Writer and editor.
The New Swastika: The keffiyeh, traditional Arab headdress beloved by anti-Israel passionistas, is the functional equivalent of the Nazi swastika. It symbolizes exalted hatred for the Jewish state of Israel, all its works and supporters—hatred especially for its attempts at self-defense. And it does so without taint of World War II newsreels showing Allies bulldozing piles of skeletal bodies into mass graves.
Instead, it makes a fashion statement: people who murder Jews are again fashionable. We know this from the keffiyeh’s introduction to the Western mass-market: Ostentatiously worn by Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization—Soviet-backed umbrella group of numerous anti-Israel terrorist organizations—at his 1974 United Nations General Assembly speech.
Arafat had more Jewish blood on his hands—though even more of Arabs—than any other person since the Allies’ triumph over Hitler’s Third Reich suspended the Holocaust in 1945. At the podium, he draped his keffiyeh carefully, as always, in the shape of the territories of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), Israel and the Gaza Strip. This symbolized Arafat’s one-more-Arab-state solution to the Jewish question. Perhaps not a final solution but a great leap in that direction. The keffiyeh’s popularity since the Second Intifada (2000-2005), a Palestinian terror war against Israel and the 1990s Oslo “peace process,” accompanies the explosive growth of open antisemitism in Western Europe and North America.
Jew-Envy: Wearers of either Arafat’s headcloth or the swastika can march to different drummers. But both despise the Jew.
They hate the demonic, conspiratorial, world-manipulating Jew of their fervid imagining and they hate real-world Jews. They especially detest and resent Jews proud of their unique, glorious though bloodied history; of their religion, which first brought mankind ethical monotheism and the insistence that each individual was created with a spark of the divine and so possessed freewill, rights and obligations; and of Jews’ quite disproportionate accomplishments, including from 0.2 percent of the world’s population, 20 percent of Nobel Prize laureates.
Above all, they cannot tolerate the Jews’ re-establishment, on a portion of their ancient homeland, of a sovereign state. Worse, a tiny country that, even under constant threat, has shown itself the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy, prosperous and a world leader in medicine, high-tech and agriculture. As George Gilder pointed out in his 2009 bestseller, The Israel Test: Why the World’s Most Besieged State is a Beacon of Freedom and Hope for the World Economy, if you envy achievement and must tell yourself it came at someone else’s (especially your own) expense, what’s not to hate about the Jews and their New Jersey-sized country?
Colonialism: This returns us to keffiyeh wearers, especially younger ones clotting college campuses and marching in Berlin, Paris, London, Washington and elsewhere. They wave the Palestinian flag and carry placards with identical, mindless slogans accusing Israel and its backers of colonialism and genocide. In them one sees a melding of Hitler-Yugend and Komsomol.
The former, established before Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party came to power in 1933, outwardly resembled Boy and Girl Scout movements while indoctrinating a generation of young Nazis. The latter, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, was a mass movement spreading party propaganda and training young members. Hey kids, let’s stage a struggle session! Or maybe, a la Orwell, a two-minute hate against those Zionists. Cool! Wait—a 24/7 hate against the Jews! Awesome!
Today’s intersectional, post-truth Komso-yugend may not know when they chant, “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free [of Jews]” (T-shirts available at Amazon.com) that “Palestine” never existed as a geo-political entity. Except once, for not quite three decades, as the League of Nations/United Nations’ British Mandatory Palestine, created to help reestablish the Jewish national home. They have no idea that most ancestors of today’s Palestinian Arabs migrated from what are now Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, many in recent generations, or that a distinct Palestinian Arab identity did not begin to emerge until the 1920s and especially after the 1967 Six-Day War. PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein told the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977, “The Palestinian people does not exist. … The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.” And the Komso-yugend seem never to have learned that Jews are an indigenous people in their land.
Marinated in academic indoctrination mills and social media they imagine they know that Israelis are colonial-settler Jews who, with U.S. help, commit genocide upon Palestinian Arabs. Palestinians, as colonized and oppressed “people of color,” are entitled to “resist by any means necessary.” This includes, as seen in Hamas’ October 7 massacres in Israel, rape, torture, mutilation, incineration, decapitation and mass murder, of infants to the elderly, males and females. Nothing unfamiliar, in other words, to Jews who can recall the Holocaust, the 1929 Hebron atrocities, 19th century Russian pogroms, 17th century Chmielnicki depredations, 11th century massacres of the First Crusade and other acts of resistance by any means necessary to the Chosen People with their Promised Land.
Accusations of colonialism and genocide, delicious in the mouths of those who utter them, are dangerous superstitions. Were the Lenape Indians to return to Manhattan Island, find it in a state of sparsely-populated feudal underdevelopment, and make much more of it, they would be in a position analogous to Jews migrating to the Holy Land to join a remnant of their brethren in the 1870s and after. They were called Jews, after all, because their ancestors came from Judah—Judea to the Romans—before Rome renamed it Syria-Palestina after the long-gone Greco-Philistines. The empire, having killed hundreds of thousands of rebellious Jews, hoped to erase even the memory of this unyielding people.
Israel’s thriving commercial center of Tel Aviv did not exist before the 20th century. The Jews didn’t steal it. Like much of the rest of the Altneuland (Old New Land) of political Zionism’s founder, Theodore Herzl, they built it. As for epitomizing European settler-colonists, most Israelis today descend from Jews who fled persecution of their ancient communities in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and other Arab lands in 1947 and after.
Disproportion: On January 1, Hamas claimed nearly 22,000 fatalities in the Gaza Strip out of a population estimated at 2.2 million. Israel reported it had killed an estimated 8,000 Palestinian gunmen. Jewish state-haters brayed “genocide,” but a ratio of 1:1.75 combatant-to-noncombatant deaths refutes them. Estimates of noncombatant fatalities in the 2016-2017 U.S.-led coalition fight to retake Mosul, an Iraqi city of 1 million-plus, from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorists ranged from 9,000-11,000 to approximately 40,000. In Hamas-like tactics, many reportedly were used as human shields or shot by ISIS when attempting to flee. Most of the perhaps 5,000 gunmen were believed to have died in the nine-month battle. Those estimates yield combatant-to-noncombatant ratios from about 1:2 to 1:8.
In the World War II battle to drive occupying Japanese troops from Manilla in the Philippines, U.S. loses were put at 6,500, Japanese at 20,000 and Filipino noncombatants at 100,000-150,000, many slaughtered by Japanese troops. American forces did not commit genocide—the destruction in part or whole of an ethnic, religious or national group. Nor did they in Mosul. And hardly the Israelis in Gaza.
Blood Libel, Again: The genocide accusation, transparent as it is, exposes those who make it. Alan Dershowitz, among others, has recognized the indictment as a new blood libel. The original appeared among Greeks centuries before Christianity. It claimed that Jews murdered non-Jews and used their blood in religious rituals. An ultimate obscenity—Jewish law requires blood to be drained (and discarded) before meat can be cooked and consumed—the libel was well-established among medieval Christians, current in czarist Russia and revived by Nazi Germany. It circulates in today’s Middle East.
Of it the 19th century cultural Zionist Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginzburg, his Hebrew pen-name means “one of the people”) termed the accusation “the solitary case in which the general acceptance of an idea about ourselves does not make us doubt whether all the world can be wrong and we [the Jews] are right because it is based on an absolute lie, and is not even supported by any false inference from particular to universal.”
Ha’am was right about the blood libel’s inability to convince Jews, no matter how many others believed it. But he was wrong about it being a solitary case. As I wrote in Jews Make the Best Demons: “Palestine” and the Jewish Question (2018), “there have been more than a few cases in which Jews or the Jewish state have been right and ‘all the world wrong.’ These include but are hardly exhausted by claims Jews control international finance, run the world’s communications media, concocted the HIV/AIDS virus to attack their enemies, that Israel welcomed the 1967 Six-Day War as an opportunity to conquer Arab land, and that Zionism is racism.”
Zionist redevelopment of Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) drew so much Arab migration that by the end of the 1948-1949 War of Independence, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) granted refugee status to Arabs who claimed to have resided in what became Israel for a minimum of two years. The Jews’ subsequent genocide of Palestinian Arabs has been so effective that the latter’s numbers increased from approximately 400,000 in the Gaza Strip and 600,000 in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) when Israel took the former from Egyptian occupation and the latter from Jordanian control in the 1967 Six-Day War to a combined 4.5 million to 4.9 million today. Israeli-provided water and sewer, electrification and medical clinics seem to have been at fault.
Nevertheless, accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinian Arabs delegitimizes the Jewish state and remarginalizes Jews. As British novelist Howard Jacobson notes, what better way than to invert reality by falsely convicting the Jews and their state of the great crime committed against them? “Charging Jews with genocide is … painting them as perpetrators of the very crime that killed them in their millions, as a consequence of which that crime is abrogated. There is a sadistic triumphalism in charging Jews with genocide, as though those making it feel they have their man at last. The sadism resides, specifically, in attacking Jews where their memories of pain are keenest. By making them now the torturer and not the tortured, their assailants wrest their anguish from them, not only stealing their past but trampling on it.”
Existential: Many note that Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip is an existential conflict. Not for residents of the Strip, nearly all of whom will survive the hell they have been put through by Jew-hating leaders and, for many, by their own passions. Existential for Israel, almost 250,000 of whose citizens, more than three percent of its 7.2 million Jews, at one point evacuated from villages and towns near the Gaza and Lebanese boundaries and whose economy, with 360,000 reservists mobilized, limps along pending victory in this first stage of a larger war. There remain Hezbollah in Lebanon, terrorists in the West Bank, militia in Syria and Iraq, Houthis in Yemen and behind them all, paymaster Iran. Existential also for diaspora Jewry. And ultimately, for the United States.
The United States is home to history’s longest-running, most successful, prosperous and freest experiment in self-government. Therefore, it has been home to history’s longest-running, freest, largest and most prosperous Jewish diaspora. And since 1945 when it succeeding an exhausted Great Britain, America has been not the world’s policeman but freedom’s guarantor. Israel is a little reflection, in many ways, of the United States.
As the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks put it in his 2017 American Enterprise Institute Irving Kristol lecture, “in America, democratic capitalism had its roots in the Judeo-Christian heritage, specifically in the Hebrew Bible. … [T]he founders of this country had the Hebrew Bible engraved on their hearts …” That is why, Sacks continued, “Jefferson drew as his design for the great seal of America the Israelites following a pillar of cloud through the wilderness. It is why Lincoln called Americans the ‘almost chosen people.’ It is what led Martin Luther King on the last night of his life to see himself as Moses and say, ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I have seen the Promised Land.’”
Exactly so, and why those who hate Israel also hate America. In 2009, leftist anti-globalization activist Naomi Klein explained the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement going after the Jewish state instead of the great globalizer, the United States: “Why single out Israel when the United States, United Kingdom and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan?”—allegedly targeting civilians as Israel supposedly targeted Palestinians—“[I]n a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.” Hence “revolutionary socialists” showing up at anti-Israel rallies demanding “smash capitalism!” and “smash Zionism!”
Klein’s was a somewhat more sophisticated expression of the Islamic Revolutionary Republic of Iran’s long-standing description of Israel as “the Little Satan” and the United States as “the Great Satan.” Or, as the slogan of the Houthis puts it, “God is the Greatest, Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam.”
The United States, under siege indirectly (for the moment) by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and their associates, has not yet figured out if it wants Ukraine to win, how it can maintain Taiwan’s independence, deter North Korea or oust the ayatollahs in Tehran. In a presidential election season a serious debate on these related threats has yet to take place. Israel can defeat Hamas by itself, if permitted. It cannot by itself simultaneously overcome Hezbollah, Houthis, West Bank gunmen, Syrian and Iraqi militia and Iran.
In 1968, Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman-philosopher and author of The True Believer, apprehended an ill omen. One year after Israel’s miraculous victory in the Six-Day War, he wrote: “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel, so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us all.”
Eric Rozenman is communications consultant for the Jewish Policy Center and author of, most recently, From Elvis to Trump, Eyewitness to the Unraveling: Co-Starring Richard Nixon, Andy Warhol, Bill Clinton, the Supremes and Barack Obama! and Jews Make the Best Demons: “Palestine” and the Jewish Question, from which this essay draws. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.