Former U.S. Ambassador John Loeb recounted his experience at an elite prep school after World War II. When shown images of concentration camps, his fellow students said, “Well, we don’t like Hitler, but at least he killed the Jews.”
As repugnant as those words are, they perhaps are not as abhorrent as Holocaust denial, a refusal to even acknowledge that Hitler killed Jews. Today we are facing a similar scourge of disinformation: we are now hearing people say that it was the Israeli government who killed 1,200 Israelis on October 7!
Whether they believe their outrageous statements is unclear. What we do know is that ignorance about the history of the Jewish people and Israel abounds.
In recent years, ethnic studies classes have sprung up in schools across the country. These classes focus far too much on the oppressor / oppressed narrative, assigning a binary classification to every group of people.
In a plot twist no one could have foreseen, the Jewish people, the most oppressed people of all time, have now been classified as the biggest oppressors. This new label has fueled much of the antisemitism we are now seeing, especially on college campuses.
It is time to demand that Jewish history be part of the ethnic studies curriculum. First and foremost, we need to dispel the lies that have infested the minds of students.
Indeed, the facts are on our side.
No, Israel is not a European colonist state. Only approximately 30% of Israel’s population is of European origin. European Jews who immigrated to Israel were not colonialists. They did not represent a foreign power and never embraced any European connection.
Endless pieces of archaeological evidence show that Jewish people are indigenous to Israel and have lived there for over 3,000 years. Jewish presence in Israel preceded Muslim presence by at least one millennium.
The late Charles Krauthammer said, “Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same G-d that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.”
No, Israel is not a racist or an apartheid state. Arabs represent 20% of Israel’s citizens and have equal rights. They are part of the Knesset and the Supreme Court. They have a notable presence in universities, hospitals, and the entertainment industry. In fact, Arabs who have Israeli citizenship have more rights and opportunities in Israel than they would have as citizens in any Arab country in the world.
Israel may be the only nation that has airlifted Africans to its country, giving them citizenship.
According to Democracy Index published by the Economist Group, in 2022 Israel’s Democracy Index ranked higher than that of the United States. It is particularly noteworthy that Israel’s democracy is considered stronger than the United States’, given Israel’s unique challenges fighting terrorists in its midst.
No, Israel does not engage in ethnic cleansing. In 1948, the Arab population in Israel was 156,000. Today it is 2,100,000.
Conversely, in 1948, the Jewish population in Muslim countries was close to 1,000,000. Today it is under 12,000.
No, the Jewish people are not a privileged group. For 2,500 years, Jews in Europe and Northern Africa were persecuted wherever they lived, facing expulsions, pogroms, and genocide.
In the United States during the first half of the 20th century, Jews were discriminated against and not permitted to work in many fields of employment. They were also not allowed to own or rent certain properties.
Jews were not accepted as members of many clubs and organizations, and were excluded from resort areas. Many resorts would post signs such as, “Always a view. Never a Jew.”
Colleges and universities enforced quotas to restrict the number of Jewish students and professors.
These laws and policies were eventually overturned, but unfair treatment of Jews continued and certainly still exists today. Having attended a public high school in the 1980’s, I can attest to the fact that some teachers were determined to make it more difficult for Jewish students to get good grades, once they saw who was absent on Jewish holidays. Our only protest, our only recourse, was to study harder, and that’s what we did.
That the Jewish people were able to succeed despite the many hurdles placed before them should be a source of Jewish pride and an inspiration to others who believe they face injustices and inequities today.
As Mark Twain said about the Jews, “His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.”
No, the Jewish people, a mere one fifth of one percent of the world population, certainly do not control the world, but do punch above their weight in many metrics of academic and financial success, by factors of five, 10, 25, 50, 100 times and more, depending on the metric.
We should not shrink from our success, nor should we apologize for it or defend it.
For far too long, we have let others define who we are. We need to change course. It is time for us to distinguish ourselves from those who march against us. It is time for us to tell our own story.
We are the ones who march peacefully, proudly waving our flags, and singing with hopefulness. They are the ones who scream, harass, and burn flags.
Confident in our convictions, we have no need to hide behind masks and scarves. They, on the other hand, don’t show their faces, but we know who they are.
They are the ones who pat themselves on the back, calling themselves progressives, when in fact they have regressed into the world’s oldest hatred.
They are the ones who tout freedom of speech, when for years, they have shouted down any pro-Israel speaker during college campus events, denying them their right to speech.
They are the ones who have been utterly silent about the 350,000 people killed in the Syrian war, and the 377,000 killed in the Yemen war. The lives of innocents killed during war matter to them only if they can blame Jews.
They are the ones who claim to be concerned about the welfare of the Palestinian people, yet do not protest America’s billions of dollars in aid to Egypt. As a country that borders Gaza, Egypt could save many Palestinian lives but refuses to accept any refugees.
We are the ones who feel sad when we see children suffering in Gaza. They are the ones who happily tear down posters of Israeli child hostages, without an iota of compassion for the suffering of these youngsters.
We are the ones who are angry when we see children suffering in Gaza, but we have the wisdom to understand that Hamas, not Israel, is wholly responsible for this war. The Talmud says, “When someone comes to kill you, rise and kill first.”
The words that Ambassador Abba Eban spoke in 1948 continue to ring true today: “The sovereignty regained by an ancient people, after its long march through the dark night of exile will not be surrendered at pistol point.”
We are the ones who have extended our hands in peace towards the Palestinians in 1947, 1948, 1967, 1973, 1994, 2000, 2008, and 2019, only to be met with total rejection without any counter offer, and renewed violence each time.
We are the ones who are always accused of the most absurd crimes. No, we did not poison wells to spread disease. No, we did not kill Christian children to use their blood to bake matzah. No, we were not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. No, we did not create Covid. No, we did not use laser space beams to start wildfires.
We are the ones who are not believed when evil is inflicted upon us. Yes, six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Yes, Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis on October 7.
We are the ones who must keep reminding people that there is no equivalence between the release of an Israeli hostage and the release of a Palestinian prisoner who stabbed innocent people.
We are the ones who watch never-ending protests against the Jewish people, while knowing that similar protests against any other group of people would never be tolerated.
When offered a land of our own, a land consisting mostly of seemingly worthless desert, we are the ones who grabbed it with both hands.
We are the ones who made that desert bloom.
We are the ones who made water out of air.
We are the ones who embody the statements: The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.
We are the ones who created a modern, democratic, multiethnic country in an area of the world where only backward, repressive, monocultural regimes existed.
We are the ones whose mission is to repair the world.
We are the forward-thinking ones who write the next chapter of our story, while always mindful of our past chapters.
We are the ones who have built museums to document and display the atrocities against our people.
We are the ones who will now need to memorialize yet another atrocity.
We are the ones who have the names of far too many fallen soldiers on the walls of Mount Herzl.
We are the ones who will now add more names of fallen soldiers, killed during yet another war that we did not start and never wanted to fight.
Amidst our utmost sorrow, we are the ones who dance with unbridled joy in the streets of Jerusalem.
Throughout 2,500 years of exile, we are the ones who looked eastward towards Jerusalem.
We are the ones who fulfilled Theodor Herzl’s seemingly impossible, but ultimately prophetic words, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
We are that candle in the menorah, the one we watch tentatively, the one whose spark we fear will be extinguished. We are that candle that suddenly takes us by surprise, burning stronger and brighter, soaring higher than we could have ever imagined.
Ours is the greatest story.
We need to tell it.