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The cognitive war against Israel reveals humanity’s broken moral compass

Too many Western cultural and educational institutions accept the 'abolish Israel' message, even when they don't admit it. We need a campaign to restore the truth
Damaged Reuters press jeep, on display at Imperial War Museum, London. (Henry Kopel)

For anyone seeking to appreciate the cataclysms of the 20th century – in particular, World War I, World War II, and the Holocaust – one could do a lot worse than spend a day at London’s Imperial War Museum.

There, one can walk through a re-created trench from WWI’s Western front, amid the deafening sounds of exploding shells; retrace in painstaking detail the rise and rapaciousness of fascist dictatorships that launched the horrors of WWII; and witness the last shreds of hope disappear for millions of terrorized Jews, as Hitler’s brutal minions stormed their towns and villages.

Hence, as my son and I began our tour of this magnificent museum last month, it was all the more dismaying to see, strategically placed in the most heavily trafficked spot in the vast complex, a shell-blasted Reuters news jeep described by the museum’s curators as follows: “In 2006 . . . it was struck by an Israeli air-launched rocket,” injuring two Arab journalists.

The damaged jeep was positioned alongside the entrance to the museum’s café, in the same corner as the museum’s restrooms — in other words, the single most “can’t miss” location for visitors.

The curators chose to omit any explanatory context for the prominently displayed jeep: no mention of the prior rocket barrages from Gaza terrorizing Israeli civilians; no mention of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza the year before, leaving behind millions worth of infrastructure for the Palestinians’ use; and no mention that the battle near the jeep was launched by Gaza terrorists who ambushed an Israeli border station and kidnapped a young Israeli border guard. The curators also neglected to note that the Reuters jeep was driving at night past Israeli armed forces, which had been unable to identify it as a press vehicle.

No, the only narrative conveyed here – in one of the world’s most prestigious museums of modern warfare – was that Israelis, and only Israelis, are the kinds of people who recklessly target and harm innocent journalists with lethal force. Viewing this item, one would never know that since 1995, over 1,800 journalists have been killed in dozens of countries while carrying out their dangerous work – which number, thankfully, does not include the two Arab journalists injured in this 2006 incident.

One might be tempted to ask, Why harp on this one-off incident? Especially in England, the land of “Keep calm and carry on”? In sum: Because it is not a one-off. Quite the contrary: such misleading, de-contextualized displays of purported Israeli perfidy are now the norm across the liberal democracies, especially among institutions run by, catering to, and shaping the opinions of the governing classes – in museums, universities, public schools, the arts, and the legacy media.

This has long been true across Europe. But now, these false defamations of Israel also are being mainstreamed across the Anglo-American countries.

For instance, as of June 2021, in the United States, “more than 100 [university] departments, programs, and faculty groups have issued condemnations of Israel, typically accusing it of ‘genocide,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ being a ‘settler-colonial state,’ [and] endorsing the ‘Palestinian right to return’ . . . .” To be clear, this is nothing less than a call to abolish Israel and replace it with a Palestinian-Arab majority state – which by all indications would be led by individuals indoctrinated in a radical ideology of genocidal Jew hatred, who repeatedly deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem and historic Palestine.

Leaders of this “abolish Israel” campaign include the entire association of American college faculty who control how Middle East history and politics are taught, namely, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). In December 2021, MESA formally endorsed the BDS movement, directing its members to boycott, divest, and sanction all Israeli universities and academics. MESA’s president justified this move with the blatantly false claim that Palestinian “researchers . . . lives and livelihoods are being attacked by the Israeli government . . . .”

In fact, Israeli Arabs study and teach alongside Israeli Jews throughout the country’s university sector. Occasionally, Israel has had to intervene in West Bank and Gaza campuses, but only because of “the Hamas terrorist organization’s control over Palestinian academia in the Gaza Strip,” as well as Hamas’s growing influence in West Bank colleges. Hamas uses Gaza campuses to research and manufacture weapons for its terror brigades, and for use as missile launch pads targeting Israeli cities.

Such facts are rarely if ever recognized across American campuses in the metastasizing campaign to demonize and abolish Israel. The collateral damage of this campaign is evidenced in recent ADL polling, which found that “32 percent of Jewish [college] students were targeted in anti-Semitic incidents,” among which “79% said that it happened to them more than once.” Such damage is also evidenced in the dismaying fact that, amid an explosion of identity politics across American campuses, the militancy of anti-Israel activists has pressured many Jewish students to conceal their Jewish identity.

This same abolish Israel campaign has now been incorporated into the entire California public high school system, through the state’s new mandatory ethnic studies curriculum. Although the state – under pressure – removed from its model curriculum the most offensive Israel slanders, many public school districts are putting those lessons right back in, by adopting a radically Marxist version of ethnic studies known as the “Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.”

The LESMC explicitly promotes the same false propaganda broadcast by the Palestinian Authority, namely: Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East; Israel is a “colonialist” state founded through “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “apartheid”; and the yearning to return to the ancestral land has nothing to do with Judaism (so much for “Next year in Jerusalem”), but rather is a late 19th century invention.

And far from being limited to California, the Liberated Ethnic Studies Curriculum is the subject of extensive campaigns for adoption by other US states’ school systems. Adding fuel to this dumpster fire, America’s two public school teachers’ unions, which together include virtually every public school teacher in the country, have both formally voted to promote and support all such ethnic studies curricula.

America’s legacy media are hardly better. The country’s most prestigious newspaper, The New York Times, regularly publishes biased and de-contextualized accounts of alleged Israeli perfidy. In May 2021, its front page featured photos of more than 60 Gazan children, all portrayed as innocent victims of reckless Israeli military fire. Analysts noted several significant contextual omissions in the story, such as Hamas’s deliberately placing anti-Israel missile batteries in Gaza’s dense civilian population centers. But apparently, for The New York Times, the one narrative that counts is this: Jewish baby-killers.

Prior to that, in April 2019, the Times’s international edition featured a front-page cartoon caricature of then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a Magen David-sporting dog, leading a blind, kippah-clad President Trump — yet another incendiary caricature of malevolent Jewish power, front and center in one of the most-read newspapers of America’s governing elite.

In sum, the utterly false campaign to demonize Israel that was launched in the 1960s by the PLO, with support and financing from the Soviet bloc, has now been massively magnified into a full-blown call for the destruction of Israel across the Western democracies’ central institutions of educational and cultural transmission. And ever fewer graduates from the West’s elite universities — from among whom most future leaders will be selected — have any concept of how profoundly false are the claims of the abolish Israel campaign.

The metastatic pattern of this campaign makes clear that inaction is simply not an option. Israel’s right to exist, and to defend itself against genocidal enemies, are the targets of a global cognitive war of ideas and narratives. Exhausting and redundant though it may be, robust action is needed to communicate and restore public understanding of the fundamental facts that expose and entirely negate the foundations of this genocidally abolitionist campaign. This includes such facts as these:

  • Israel and the pre-state yishuv have endorsed at least seven efforts intended to produce two states for two peoples living in peace: 1936 (Peel plan); 1948 (UN); 1967 (post-war); 1993 (Oslo); 2000 (Camp David); 2001 (revised Camp David); and 2007 (Olmert). All were rejected by Palestinian leaders, with most followed by a Palestinian-launched terror war.
  • Israel’s leaders in 1948 invited all Palestinian Arabs to remain as citizens with equal rights guaranteed; the Palestinian leadership responded by pledging to drive every last Jew into the sea.
  • Palestinian leaders in 1948 urged all Arabs in the Israeli-designated lands to abandon their homes, to clear the field of battle for the planned slaughter of the Jews.
  • The Arab towns forcibly cleared by Israeli troops during the 1948 war were those that had been taken over by Arab militias, who: (a) launched a civil war inside Israel against its Jewish citizens, simultaneous with Israel’s needing to defend against five neighboring countries’ invading armies; (b) blockaded the sole supply road to Jerusalem, seeking to starve out its 100,000 Jews; and (c) would have required and hence diverted far too many Israeli troops desperately needed to guard Israel’s borders and defend against the five invading armies.
  • Israel’s defense forces have been evaluated by one of Britain’s top military officers, who found them to be “the most moral army in the world” – more so than America’s or Britain’s armies, despite Israel’s having faced from its birth to the present, vastly greater military threats and dangers than either the U.S. or Britain.
  • Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel today have equal rights with Jewish Israelis, and serve on the Supreme Court, in the armed services, and as doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, and in all other professional roles. Whereas, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the sale of land to a Jew is a capital offense meriting the death penalty.
  • Since 1960, the Palestinian territories’ population has grown almost 500%, from 1.1 million to 5.1 million – a curious pattern for a population whose leaders insist are victims of an ongoing Israeli genocide.
  • The Palestinian Authority is so corrupt and incompetent that more than 50% of East Jerusalem’s Arabs repeatedly say in polls that they would prefer to be citizens of Israel rather than Palestine.

In light of these facts, the vast support for the false claims of the global campaign to abolish Israel reveals something deeply amiss within the Western democracies’ so-called educated classes. It evidences a profoundly broken moral compass among our leadership elites – and an equally profound need for fundamental repair across the West’s institutions of educational and cultural transmission.

And this includes such distinguished institutions as London’s Imperial War Museum. By simultaneously hosting, on the one hand, a brilliantly curated collection on World War II and the Holocaust, and on the other hand, an exhibit falsely portraying the Israel Defense Forces as brutal and lawless, the IWM strikingly manifests and exemplifies an all-too-common mentality now in vogue around the world.

That mentality is best summed up in the title of a recent book by the award-winning American author Dara Horn: “People Love Dead Jews.” That is, educators and cultural curators love to memorialize the all-too-many sites where Jews once flourished before they were massacred. It’s just the live ones – strong Jews who reject a victim mentality, who are now fully capable of lawfully defending themselves and their community – whom the world cannot abide.

And inconvenient though it may seem for the world, the Jewish people are not going back to being the world’s victims – literally, “Never Again.” If that means waging a cognitive counter-war across the Western world’s campuses and media platforms, well then, bring it on.

About the Author
Henry Kopel is a former U.S. federal prosecutor and the author of the book “War on Hate: How to Stop Genocide, Fight Terrorism, and Defend Freedom.” Kopel is a graduate of Brandeis University, Oxford University, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is an annual guest lecturer on prosecuting hate crimes at the University of Connecticut Law School. He serves on the global advisory board for the Abraham Global Peace Initiative.
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