Giving Bullies What They Want

Quote from Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel, who lived some 2,000 years ago.  Image by Audrey N. Glickman, used with permission.
Quote from Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel, who lived some 2,000 years ago. Image by Audrey N. Glickman, used with permission.

Terrorists are bullies.

My mother used to tell a story from her youth, when she and her younger cousin Elaine went swimming in the local pool.  Bullies came along one day, older boys, and dunked Elaine, holding her under the water until she flailed and screamed and cried.  When the bullies dunked my mother, she waited for them to stop holding her down, then she stood up and wiped her face, took a breath, and went on swimming.  The bullies went back again and again to torture Elaine, but not my mother.  My mother didn’t give them the response they sought.

No, the bullies didn’t kill either girl.  And also no, others around did not go to their aid.

Bullies want power and control.  They manipulate others to get it.  They threaten and hurt, they swear oaths of murder and dominance.  And they will take any route to get to their goals.

Hamas chose the perfect time (for them) in global events to attack Israel.  Israeli surveillance was apparently complacent about the threat.  Prime Minister Netanyahu needed something to hold himself in office so as not to face being brought to justice himself.  Democrats as the rising party in the United States were moving farther and farther left, and the U.S. was busy trying to help Ukraine against Russia and making too little headway.  Russia was in cahoots with Iran and China, and the latter was busy owning other countries fiscally while also torturing and killing Uyghurs with global impunity.  In Russia, Putin wanted to besmirch U.S. President Biden so that Putin’s friend Donald Trump might regain the presidency to perhaps help take over the rest of the world, because we all know Christian Evangelicals support Mr. Trump, and want Jews in Israel so we can die in the End Times.

Also, around the world people were reading their social media feeds, tailored to them, which could isolationally show exactly what the terrorists wanted them to see, to further feed external and internal divisions among former allies, especially among the young, who seem more attuned to shouts of  “nakba” than to “never again.”

As The NY Times reported on May 12, 2024, this all was likely intentional.  (“Yahya Sinwar Helped Start the War in Gaza. Now He’s Key to Its Endgame.”)

Fomenting antisemitism is easy.  It usually cooks just under the surface.  We Jews are nearly always the first scapegoats for the ills of society.  These folks – these bullies – have managed to increase the antisemitism engendered on both the right and the left of the linear political range.

This leaves Israel being abandoned by long-standing allies regardless of the political leanings of the leaders of the other countries.  This is what the terrorists wanted!  This is what a bully craves – complete control over the situation, with the object of the terror flailing about, attacking madly and vengefully.  The object expects the world to help, to be on their side as they have been attacked continually over many years and then suddenly and horribly subjected to massive terror.  But the world is fickle.

I do not understand war well enough to know whether the battle in Gaza is winnable.  And looking at the battle as only warfare, the lines are blurred.

I do, however, understand public relations enough to see that when the world sentiment embraced Israel immediately after October 7th, calling “foul” and seeking global sanctions and aid would have been a more effective response by Israel than what looks a lot like angry revenge that takes innocent lives.

Answering thugs with thug-like behavior may show off one’s strength and power, but it doesn’t cover for any collateral damage.

When a bully smashes your head with a brick, taking him to court and getting your friends to help strengthen you might be more effective than getting your whole family to indiscriminately throw as many bricks as you can get onto the bully’s entire neighborhood, in hopes of hitting him.

In this regard, the lines are not blurred.

As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z”l) wrote in Covenant and Conversation (pages 310-311, from

“In the human domain there is a fundamental difference between justice and revenge.  Revenge is personal, justice impersonal.  Revenge involves taking the law into your own hands.  Justice is the opposite.  It means handing over your cause to an impartial tribunal to examine the evidence and apply the law.  The move from revenge to justice is the most fundamental any society can make.  When courts and the legal process take the place of retaliation, it is no longer the Montagues against the Capulets but both under the impartial rule of law.  Justice is not revenge.  It is the only sane alternative to it.”

Let’s hope it is not too late to reverse all of this.  We’ve all got to do something!  As antisemitism rises around the world, spurred and magnified by all of this, we diaspora Jews seem to be taking a new front line.  Should we go to Israel to escape the hate?  Could we?  Would we be viewed as just another wave of immigrants to a country, which condition seems so often to be frowned upon?  (See also Exodus 1:8.)  I am certain we would very much prefer not to live in constant battle both external and internal.

The idea that Israel’s leaders take bellicose actions now and let God and the world judge them and us all later is not likely to be sufficient for God, Who by now expects us to act like adults.

We are not a war-making people.  We are not a vengeful people.  Strong, yes.  Bullies, no.  That we are viewed that way is a shame on all of us.

Please, let’s find a way to cause peace to happen without dying and without alienating the rest of the world.  Now, please.

About the Author
Author of POCKETS: The Problem with Society Is in Women's Clothing (, Audrey N. Glickman has experience as a rabbi’s assistant, in nonprofits, government, advertising, and as a legal secretary. A native Pittsburgher, Audrey has served on many boards, organizations, and committees, advocating for many causes, including equal rights, civil rights, secure recountable voting, preserving the earth, good government, improving institutions, and understanding and tending to our fellow human beings.
Related Topics
Related Posts