In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu states: “If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Israel and the Jewish people quickly acquired these insights in the wake of the savage assault of Hamas. And as a result, we are now feared. But to get there, we had to learn four lessons about acting and responding to anti-Zionism. Two of these teachings are described in the depressing and darkly absurdist novel by Franz Kafka, the Trial.
First, when it comes to Jews and Israel, like K, the protagonist in the Trial: “Once accused, you will be found guilty and be killed for being guilty if not for one crime, then another. And if you protest that you are innocent, well, that is how the guilty speak.”
The truth is a target moved to fit the narrative. Our enemies are now saying: “Even if Israel didn’t deliberately bomb this hospital (and we still don’t know), then it certainly targeted hospitals in the past, along with nurseries, schools, and nursing homes. We don’t need independent confirmation of those war crimes. And when Israel brings forth proof to the contrary, that is how those guilty of genocide speak.”
This leads to the second lesson in Kafka’s novel: K is told, “You do not need to accept everything as true; you only have to accept it as necessary.” To which K replies: “A depressing opinion. Lies are made into a universal system.”
Indeed, Israeli sources and advocates online have waged a furious and courageous fight against bias and misrepresentation. And it often seems the battle for truth is lost before it starts. It is necessary to contest every lie, every distortion, every false narrative because if we don’t, then “lies become a universal system.”
We have learned these lessons well. We have cast off concerns about being canceled. We are valiant. Hence, Hasbara has been much more effective this time around. To be sure, the barbarism of Hamas shocked the world. But for many, that moment of moral clarity was fleeting. The disgusting demonstration of anti-Zionism and ‘solidarity’ with Hamas of our enemies has been met with a fierce response and often swift punishment. That is a direct result of the actions of pro-Zionist Jews (and non-Jews) worldwide who have deepened their attachment to Israel. (On college campuses, I see more fierceness and less fear.)
The war against Hamas begins. Military conflict with Hezbollah and Iranian-backed elements in the West Bank may await. The Hamas-Iran sympathizers, particularly the anti-Zionist Jews, have stoked the flames of conflict by spreading the lie that an Israeli air strike killed 500 Gazans. Some, including Rashida Tlaib – the Beauty Queen of Dearborn – engage in modern-day Holocaust denialism.
Others, anti-zionist Jews such as Peter Beinart, scarcely paid lip service to the Jewish dead before once again snapping back to form, perpetuating the fairy tale of Hamas moderation and that the 60 percent of Palestinians who support Hamas are not representative. (Then again, after Germany was conquered couldn’t find anyone who supported the Nazis.)
By their words and actions, they have chosen sides. Their fantasy about peaceful one-state solutions – rebranding the Palestinian-Iranian displacement of Israel as outlined in both the Hamas and Iranian charters has been temporarily replaced by a demand for a cease-fire. Such a cease-fire would leave Iran and its proxies stronger, just as a cease-fire with Nazi Germany in 1941 would have accelerated the elimination of Jews and strengthened Hitler.
The mindset of anti-Zionist Jews and their alliance with those who would destroy the Jewish people leads to a third lesson, one that we must keep close to our hearts as we confront yet another sustained campaign to eradicate Israel. It is a lesson that the brilliant Micah Goodman identified in a recent podcast with the Times of Israel: Israel and Jews have sought to be loved. We now see that we have to be feared to prevail in war and survive as a people. And because we are feared, we will prevail over our enemies online, on college campuses, in the media, and on the battlefield.
A fourth lesson: We can be feared because we have a Jewish state. We will be feared, not because we seek retribution but because it is the only way to achieve peace. We will be feared because, as it is written in Megillat Esther, “(on)the very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, the opposite happened, and the Jews got their enemies in their power…Throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the Jews mustered in their cities to attack those who sought their hurt, and no one could withstand them, for the fear of them had fallen upon all the peoples.”
We are feared because there is no other path forward. I am reminded of a story about a seder at Hagana headquarters in 1948. Between the third and fourth cups of wine, the seder was interrupted by a short battle with Arab soldiers nearby. The commander and his unit returned to join others in the seder meal. Before doing so, he told the gathering: “Moses had time. We have no time – only a few weeks, and we must do it now. Be prepared for the worst. Be prepared to give everything. We are fighting for a better future. We are fighting the final battle to free ourselves forever from all yokes. We are fighting for a Jewish state.”
May we be prepared to fight to free ourselves forever. Our victory will come because are courageous and because we will be feared.