I defend myself, therefore, I am
Do you know the difference between a Belgian journalist and an Israeli journalist?
The Israeli journalist is not OBSESSED with Belgium.
For the last several decades, not a week has passed without having the Belgian media (mainly but not exclusively the French-speaking publications and TV channels) demonizing Israel and promoting the lies rewritten history of the Palestinian Authority narrative. Israel is systematically portrayed as the oppressor, despite the thousands of missiles launched towards it, as well as the families of terrorists being paid monthly rent from the Palestinian Authority equivalent to more than four times the average salary for the killing of innocent civilians. Yes, you read that right: there is a significant budget of the Palestinian Authority set aside to pay the “salaries” of terrorists. If this is not insane enough on its own, a quick Google search provides data on how many billions of dollars have been paid by the E.U. (and many U.S. administrations) to support the Palestinian Authority since the mid-1970s. As the daughter of a Holocaust Survivor once told me: Jewish blood is cheap.
The first thing I learned as a Belgian Jew is that Belgian and European politicians lack any sort of courage, and invariably lean towards appeasement–or worse—blackmail. When was the last time appeasement worked? Was it in 1938, when the United Kingdom, France, and Italy signed the infamous Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany? Was it in 2015, when the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia, the US, and the EU signed the infamous JCPOA with Iran? Was it in February 2022, after the infamous Russian invasion of Ukraine when, instead of imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, the E.U. meekly illuminated their old building in yellow and blue?
Appeasement has never worked and never will, but it is so much easier for ignorant people to believe in it, or worse, to make a deal with the devil as most European countries have done and continue to do with Iran or the Palestinian terrorist organizations over the years.
It is fascinating how much we don’t learn about History. As soon as we hear kind words, we forget about the evil the people whose mouths it’s coming out of have committed, and what will inevitably happen if we believe them. Every. Single. Time.
The most unfathomable part for me, when I lived in Belgium, was witnessing some of the most prominent Jewish leaders leaning towards appeasement, being afraid to voice their point of view with the local authorities, or worse, downplaying the current antisemitism to extreme lengths in the hope of receiving honors they don’t deserve.
It never helped the Jewish people to remain silent, waiting for the rest of the world to “see the light” while allowing for the darkness of Jew-hatred to spread.
The second thing I learned is that Jews are historically their own worst enemy. There is a story about the captain of a boat rescuing a Jewish man who has been living alone on a tiny island for the past 20 years. The captain sees two similar buildings on both sides of the island. “What are those buildings?” he asks. The Jewish man responds in an all-too-familiar manner: “They are synagogues. The left one, I go to every Shabbos. The other one, I would never step foot in.” It would be a funny joke; did it not illustrate the sad reality we live in.
I am disheartened to see Jewish people treating each other like enemies. Don’t get me wrong, I never shy away from having difficult conversations or very heated debates, but at the end of the day, I always remember two things:
- Jewish people represent 0.2% of the global population. Yes, zero point two percent of the population. By now, we should have learned that we are the first ones that need to be defending ourselves because no one else rarely ever will.
- Regardless of the branch of Judaism I follow, from secular to Chabad, or the political ideology I affiliate myself with, from Liberal Democrat to Conservative Republican, I will still be a Jew. Especially when it comes to antisemitism (or its new form, antizionism), the White Supremacist, the neo-Nazi, the Liberal Fascist, the Socialist, the Communist, or the Islamist will make no difference about what I identify as, and will all target me as a Jew.
We need to remember this. Urgently.
The third thing I learned is the moral necessity of supporting Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. From Entebbe to Ethiopia, Israel has demonstrated time and time again that she is the sole protector for the Jews around the world when no one else is willing to help. It is hard for many American Jews who live almost 6,000 miles from Israel and who have never experienced physical threats from being Jewish, to comprehend this. Their experience of antisemitism often goes back generations, with their grandparents or great-grandparents having been the ones to escape the fascism of Nazi Germany or to face the discrimination of “No Jews Allowed” policies American establishments held. It is a different and more concrete reality for Jews in Belgium and Europe entirely. Jewish individuals regularly visit Israel and have been living for decades with heavily armed guards protecting Jewish establishments, institutions, and places of worship.
I have always supported Israel, whether the Prime Minister was from the left, the center, or the right. I have the highest admiration for what has been built there since the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, but I am not Israeli. I don’t live there, surrounded by neighbors who would kill me if it wasn’t for the incredible technology—such as Iron Dome— that was developed out of necessity for survival.
As I would do for any other democracy in the world, I trust the citizens of Israel to do what is right for them and their country. For American Jews, that should mean continuing to support unconditional aid to Israel. The double standard that Israel continues to face further highlights modern antisemitism hiding behind the thin veil of antizionism; no country should have to negotiate the terms of its right to exist or to defend itself. If you have an issue with the only democracy in the Middle East, let alone the only Jewish State in the world, having the right to exist and to defend itself, you may want to reassess whether saying “I’m not antisemitic” is as true as you’d like it to be.
In the 1970s, almost 50 years ago, Herbert Pagani wrote a text that could have just as well been written today. He performed it on French television in the show animated by Jacques Chancel, and every Jew in Belgium and France has heard it at some point since. It is called “Plaidoyer pour ma Terre” (Pleading for my Land) and I mention it in my book Before It’s Too Late – A Love Letter to My Daughters and America (https://geni.us/BeforeItsTooLate). At the end of it, Pagani writes these prophetic words which today are more accurate than ever:
When Israel is out of danger, I will choose among the Jews and my Arab neighbors, those with whom I share the same ideas. Today, I must stand in solidarity with all my family, even those I hate, in the name of this insurmountable enemy: racism.
Descartes was wrong: I think, therefore I am, it doesn’t mean anything.
We have been thinking for 5,000 years, and we still don’t exist.
I defend myself, therefore, I am.
Exactly. I defend myself, therefore, I am.