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Strength Through Self-Respect

There are some positive signs that Israel’s new government is regaining the self-respect that previous governments jettisoned to curry favor

Photos: AP Images

Some 2,200 years ago, a small band of righteous men led an armed rebellion that ultimately overpowered a mighty empire and enabled a beleaguered Jewish nation to win a respite from foreign domination.

Before the Hasmoneans could take up arms and fight, they first had to gird themselves with the moral armor that came from the belief in the righteousness of their cause and that they were upholding G-d’s will and defending His land.

Had the recently defeated government of Israel lasted even a few more months, they might have succeeded in their efforts to uproot the story of the Maccabean rebellion from the public school curriculum. Lighting candles is still cool, but fighting a religious war has become politically incorrect.

Someone ought to tell that to our enemies.

Until someone does, or until they are defeated, the battles will rage on.

However, there are some positive signs that Israel’s new government is regaining the self-respect that previous governments jettisoned to curry favor with the international community’s diplomatic jetsetters.

While the IDF was quick to accept responsibility for last week’s shooting death of a 16-year-old girl from Jenin who was inexplicably hanging out on her rooftop next to an armed terrorist, the commander of Israel’s Border Police, Amir Cohen, suggested that the IDF was too hasty in accepting blame.

“Our officers acted morally, with values, with courage, with determination, and saved human lives,” Cohen said. “And for that, I salute them.”

Nobody wins when a civilian is killed in battle, and Israel takes every precaution to avoid such outcomes, which are sometimes unavoidable, like when a civilian deliberately stands in harm’s way. State Department spokesman Ned Price could have been more cognizant of that when he demanded Israeli “accountability” for the shooting.

Israel’s incoming minister of national security, Itamar Ben Gvir, showed his self-respect, calling Price’s comments “distressing.”

“When hundreds of bullets were fired by terrorists at IDF soldiers and Border Police officers, we cannot judge our soldiers as if they were working in a laboratory situation,” Ben Gvir said.

A World of Wrongs

The United States is following its template — the same one they used to condemn the killing of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh in May when she was covering a similar gun battle — but they’re missing two main points that Israel ought to make.

If our enemies can repeat their lines until they click with their intended audience, we can too.

Jenin is enemy territory. If the IDF and the Border Police don’t take the battle to them — in Jenin — the terrorists will bring the battle to the heart of Israel’s cities, as they have done so many times in the past. This will result in a greater loss of life and even more civilian casualties.

None of this is new. Accusing Israel of callously causing civilian casualties peaked in 2000 with the Mohammed al-Dura case. We’ve reported on it extensively over the years, as it’s one of the earliest examples of fake news going viral.

A French television station aired only portions of a video clip claiming to show the killing of a Palestinian boy, targeted along with his father, from an Israeli military position in Gaza. The video also purportedly showed IDF troops firing on the ambulance that came to pick them up.

“It was all concocted, but picked up by the Western media, so that it spread through both the progressive world and through the Muslim world with the power of an atom bomb,” said Richard Landes, a senior fellow at Bar-Ilan University and author of the new book Can the “Whole World” Be Wrong? Lethal Journalism, Antisemitism, and Global Jihad.

Landes made his comment in a recent webinar for the Middle East Forum. It took the Israeli government almost 13 years to issue a report exonerating the IDF. No one is even sure if al-Dura was really shot, or if he’s dead or alive. But it didn’t matter, because the propaganda damage was already done.

In his book, Landes contends that progressive leftists in the US have taken a page from the Palestinian playbook to construct false narratives meant to demonize police and discourage them from using force in fighting crime. More on that another time.

The second main point Israel can make is to contrast America’s conduct in the Jamal Khashoggi case with their treatment of Israel in the Shireen Abu-Akleh case.

The Biden administration recently jawboned a federal court into granting immunity to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite evidence from the US intelligence services that allegedly show MBS’s direct involvement in the 2018 kidnapping and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

If you ask what that has to do with the price (or availability) of oil, then you get the point.

My point is that if the US can look the other way when it serves its purposes, it can also cut Israel slack in similar cases. And again, Israeli officials should summon up the self-respect to demand that of the United States.

World Cup Runneth Over

The World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar is finally over, and so is the spectacle of Israeli reporters chasing Arab soccer fans in the streets and trying to make friends out of enemies.

The scorn they reported receiving reminds me of my assignment to Kazakhstan in 2006 to cover an interfaith conference sponsored by that country’s government. Members of 40 different religious groups from 21 countries attended. This was 14 years before the Abraham Accords, and many members of the sizable Israeli media contingent decided to get a head start on Trump and make some accords of our own.

It was an abject failure. In my one effort at extending the olive branch, I greeted a Saudi Arabian journalist. He ignored me. When I bumped into him in the elevator the next day, and I asked him what he was afraid of, he turned his back on me.

At least he didn’t walk out of the elevator, or try and push me off, but what I learned then — and it hasn’t changed from what we saw in Qatar — is that it’s not worth chasing your enemies. Relationships in the Middle East are made from the top echelons and on down, not from the bottom up.

Self-respect, aside from speaking up for yourself, also means knowing when to keep a low profile. It means having the self-confidence not to throw ourselves at people who dislike us, and in the process, preserving our dignity.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 941)

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