Ellen Ginsberg Simon

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

As Alice is besieged in her world of nonsense, so the Jews of the world are besieged by impossible fallacies and irrational anger. From the Lewis Carroll Story Alice in Wonderland, Illustration by Sir John Tenniel 1871

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

In Alice in Wonderland, the titular character is all the more loveable for her naïve, childish belief in the impossible. We find her bottomless ability to visualize fantasies endearing.

Not so with those whose anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism have been on full display in the past week.

One could go mad listening to the incongruous, illogical arguments of those who have denigrated Israel in the midst of the current violence. When it comes to Israel, people demonstrate an uncanny and disturbing ability to see fiction in place of reality. They latch on to fabrications like the Cheshire Cat latches his tail to a tree limb. They cling to their false branch even as reality forces it to snap and collapse in a heap of lies.

They paint the roses red, but it does not take much effort to discover the white beneath the thin veneer.

I shall use this forum to break down six impossible things Israel-haters believe before they have even sipped their morning tea from the comfort of their bunker-free homes.

1. They can concomitantly hate Israel and not hate Jews.

This is a big one. Its fallacy is at the base of every anti-Semite’s excuse for railing against Israel’s every breath. This allows the Ilan Omar’s and Linda Sarsour’s of the world to claim that they only attack Israel’s government and policies as distinct from all Jews worldwide. The old “I hate Netanyahu, but if he were out of power, I would miraculously turn around and change my mind about Israel” argument.

It is difficult to contradict this argument because, in partial form, it could be and is true. One can legitimately hate aspects of Israel – such as Netanyahu and his cronies – but love the country and its people, as well as Jews in general. Many Israelis and diaspora Jews themselves fall into this category. It represents a tangible, extant group.

Unfortunately, it also is the most manipulable and disingenuous argument employed by Jew-haters. Witness the 500 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the past week alone. Does anyone truly believe that is a coincidence? Is it reasonable to believe that rioters attacking Jewish people at random in New York City, Los Angeles, or Bal Harbour only hate Israel and not the fact that those people are Jews? When protestors in London scream from their cars for the rape and murder of Jews – not Israelis – is it rational to believe that they see a distinction between Israel and Jews in general?

Witness the willingness to write off indiscriminate rocket fire at Israeli civilians, requiring over 70 percent of the country to cower in bomb shelters in the past week.  Were these targeted attacks intended to send a sophisticated, political message? Or were they just meant to kill Jews indiscriminately?

Witness those who believe that Israel is at an unfair advantage because it has the Iron Dome to protect its people and think Israel should give Iron Dome to those who are trying to annihilate them.

Witness those who cry “from the river to the sea,” thereby expressly informing the world of their rejectionist view of Israel and their support for the annihilation of the Jewish State and its populace.

Witness the terrifying spike in anti-Semitic speech on the internet, in graffiti, and in violent incidents calling for the death of Jews, as distinct from just Israelis. Some of the images I have seen circulating this week are worthy of Josef Goebbels, but they sit on public platforms and receive the support of people I used to consider educated thinkers.

Jews have been attacked physically and verbally across the planet this week, regardless of any affiliation or lack thereof with Israel. The media is rife with videos of people being harassed and beaten on streets and in restaurants strictly based on their Jewish identity.

Calls for the destruction of Israel used to be thinly-veiled calls for the destruction of the Jews. Those calls became overt this week. It is no longer possible to believe that most of the world sees a distinction between the two.

“Alice with the bottle labelled Drink Me, from the Lewis Carroll Story Alice in Wonderland, Illustration by Sir John Tenniel 1871”

Any Jew who thinks he or she is safe from this freedom to express Jew-hate in the guise of Israel-hate is delusional. Any Jew who adds his or her voice to the throngs shouting lies about Israel is unwittingly demonstrating a death wish.

“For if one drinks much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it’s almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later.”

2. Israel is a genocidal state.

That must explain the roughly 1.85 million Palestinians living in Gaza and 2.7 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. It must explain the Gazan population growth rate of 2.25 percent. Israelis must have a serious deficiency when it comes to committing genocide because they have failed miserably at it if they truly intended that to happen.

Never mind the contradictory evidence of truckloads of humanitarian aid Israel tries to send innocent Palestinian civilians who suffer the most from these conflicts instigated by their feckless, self-interested leaders. (Notably, Hamas fires rockets at those aid convoys instead of allowing any assistance to reach the people it intentionally throws in harm’s way.)

Never mind the fact that the Israeli military drops leaflets and fires warning shots to try to clear an area of the civilian human shields Hamas loves to employ when it needs to take out a rocket launcher or a terrorist nest. Israelis care more about Palestinians lives than the Palestinians’ own leaders do. They try to protect Palestinian civilians readily and intentionally sacrificed by their own leaders.

In contrast, the Hamas foundational charter expressly calls for the destruction of the Jewish State. They put their money where their mouth is, too, spending up to $90 million of money meant for humanitarian aid to build concrete underground terror tunnels from whence Hamas terrorists ostensibly would launch murderous attacks on Israeli citizens. Those 3,500 rockets cost them a pretty penny, as well.  Perhaps we should ask the genocidal-in-fact state of Iran, the source of those rockets, how much all of that cost.

People who scream “Israel is committing genocide” really do seem to believe the impossible and the nonsensical. As in Alice’s world of nonsense, nothing is what it is.

3. Israel’s response is disproportional and constitutes war crimes.

More than 3,500 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli territory this month alone. More than 70 percent of the country has had to seek shelter in bunkers this week. At least ten Israelis died as a result of these attacks. Imagine how many Israelis would have died in the absence of Iron Dome, an exorbitantly expensive missile defense system developed by Israel and the U.S. in response to the constant threat to Israel’s borders. No other country needs this sophisticated defense system, because no other country is constantly subjected to violent border incursions.

In the meantime, as many as 25 percent of the rockets that Hamas fired at Israel fell back into Gaza and killed 50 of the Palestinians whose deaths are blamed on Israel.  The rockets are, of course, launched from apartment buildings and crowded residential neighborhoods to ensure that any retaliatory action taken by Israel will provide maximum public relations effect.

As a result, Israel has conducted targeted strikes in Gaza seeking to stem the violence directed at its people. As noted above, the Israel Defense Forces goes to extreme lengths unseen in war to inform Palestinian civilians of an imminent attack on a rocket launcher or terrorist den.  The IDF knows that Hamas shamelessly abuses its own people by intentionally locating military sites within civilian areas in the hopes of yielding a photo op for the New York Times cover page.  At the same time, it needs to defend its owns citizens and take action to stem the rocket fire.

Article 51 of the UN Charter provides “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations…”  But Israel and Jew haters cry that Israel is not entitled to act in self-defense because Gaza is an occupied territory, and an occupier has a duty to protect the territory it occupies.

For those who still believe the impossible before breakfast, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.  Israel occupies precisely zero percent of Gaza.  Israel’s right to defend itself against external attack is assured, unless of course, you believe that Israel is not entitled to the same rights as all other UN member States.

In contrast, the use of human shields by Hamas is expressly forbidden by Protocol I in the Geneva Conventions.  It also is codified in the Rome Statute (the governing document of the International Criminal Court or ICC) as a war crime of specific intent.  Even in non-international armed conflicts, the use of civilians as human shields customarily is recognized as forbidden.

Current International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda might wish to expend some attention on these war crimes while she investigates Israel for war crimes.

The term “disproportional” refers to something that is not fair or reasonable in relation to something else.  Could it be that the true disproportion is the expectation that Israelis sit on their haunches and welcome rocket fire and death without defending their lives?  Could it be the disproportional application of international legal norms when it comes to the Jewish State?

We truly are in Wonderland, where up is down and down is up.

4. Supporting Hamas’ attacks against Israel is a legitimate position.

Hamas is the Queen of Hearts screaming “Off with his head!” while you nod in agreement having no idea that your head is next.

If you support Hamas, you support a terrorist organization funded by Iran and whose ultimate goals are: 1) the destruction of the State of Israel; and 2) the establishment of an Islamic Khalifate everywhere.

When you stand with Hamas, you stand for indiscriminate violence, intolerance, and hatred of western civilization as a monolithic block.

You support people who shove LGBTQ Palestinians off rooftops and drag the lifeless bodies of their political opponents in Fateh through the streets.

Ultimately, you support your own demise.

Hamas is the Queen of Hearts screaming “Off with his head!” while you nod in agreement having no idea that your head is next.

While you madly may choose to imbue Israel’s attempts at self-defense with genocidal intent, you do not need to interpret anything Hamas says or does.  Hamas is very explicit and leaves little room for interpretation of its intent.  Aligning yourself with Hamas is no different than aligning yourself with ISIS or al-Qaeda or any other modern-day Islamist group crying, “Sentence first – verdict afterwards!”

5. Israel is a white, colonizing, Apartheid State.

Specious, disingenuous comparisons of this conflict with European colonialism, Apartheid, and critical race theory in the U.S. abounded this week. This argument is demographically absurd and ahistorical.

First, those who view Israel-Palestine through the racial lens of white-versus-black manage to erase more than half the population of Israel who derive from non-white countries. In other words, more than half of Israelis are people of color, which makes anyone remotely familiar with Israeli sociology scratch their heads in wonderment at this bizarre argument.

Proponents of a kinship between Black Lives Matter and the Palestinians are unwittingly misusing and undermining the proclaimed purpose of BLM.  They seem to have forgotten that, after the founding of the State of Israel, the rest of the Middle East and North Africa expelled their Jewish populations resulting in a massive influx of Mizrachi Jews to Israel.  They are unphased by that episode of ethnic cleansing of the Jewish populations of Middle Eastern and North African countries and the fact that half of Israel is composed of people of Jewish Arab descent.

Israel is a colorful place.  Jewish Israelis alone are a mishmash not only of the descendants of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews, but also Moroccan Jews, Egyptian Jews, Yemeni Jews, Algerian Jews, Tunisian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Iranian Jews, Russian Jews, Ethiopian Jews, French Jews, German Jews, English Jews, Spanish Jews, American Jews, South African Jews, and so on.  Add to this the many non-Jewish Israeli citizens of various racial backgrounds, and you have a richly diverse, multiethnic society.

When people sip their tea before breakfast and call Israel an Apartheid State, they disregard the fact that non-Jews are equal citizens who contribute to society, attend and teach at universities, hold public office, serve on the Supreme Court and in the Knesset, participate in any profession they choose, have functioning political parties, and live in the same neighborhoods and cities as their Jewish brethren.  In a true Apartheid State, none of that would be possible much less true.

They cling to the fallacious argument that Israel was settled suddenly in 1948 by white, Eastern Europeans who had no connection to the land of Israel prior to that time and evicted a preexisting nation of people with the help of European colonialist nations.  They erroneously consider Israelis a tool of European colonialism.  They thereby erase three thousand years of Jewish presence in the land.  They disregard the century of waves of immigration during which Jews fled Eastern European persecution for their historical homeland, buying land legally from Ottoman pashas, reclaiming it for agriculture, and organically forming the Yishuv, the pre-state society that ultimately received UN-recognized statehood in 1948.  And they ignore the waves of immigration since the founding of people of every race, color, and creed.

When American leftists and BLM activists paint Israel as the racist, white colonizer, they erase the rich history and sociology of the Israeli people.  Isn’t that the type of historical erasure they seek to undo in the U.S.?  Isn’t that directly antithetical to the espoused goals of BLM?

Curiouser and curiouser.

6. When you deny Israel’s right to defend itself and exist as a Jewish State, you are not being an anti-Semitic racist.

Sorry, hon.  You are as anti-Semitic and racist as they come.

When you erase three thousand years of Jewish history and continuous presence in the land that today constitutes Israel, you are being anti-Semitic and racist.

When you selectively reject the Jewish right to self-determination, you are being anti-Semitic and racist.

When you tell Jews that the mere act of defending themselves from external attack is not legitimate but in fact constitutes war crimes, you are being anti-Semitic and racist.

When you tell Jews that they should let rockets rain down on them and kill them with impunity, you are being anti-Semitic and racist.

When you hold the only Jewish State to a completely different standard than any other state in the world, you are being anti-Semitic and racist.

When you deny the only Jewish State the rights and privileges afforded any other state in the world, you are being anti-Semitic and racist.

Alice at the Mad Tea Party, from the Lewis Carroll Story Alice in Wonderland, Illustration by Sir John Tenniel 1871″

As silly as these sentences sound, they are exactly what otherwise rational people have been saying all week and, frankly, throughout Israel’s lifespan as well as all of Jewish history.

If your response to this is, “’I don’t think –’ ‘Then you shouldn’t talk,’” as the Hatter wisely advises Alice.

* * *

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” 

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

The world has gone topsy-turvy.  Aggressors are painted as victims.  People hiding in bomb shelters are excoriated for trying to save their own lives.  A country is denounced for attempting to protect its citizens from attack and its borders from being breached by an enemy seeking to commit genocide. People on the other side of the planet are being assaulted based on actions taken a world away over which they have no control.

Ultimately, however, Alice in Wonderland is a story of growing up, of maturing beyond fantasy.

So the Jews of the world must mature beyond the fantasy that our days of existential threat are behind us.  We must abandon the naive belief that we are a welcome wing of the far left, who are openly supportive of the annihilation of our people.   If we want to get anywhere productive, we have to start by letting go of the impossibilities to which we have clung and acknowledge the impossibilities thrown in our faces.

Until then, we are all mad here.

About the Author
Ellen Ginsberg Simon is an attorney and compliance professional. She has an M.Phil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford University and is also a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School.
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