Normally, I look ahead to the time period covered by the upcoming Scroll for something to write about. On this occasion, I must address the events of the recent past, and unfolding at present. But words fail.
It’s not because there is nothing to say about the terror that emanates from Gaza, or the response that is to come. (For reference, as I write, there have been reports of raids inside Gaza, but as yet no major ground assault.) Rather, there are more issues on the table than I could ever hope to address in one bulletin article.
One issue that we should all keep watch over as the war shifts to Israeli offensive maneuvers is the incredible double standard to which Israel is held both by international organizations such as the UN and the Red Cross, as well as by the media. With regard to the two organizations mentioned, it is worth remembering they each have an explicit history of antisemitism, exemplified by the UN’s infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution and by the Red Cross’s decades-long refusal to admit Israel’s corresponding Magen David Adom rescue organization, ostensibly for refusing to serve under the sign of the cross. More importantly, the current state of the world gives a clear opportunity to compare how these international bodies and NGOs aiempt to regulate Israel’s military action as compared with that of other na*ons at war. Having one set of rules governing the world, and a second, essentially impossible set of expectations for Jewish soldiers and the Jewish state is, in a word, antisemitism.
The media is a somewhat more complicated picture. There are certainly organizations and individuals within the media who openly side with Hamas, or against the State of Israel. More challenging, there are many in the media who think themselves unbiased, but who have developed a habitual paiern of thought which in fact is quite biased. As an example, quite early in the war, I heard a CNN anchor (on radio) respond to the prospect of Israeli ground operations, saying, “so the worst is yet to come.” No! I absolutely reject that. The worst happened on October 7th, when Hamas overran Israeli communities in an orgy of brutality.
Let us stipulate that it is equally tragic when a Palestinian or an Israeli die in a fall or a car accident or a drowning. Each is an irreplaceable human life lost. But if on one side of the scale we put a mother and child killed in the crossfire of combat, and on the other side a mother who watched her baby beheaded before she herself was raped and murdered, these are both tragic, but not morally equivalent. The first is the reason why every Amidah recited by a Jew culminates in a prayer for peace – because war is necessarily inhumane – but the second is not merely inhumane but a complete abdication of humanity, a willfully feral atrocity that obliterates the Divine spark in both victim and perpetrator. But for one CNN anchor, like many of her media colleagues, the “worst” must be the death of Pales*nians – not, I think, because she is intentionally antisemitic or even anti-Israel, but because the current genera*on of journalists have been trained to reflexively respond to the murder of Israelis as the natural state of affairs, but the deaths of Palestinians as avoidable tragedy.
As I write, an equally disturbing case is playing out across the various news wires. Yesterday, a hospital in Gaza was struck by an explosive projectile. The Hamas “health ministry” immediately announced that 500 civilians had been killed by an Israeli airstrike on the hospital. For nearly 24 hours, most of the western press dutifully and gullibly repeated these claims, or at best described Israel and Hamas as “trading accusations” over the blast. As actual evidence begins to accrue, including the assessments briefed to President Biden, every indication is that the explosion was in fact caused by a terror rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (a “junior partner” of Hamas), that the blast occurred in the parking lot and did minimal structural damage to the hospital itself, that most of the damage was in fact caused by a fireball of burning rocket fuel rather than the explosive warhead (itself an indicator that this was not an Israeli munition), that Palestinian authorities were aware the blast was caused by their own ordnance, and that the reported casualty figures are likely fabricated.
The fact that western press cannot dis*nguish, or cannot admit it knows the difference, between the integrity of the Israeli armed forces
and that of a terror organization with a long history of fabrica*ng civilian casualty figures (compare, for example, the supposed “Jenin Massacre” of 2002, when Pales*nian sources claimed civilian casualties ten *mes the actual numbers), is telling. I suspect that, at the core, the press knows what will come out, but finds a story of Israelis as vengeful killers, or of a whodunit mystery, more compelling than another story of Palestinian terrorists doing what they do, causing carnage to civilians on both sides.
One of the most important ways we, as American Jews, can support Israel in this moment is to notice and call out when Israel is treated unfairly, whether by international organizations, media, or figures within our own government. There is no doubt civilians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, and no doubt civilians will be killed when Israeli soldiers fight Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the tunnels underneath. That’s not a war crime; that is war. Israel must not and does not willfully target civilians. Neither can Israel submit to the rape, kidnapping, and butchering of Israeli civilians for the sake of sparing Gazans any suffering. History is replete with examples of how nations defend themselves when attacked, not least the American response to 9/11 and the Ukrainian defense against Russia still underway. It seems everyone understands the right of self-defense – except when the selves being defended are Jews.
עם ישראל חי!
The Jewish People lives! The promise of Israel is not, regreiably, that no one can hurt us. It is that we can defend ourselves and respond as every other nation would. And that is exactly what Israel must do, even if some think that is “the worst” that could happen. May God protect our soldiers from harm as they ensure the Jewish People lives for another generation. May God return the hostages to the embrace of their families. May God see that Justice is visited on the butchers and their masters.