Israel's secret weapon: We have nowhere else to go - comment

Golda Meir’s words are as relevant as ever today, and the past weeks of another mini-war with Hamas and the accompanying spike of antisemitism have only further proven her point.

Prime Minister Golda Meir during the Yom Kippur War. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Prime Minister Golda Meir during the Yom Kippur War.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
There’s a story that US President Joe Biden has told many times over the years about his first trip to Israel.
As a freshman senator in 1973, Biden was granted a meeting with prime minister Golda Meir, who together with Yitzhak Rabin briefed Biden on the many threats Israel faced, showing him a series of maps.
“I guess she could see the sense of apprehension on my face,” Biden said in a 2010 retelling of the story. “She said, ‘Senator, don’t look so worried… We Israelis have a secret weapon.’ And I thought she only had said this to me, no one else in the whole world… And I thought she was going to tell me about a new secret weapon.”
So what is Israel’s secret weapon, Biden asked eagerly.
“We have nowhere else to go,” replied Golda.
In 2021, when Israelis travel the world and find success in a broad range of fields, when technology and globalization make a large – but privileged – segment of the global population feel like they hold the world in their hands, some may think that statement is an anachronism.
And yet Golda’s words are as relevant today as ever, with the past two weeks of another mini-war with Hamas and the accompanying spike of antisemitism only further proving her point.
 We, the Jewish people, have nowhere else to go.
Israelis and the vast majority of Jews in the world who feel a strong connection to Israel already knew this, of course.
Just walk down the street in Israel and ask any random passerby if they think they would be alive today if there was no Israel. Chances are the person would say “no.”
The majority of Israeli Jews, descended from the 850,000 refugees of the ethnic cleansing of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East – minus our tiny corner of the region – have good reason to say “no.”
I would also say no.
It was the pre-state Yishuv that kept all four of my maternal great-grandparents from meeting the deadly fate of their relatives at the hands of pogromists and then Nazis, and there are countless Israelis with similar stories.
But Hamas and their acolytes, the useful idiots in the West echoing the terrorist group’s charter by chanting the genocidal rallying cry: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” seem to have missed this point.
When Palestinians compare Israel to crusaders, they’re saying we’re a blip in history, destined to be driven out by a heroic Muslim-led army as was done to the crusaders after 88 years.
But when Palestinians who have picked up on leftist lingo, along with their fellow travelers, present Israel as an illegitimate “settler colony” – as one meme that was shared by influential accounts in recent weeks claimed – they forget a key difference between Israel and actual settler colonies.
When the European Crusades conquered Jerusalem, when the French settled in much of North Africa, when the British took over India, to name some settler colonies, they were still the satellites of a home country, even as they remained for generations. When mid-20th-century rebellions in the colonies were too violent or costly, the European governments packed up and left, evacuating their citizens along with them.
We are in Israel so that we never have to pack our bags and leave again, so that we don’t have to keep the proverbial suitcase by the door. It is because Israel itself is our historic and present home country, and there is no satellite for us.
Palestinians and their advocates like to tell Israelis to go “back” to Poland or Russia or wherever else – it’s always Eastern Europe and not the part of the world from where the majority of Israelis actually come. But, of course, those places are not our homes, and the circumstances under which much of our ancestors left show that those places never were our homes.
In the last two weeks, there has been a 500% spike in recorded antisemitic incidents in the UK, according to the Community Security Trust, and a wave of antisemitic assaults, vandalism and harassment of Jews has hit cities across North America, from Montreal to New York to Tucson to Los Angeles. In Western Europe, antisemitism is there all the time, and it has been for years.
It seems unlikely that this uptick in violence will kick off a wave of Jewish immigration to Israel. While the percentage of American Jews – the largest Diaspora community – who have experienced antisemitism is on the rise, most are able to live safely and comfortably, as Jews should be able to do anywhere in the world.
But we don’t live in a world where Jews can live safely wherever they want. We never have.
The rise in antisemitic attacks comes from those who claim to be standing up for the Palestinians in the latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza. Mobs of young, keffiyeh-wearing men maraud the streets of LA asking diners in a sushi restaurant if they’re Jewish – not Israeli – so they can pick someone to assault.
In Manhattan, one man took part in a pro-Palestinian march and then went on to bludgeon a Jewish man; the NYPD is using the victim’s bloody kippah as evidence of a hate crime. The assailant, by the way, was featured in an Instagram post by supermodel Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian and who participated in the same march. She has nearly 45 million followers. And those are just a couple of examples.
There is something deeply ironic about people trying to “free Palestine” by attacking Diaspora Jews. By turning their violence on Jews outside of Israel, by driving around Jewish neighborhoods to intimidate and assault the residents, by asking people on the street if they are Jewish while brandishing knives, they are expressing their desire to ethnically cleanse their Western countries of Jews.
Don’t they know where Jews go when they’re ethnically cleansed? To Israel, that very place from where they want Jews removed.
But we’re not like the crusaders. We’re still here, 73 years later, and no number of Hamas rockets will get us out of here, not even 4,000 in 11 days, nor will antisemitic attacks on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.
And the reason is that we still have our secret weapon: We still have nowhere else to go.