Between 1894 and 1895, a mid-30s Theodore Herzl was sent by the Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse (New Free Press) to Paris. He had been working as a correspondent there since 1891. But this issue he was sent to report on, would go on to change the story not only of the Jewish people but all of the Middle East, and would also change political dynamics throughout the globe.
French colonel Alfred Dreyfuss, who was Jewish by every definition but was completely assimilated into French society, was accused of treason. He allegedly passed on confidential military information to the Germans. The affair would go on for more than a decade, ending in 1906, when a civilian court of appeals found Dreyfuss innocent, and reinstated his rank as colonel.
Throughout this affair, French society was divided between the pro-Dreyfuss camp and the anti-Dreyfuss camp, which is natural for any society facing such a controversy. But Theodor Herzl noticed something that would get to worry him and change his convictions. The chants among the anti-Dreyfuss camp were not about Dreyfuss as an individual traitor, they were about the treacherous Jewish people.
The French Revolution in 1789 meant a shift in the life of Jews in France and later on all around Western Europe. After centuries of being classified as second-class citizens, or not even citizens at all, emancipation came. The motto of the French Revolution, “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity”, meant Jews were no longer bound by their Jewishness, but could be seen as equal to their French neighbors. This also meant that to a certain degree, they had to give up their Judaism and completely assume their Frenchness.
This was mostly perceived as a positive change for Jewish communities, and throughout the 19th century, a lot of Jews assimilated into French society. Most prejudices around Judaism and blood libels that hunted Jews in Europe for centuries were seemingly gone. The Dreyfuss affair proved this conception to be completely wrong.
Dreyfuss, who was Jewish only by blood, but not by practice, was being accused of centuries-old antisemitic tropes. This (among other things like the election in 1893 of Karl Lueger, an antisemite, as mayor of Vienna), made Herzl realize that we, the Jewish People need to stand for ourselves and create our own Jewish homeland, the outside world would never tolerate us. Leo Pinsker had already stated before that “antisemitism is like a virus, it mutates”.
The realization Herzl had more than a century ago is one that we are once again having these days.
Suddenly, the international pro-Palestinian cause (which was already plagued by antisemitism) is becoming a rabid and openly antisemitic movement. Chants for the death of Jews, marking of Jewish houses with Stars of David, and other popular chants like “from the river to the sea” (and now as of November 8, even some murders) have Jewish people living in the diaspora fearing for their lives. We had not seen such scenes in the Western World since the 1930s – 40s.
An issue that is supposed to be about “Israel occupying Palestine and breaking Palestinian basic human rights” (which is not) has become openly about centuries-old antisemitic tropes, just as it happened during the Dreyfuss Affair. We are once again shown by the world (specifically the Western World) that we are not welcome into it just because we are Jews.
And you want to know my sincere opinion? We should stop trying, we should stop begging for their approval. We should have our very own voice in this issue. We should be very loud and clear about our support for our Jewish country, and not forget that it wasn’t us, that it was Hamas who started this problem when it murdered 1400 and kidnapped around 240 of our brothers and sisters.
The first few days after the 7/10 genocidal attack, the public opinion was relatively on our side. Most antisemites were simply silent, and a lot (but still not enough) of rational people around the world voiced support for Israel and condemned Hamas’ attack. Four weeks later, we cannot say the same.
On November 2nd, the Economist published a short article on how public opinion on social media has changed since the beginning of the Iron Swords War until October 19th. At the beginning of the conflict, almost 50% of the public opinion on social media was neutral, and the other 50% was split almost equally between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli voices. By October 19th, neutral voices remained at almost 50%, but pro-Palestinian voices numbered almost 40%, and pro-Israeli voices stood at just a bit above 10%.
This radical change in just less than two weeks shows the big shift in public opinion around the world, which I can assume has only grown since then.
I’m proud to see initiatives around the world by Jewish and Israeli communities to raise awareness and solidarity for Israel, but also let down by the number of Jews mainly in the US who have been campaigning against it. Both have a real influence on the war efforts.
The International War Timer
In Israeli and international media there has been talk about an international war timer that is ticking every day that the war goes on. Just today, Anthony Blinken visited Israel and once again repeated America’s commitment to Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas. He laid out some conditions, like reducing the death toll among innocent Gazans and preventing the conflict from spreading throughout the rest of the Middle East but overall he stated that the United States stands with Israel.
Media in Israel (main source N12) tend to believe that this unconditional support will not last much longer. Biden has an important basis of democratic voters who do not support America’s policy on this war and are willing to “punish” him in the elections for this. Also, the UN’s General Assembly has passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease of hostilities between the parts. These are the first signs of the timer rushing.
Israel still enjoys some legitimacy of self-defense around the international community, but every day we see how it fades away, and not at a slow pace.
Israeli wars since the declaration of independence of the state have been bound by this international legitimacy war timer.
During the Independence war from May 1948 – July 1949, world opinion was mostly favorable for Israel, since it was seen as an aggression war from the surrounding Arab states. But even then, we got to see the international legitimacy war timer in some form. In late December 1948, Israel launched an offensive against Egypt in which it captured part of the Sinai Peninsula.
Before this event, the Security Council of the UN had already called for a ceasefire, but it did not take place. Right after Israel captured the Sinai, the British gave them an ultimatum to leave, and between January 1st and 2nd 1949, Israel left both Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Israel still had the intention to capture Gaza, but in the end, it agreed to a ceasefire with Egypt by January 7th.
The same timer existed during the Sinai War in 1956. After a lot of tensions with Nasser and the closure of the straits of Tiran, Israel launched a campaign backed by France and England (who had their own interests of eventually capturing and freeing the Suez Canal, which they did) and occupied once again the Sinai peninsula. After a campaign of international pressure, Israel accepted a ceasefire after a week of war but did not retire from Sinai until March 1957 (also because of an international campaign of condemnation, and mainly because of US pressure).
The international war timer has been a constant in most Israeli wars. Even operations in Gaza in the last decade have been subject to this timer, otherwise, I think Hamas’ military capabilities would not exist anymore or would be severely damaged, to the point where the attack on 7/10 would not have happened at all. In 2014, 2021, and other operations, the UN’s various agencies, councils, and committees have passed several resolutions that have affected Israel’s military efforts.
Israel is too smart to jeopardize its relations with the US and the international community, so from time to time it has to stick to pressure, and this has been a factor in most Israeli wars if not all, and is going to be in this current war.
As long as anti-Israeli voices are louder than pro-Israeli as they are today, we cannot hope for international legitimacy to last much longer. Countries such as Bolivia, which broke relations with Israel this week, and other countries that have returned their ambassadors like Colombia, and other measures, have fallen for the anti-Israeli campaign.
This is an antisemitic campaign that not only affects Jews living outside of Israel but also rushes the legitimacy timer, which Israel needs to last as long as possible to reach its goals in the strip.
The world and its leaders are currently watching a one-sided narrative. All around the media, there doesn’t seem to exist even a debate on who is right and who is not. It seems as if only anti-Israeli voices are right, and pro-Israeli voices are just a simple minority who support occupation, apartheid, and genocide.
Our job as Jews living in the diaspora, or even as non-Jews who support Israel’s existence and its right to defend itself against a genocidal terrorist group is to let the world know that there is another side to this story. To let people wherever they may be found, that Israel is a legitimate state that promotes the well-being of all its citizens, and that wants to live in peace with its neighbors, even if there are some (or a lot) of problems inside the country that we still need to figure out and solve as soon as possible (racism in the society, Jewish extremism, etc…).
This is an essential part of the war effort in which we can take part. Let’s be loud and clear. We have to let the world know our side of the story. We owe Israel to do everything we have on our hands to maintain its legitimacy among the world, so on one side we can really create a debate around this issue that does not stand on an antisemitic basis, and on the other, let Israel reach its military goals so that never again really gets to mean never again.
Jewish people should not be murdered or kidnapped or have any damage either physical or moral done to them just for the sake of being Jewish.
Let’s spread the truth to the world and let it know that Am Israel Hai.
Written on November 3rd, 2023