These are difficult times for us. The most difficult since the Holocaust.
As painful as it is for us to acknowledge – because we don’t want to believe that so many people hate us – tens of millions of Muslims, primarily in the Arab world, believe in and promulgate a Jew-hatred unlike anything seen since the Nazi era.
Whether we are liberal or conservative, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or secular, our being born a Jew is sufficient to mean, in the eyes of millions of Muslims, that we are worthy of death. That is why the ritual slaughter of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was so frightening. He was simply a Jew by birth – he was not religious, and he was married to a French woman. Just for being born a Jew (and an American), he was worthy of death to his Islamic murderers.
Were it militarily possible, the Islamic enemies of Israel would do to most Israelis what the Islamic militants did to Daniel Pearl. You don’t have to be a right-wing Israeli or a religious Jew to acknowledge this. But you do have to be a willfully naive Jew to deny it.
Like most of you, I supported the Oslo Accords. I remember crying from hope and joy when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands at the White House. I was well aware of the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s existence, and that it was rooted in theology as well as in politics. But the hope that Jews might actually experience a generation when no group sought to destroy us overwhelmed my good sense. As it did Yitzhak Rabin’s.
It was at the moment of the greatest hope for peace (on the part of the Jews, alas) that the suicide terror began. More Israeli Jews were killed by Muslim terrorists after the Oslo Accords than before. So while Israelis sang songs about shalom, Palestinians taught their children with maps of the Middle East that never included Israel, Yasser Arafat announced that Jesus was a Palestinian, and Palestinian mosques preached that Jews are pigs.
Nevertheless, despite the reality of one side aching for peace and one side aching to annihilate the other, Israel offered Palestinians a state with virtually all of the West Bank and a capital in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat rejected this out of hand and unleashed an unprecedented level of terror against Israelis, particularly their children.
Israel lives in the midst of moral and religious primitivism (“kill Jews and Americans and be serviced by 72 young women in heaven”) so frightening, that many of us (especially in academia and the media) do not want to acknowledge it, and some of us, perhaps suffering from the Stockholm syndrome, even think that somehow Israel is at fault.
Perhaps that is why major news media ignored the recent Saudi government newspaper article that said Jews slaughter non-Jewish adolescents to obtain their blood for Passover pastries. Not wanting to believe that the medieval blood libel is alive in the Arab-Muslim worlds, mainstream Jewish and American journals have ignored this story and instead given prominent attention to anti-Jewish statements uttered in private 30 years ago by the Rev. Billy Graham.
That tape reconfirmed for many Jews that it is conservative Christians we need to fear. So now, not only do many of us deny the reality of the Nazi-like anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim worlds, many are simultaneously attributing anti-Semitism to those who are in fact Israel’s and the Jews’ best friends – evangelical and other conservative Christian Americans.
In our Passover Seder, we recite words written almost 2,000 years ago: “In every generation, they arise to annihilate us … ”
I used to believe that at least for a few generations after the Holocaust, this statement would be invalid. I was wrong. “Nothing is new under the sun,” as Ecclesiastes put it.
But one thing is new. In the past, we Jews usually knew who our enemies were and who our friends were. It is a matter of life and death that we do so today.