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Gary Rosenblatt

Somber realities take hold In US and in Israel

Grappling with the grim prospect of Hamas claiming victory and the US on the verge of autocracy.
Iran-inspired ire? U.S. intelligence chief said this week Iran sought to encourage and even finance pro-Hamas protests in America.
Iran-inspired ire? U.S. intelligence chief said this week Iran sought to encourage and even finance pro-Hamas protests in America.

The quintessential Jewish telegram used to read: “Start worrying. Details to follow.”

But these days the notion that we Jews worry without reason is as obsolete as telegrams.

Sadly, the “details” arrived October 7 – with the horrific reminder that we are again (still?) hated for who we are. Since that awful day we’ve seen initial empathy for Israel turn to raw, open hostility; a roaring outbreak of anti-Semitism on campus and beyond, and worse in Europe; and as the war grinds on and the political infighting heats up, an understandable but troubling unraveling of Israeli society’s remarkable solidarity.

The world has changed dramatically these last nine months. Those of us who love Israel and cherish democracy find ourselves grappling with painful new realities as we confront the political landscape in Jerusalem, at home and abroad.

Impossible Choices For European Jews

A century ago, Europe was home to the majority of Jews in the world. Today, less than 10 percent of world Jewry is in Europe and their future is increasingly precarious.

British Jews now make up only 0.5 percent of the country while the growing Muslim population, now 6.3 percent, is expected to reach 17 percent in the next 25 years. Last week’s landslide win for the Labour Party in national elections included a return of Jewish voters who had abandoned the party while Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed anti-Semite, was at the helm.

In France, with hard left and hard right parties surging, Jews were faced with impossible choices in the recent national elections. National Rally, the far-right party with a long history of anti-Semitism, was expected to win a majority but was held off by a left-wing alliance that included leaders calling for a Palestinian state and insisting anti-Semitism was not a serious national problem –  despite a 300 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents since 2023.

With neither bloc holding an absolute majority, President Macron, who heads a centrist coalition, now leads a potentially gridlocked government. What’s clear, though, is that French Jews are feeling particularly anxious and vulnerable.

For the 1.25 million Jews of Europe, “the only guarantee they have” in terms of security “is the Law of Return,” observed Yedidia Stern, president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, an Israel-based think tank. “That’s why we have a Jewish state.”

Israelis Realizing War Goals Unrealistic

The problematic paradox for Israel, observes Micah Goodman, one of the country’s leading public intellectuals, is that its citizens “are willing to fight and die in a war that is led by a government they don’t trust. That’s very Israeli,” he adds, “but unsustainable.”

A brilliant pragmatist with an innately optimistic disposition, Goodman, during a recent podcast interview with Dan Senor, host of “Call Me Back,” expressed positive feelings about the Jewish state long term. But he is pessimistic in the short term.

It’s not hard to see why the immediate future looks dark. Nine months after October 7, Israelis are grappling with the acceptance of the new reality that Jerusalem will not achieve its three primary goals of eradicating Hamas from Gaza, freeing all the hostages and restoring deterrence on its borders.

Tens of thousands of Israelis remain homeless in the south and the north. Businesses and the military are seriously understaffed. Morale is down. The global image of the Jewish state is deeply damaged – the  victims of a genocidal attack accused, instead, of committing genocide.

And perhaps the worst is yet to come as the IDF prepares for the very real possibility of a full-scale war with Hezbollah. The terror group is far bigger and better trained than Hamas, and is believed to have more than 150,000 rockets, many with the ability to strike virtually any part of Israel.

What, then, is the source of Goodman’s long term optimism? He maintains that offsetting traumas within Israeli society will lead to a more balanced political climate. He notes that the Second Intifada of deadly suicide bombings (2000-2005) marked the end of the left-wing’s peace efforts, turning the country increasingly to the right. But looking ahead, he says, the October 7 attack and resulting war will be viewed as “the catastrophe” of the current hard-right government. The outcome of these two powerful anxieties, from the left and the right, “will push us to the center,” Goodman believes, and make space for a new generation of leadership that will blend nationalism and liberalism.

All well and good, but even Goodman won’t predict how far off this neat-fitting theory will become reality.

America’s Slide Toward The Rule Of One

Here at home, most American Jews, who support Israel and vote Democratic, feel caught in a political vise. There is deep concern that a Trump victory will mean the end of liberal democracy in the U.S., based on the former president’s own statements that, for example, call for appointing  cabinet members based on personal loyalty, remaking the FBI and Justice Department into tools to carry out his revenge against his political enemies, and abandoning foreign allies. Such moves are consistent with the guidelines of the $22 million-dollar Project 2025, an 887-page Presidential transition plan drawn up by the Heritage Foundation to reshape the government and American society, with an emphasis on Christian values and increasing powers for the executive.

With the future of American democracy at stake, there is an growing sense that President Biden, for all that he has accomplished in his tenure in bolstering democratic values and seeking societal unity rather than fostering division, is not up to the task of serving with full capacity from now through 2028.

Biden’s adamant refusal to recognize the sentiment of the electorate and step aside for the next generation of party leaders could well result in his legacy being the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the executive branch – the longtime respected official who resisted retirement, leading to a weakening of the very values they championed.

With each day that goes by with no action, only private hand-wringing, the chances increase that the US is on the verge of a potential autocracy. And Yedidia Stern’s observation about European Jewry’s one guarantee takes on greater meaning for us all.

About the Author
Gary Rosenblatt is the former editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York. Follow him at garyrosenblatt.substack.com.
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