David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Streams of Anxious Consciousness 44

On Saturday night, friends who are more like family joined us for dinner at a local restaurant. It was the first time I had interacted socially with another couple in five weeks. Dinner, a drink and some conversation about our kids was a noble attempt for all of us to take our minds away from reality. Sadly, it did not last long.

Before the waitress took drink orders, our friends, who I will call Jack and Diane, shared disturbing news about their sophomore son at a prestigious private school in New York.  The 15-year-old student has been the subject of antisemitism from one of his teachers. Were this story not told to me first person, I would have a hard time believing it.

Their son’s teacher made outlandish claims to Jack and Diane’s son which included that Israel bombing Gaza increases the chances that terrorists will bomb the New York City subways, and thus Israel is endangering his (the teacher’s) life.

He also claimed in class that the Nazis were really trying to acquire land, and in the process had to kill some Jews. Land procurement was Nazism’s primary goal. Plus, the teacher refused to condemn Hamas.

Read those sentences again, slowly.

This teacher earned a PhD. He teaches impressionable high school students. He is on staff at a prestigious private school in New York City.

My wife and I were empathetic to their ordeal while incredulous to the reality of their situation. The school seems to be handling it as best as it can, for now. Jack and Diane are exemplary parents who have given a clinic on standing their ground and being supportive of their son, while taking the school and the teacher to task. Still, it is traumatic to be the victim of lies, mistruths and blame, and even harder when the victim is 15 years young.

The conversation detoured a bit after salad when Jack asked me how he “convinces” people on the margins that Israel is behaving morally.

We entered a long and respectful tête-à-tête about keys to enter conversation with anyone on the topic.

I firmly believe that each person needs to be asked two simple and foundational questions:

  • Do you believe the Jewish people are entitled to live and exist in the Nation State of Israel?
  • Do you believe Israel has the right, if not the obligation, to defend itself and its citizens from those who seek to harm her?

I said to Jack that if any person cannot answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions, no further conversation could be had. There is no ‘convincing’ to be done.

My point to Jack was that this is a moral war. When people pose questions that rank me less than other humans because of my religion or Zionism, I will not fight for my right to be seen equally and THEN argue why my country behaves morally. If human beings cannot see me as equal, we can have no conversation to move forward.

In essence, those two simple questions are the litmus test for entry to conversation and dialogue. But discourse cannot be had with anyone who cannot agree to those core, common criteria.

I pushed this point hard with Jack because we all must work on a level playing field. Sadly, the media, his kid’s teacher and even much of society are not holding Israel and Jews to an equal standard.

Just today, international media is condemning Israel for a gunfight at the Indonesian hospital in Gaza. Have we not read this book already? The IDF claims that it was returning hostile gunfire from militants inside the hospital. I believe them. Here is why.

Sixty-three – and counting – soldiers have been killed to date in Gaza. These Hamas snipers and bombers and terrorists are devoid of scruples. They will hide behind children, shoot from ICU beds and ferry weapons in ambulances. This has been documented and proven. Still, Israel is expected to allow the terror to continue against them and not defend itself. The bleeding and leading story is still “Israelis firing at a hospital” when the story should be, “Terrorists taking cover in a hospital and violating international law.”

Last week I was visiting a hospital in Ashkelon. I stood at the very spot where just a few days earlier a Qassam rocket from Gaza hit the hospital. It was near the pediatric ward. Thank God, no one was physically wounded. It did significant damage.

I am sure you all heard the United Nations condemn the bombing of the hospital? Or perhaps you tuned in when CNN, Fox, and the major three networks criticized Hamas for the attack on a building meant to provide medical treatment? Did you hear the outrage after the bombing of the Israeli hospital, a clear violation of international law? Perhaps you heard international leaders condemn the bombing  by Hamas?

Of course, you did not. Neither did I. Do a google search of the rocket attack in Ashkelon and you will see all the Israeli news sites reporting on the missile landing and not one Western news source covering the story.  That is the point. The playing field is not level.

Today, 29 babies in incubators were safely evacuated from Shifa hospital and transferred to medical facilities in Egypt. I pray for their health and well-being.

How ironic, that on World Children’s Day, Israel helps coordinate and facilitate the rescue of these sick children while at the exact same time, fifty children have been held by Hamas for almost as many days (50), and no signs of life have been offered. We do not know if they are receiving medicine, nourishment or care. They cannot communicate with their parents or siblings. The International Red Cross has not been granted access to visit them.

If someone dares to denounce Israel for delaying the transfer or endangering the lives of these infants and is silent on the Jewish children ranging in age from ten-months to 18 years held against their will by Hamas, then they are frauds who traffic in double standards. They demonstrate another example of the uneven playing field plaguing the Jewish community.

Worse than that, when we are treated unevenly and unfairly, it begins to erode a sense of empathy for these premature children and the plight of the innocents. Compassion and care should be reciprocal. Why is the world seeing it as a one-way street?

A new form of asymmetrical warfare is being waged in Gaza and in the orbit of those who care about this war.  One standard is set for Gazans, and another is set for Israel. It is shameful. These tactics are taken from the oldest playbooks of antisemitism, bigotry and hatred.

A colleague who has a high-ranking position in the Israeli government has spent the last four weeks in the Gaza envelope taking media personnel and political leadership around the destruction created by Hamas. He shares firsthand accounts of the terror that reigned in the Gaza envelope for almost 72 hours by terrorists in the very spot it occurred.

One major news network reporter, who was escorted through a kibbutz riddled with bullets and blood-stained walls, asked the Anglo-Israeli guide the following question:
“How do we know those are human remains in those body bags over there?”

The quick on his feet guide responded,
“Did you ask that question and look for proof of death after 9/11?”

How could any reporter think it is acceptable to imply that Israel staged this massacre? Is that any different than Holocaust denialism? Has the western world all become David Irving?

Some come by it honestly. The Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, shared yesterday that Israel was responsible for the mass murder of the 340 kids at the Nova music festival on October 7th.  They went on to claim that Israel had manufactured the entire ordeal and blamed the murders on Palestinians.

What a revolting blood libel. It is disgusting and shameful! Yet, we should not be surprised. Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority for 18 years, wrote his dissertation denying the Holocaust. The title of his work is called, The Secret Connection between Nazism and Zionism—1933-1945.

As recent as this past September of 2023, Abbas stated publicly that Adolf Hitler ordered the mass murder of Jews because of their “social role” as moneylenders, rather than out of animosity to Judaism.

Bear in mind, Abbas is the “moderate” Palestinian Israel should negotiate with. He is the address Israel should make peace with. He is the guy we should allow to govern Gaza after the war. Ridiculous!

During a press conference at the White house last week, reporters grilled the stand-in Press Secretary over the “inconsequential” number of rockets, guns and ammunition found at Shifa hospital since Israel has gained control of the medical enclave.

When surveillance video was produced by Israel showing Hamas bringing two hostages, abducted from Israel, bound and blindfolded to Shifa on October the 7th, reporters asked if those were all who were housed in the infirmary.  As if to say, only 2? Does those few hostages constitute invading the hospital?  When extensive and elaborate tunnel systems were revealed under the hospital, the media asked for more proof of terrorist intentions and headquarters.

Seriously? How many hostages warrant approval for the IDF to conquer the hospital? How many rockets or guns qualify as a guerrilla stronghold? How many tunnels under an emergency room comprise violence and terrorism?

I have been to hospitals in a few countries. I have never seen RPGs, AK47s, grenades, missiles and rocket launchers near an X-Ray machine. Have you? How many of those items constitute a terrorist headquarters or hideout? How many weapons form merely a non-lethal arsenal being housed near EKG and pacemakers? One rocket is too many. One gun is too many. One grenade is too many.

If we have different rules for entry and different guidelines for the same game, there is no evenness. We are not held to an equal standard. For a group that demands equality for the Palestinians, perhaps they should start with some equality for Jews and Israelis, too. We begin by leveling the playing field and demanding equal standards. When it fails to be equal, they better damn well call it out as loudly as they do towards us.

Perhaps we should begin all interviews and every conversation with the following simple questions:

  • Do you believe the Jewish people are entitled to live and exist in our Nation State of Israel?
  • Do you believe Israel has the right, if not the obligation to defend itself and its citizens from those who seek to harm her?

If anyone answers ‘no’ to either of those questions, I am sad to say, they are an antisemite and hold Jews and Israel to a different set of standards. Those who answer ‘no,’ are not worthy of  my time or energy, nor should they be of yours.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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