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Israel’s Kick-Me Reality

Hypocrisy on Israel is a given — don't give bigots an excuse

There’s a grim joke about the way Israel is forced to battle for public opinion.

An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Israeli are captured by a Palestinian terrorist and told they’ll be granted a last wish before execution. The Englishman requests a good steak, and is then dispatched. The Scotsman, in turn, asks for a rare whiskey. His wish is granted, and then he meets his end. The Israeli thinks for a minute and then comes up with a strange last wish.

“I want you to kick me,” he says.

The terrorist laughs, only too happy to oblige. He kicks the Israeli, who pulls out a gun and kills him.

When the bystanders ask why, if armed, he asked to be kicked, the Israeli replies: “Otherwise the world would have accused me of murdering an innocent civilian.”

There’s a world of weary truth in that black joke. Uniquely among Western democracies, Israel suffers from blatant double standards, forced to defend itself with one — and sometimes two — hands tied behind its back.

In just one example, when the US attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in 2015, killing 42 civilians, the mistake led to an inconsequential inquiry. When Israel takes over a Gaza hospital that it thinks is a terror hub, it must fear a disastrous loss of legitimacy for not instantly exposing Hamas activity at the site. A mere truckful of RPGs in the hospital car park won’t do; the media demand a Hamas command center, or else Israel is a war criminal.

We’re shocked anew every time by the speed with which the narrative turns against Israel, but we shouldn’t be, because it’s simple math. After the slaughter of six million Jews, the world gave us about 25 years of quiet from the double standards. How long can sanity be expected to prevail after the slaughter of a trifling 1,200 Jews?

There’s a source for the terrible double standards. We’re an “am levadad yishkon” — a nation to whom the normal rules simply don’t apply. Such has been the pattern throughout history, and such is the rule when it comes to Israel.

That doesn’t mean that we should fatalistically accept the bigotry lying down. We can, and should fight the double standards, as a form of basic hishtadlus.

But knowing that Israel must eke out its public legitimacy changes the way that its advocates fight Israel’s cause. It means, first and foremost, not handing ammunition to our enemies by pointless, loose-lipped rhetoric. Exhibit A is the cabinet minister who speculated recently about nuking Gaza. Ditto his colleague, who reacted to terror by calling to wipe a Palestinian village off the map — empty bluster that only served to undermine Israel’s international standing.

It means ignoring the siren song of those who are sick of being Galus Jews, unwilling to acknowledge that the deck is stacked against us, and that we simply have to play by different rules than the Americans or British.

Israel must practice an aggressive foreign policy, because otherwise it has no future. We have to enter hospitals and schools, but we don’t have a blank check. That doesn’t mean accepting the dictates of the White House unchallenged, but it does mean acting wisely to take the United States with us, one step at a time.

Having an army doesn’t change the fact that until Mashiach comes, even the Jewish People’s self-defense is conditional. Yes, it’s humiliating that we have to ask to be kicked in order to earn the right to self-defense, but it’s no different from what generations of Jews had to do before us.


Rocking the Boat

Whose problem is it when a British-owned, Japanese-operated and international-crewed cargo ship is hijacked by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea near Yemen? The Iranian-aligned pirates had Israel in their sights, but the problem has one address: the US Navy. The latter exists to keep the sea lanes open, and it has the capacity to act against the Houthis at will. Currently cruising in the Red Sea is a force including guided missile destroyers that have shot down missiles headed for Eilat, as well as the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship carrying 2,500 Marines. There’s abundant seaborne firepower at the disposal of President Biden, but he’s given every indication that he doesn’t want to rock the boat, and prefers to treat the Israel-Hamas war as a discrete local conflict, not the showdown with Iranian proxies that it really is. Will an attack on international shipping convince him to change course?


Peace Partner

For those not willfully blind to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s history of Holocaust denial (he apparently wrote a “doctorate” on it in some Soviet university), it should come as no surprise that Abbas is busily engaged in denying Hamas culpability for the October 7 massacre. This week, he spread the lie that many of the victims of the music festival in Re’im died at the hands of an Israeli helicopter attack.

That, of course, should render him unfit for the role that the US is anxious to carve out for him in postwar Gaza. But here’s a bold prediction: After uncomfortable squirming from State Department officials over the revelations, Abbas will still be the US’s horse in the race. After all, if Holocaust denial isn’t grounds for disqualification, it’s hard to see what is.


Brother in Buenos Aires

Photo: AP Images

The swings between left and right in Latin America can be dizzying — none more so than the election this week of the fiercely pro-Israel Javier Milei in Argentina. Media commentary has focused on his economic radicalism, but for the Jewish community, of note is his stated declaration that he plans to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem, his Torah study with an Orthodox rabbi, and his public consideration of conversion to Judaism.

Whether those plans come through or not, Milei’s win is a much-needed boost to Israel’s standing in the region, after Brazil reverted to the hands of the far left under President Lula. And while the right’s ascendancy is a welcome change from the pro-Palestinian orientation of the previous Kirschner government, some Jews caution that too great an identification of the new president with the Jewish community could boomerang if his economic reforms don’t go as planned.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 987)

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