Last night a Muslim friend of mine posted a CNN clip on her Facebook page. She was irritated with how Muslims are being portrayed in the media and was concerned that the bias nature of the report would lead to more hatred and vitriol against the Muslim community. Another Muslim friend posted photos of flags from around the world demonstrating that Muslim-majority countries are also being attacked just as France has been. I understood all too well their pain and frustration. As a Jewish woman with Israeli heritage, who grew up in NYC and currently resides in London, I too find the media infuriating and am relentlessly posting statuses, articles and videos to demonstrate to people that we’re not evil monsters out to oppress Palestinians and rule the world.
I tell you this story not to show off a diverse group of friends (although I do think it is incredibly important!) but to demonstrate that the emotional aftermath of these terrorist attacks (like the attacks themselves) have no cultural, religious or racial preference. When those bombs go off, when the triggers are pulled, they do not discriminate. They do not care if you are a devout Jew, an agnostic Christian, a moderate Muslim or a Jedi Knight. They do not care if you just had a baby girl, if you cheated on your spouse, if you recently lost your job or if you are the next Jimi Hendrix. There were plenty of Muslims killed in the attacks in Paris and like the rest of their fellow Parisians, their families and loved ones are in mourning. The purpose of terrorism is to divide nations and scare people into holy submission.
Genuine asylum seekers of course deserve Europe’s help. Jews, if anyone, should know that! Shunning them is certainly not the answer but we have not thought things through properly.
Please don’t mistake my we-all-bleed-red speak for naiveté. I am well aware how vigilant the Jewish community needs to be during this time. I understand that although the majority of Muslims are peaceful loving people, it sadly does not matter. The majority of Germans were not Nazis; the majority of Russians were not involved in pogroms; the majority of Chinese, Japanese, Rwandans, Cambodians or any other people from a country engaged in massacres and genocides were not all knife-wielding, sword-slashing and gun-blasting sadists. The majority is not needed to wreak irreparable damage. Furthermore, as referenced in my April article this year, for every Jew in the world there are eight Islamists that want him/her/us dead. We cannot and should not ignore this inconvenient for some, yet irrefutable fact.
However – and this is the crux of the matter in the case of ISIS – we should not focus on these numbers. Not now. Be aware of it? Yes. Fight against the misinformation about the Israel-Palestine conflict? Absolutely. But we will not win this war against ISIS with facts. We won’t convince the anti-Semites to stop hating us, just as my Muslim friends won’t convince the Islamaphobes from hating them. Bigots have made up their minds, and if they change it, I assure you it won’t be because any of us verbally slapped their wrists.
ISIS and other Islamic radical groups are theological propagandists with an insatiable bloodlust. They do not fear our missiles nor our political rhetoric. Contrary to popular belief, they do not fear our freedom. That is something we in the West tell ourselves to feel morally superior. And while we have been credulously basking in our moral high-ground, they have been watching and observing, discovering ways to turn our gullibility against us by blurring lines of political correctness and indoctrinating children with fundamentalism in our own classrooms. We got sucker punched and we have yet to learn our lesson. ISIS gloated they would send in their soldiers amongst Syrian refugees and we ignore them. Who would tell us something like that, we wonder? Surely this is fear mongering and nothing else. Genuine asylum seekers of course deserve Europe’s help. Jews, if anyone, should know that! Shunning them is certainly not the answer but we have not thought things through properly. When photos go viral of a dead child tragically washed up on shore it turns the apathetic and misinformed into inadequate crusaders. We put on Superman capes and jump off the roof. Instead of looking at why this poor child was in a situation where his family felt their only hope was to cross treacherous waters, we come up with quickie solutions to assuage our collective colonial and imperial guilt. While we are busy putting band-aids on broken limbs and arguing with one another over political correctness and “the right thing to do,” ISIS is planning its next move – and whatever it may be, it certainly serves them better if we’re busy pointing fingers at one another and claiming we deserve it.
There is a reason why ISIS has not attacked Israel. Despite Israel’s robust defence force it also possesses an impenetrable unity. That may sound funny to any of us who have sat down to dinner with our Jewish families during the holidays, as we’re not the most agreeable bunch! However, when it comes to unified security, Israel has every nation on this planet beat – hands down. As noted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her recent Wall Street Journal article, Israel “has been dealing with Islamist terror from the day it was born” (and even before!) There may be terrorists in Israel using “knives and cars as their weapons of choice, but that is because attacks like those in Paris last week are now impossible.” I agree with her. Israel has been dealing with Islamist terrorism for a long time and they know how to protect themselves. Even anti-Semites cannot deny this fact so they have wowed us with yet a new conspiracy theory that it is Israel who created ISIS. If Israel is not being attacked by ISIS then they must be ISIS. This kind of logic makes me want to rub kosher salt in my eyes.
Although there is a long way to go, they are beginning to understand the importance of reporting attacks on Israelis as incited acts of terrorism rather than as actions of disgruntled freedom fighters.
Anyone who has been to Israel, whether they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, whatever, all fall in love with it almost immediately. Besides the beaches, the food, the nightlife, the good-looking men and women, Israel is intoxicating because of her unity. It cannot be denied and it is felt in every living room and every corner shop. Israelis may disagree politically in the Knesset and in local bars but if someone is having car trouble on the highway, every single car will slow down and ask if there is anything they can do (even if they see each car in front of them doing the same). There is a sense of community, a respect, a deep love that is the by-product of millennia of oppression, slavery, exiles, crusades, pogroms and genocides. It was the resilient hearts that inspired the minds and hands that built the Iron Dome. No matter how many armies and intifadas have knocked her down, she always gets back up even stronger. ISIS won’t dare touch Israel until – and only if – Israelis become divided themselves. I personally don’t see that happening. This video of Israelis coming together to sing Hatikvah to honor Ezra Schwartz, the 18 year old American recently killed in a terrorist attack in Israel, demonstrates the kind of solidarity ISIS cannot destroy.
Europe is already starting to follow Israel’s lead. London’s Wembley Stadium hosted a football match between England and France. Metal detectors greeted sports fans as they entered. Although many fans were too fearful to attend, more than 70,000 showed up with the same defiant attitude as Israelis. They refused to allow terrorism to win and they welcomed the additional security measures. Westerners have gotten used to arriving two hours earlier at an airport when travelling internationally, they’ll get used to metal detectors at large venues too.
Even media channels such as the BBC who have been accused by many in the Jewish community (myself included) for irresponsible journalism with respect to their reports on Israel and Palestine seem to be looking at the bigger picture. Although there is a long way to go, they are beginning to understand the importance of reporting attacks on Israelis as incited acts of terrorism rather than as actions of disgruntled freedom fighters. Humans do not tend to empathize with one another until we walk in the others’ shoes, and Europe has no choice now but to tie its laces.
The best advice I can offer is to visit Israel. If you have never been there please find a way to go. Save up the money and see it for yourself. If you cannot travel for any reason, make Israeli friends. Speak on Skype, Viber or any other App that affords you the eye-to-eye contact of someone who refuses to stop enjoying life. It is inspiring. It will also give you the inner strength needed when your college campuses are under anti-Semitic attack, or when your neighbors are secretly thinking that if only Israel gave back its “occupied” land none of this would be happening, or even just your fear that if this is happening in Europe, it can happen to you too. For such a tiny country Israel has a mighty strength. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if the Islamist shit hit the proverbial fan, Israel will be the last nation standing. We’ve defeated many monsters in our history and we will continue to do so— because that’s what we Jew.