Two weeks ago, during the Sukkot holiday, our family flew to France for vacation. Bypassing art museums and cafes, we went straight to Normandy on a WWII tribute tour, spending our days visiting cemeteries, war memorials, and battle sites. We traveled to places of great sorrow and triumph to hear about the heroism of the Greatest Generation. Beaches and hedgerows that witnessed brutal fighting bear witness to the millions of men and women who freed Europe from Nazi tyranny. As a father, I felt it was important that my boys hear about these sacrifices. We visited La Fiere Bridge and learned about the incredible valor of the 82nd Airborne. At Juno beach, sites of the Canadian landings, we paid tribute to the sacrifice of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles in their effort to push inland, capture the strategic city of Caen and close the Falaise Gap.
After three days we left Normandy and headed to Paris. Leaving the coast, we shed quiet tears for the many lives lost, but mostly felt a sense of admiration and gratitude – in awe of the sacrifice made by so many young men to free Europe of tyranny. Arriving in Paris, that night we walked to the Grand Synagogue to celebrate the final day of the holiday and mark the beginning of Shabbat. A Day of Rest. A Day of Peace.
When we woke up the next morning and heard the news, like all Israelis we fell into a state of shock. The unprecedented scale and brutality of the attack touched very close to home. In the days that followed, as we began to process the gravity of what had happened, and as Israel began its response, I remember thinking to myself that we were racing against the clock – a clock of sympathy afforded to victims, a clock of legitimacy to retaliate, a clock of support buffering against the force of False Moral Equivalence that inevitably pushes against Israel every time it defends itself. This force of False Moral Equivalency occurs when rational human beings, in the face of overwhelming evidence, fail to draw clear moral distinctions between two sides in a conflict, for fear of being viewed as impartial, insensitive, elitist, biased or otherwise.
Over the past thirty years False Moral Equivalency has accelerated and seeped into mainstream Western discourse. It has polluted the fabric of academic institutions, corporations, governments, and news organizations. Institutions that hailed from great traditions of freedom, liberty, and democratic values now fail to draw clear distinctions between democracy and dictatorship, between freedom and tyranny, between modernity and barbarism, between good and evil. When prominent institutions fail to lead with moral clarity it permeates broader society and presages darker times to come. As Elie Wiesel so eloquently stated “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere”
I would like to call out three prominent organizations that have played a role in my life for equivocating, for offering milquetoast statements, for staying silent.
First, the University of Pennsylvania, where I went to Graduate School. As one of the oldest centers of higher learning in the United States the institution should stand as beacon of virtue and liberty. But in the weeks leading up to the Hamas Terror War, the University allowed an event to be hosted on campus which featured noted antisemitic speakers with a history of demonizing Israel whose mantras of hate foreshadowed the bullets and machetes of October 7th. Penn provided the facilities and departmental sponsorship for the event and in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack, failed to properly condemn the attacks, call out Hamas as terrorists and offer iron clad support to Israel.
Second, Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC. Growing up in Toronto the CBC’s As It Happens and Cross Country Checkup were staples in my home. For too long the CBC has failed to clearly differentiate between Hamas, a theocratic terrorist organization and Israel, a western liberal democracy. In so doing, the CBC has fomented a false moral equivalence that perverts people’s view of Israel. When the CBC fails to label Hamas as a terrorist organization it glosses over the true nature of Hamas. And, when the CBC rushes to the side of those damning Israel for the hospital explosion without conducting even a shred of proper independent investigative journalism, it pours fuel on the anti-Israel fire.
Third, to the Assemblée Nationale, the governing body of Quebec, Canada’s second largest province where our family lived for ten years prior to moving to Israel. In contrast to Quebec Premier Legault who issued a strong statement of support, the Assemblée Nationale has failed to offer a clear, united statement condemning Hamas. The inability of the Assemblée Nationale to offer unwavering support to a fellow democratic country with which it has long standing economic, academic, and scientific collaborations is shameful. Honteux!
Amidst the darkness there are also beacons of light. Leaders and institutions expressing clear moral clarity that should be praised. President Biden and the US Senate, Chancellor Sholtz of Germany, Jon Huntsman, Baylor University, the National Post to name a few.
Here is what needs to be recognized: Hamas is a terrorist organization backed by many supporters in Gaza. While they don’t speak for all Palestinians it is not a fringe Palestinian movement. Hamas has combined the ideology of the most genocidal organization of all time – Nazism – with the tactics of the most infamous terror organization of all time – Isis. Hamas has over the past 15+ years built a statelet complete with educational, social, economic and military infrastructure aimed at exterminating Israel with barbaric tactics. Last week they succeeded in slaughtering the largest number of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust.
Israel is now forced to destroy Hamas – a move that will inevitably and regrettably harm innocent civilians. The longer this war lasts the weaker and more tenuous the support for Israel will become. Speaking out against the forces of False Moral Equivalence will be critical in the difficult weeks and months ahead. I hope and pray that leading institutions will stand steadfast with Israel and draw clear moral distinctions. The Allies had this sort of sustained backing when they embarked on the Great Crusade at Normandy. Let’s hope and pray for the same.