The call for a ceasefire is fig-leaf diplomacy

The chorus calling upon Israel to agree to a ceasefire grows ever louder. The images of carnage in Gaza; the rapidly rising civilian death toll; the humanitarian crisis; State actors piling on the pressure appear rational reasons for Israel to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities. But this is delusional thinking. Here’s why.

There are 15 million Jewish people living in the world today. They come from all walks of life. They follow a wide range of politics from hard right to progressive left. They live in virtually every country of the world, speak many languages, and see the world through different eyes — 15 million unique versions of Jewish identity. But there is one thing that most Jews can agree upon — the survival of the Jewish people.

We have to go back in history to understand why survival is at the heart of the Jewish psyche. Jews have experienced genocidal violence for millennia. In biblical times the Book of Ruth describes the attack by Haman on the Jews. Titus, son of Roman Emperor Vespasian besieged Jerusalem, destroyed the Jewish Temple, and committed genocide in 70 CE. For two millennia Jews have lived in exile, often ostracized, demonized and pulverized by its host nations. The many violent attacks include the Crusades (1200s), the Spanish Inquisition (1495), the Chmielnicki massacres (1648), the Russian Pogroms (1881) and the Holocaust (1933-45), which is still in living memory.

The ratification of the State of Israel was supposed to bring safety for Jews their own homeland. Not content to let Jews live a life free of violence, its neighbors flagrantly ignored its legitimate statehood, inflicting multiple wars over a 75 year period, threatening its obliteration. And let’s be clear that ‘it’ refers to removing Jews living in Israel and dismantling a legally constituted State. That is a genocidal threat.

Imagine that the events of October 7th were repeated daily. It would take 4,285 consecutive days until six million would be reached (July 2035). The Holocaust is not a justification for violence, but it is a stark reminder to Jews everywhere. If you think the Holocaust was a well-oiled factory of death in which its victim felt no pain, it is worth remembering that the vast majority of Jews were pulled out of their beds early in the morning, some were shot on the spot, most dragged into forests and ditches, where they were stripped, beaten, tortured and shot at close range, their tormentors taking pleasure in their murderous campaign. Then the Germans invented gas chambers to make it more efficient. Little wonder Jews take genocidal threats seriously.

The term ‘Never Again!’ has been adopted broadly as a call for all people, everywhere, to be protected from genocidal violence. ‘Never Again!’ also has more literal meaning. Never again will Jews be murdered in cold blood. Never again will Jews trust the intervention of other nations. Never again will Jews stand by while diplomats urge appeasement. Never again will Jews be observers to the deaths of other Jews. Never again will Jews be accused of going like ‘lambs to the slaughter’. Never again will Jews be defenseless.

The call for a ceasefire is fig-leaf diplomacy. Diplomats have nothing to lose calling for it, knowing that it is not going to happen. Hedging with their political base, they have all sides covered. If Israel is to keep its word to its own population and end Hamas quickly, a ceasefire merely drags out a terrible war and makes it more lethal over time.

We have short memories. Hamas fired first. The barrage of 3,000 missiles and 1,400 murders, was a genocidal massacre, and an act of war committed by the legitimate governing body of Gaza. Israel is entitled to respond in self defense, according to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

It is essential that humanitarian aid is provided to the Palestinian people immediately. It is the duty of the International Community to work closely with Israel, Egypt and the relevant agencies and NGOs to get aid to civilians in a timely way. It is not the role of the International community to tell Israel how to think.

I believe there is a way for peace in the Middle East. There is no country that will be more accepting of peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, than Jews living in the State of Israel. Jews have seen too much violence over the millennia, to be a violent people. But when the chips are down, and Jewish lives are at risk, the answer to genocidal killers is very simple. Never Again.

About the Author
Stephen D. Smith is the Emeritus Executive Director USC Shoah Foundation and CEO and co-founder of StoryFile, the AI conversational video platform, which recently produced Tell Me, Inge, an immersive Holocaust education experience in partnership with Meta, the World Jewish Congress, UNESCO and Claims Conference. He was the inaugural UNESCO chair on Genocide Education, the editor of the Routledge Handbook of Religion, Mass Atrocity, and Genocide, and the founder of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Rwanda.
Related Topics
Related Posts