Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Monday, October 9, 2023
In This Moment: Israel at War - Europe Finally Gets It
In This Moment
Europe Finally Gets It
The Atlantic alliance was all blue and white tonight. Our Man (and Woman) in Paris, Jeffrey Price and Esta Berman Price took this photo, above. Below you can see that Germany, England (that's 10 Downing), Italy (the Palazzo Chigi) and the US. followed suit (the White House is featured here, but the Empire State Building was also bathed in blue and white tonight.
What's far more important than those photo ops, impressive though they are (i can't imagine who must be rolling over in their grave seeing that Star of David on the Brandenburg Gate), is the joint statement released today by the leaders of these four countries:
Why is this statement groundbreaking?
We can't know how the convictions expressed here will stand up to the stresses that are bound to come over the next few weeks. But it's a start, and different from anything we;ve seen before.
It does not equivocate in its support of Israel. There is no expiration date to this support, as in, "You had better mop up your revenge in a day and a half."
It does not say that Israel's response must be "proportional." That's reassuring, but when you pause to think for a second, what would be considered proportional in this case? Israel can retake Gaza, with all the brutality that would entail, and it still wouldn't come close to a "proportional" response to what Hamas did,
There is no sense of moral equivalence. True, there are innocent people dying on both sides of the border, but all of these needless deaths, the ones in Israel and the ones in Gaza, are the responsibility of Hamas.
Hamas does not represent the Palestinians. That's a crafty way of delegitimizing their rule and paving the way for Hamas's hoped for political demise, which began last Shabbat.
Just as much of the European press has suddenly shifted from its typical knee-jerk reaction, needing to provide "context" to air age-old grievances, the leaders have stated clearly that Palestinians do have real grievances and aspirations, but that has nothing to do with this. The face of the victim here is the Israeli child - Jewish, Christian or Muslim - ripped from his home by Hamas, or killed.
A Religious War
There are some in the press who are slow to catch on, but since Shabbat, Hamas is no longer a political entity with a practical agenda representing an aggrieved party. It never was, but now the mask has been ripped away. They are in fact a religious entity bent on an apocalyptic mission of killing Jews - young, old and everyone in between - but in killing the Jewish God as well.
Ever notice how they are picking off our holidays one by one? Terror attacks have been timed to coincide with Purim (Tel Aviv suicide bombing killing children reveling in 1996). Yes, that was Hamas, as was the Passover Seder bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002. Yes, Hamas. There was the Yom Kippur war, which predates Hamas, but Hamas aimed for the 50th anniversary, which also happened to fall on Sukkot. Shavuot appears to be the only major holiday remaining on our Bingo card, though the Russians bombed Kyiv this year on that festival, appearing to take aim at a synagogue.
The fact that this is a religious war in Hamas's eyes is important for us too, because that means that the best historical analogy to what they did last week is not 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Hamas is not the equivalent of Czarist Russians. They are more like Isis. But they are really most like Amalek, that group from the Bible that tried to destroy Israel where it was weakest. Both Hamas and Amalek prefer to attack the rear lines, the women, the children, the elderly, the weakest, They are cowards, they are evil and their memory must be wiped out.
So the next time your Israel-bashing friend begins to speak of Hamas in sympathetic terms, mention Amalek, especially if they are of the Bible-thumping variety.
Hamas deserves no mercy.
And the leadership of Europe finally seems to be getting it.
Tonight's news was particularly heart-wrenching. Zaka, an organization responsible for attending to the deceased, reported they have retrieved 108 bodies from Kibbutz Beeri. It's been a while since I last visited Be’eri, but having spent considerable time at various Kibbutzim, it's inconceivable to think that more than 10% of Be'eri's inhabitants were mercilessly killed.
The official death toll from Saturday has now reached 900, a number everyone fears will continue to rise. Among these casualties, 85 are soldiers and 37 are police officers, though these numbers are also expected to increase. This one day loss is unparalleled in Jewish history, with the exception of the Holocaust. The death toll from this single day surpasses that of the entire three-year Intifada, and even the Six-Day War. The magnitude of this tragedy is still hard to grasp
Journalist Sara Tuttle Singer, on Facebook:
My friend J has kidney disease. He needs dialysis every week. He goes to a place in Jerusalem in the middle of the night for his treatments.
Last night, he went at 3:30 am for his appointment, and a group teenagers with yarmulkes were loitering near the medical center.
They realized he was an Arab - maybe they overheard him tell his wife that he had arrived safely for his treatment, maybe he just “looked” Arab to them with his mustache and his jaunty cap, maybe the cross hanging from the rearview mirror on his far … he doesn’t know how they knew, but what he does know is they picked up rocks and threw them at him, cursed him, and chased him down the street.
His wife is heartbroken - she actually voted for Bibi in the last election, and feels betrayed.
“We love Israel,” she tells me. “We love Israel and we hate terrorists, but why are the Jews turning against us? We are not Hamas. We are not Hezbollah. We want to be part of this country!”
I asked her if I could share this story, and she said yes.
These are tough times and I won’t lie to you: it will probably only get worse. And it’s also really really hard not to be terrified and enraged.
But as we move through these next minutes and hours and days and weeks of darkness, let’s be kind to one another and not let our base fears and frustrations take over and destroy us from within.
Ben Caspit, Israeli journalist, on X:
Buildings lit in Blue and White in, among other places, Albania, Czech Republic, E.U. and Ukraine.