Some American Jews stay silent when Palestinians turn violent - opinion

Too many American Jews have partially internalized all the hostility toward Israel and proudly consider themselves anti-Zionists.

 ISRAELI POLICE officers carry the coffin of comrade Amir Khoury during his funeral service in Nazareth last Thursday, after he was killed in a terrorist shooting in Bnei Brak.  (photo credit: David Cohen/Flash90)
ISRAELI POLICE officers carry the coffin of comrade Amir Khoury during his funeral service in Nazareth last Thursday, after he was killed in a terrorist shooting in Bnei Brak.
(photo credit: David Cohen/Flash90)

Dear Fagie and David,

Your supportive emails expressing “deep profound grief” moved me, as we in Israel dug eleven new graves for innocent terror victims. If Star Trek invented the Vulcan Mind Meld, you epitomize the Jew-Fuse: our souls are interconnected, our nerve endings are intertwined. Our pain is your pain and your pain is our pain.

However, I’m wondering if you felt as lonely as you looked. Frankly, I (and many other Israelis) didn’t feel the love last week. When our neighbors turned violent, too many American Jews turned silent.

Both of you are atypical. You, Fagie, having been born before Israel, know the costs of not having a Jewish state – for American Jews not just European and Middle Eastern Jews. And you, David, as a Moroccan Montrealer living in Los Angeles, bleed blue-and-white, even as many of your peers and their kids bleed red, white, and blue (or these days, just blue).

Addressing most other American Jews, it’s gut check time. Ask yourselves: Last week, how often did you think about or talk about “the slap” Will Smith gave Chris Rock during the Oscars? Compare that to how much you thought about the Colleyville, Texas, crisis in January, before every hostage was freed, and how scared you were by 2018’s Pittsburgh massacre, which killed 11.

 Israeli police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Israeli police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

By contrast, did you think at all about any of these people last week: Yazan Falah, Shirel Aboukrat, Amir Khoury or Avishai Yehezkel? Moreover, did you reach out to their families or those of the other seven victims murdered within eight days? Will you leave an empty seat at your seder table in their memory? Did you reach out to any of our soldier-heroes or police-heroes – or their families – who are working around the clock to protect us? You could, for example, send gift certificates for free food to Israeli cafes downtown or simply “attaboys” (and “attagirls”). Are you at least wondering how you can help somehow, how you can heal this collective Israeli – and Jewish – trauma?

Falah and Aboukrat were two nineteen-year-olds shot while patrolling in Hadera, doing their military service. Yazan Falah was a Druze kid from the Galilee; Shirel Aboukrat was a French immigrant. Amir Khoury was a 32-year-old Christian Arab motorcycle cop who drove straight into the line of fire with his partner. They neutralized the murderer – as he murdered Khoury. And Avishai Yehezkel was strolling with his 2-year-old, giving his eight-months-pregnant wife a break. When the shooter aimed, Yehezkel shielded his toddler with his own body, essentially fathering the son a second time – at the cost of his life.

Fagie and David, beyond the distractions of daily life – and pop culture idiocy – I fear two broad-based American-Jewish misconceptions put you in the minority.

First, beyond feeling that American antisemitism is too close for comfort, American Jews justifiably treat these American victims as innocents menaced by evil. Yet somehow, they don’t perceive the Israeli victims as equally innocent. You and I also see evil menacing innocents when ISIS-Islamists, Bedouins or Palestinians attack Israelis, be they cops, soldiers, dads,or Ukrainian workers – the two Bnei Brak victims were Victor Sorokopot and Dmitri Mitrik.

Alas, too many American Jews have partially internalized all the hostility toward Israel. It goes far beyond the proudly anti-Zionist Un-Jews who try shoving Israel’s uniquely Jewish story into the Western narrative by erroneously calling Israel settler-colonialist, Jewish supremacist, racist or imperialist. Beyond the physical and emotional distancing, there’s a judging. All that verbal pollution has clouded many Jews’ views of the Jewish state, sometimes unconsciously.

Apparently, some Jews don’t even understand Israel’s need to show zero-tolerance for this terror wave. Terrorists are political exhibitionists. Unless potential terrorists see that they and their cause will suffer, terrorism metastasizes.

Moreover, many Americans are missing the historical boat. Heartwarming trends balanced out the week’s heartbreak. When Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets the leaders of Egypt and the UAE, when Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hosts peers from America, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and the UAE, and when President Isaac Herzog visits Jordan’s king, it’s clear: the old Israel versus Palestinian paradigm needs updating.

This week, our Arab partners – and our Israeli-Arab protectors – proved how silly it is to talk about the Israeli-Arab conflict. At best, add an “s” – acknowledging the different conflicts. Some have been solved, others persist.

I keep proposing a different framework, which this week confirmed. The peace negotiators, the Arabs defending Jews, the Israeli Jews and Arabs living their lives, belong to the Peace More camp. We Peace More-makers understand that the more peace-oxygen enters the Middle East, the more it expels hate-toxins. Palestinian extremists resist this narrative, not wanting to be pressed to make peace. Surprisingly and unconscionably, too many Western dupes, Jewish and non-Jewish, buy it.

Similarly, I don’t share the same moral universe with the Jewish goons who shouted “Death to the Arabs,” when one Arab defending us killed another Arab attacking us in Bnei Brak. They should shout: “Down with the Peace Morons – Long Live the Peace More-Makers.”

This current wave of terror presents other challenges. Internally, Israel must strengthen the police, crackdown on Arab crime, learn from American anti-mafia techniques how to break the Arab mafias and sweep up illegal weapons in the Arab neighborhoods.

As that hard work gets done internally, Fagie, David and other friends, we thank you for your support. May your Jew-Fuse and big tent approach to the Jewish people prove to be even more contagious than Omicron.

The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, and the author of nine books on American history and three books on Zionism. His book Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.