One of the most disturbing aspects of the recent opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was the grief and sorrow expressed by many liberal Jews over the deaths of 62 Arabs that same day in violent riots led by Hamas. The Arabs were shot by Israeli soldiers while trying to break through the Gaza border fence to kill Jews on the other side, and Hamas made no secret of its murderous intentions. Yet many persisted in falsely accusing Israel of “massacring” unarmed civilians and using “disproportionate force” against a weaker adversary. Sen. Bernie Sanders said that Israel should be condemned for the deaths in Gaza, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed deep disappointment that the United States blocked a U.N. investigation into Israel’s actions.
But the facts about Gaza are clear. These were not peaceful demonstrations. They were deadly acts of aggression organized and led by Hamas, whose charter explicitly calls for the death of all Jews everywhere, and which regards dying in battle against Jews as the noblest possible achievement. During the riots, Hamas operatives wearing civilian clothes, with weapons hidden under their clothing, surrounded themselves with human shields, including women and children, and charged the border fence, hoping that Israel’s reluctance to shoot civilians would enable some Hamas men to get past the barricades. After that, they would immediately head to nearby Jewish communities, to which they had been given maps, in order to slaughter the inhabitants. These are the people whose deaths Sanders and Feinstein are grieving about.
It’s a testament to Israel’s skill, discipline and self-restraint that the death toll was as low as it was, and that the vast majority of those killed were not civilians, but Hamas operatives, as confirmed by Hamas itself. Ironically, Hamas, unlike many Western liberals, did not mourn the dead. Instead, it celebrated them as “holy martyrs” and promised many more such martyrs in the future.
But the key question is, why would Jewish people have so much sympathy for Israel’s enemies, and so little sympathy for Jews who are the targets of their attacks? Some say it’s a case of self-loathing Jews who can’t bear to say anything good about Israel, or anything bad about its adversaries. But I suspect the real reason may be different. I suspect it might result from a deep misunderstanding of what Judaism actually stands for.
Many liberal Jews seem to think it’s a core Jewish value to always side with the underdog in any conflict, regardless of the merits of the case. The reasoning is that since we’ve been victims ourselves, we must always empathize with victims, regardless of how or why they became victims. But this is not what Judaism teaches. Judaism teaches that in matters of judgment we must not show preference for either the rich or the poor, or the strong or the weak, but must judge every case by it own individual merits.
In the early days of the Jewish state, Israel was seen as weak compared to its enemies, so it received significant sympathy and support. But now that it’s grown stronger, its enemies are the ones who get the sympathy, as if being the weaker party in a conflict automatically confers moral virtue, while being the stronger implies moral depravity.
The habit of always siding with the perceived underdog not only strengthens and emboldens groups like Hamas, it adversely affects all of world Jewry. Among liberal Jews today, one of the noblest things you can do is participate in “social action,” which usually means interjecting yourself into conflicts in which you’re not a direct party, in order to help the weaker side against the stronger. In fact, what this often does is prolong and exacerbate conflicts, as well as generate new conflicts. It also adds weight to the anti-Jewish accusation that Jews are forever fomenting wars and divisions, and it greatly escalates anger and hostility to Jews worldwide.
Israel has many adversaries, but few cause more damage than Jews who claim they’re acting according to Jewish values when they’re doing nothing of the kind, who denounce Israel in every international forum for defending itself against its enemies, who grieve and mourn for those who are killed while trying to murder Jews and who resist every attempt by Israel to assert its national sovereignty or its historic heritage, all in the name of standing up for an alleged “underdog.”