Two days after the 9/11 attacks, French newspaper Le Monde captured the global mood. “In this tragic moment,” the paper wrote, “we are all Americans.” It gave voice to the upwelling of grief and sympathy as the Twin Towers lay smoldering and thousands of Americans lay under rubble.
As I write this piece, Israel is at war. On Saturday, terrorists launched a vicious and unprovoked attack, setting off thousands of rockets, slaughtering hundreds of innocent civilians, and taking dozens hostage. Men, women and children, young and old alike, were massacred on the streets, in their homes, and at a music festival. Their only crime: being Jewish.
And yet, in Israel’s tragic hour, no newspaper dares declare that they are now Israelis. Of course, this is sadly expected. Antisemitism finds its rawest and most sinister power in silence. For far too many around the world, Hamas’s actions were justified, even welcome.
Such is the antipathy toward the Jewish people and the Jewish state; even the most obvious and brutal terrorism can be excused and explained. Our enemies revel in Israel’s pain.
The Jewish people must unite
Which is why Jewish people the world over must band together now. The hundreds of teenagers massacred by Hamas at the music festival likely did not support the ruling Likud party’s conservative politics. The scores of Kibbutz Be’eri residents killed in cold blood were not overtly religious. But that made no difference to their murderers. “They shot indiscriminately, abducted whomever they could, burned down people’s homes,” observed one survivor.
Secular or devout, young or old, liberal or conservative, kibbutznik or city dweller, pro-judicial reform or against it – our enemy made no distinctions during the slaughter. And so, neither should we make such distinctions among ourselves. This is a time for all who love the Jewish state to rally behind the banner of our shared identity, a time to put aside our internal squabbles and stare down the evil at our door.We must send a unified message: An attack on the Jewish state is an attack on all Jews. This extends the world over.
In the days following the attack, Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – were quick to issue condemnations of Hamas. In the weeks to come, as Israel responds with military force to the threat in its midst, those political figures should keep the moral clarity of those statements in mind – particularly when armchair critics chastise Israel’s justified self-defense with the latest chorus of what-about-ism.
At that moment, the Jewish people, along with our friends and allies, must respond with an unequivocal voice. We must tell the world what has been made clear over the last several days and what we have known for the last several decades: Hamas, Hezbollah, and other enemies of Israel have genocidal ambitions. They seek to exterminate the Jewish people and eliminate the Jewish state. Self-defense through force is the only answer to this malignant evil.
We must stand by those brave men and women of the Israeli armed forces who are, at this hour, defending the Jewish state against the assault. In the days to come, when our enemies issue abhorrent justifications for Hamas’s violence, those who believe in the necessity and sanctity of the State of Israel must speak up. In the weeks to come, when the world inevitably denounces Israel for defending itself, Jewish people throughout the world must speak up.
We must remind the world that the terrorists who abducted wheelchair-bound grandmothers into vans and shot parents at close range before their children’s eyes – while filming the brutality – deserve neither quarter nor sympathy. Rather, they deserve a swift and decisive end.
This response to the massacre cannot happen unless the Jewish people recognize our common kinship and the common threat facing us all. We must remember that it is Judaism itself that is under attack. And we must appreciate that defending that ancient heritage is the obligation of Jews throughout the world, more than ever.
In the face of this unimaginable tragedy, we must resolve to unite as never before. Only then can we truly mourn the dead of Israel, heal the living, and avenge the slaughter. Only then can we forge ahead into a future defined not by fear or hatred, but by unity and by the enduring spirit of Jewish people. Am Yisrael Chai.
The writer is the former chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.