to blame.” Not coincidentally did UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres open his October 23 speech to the Security Council by asserting, “the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.”

Read the whole thing here. See also Oren’s November 14 Free Press column “The Iran delusion.”

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