David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Streams of Anxious Consciousness XXVIII

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbollah’s long anticipated speech was more valuable than on face value. It was a blustery rant and fearful admission that Hizbollah does not want to share the current fate of Hamas.

There are a few reasons for this announcement, in my estimation. The citizens of Lebanon will be far less sympathetic to Hizbollah turning their country into an active war zone and eventual rubble than the people for Gaza are for Hamas. If Israel were to face off in a full-on war with Lebanon, I suspect Hizbollah would be fighting internally and externally against Israel and locals who want nothing to do with the the guerrilla regime.

Add to that the bruises and scars still stinging from 2006 after Israel went into Lebanon to retrieve two of our captured soldiers. Israel was not well prepared for that incursion and still, it set Hizbollah back decades. If Hizbollah AND Hamas were to be pulverized simultaneously, the terror investment of Iran would be decimated. Look at this decision by the ‘groundhog’ Nasrallah as the puppeteer, Iran, choosing to diversify and protect the few remaining assets against Israel it will have.

Nasrallah lives under ground, (hence the moniker, groundhog) unable to see the light of day since 2006 for fear of being assassinated by Israel or like-minded operatives. He heads a world recognized terror entity and is persona non grata east and west. The loud statement that this war is a Palestinian issue only, is telling those in Qatar and Gaza, they are on their own. I would not trust much of what any terrorist leader says. Haniyeh, Sinwar and Nasrallah are on the same level as Goebbels. Thus, Israel is not removing troops or letting its guard down one iota nor should they.

One thing worthy of exploring, if Sinwar and Haniyeh, Hamas chieftains are claiming Israel occupies Palestinians and Hamas’ dispute is over land, what is Hizbollah’s beef with Israel?

The answer is simpler than you would think. Nasrallah and his minions are not contesting borders or the 1967 war, which did not involve Lebanon at all. They are not opposing 1973 and Yom Kippur gains, which were none. Hizbollah is contesting having Jews in the neighborhood. Whether every Jew lived solely in Tel Aviv, Eilat or Haifa is more than the radical Islamic group could handle. They do not want Jews in the world, and most definitely not on their border. Hence their determination to eviscerate us from their proximity for now, and eventually the world.

Of course, I do not want to see Israel face another front of the war. But I would be curious to see world opinion chant, “Free Lebanon” and “No more occupation of Beirut,” to further point out the stupidity that is abound amongst the supporters of terror, who are really just antisemites in poor disguise.

In the Arab world, every country is jumping on the bandwagon of demonizing Israel. Algiers and Turkey have been creaming us in the press, recalling ambassadors and equating Israel to Satan. Sayeed Kashua, the Palestinian Israeli author depicted a similar moment in time in his book, Dancing Arabs. Any time Israel was backed into a corner, militarily, Kashua writes about the Palestinian jubilation and commentary at the dinner table with the inter-generational family, that the Arab world has finally found the nerve of the Israeli. Jews will be defeated and will learn humility and shame. These words are shared around the television and newspapers and coffee houses. Excitement and anticipation ensues.

Then, the tide of the war changes dramatically. Israel dominates and defeats the Arab enemy. Kashua jumps to the same people who now curse the stupidity and arrogance of the Arab aggressors that even contemplated these terroristic moves and engaging in conflict with Israel. Kashua makes a point of highlighting the thoughts of the same family who scream out (in private) lambasting the thoughtlessness of the Arab world leadership as the cause of stifling the growth of Palestinians, worldwide.

It reminds me of a plane full of eager people landing in Las Vegas, full of energy, excitement, hope. They are boisterous, mildly inebriated and naïve enough to think they are the first who will take the casino down. Fast forward to their departing flight a few days later. The gate and jet way are silent, filled with people hanging their head low, wallets empty, and kicking themselves over their mindless hubris.

I think that image Kashua conjures up is happening in spades right now throughout the Arab world. The question is, when October 7th sets back the Palestinian people, and the residents of Gaza generationally, will they decry Hamas in what is left of their living rooms, like Kashua remembers? Will they blame Israel? Will it be one thought aloud and another in private?

I do wish most of the Arab world leadership and the masses would grow a spine and show courage. As I type, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with Arab leaders in Jordan. I would bet large sums of money that off the record, these leaders are appreciative of Israel rooting out Hamas. I am also pretty confident these same leaders will declare adamantly, no Gazan refugees will be allowed in their countries. Lastly, they will mourn the loss of innocent civilians.

On paper, there is nothing to find issue with…off the record.

On the record, these same Arab countries will decry the humanitarian crisis, blame Israel for the loss of life and insist that the International Criminal Court be waved as a warning towards Israel to stop their bombardment. They will demand from Blinken, on the record, there be a cease fire. They will beg Israel to stop continuing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and blame Israel for creating a middle eastern calamity. They will recall ambassadors.

Ironically, Egypt will be in this conference, who shares a border with Gaza and refused to let one refugee inside. Egypt was responsible for filling discovered Hamas tunnels leading from Gaza to the Sinai with raw sewage, killing scores of Hamas operatives and civilians, not so long ago. We all must have missed the protests and world condemnation!

Jordan will be in this conference which is home to the largest population of people who identify as Palestinian. No refugees will be permitted inside Jordan.

Saudi will be at this conference, who has more resources in interest alone to support the people of Gaza and this humanitarian crisis than the GDP of some countries.

Where is their courage to say what they think aloud? Why can’t they condemn Hamas and share in the struggle for independence for Palestinians? Why are they silent in the face of terror on the record and spineless in calling it out before the cameras or with reporters?

Could these countries and its leadership just show some temerity to lead by example? I have been to quite a few Arab and Muslim countries in my life. Almost all of the people I met are smart, thoughtful and considerate. Saying they mourn for innocent people, wish for Palestinian autonomy in a sovereign state and denounce Hamas is not a difficult statement to utter, especially on the record. But they cannot. They do not.

Just this week, the Ashkenazic and Sephardic chief rabbis of Israel issued a rare, joint Halachic (Jewish law) decree that prohibits bigotry, intimidation or violence from Jews towards Arabs. October 7th has brought a lot of racial divides in Israel to light. Some extreme actors have taken to channeling their anger and upset at Israeli Arabs.

That behavior is reprehensible which cannot be tolerated in the Jewish State. To help curb such behavior, the two rabbis announced jointly, in a unified and booming voice that it is against Torah law to behave meanly or violently against Arabs.

When I read this, I was proud to be Jewish. Proud that the tradition I use as a compass and the leadership of the people I am part of, use their platform to denounce demonizing any people and acting violently. I stuck out my chest a little that Israel printed this in the front of the newspapers and was clear throated that this bad behavior is not a Jewish ethic, and the State will not tolerate bad actors or bad actions.

Most violence in Israel happens on Fridays, which is a Muslim sabbath, of sorts. The religious go to the Mosque for prayer and the clerics get them riled up during their sermons. The youth leave, raring to go, setting tires ablaze and throwing rocks and ramming cars. The Madras and the Mosque are hotbeds of fomenting violence and directing anger to Israel and Jews. It should be the opposite.

Where are the Imams doing the same as the chief rabbis? Where are the leaders using their voice to find peace and not stoke hatred? Where are they, damnit!?

These Arab countries’ puniness is laughable and Arab religious and state leadership is wholly embarrassing.

The college campus is on fire. The flames need to be tampered and safeguards need to be stablished to ensure that another eruption never occurs again.

A friend recently said that colleges need a Marshall plan. I agree.

After World War II, the United States spent what is worth about $190 Billion today, investing in trade, infrastructure and materials for Western Europe to rebuild. It was known as the Marshall Plan. It was a huge success, the fruits of which are felt anytime we enjoy the theatre in London, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, shop at Champs de Elysses or eat pasta in Rome. The first purpose was to rebuild these countries and their cities so there could be a bright future in a post war world. The secondary and primal purpose was to ensure America stays a super geo-political influence and that Stalin and Russia do not seize the indigence and vulnerability of these war beaten Western European countries.

Colleges need a Marshall-like-plan so that every student can feel safe, regardless of where they are from or what they believe. They need to continue to be bastions of free speech while learning the responsibilities that come with speech. Universities need to be a forum for vigorous debate accompanied by shared respect. Schools should encourage curiosity and insist that facts matter. We can critique leaders and colleagues, but we do so with a baseline of respect and never advocating or encouraging violence. Opinions and beliefs are welcome on campuses, but facts can never be supplanted for emotion.

Over the years, Jews have been forgotten as a minority. That is much of what we wanted. To be fully included in community, in society and at the workplace. It worked until now.

We are a people, an ethnicity, a tribe, a religion and we indeed are subject to bigotry and intolerance and indifference. This moment has brought the layers of our identity into plain sight. As a result, we are riddled with fear and feeling fragile, especially on college campuses. Students and faculty on college need to be re-educated about Jewish history and the basis of our ethnicity and background along with our intrinsic connection to the State of Israel.

The college experience has long offered education in and out of the classroom for countless other minorities and ethnicities. Jews had been passed over. Perhaps because many thought we had arrived or because our differences were rarely seen or felt. But it has risen to the surface, big time. We cannot hope that the tensions simmer down and go away. We must address this head on so if it does rise again, our response is different and better.

If we cede this moment to time and do not get in front of this crisis, then those who wish to write the narrative without us in it will ascend the podium and fill the void. We can never allow that to happen.

Like the Marshall Plan, we will need a quarterback to lead this endeavor. Someone like Ambassador Amy Gutman, former President of Penn and current Ambassador from the United States to Germany. Or, Lee Bollinger, former President of University of Michigan and then Columbia University. Perhaps Ben Sasse would be a good candidate. Sasse is a former Senator and current President of the University of Florida. There are others worthy of being added to the list. Whoever is selected, it needs to be someone native to the topography of colleges and adept at policy. A person able to walk the line of freedoms and restrictions. A bridge builder who can dream of what can be and not just denounce what is and what was. This should be a collaborative between the Anti-Defamation League, Hillel International and the U.S. Department of Education.

I can think of no role more important than educating and modeling tolerance for our future. Let’s get cracking on this initiative. The day is short, the task is great!

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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