The Many Ways American Jews Can Help
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Jewish Journal 09.10.2023
The Many Ways American Jews Can Help
In April, 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower visited the freshly-liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp. He vomited. Eisenhower called the atrocities “beyond the American mind to comprehend,” then ordered all available troops to visit the camp “to see why we were fighting.”
That last Saturday’s atrocities were also incomprehensible to all civilized people reveals how evil the perpetrators — and their cheerleaders — are. Over these next difficult months, let’s remember these war crimes of mass murder, kidnapping, abuse, of sheer inhumanity and Jew-hatred, as Israel does what it must do to defend itself. And anytime any of us, anywhere, hesitates, scroll back to those images of slaughtered families, of mutilated corpses, of defiled women, and of that little boy bullied by other little boys — riled by Palestinian adults — simply for being Jewish, to “see why we are fighting.”
Thanks to Hamas, American Jewry’s long-Silenced Majority has found its voice — putting partisanship aside. I have been deluged with messages from American Jews — vindicating those of us who keep reading the polls showing that over 80% of American Jews support Israel, even as others pay too much attention to the loud, shrill minority of anti-Zionist, un-patriotic, un-Jews.
Everyone keeps uttering the four most powerful words in the American Jewish vocabulary: “How can I help?”
This may be this generation’s May, 1967 moment. That awful month, the Arab calls to “throw Israel into the sea” stirred Jews worldwide, making them realize how important it is to see Israel flourish. In October, 2023’s non-partisan, heartfelt, Jewishly-patriotic offers of assistance, I hear a similar echo, a realization that Israel is fighting for its life against barbarians — and we all need Israel and the Jewish people to live, more than many realized.
The first answer is, “give with your hearts”: Israelis are reeling, and it’s only going to get worse. Every day, as the lists of dead lengthen, Israelis learn of more dead loved ones, and of more evils perpetrated against their fellow citizens. As the world’s memory of these brutalities fades, as criticism mounts of Israel’s “disproportionate response,” that in this war it didn’t seek a chockful of bad choices, the need for support, understanding, empathy, true love, genuine patriotism, will grow exponentially.
Also, “give with your spines.” You saw the Jew-hatred. You saw how anti-Zionism and antisemitism created a spiral of poison and violence. Stand up for your people! Stand tall against the haters. Be willing to be unpopular — taking on your particular tribe’s Israel-bashers and Jew-haters. Republicans should stop weaponizing support for Israel — it’s not a partisan issue — and Democrats must clean house.
This may not be politically correct, but with most American Jews leaning left, the challenge of Progressive Bash-Israel-First-ing is much greater. While most Americans, including most liberals, remain pro-Israel, let’s be honest: Being anti-Israel has become not just an easy virtue-signal but the instinctive admission card to too many Progressive circles. Knee-jerk anti-Zionism infects much Progressive discourse, including anti-racism work, campus life, and, increasingly, the Democratic Party’s disproportionately powerful radicals. It’s time to confront “Democratic Socialists of America” when they hold a pro-Palestine rally despite all that spilled Jewish blood. Start asking politicians you support to reject their endorsement — not sit there like some anxious high-schooler waiting for the cool kids’ approval.
“Give with your minds,” learn the facts. Start explaining Israel’s position, not because it’s perfect, but because its enemies — as we saw — are perfectly evil. Learn how Israel got into this mess and why Israel is justified in taking some time if necessary to change the military rules of the game.
Understand Israel’s dilemmas: Its lose-lose choices in managing Gaza; its moral challenge in fighting an enemy hiding behind mosques, hospitals, and kindergartens; its disappointment that the Gaza Disengagement of 2005, which was supposed to bring peace and democracy, instead rained down death and evil.
Learn about the communal blind spots of “two-staters” who misread Palestinian political culture as seeking to live together rather than to destroy the Jewish state. Learn about the Palestinian death cult — mimicking the nihilism of ISIS and other barbarians, all fueled by Islamism. Take it seriously when Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, shares his dream: “The entire planet will be under our law, there will be no more Jews or Christian traitors.”
Ask the tough questions about what’s going on culturally, and existentially. Explore what has happened to the West culturally — why, when too many of us look in the mirror, we only see flaws, yet when we stare our enemies in the face, we somehow overlook their evil. See how obsessive anti-Zionism — blaming Israel for Western crimes it never committed, from colonialism to imperialism — is often the glue uniting these disparate and conflicting ideologies.
And do a deep dive into Iran. See how it foments so much evil regionally, how it targets Big Satan — America — not just Little Satan — Israel, and yet, too many American policymakers go soft on the Mullahs.
Give with your fingertips: use whatever internet skills you have to make Israel’s case, to expose the haters, and explain the red line distinguishing Zionism, a liberal-democratic nationalism that seeks to build its people up and help the world, from Palestinianism, a totalitarianism nationalism that seeks to knock others down and corrupts the world.
Give with your muscles, meaning your political muscle: Encourage Joe Biden to keep supporting Israel, to confront Iran more directly, and to try, with his Republican rivals, to keep support for Israel a rare bipartisan value, uniting America.
And finally, yes, give money, to individual funds and to more formal philanthropies — for supplies, for equipment, for rebuilding and healing. One cousin wondered who helps pay for all those soldiers flying back from abroad. He was shocked that it comes out of their pockets. Open yours too.
Sunday, October 8, the day after that blood-drenched Shabbat from hell, it felt that every Israeli woke up in a fog … Those, that is, who were lucky enough to wake up — and lucky enough to wake up in freedom, in our state, not in a state of capture in savage hands. Jerusalem was deathly quiet. There was a heaviness in the air — and in my chest. Everyone seemed to be sharing the same thoughts — how could it have happened … how much higher will the death toll spike … what about those poor captives … what kind of people behave so brutally and, most nerve-wracking of all, where will this all go and how will it end?
Then suddenly by afternoon, civilians starting circulating shopping lists — buying supplies for our troops en masse. My son calls it a “balagan of trumot ” — a chaotic cornucopia of donations. My wife went to buy toiletries for our son’s platoon of 80, partially financed by American friends and relatives. Mishpachat Fishman— strangers — saw her overflowing shopping cart – and added 200 shekels!
That’s why I love the Jewish people. We don’t stand idly by. So build on the great American Jewish traditions of generosity, solidarity and love of Israel — and help with your hearts, spines, minds, fingertips, muscles — and wallets. Am Yisrael Chai.
A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org ) . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.
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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel