As far back as I can remember, my mother would always make us aware of anti-Semitism. Not necessarily from a historic perspective; her admonitions were about what she had seen and experienced in her life. One of the first stories I recall her telling was about a group of boys in her Maine neighborhood, after church let out on Sunday, who would throw snowballs at the Jewish kids, including her brothers, who lived nearby.
Or, she might talk about the German-American Bund, the pro-Nazi organization whose paramilitary-dressed thugs would hold rallies in New York in the 1930s, spouting the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Occasionally, she would tell us about Detroit’s Father Charles Coughlin, an early manipulator of the radio airwaves, who held millions in thrall with his raw brand of classic anti-Semitism, including charges of Jewish control of the banks and for bringing about the Bolshevik Revolution.
And then, there were real-time accounts of a customer who might come into our clothing store who complained about another shop owner who had just “Jewed” her on the price of some purchase. This didn’t happen often, but I heard it enough to be aware that these kinds of tropes were still on the lips of many in the 1950s and 1960s.
I knew, too, when my older sisters were applying to college, that certain schools imposed quotas on Jewish enrollment. Many hotels and resorts made no bones about the fact that they were unwelcoming to Jewish guests. We heard that banks, big insurance companies and other sectors of the economy were largely off-limits when it came to hiring Jews. There were neighborhoods and clubs where it was known Jews were not welcome. Jewish actors and entertainers chose to Anglicize their names so as to make their career paths less obstructed.
I think of all this when I try to comprehend and analyze the explosion of anti-Semitism we have experienced in the United States over the past few weeks. Our focus has been so much on European and Islamic anti-Semitism, that we may have become inured to it as hiring and other forms of day-to-day discrimination nearly disappeared, and over the past two generations life became immeasurably better for Jews. We concluded that we had entered a circle of acceptance we had never before reached.
When it comes to the rise in European anti-Semitism we’ve witnessed over the same period, I have often thought that it stems from two sources. One, is that there is a deep-seated resentment of Jews for reminding Europeans that they stood by, or actively participated in, the persecution of its Jewish community. Holocaust remembrance is not only for us, it is for everyone to know exactly how Jews became victims, with few hands to hold and to help during the attempts to exterminate us as a people. I’m not a psychoanalyst, but my sense is that many otherwise reasonable Europeans see in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an opportunity to simply level the playing field. Yes, you were victims, but now you are the victimizer. End of argument.
Connected to this is the other source for so much of the anti-Semitism we’ve seen in Europe and now in the United States. It is the cover that “legitimate criticism of Israel” gives for those who think the creation of Israel was a grave mistake, or which for some reason it shouldn’t be allowed to be stronger than those who wish to destroy it. There is a perniciousness in this patronizing view of the Jewish state and of all the reasons why it came into existence in the first place.
But now, we are way beyond that.
The Jewish connection to Israel (it is, after all the Jewish state) has opened the floodgates of what appears to be bottled up hatred by a dizzying array of accusers that each day brings us new verbal and physical attacks we never thought possible in the United States. Beatings in New York City, the largest Jewish community in the world. Jewish diners being terrorized in laid back Los Angeles, a mob demanding to know which of them were Jewish. Members of Congress, filled with hubris from their-elected positions, lecturing us on dual-loyalty and Israel of being an “apartheid state” and engaging in “state terror.” University chancellors and mayoral candidates who first try to condemn anti-Semitism, but are later cowed into retracting, clarifying or apologizing for their remarks. So-called “influencers,” many of whom I am certain would have trouble finding Israel on a map of the world, shaping millennial and Generation Z public opinion into a chorus of rabid denigration of Israel and those who support it.
There is a piling on aspect to all this that cannot simply be laid at the feet of the proliferation of social media. I don’t know if it is resentment of what a small, historically persecuted people have been able to do with their lives to make the world a better place. Or, as many have said, it is the product of a progressive worldview on steroids, including intersectionality, which mindlessly, and in an ideologically hollow formula, places Israel in the role of “colonial oppressor.”
I do know this, for sure: we will not emerge from this well, unless respected voices and figures from outside our community, who see what is happening to us and know it is unacceptable, join the fight. What seems to be missing over the past few weeks are more of these folks, whether public officials, faith leaders, top CEOs, heads of leading non-profits and others. We have friends out there, but my sense is there is a strong measure of trepidation when it comes to incurring the wrath of progressives and the woke crowd or, that Jews can take care of this themselves, and don’t need assistance to win the day.
In our own community, we need to reassemble the kind of solidarity American Jewry has demonstrated in the past, but surprisingly seems to be out-of-date or anachronistic to some. Let’s be clear: the attacks on Jews in America’s cities, the demands by roving mobs to tell them if we are Jewish, and the swastika and graffiti daubers, are not making distinctions about our ideological proclivities, the level of our Zionist inclinations, or our party affiliation. This is everyone’s battle, and those who think they are immune from it, should immediately Google “recent acts of anti-Semitism.”
My mother would be tremendously disappointed by the anti-Semitism we are seeing today, but not completely surprised by it. She was brought to America as a child by parents seeking a better life, from a place that was sodden for centuries by anti-Semitism. They found it here, too, but the promise of a better day — for Jews and everyone else—was just around the corner. She lived to see tremendous advances over the decades, but realized that anti-Semitism is a virus that takes little to bring to the surface, to burn again, another day.
This is one of those times. Stunned as many are by it, this latest incarnation of the world’s oldest hatred mustn’t be allowed to fester and grow in a cloud of debating points over whether this is “anti-Semitism or is it just anti-Zionism.” Just ask the folks who were dining out when the passing mob demanded to know if they were Jewish or not.
It is not a cliche to say we need all hands on deck to fight this. We’re not living in 19th century or mid-1930s Europe. But this is a time for friends and allies to join us in calling out and acting against those who are engaging in these daily acts of intimidation and violence. We ourselves are capable of standing up to it, but to really send a message, it is vital that others be roused from complacency, and he heard.
As a community, we have given much to the building of American democracy and civilization. We took the promise of America at its word and have done everything imaginable to have it apply not only to us, but to all who live here. The strength of the Republic has been its diversity, and unlike the world of our forefathers in Europe, being Jewish means not living in fear of who we are and, in the case of the State of Israel, whom we choose to support.
In this hour of challenge, it is not too much to ask friends, neighbors, colleagues and so many others to join us in extinguishing the hatred that has manifested itself so blatantly, and in so many places and so many ways, in our very own country.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Times of Israel.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
There’s no right way to do something wrong, even for the venerable New York Times. Last week, with a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel just days old, the Times created a large block of 64 “headshots” to tease stories inside.
“They were just children,” stated a heading above the photos of 69 Palestinian youths reportedly killed in the conflict. The caption added, “They had wanted to be doctors, artists, and leaders.” The loss of life is enough of a tragedy, much less the lives of future doctors, artists, and “leaders.” How amazing that the terror group Hamas would put such talent in harm’s way.
Journalistically, the problem with this presentation is at least two-fold. First, there are no photographs of Israeli innocent residents, including children, who were indiscriminately killed by the rain of 4,300-plus rockets during the 11-day spree. Next, there was no reference to the roughly 50 of 200 or so Palestinian deaths that were victims of misfired Hamas missiles or those that fell short of targets in Israeli villages and cities. That’s quite a glaring omission for an international news organization.
Any reader with a heartbeat will feel anything from empathy to outrage against a perpetrator of such a result, particularly if the newspaper has a built-in bias against Israel, the Zionist entity that it wants you to believe targets innocent civilians, engages in apartheid policy, occupies stolen land as a step-child of the United States. It is clever work that most freedom-loving people would expect from government-run newspapers from Tehran, Moscow, or Beijing. But this was on the front page of The New York Times, winner of more than 130 Pulitzer Prizes since 1917.
As for the “doctors, artists and leaders,” what parent doesn’t have big dreams for their children? At the very least, parents want their children to be happy and prepare for full lives.
The problem with lofty career/life aspirations—doctors, artists, and leaders—is that Hamas can’t deliver that opportunity. Hamas has one goal—to train jihadists to create the Islamic state in place of Israel. More specifically, Hamas advocates the “obliteration or dissolution of Israel.”
As with the May 28 front-page presentation in The Times and ancient blood libels of pogroms and expulsions past, today’s lies inflame and incite acts of anti-Semitism in the United States with such terms as apartheid and stolen and occupied land. The charge that Israel intentionally targets children is simply false. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority know it. Most Western countries know it but fear reprisals in their own countries if they acknowledge it. Even radar images from Israel Defense Forces planes show bombing raids called off when images detect children.
The “nation” of Palestine lives daily in a fantasy: flags, rockets, and all. They do so in the United Nations and in foreign capitals to create an impression for cameras and social media propaganda. A generation with little education nor respect for history has accepted the propaganda. The Times has accepted it as if its readers were born yesterday.
Palestinian leaders seem to lack the appetite to negotiate differences with Israel. Victimhood certainly is more profitable, at least for warlords, than building an economy in which future doctors, artists, and leaders can flourish. Palestinians have even captured the imagination of movement-hungry Americans, even many Jews, who’ve swallowed hook, line, and sinker the Palestinians’ false narratives.
I hope the Palestinians find a way to build a nation of doctors, artists, and leaders in a future generation or sooner. I hope they take the 141 square miles in Gaza and portions of the West Bank to do so. I pray that the doctors, artists, and leaders show the capacity to partner with Israel, the “Startup Nation,” to build a real economy. Many already are. I truly hope they find the vision to replace actually starting wars with building an economy. The paradise that jihadists seek is available in demilitarized territories and along Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline.
Again, there is no right way to do something wrong. As for The Times, its writers and editors certainly have a right to their opinions. But the reputation and integrity of a news organization with a slew of Pulitzers depend on a full picture of valid and verifiable information, all presented responsibly. Only then will their example serve the future doctors, artists, and leaders to fuel a vision of working in tandem with Israel. Only through partnerships will the world find peace.
Read President Kaufman's expert take in Inside Sources.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is holding and a tense calm permeates the country. There have been no reported rocket launchings after an unprecedented barrage of approximately 4,360 were fired at Israel during the 11-day conflict. The wanton violence unleased against Jews, Jewish-owned property, synagogues and yeshivot by Arabs in Lod, Ramle, Jaffa and other mixed cities and on major thoroughfares in predominantly Arab northern and southern areas—described by President Reuven Rivlin as a “pogrom” carried out by “bloodthirsty Arab mobs”—have subsided, although some Jewish neighborhoods in Lod remain under virtual siege and a stabbing attack this week in Jerusalem by a 17-year-old Palestinian that left a soldier and young man in moderate condition, has put the city on edge. The conflict also left a high price tag in blood and money: ten Israelis—including a soldier, a five-year-old boy and an Arab father and daughter, and three foreign workers, died as a direct result of rocket fire from Gaza, while one Jew and two Arabs died in intercommunal strife; the direct cost of damage and replacement of armaments is estimated at well over one billion dollars.
The ceasefire even survived clashes between police and Palestinian rioters throwing Molotov cocktails and stones on Temple Mount Friday, as tens of thousands of Muslims gathered there to celebrate what they called Hamas’ “victory” against Israel. The crowd also forced the Palestinian Authority-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Mohammed Hussein to flee the al-Aqsa Mosque in mid-sermon, after he was silenced by chants of support for Hamas and accusations of being a collaborator with Israel. This and the ongoing show of support for Hamas among Jerusalem Arabs who have flown Hamas flags and unfurled banners on Temple Mount and elsewhere in eastern Jerusalem featuring Hamas “heroes” are seen by observers as a sure sign of the erosion of Palestinian Authority and Jordanian influence over the Temple Mount compound in particular and their support among the Palestinian population in general. That trend, which prompted cancellation of the Palestinian general elections by PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas, triggering Hamas’ frustration just when it seemed poised to wrestle control of the PA from Abbas’ Fatah, is the most coherent explanation for the sudden deterioration of the situation into war on Jerusalem Day rather than any Israeli action or inaction on Temple Mount or Simon the Just (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood.
Undoubtedly, the IDF can take credit for an impressive list of achievements against Hamas during the campaign: Our home-grown Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted 90% of incoming rockets (of the 3,400 that actually crossed into Israeli territory, with 680 falling in Gaza and 280 at sea); no terrorists were able to penetrate Israeli territory due to the significant subterranean anti-tunnel barrier, completed by Israel only two months ago at a cost of $833 million; attempts by Hamas to use drones—including "suicide" attack drones, introduced into the arena for the first time—were intercepted by Iron Dome and autonomous attack submarines were thwarted; Israel destroyed over a third of Hamas’ 300-kilometers-long underground tunnel system (the Metro)—ten years and hundreds of millions of dollars in the making—that it intended to use now and in the future to resupply weapons and manpower throughout the Strip with impunity, was seriously degraded as were their military research, production and launching sites; IDF killed 200 terrorists while keeping civilian casualties in Gaza to a minimum by any standard.
But the fact that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar could emerge from his hiding place at the end of the hostilities and take a victory lap in Gaza and that Hamas was able to fire into Israel until the moment the ceasefire took effect early Friday morning is reason enough for Israelis to feel that victory was again denied. It is generally accepted that short of a major ground offensive specifically designed to bring Hamas to unconditional surrender but that no one has the stomach for here, the terrorist organization will continue to rule Gaza, to the detriment of its own people and Israel’s. Sinwar’s threats following the conflict that he will “burn everything” if the problems of Gaza are not solved and activate “10,000 martyrs” inside Israel if Jerusalem is harmed are a chilling reminder that Hamas and its Iranian enablers—who undoubtedly learned much about Israel’s military capabilities and civilian resilience in the face of a future war with Hezbollah that is estimated to have ten times the firepower of the terrorist organizations in Gaza—might be temporarily deterred but remain undefeated.
While the kinetic battle might have ceased, Israel’s diplomatic battles continue, with a reprehensible resolution already adopted at the World Health Organization and others expected at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council. At the same time, it was heartening to see support from a number of European governments including Greece, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia who sent foreign ministers to Israel during the conflict and others who raised the Israeli flag on public buildings.
The military conflict between Israel and Hamas was not only a localized clash but challenged Israel’s most important external relations, first and foremost with the United States, its single strategic partner, with other major powers such as China and with its veteran and newfound partners in the region. With the Biden Administration quickly reversing many of the former administration’s Middle East policies and with anti-Israel elements gaining worrisome traction in the president’s own party, many in Israel were concerned about how the Biden Administration would react as the conflict unfolded.
This was not to be the case, as the U.S. stepped in repeatedly to prevent the adoption of U.N. resolutions condemning Israeli “aggression” and reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself against an internationally recognized terrorist organization. President Biden’s declaration this week that “Until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace” was embraced here as a sober understanding of reality that will hopefully guide U.S. policy not only toward Hamas and the Islamic terrorist organizations, but in the ongoing negotiations over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), where Israel and the U.S. remain at odds, illustrated during yesterday’s joint Netanyahu-Blinken press conference in Jerusalem.
Importantly for Israeli citizens who bore the brunt of Hamas rocket attacks, Secretary Blinken stressed that the U.S. would work closely with its partners in the reconstruction effort of Gaza to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the assistance. While a mechanism for ensuring this does not yet exist, such a policy, if implemented, will undoubtedly leave Hamas more vulnerable in any future conflict and thus more deterred, as it will find it difficult to replenish the huge amount of concrete, metal and fuel that were depleted and ruined during this campaign. Secretary of State insisted that the ceasefire must be used “to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges,” beginning with the “grave” humanitarian situation in Gaza, but some observers argue that it was the very concessions made by the Biden Administration to the Palestinians, including the refunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the promise to reopen the PLO embassy in Washington and the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, that encouraged Hamas and its Iranian handlers to launch an attack now.
Israel’s relations regionally seemed to have withstood the test of this round of fighting. Israel will need the involvement of friendly Arab states to change the status quo, reign in Hamas and avoid another round of violence. Egypt, which has the only other land border with Gaza, played the most constructive role, brokering the cease fire deal and gaining widespread praise, also from the Israeli government. Egypt has now invited Israel and Hamas for indirect de-escalation talks in Cairo that could lead to a long-term ceasefire, the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and an agreement on the issue of prisoners and missing persons.
While no country revoked diplomatic relations or recalled their ambassadors, statements were issued that indicate the dilemma posed to Arab states that face internal criticism of their relations with Israel while seeking the benefits of close bilateral relations. The most egregious of this was a message by Morocco’s prime minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in which he reportedly extended his “warmest congratulations” on “the victory achieved by the Palestinian people and the supreme resistance after the ceasefire agreement between the factions of the resistance and the Zionist entity.” Morocco, which normalized ties with Israel last year on the heels of UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, is due to exchange embassies in the near future.
Jordan—which, since the signing of a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has custodianship of the Temple Mount and regularly takes a confrontational position whenever violence erupts on the holy site—was particularly critical of tension in Jerusalem that preceded Hamas’s rocket attack: “What the Israeli police and special forces are doing, from violations against the mosque to attacks on worshippers, is barbaric [behavior] that is rejected and condemned,” summoning Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Jordan to decry Israel’s “attacks on worshipers,” which were in fact a measured police response to Ramadan-inspired riots by Muslims that included lobbing stones on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall. In a league of his own inimical self was Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who accused Israel of being “murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They are murderers, to the point they drag women on the ground to their death, and they are murderers, to the point that they kill old people… They only are satisfied by sucking their blood.”
Another victim of the Gaza flare-up is Israel-China relations, with China using its pulpit as rotating president of the U.N. Security Council as an opportunity to deflect criticism of its treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang and to accuse the United States of practicing a one-sided and discriminatory policy by continuing its support for Israel and failing to uphold the human rights of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. As pointed out in a paper published by the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pinned the conflagration on the Trump administration’s “mistaken policy followed…of ignoring the need to continue the Middle East peace process and promote a two-state solution, which consequently caused prolonged damage to the rights of the Palestinian people” and failed to factor in Israel’s position in the U.N. General Assembly resolutions, which were blocked by the U.S., including any mention of Hamas aggression. This, coupled with China’s growing relationship with Iran and other malign players in the Middle East, will have to give Israeli policy makers pause as China asserts a greater role in the region.
Life is getting back to a form of “normal” in cities most heavily targeted by Hamas—Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod and the small communities in the Gaza Strip “envelope”—as the considerable damage to property there is repaired and the implications of the loss of life and limb contemplated. But mixed cities and Arab-majority areas in the North and South are still reeling from the unprecedented anti-Semitic viciousness this round of fighting released among the Arab citizens of Israel. At the beginning of the week the Israel Police, which has been severely criticized for a combination of incompetence and confusion during the violence, launched “Operation Law and Order.” In its first 24 hours, 74 suspects were arrested for disorderly conduct, weapons possession and assaulting police officers in addition to more than 1,550 arrests made during the operation itself—the vast majority of them Arabs. Horror stories continue to surface of peaceful Jewish civilians assaulted while they walked in Jaffa, lost their way in the forested area near Meron, studied in yeshivot in Lod, walked their dog around the Old City of Jerusalem or were vacationing in a hotel in Acco. Many fear that the tension with the “Arabs of ‘48” will be more difficult and take more time to heal than the conflict with Hamas that is largely kept at bay.
Alan Schneider is the director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, which serves as the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The World Center is the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world. To view some of his additional content, click here.
With Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting the Middle East this week, it’s time to do some real-time stock-taking before plunging into initiatives or prescriptives that could lead quickly to yet another round of fighting.
Unfortunately, the series of battles between Israel and Hamas invite the worst kind of conventional wisdom, which has been disproved time and again over the past 20 years: the moral equivalency, the rote professions of “Israel has a right to defend itself,” followed a week later from the same quarters by statements that the Jewish state must demonstrate restraint and that its response to Hamas must not be “disproportionate.” This is followed by the media’s near total ignoring of the lengths to which the Israelis go to protect civilians during warfare, and then facile calls for a two-state solution as the remedy for all this.
This horrible cycle of events suggests that few lessons have been learned over time.
Now, let’s take a look at some of these steps in greater detail.
Moral equivalency: it beggars the imagination that after all we know about Hamas — its charter (which calls for the destruction of Israel and is filled with antisemitic language), that it cynically uses human shields to protect its missile launchers and leadership hierarchy, and the fact that the organization is on the terrorism lists of many countries — why it is not held to account in the court of international public opinion?
The United Nations Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire could not even bring itself to mention the word “Hamas” in its text.
When some members of Congress, in their Twitter hemorrhaging, can’t find a few characters to unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians by 4,000 Hamas rockets, what should we expect from those in the media who react similarly in their coverage — or from the pro-Palestinian mobs that have begun attacking Jews in New York, Los Angeles, and in cites large and small around the world?
Rote professions: With the exception of countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, which flew Israeli flags from government buildings in solidarity with the Jewish State, and Germany, which issued a strong statement in support of Israel, most democracies uttered only feeble confirmations of “Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Of course Israel has a right to defend itself; but this has become an obligatory and hollow statement, especially when followed only days later by calls to stop the fighting, interrupting Israel’s attempt to fully degrade Hamas’ ability to strike again.
If Hamas is on so many state terrorism lists, why not demand that Israel finish the job?
And this leads in to another glossed over aspect of the fighting: the extraordinary attention Israel pays to avoid civilian casualties.
The media plays, ad infinitum, video clips of imploding and bombed out buildings in Gaza. Notwithstanding Israel’s detailed explanation of how it deploys the “door knock” method of warning building inhabitants of imminent strikes, accompanied by drone surveillance to make sure civilians are not in the area; phone calls and text messages that are also sent as warnings; and Israel’s pinpoint identification of hundreds of military targets spread amongst Gaza’s civilian population, it seems that such care is dismissed — or, perhaps more to the point, gets in the way of the story the media wishes to tell, which is that Israel is callous (and often worse) when it comes to protecting civilians on the ground.
The rush to a two-state solution: in a perfect world, this would be the answer to resolving such an intractable conflict. But since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, we’ve learned a lot about Palestinian resistance — not reluctance — to concluding an agreement. The prospective partner in this case, the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas, has rejected numerous attempts brokered by the United States and others to resolve the conflict. Not at Camp David in 2000, nor after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, not at the 2008 Annapolis Conference, nor after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conciliatory speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, nor during the Kerry Initiative of 2013-2014, did Abbas show serious interest in recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and getting down to the business of concluding an end of conflict and renunciation of claims.
Just weeks before the disturbances on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the White House announced that it would resume funding to the PA, as well as resuming its substantial contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which serves Palestinians in the region. The aid to UNRWA will resume, despite its innate corruption and its incitement of hate toward Israel and Jews in its network of schools and other organizations.
But despite the renewal of American aid, Abbas failed to send any signals to calm the situation. Instead, knowing his Fatah faction would be badly beaten in elections slated for March 22, he called off the vote, blaming Israel and, to boot, inciting and exhorting the mobs on the Temple Mount as a means of deflecting an outcry over his electoral decision.
A two-state solution, in the context of the current crisis, now seems more than unrealistic. Given the crisis of the past few weeks, we might one day be looking at Hamas rule not only to Israel’s south, but also to its east, in the West Bank. Why would any Israeli government, having lived through decades of terror and rocket attacks, look to make itself even more vulnerable?
And there’s one other abashedly glossed over and ignored piece of this puzzle: Hamas is in the thrall of Iran, which is seeking to completely surround Israel by well-armed proxies, all the time genocidally calling for “Zionism’s excision” from the Middle East.
All this, while the United States and its P5+1 partners (the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) eagerly pursue negotiations with Iran and a return to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Agreement), which would remove sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear program and its blatant attempts to advance it.
Many Hamas rockets and missiles are surely stamped “designed in or made in Iran.” Did the P5+1 condition future discussions with Iran on a cessation of its military relationship with Hamas and its other Gaza proxy, Islamic Jihad?
Hamas has thanked Iran for its help, and the Iranian leadership has congratulated Hamas on its “victory.” Need we better proof of what is going on here?
Simple formulations like “restoring calm,” reviving negotiations with rejectionist partners, and refusing to call out Iran’s role in the fighting will only bring about another round of battles, unless they are accompanied by tough and unequivocal demands. Hamas must be disarmed, the Iranian missile pipeline to Gaza must end, and the Palestinian Authority must get out of the business of speaking one way to Washington and European capitals, and another way to the people it says it represents.
This means recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, ending its call for a “right of return” for millions of refugees (now numbering over 5 million, according to a biased and hypocritical count by UNRWA), and an end to glorifying terrorists and riots, and paying salaries to terrorists who kill and attack Jews.
And one reminder to US policymakers this week — Israel is our ally and friend. Take a look at the correlation of voting at the United Nations; Israel votes more with the United States than our European allies. It shares our values, including the premium placed on human life. It is the only democracy in a Middle East filled with autocracies and worse. It has made tremendous contributions to improving the lives of all through medicine, science, technology, and more. And it is a country, ancient in time, but re-established in the last century on the ashes of a 12-year attempt to eliminate the Jewish people in its entirety.
It’s time to discard the “conventional wisdom” on Israel.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Today, May 14, marks one month since the judgment by the French Cour de Cassation, the country’s supreme court, in the case of the murder of Sarah Halimi. The court’s decision has caused international outrage and has deepened angst amongst France’s Jewish community.
It came in the context of persisting anti-Semitic assaults and vandalism undiminished by the COVID-19 lockdowns. From 2012 onward, high profile anti-Semitic crimes, terrorist attacks, murders, vandalism of Jewish places of worship, cemeteries and stores have plagued Europe’s largest Jewish community. Jews have moved out of certain areas of France, considered too unsafe to live, in what was coined the “internal Aliyah.” Despite this, and a large wave of actual Aliyah in 2015, French Jews by and large remain vocally committed to La Republique. The latest ruling in the Halimi case inevitably challenges this unwavering commitment, tested by much hardship over the past decade.
In the judgment, the Cour de Cassation ruled that Kobili Traoré would not stand trial for the murder of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish 65-year-old teacher and physician.
Traoré, a Mali-born French man with a long list of criminal convictions, broke into Sarah Halmi’s apartment on April 4, 2017, clubbed her in the head with a blunt object and threw her out of her window to her death.
The two were neighbours in the six-story building in the working-class neighborhood of Belleville in Paris. When they crossed paths in the hall, Traoré would sometimes call her and her daughter “dirty Jewesses.”
On the night of the murder, Traoré was heard by witnesses shouting: “Allahu Akbar, I killed the demon!”
When the case got to deposition, he stated for the record that he had felt “oppressed” by the sight of a Torah and a Menorah in Sarah Halimi’s home, which sparked the attack.
In the face of such blatant anti-Semitism, it had been already a cause of great concern that the court had taken nearly a year to at last confirm, in 2018, that anti-Semitism had been a motive in the case, something the prosecution had failed to establish well into the investigation. You can read more about persisting challenges to recognize anti-Semitic motives in France here.
As this initial challenge was finally overcome, four years after the murder and following several proceedings, the main question at issue was whether Traoré, who had a history of mental illness, had completely “abolished” judgment on the night of the attack or merely “altered” judgment.
Three expert panels were consulted by the court to determine this. The first expert psychiatrist concluded that the deterioration of Traoré’s mental state resulted from his massive consumption of cannabis and that he could therefore be referred to criminal court.
The second one, however, contradicted the first and held that he could not be held responsible because his drug abuse had only aggravated a pre-existing disorder.
More ambiguously, the third panel of experts argued instead that Traoré could not be held responsible because he had been in the middle of a bouffée délirante, a “sharp delusional puff,” a common diagnostic term used in France.
The court, which was not required to follow any of the experts, ultimately followed the latter. This means that Kobili Traoré will not stand trial for the brutal anti-Semitic murder of Sarah Halimi and will remain in the psychiatric institution where he has been kept ever since the attack.
Condemnations swiftly poured in. Across France, Europe and the world, tens of thousands of demonstrators went out on the streets to express their outrage.
B'nai B'rith France mobilized en masse, as they have all throughout this bitter process, from Paris to Marseille, from Nice to Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lille and across the entire country in support of the Halimi family.
“Should we legalise anti-Semitism?” the satirical Charlie Hebdo chimed in with a poignant and characteristically blunt cartoon.
Indeed, as many others have noted, the ruling has the perverse effect that the intentional use of drugs can be regarded as an exonerating factor in a hate crime.
Answering to public sentiment, the French government’s response was swift. “Deciding to take narcotics and then become 'crazed' should not in my eyes remove criminal responsibility," declared President Emmanuel Macron.
This was followed by an announcement by Justice Minister Eric Dupond Moretti that a new law would be presented in May that would do away with invoking this type of defense for anyone who voluntarily used drugs and alcohol before committing a crime.
Amending the law
Amending the law is essential in order to restore the trust of the French Jewish community, many of whom suffer the daily kind of harassment that Sarah Halimi encountered prior to her murder and who feel that this judgment does too little to protect them.
I should note that the fact that the law is unclear does not mean that French courts do not hold anyone under the influence of drugs accountable for their actions.
In another 2017 case, a man in Marseille under the influence of alcohol and drugs who broke into his neighbor's apartment and killed a dog by throwing it out of a 4th floor window was deemed criminally responsible and sentenced to two years imprisonment.
In contrast, in the Sarah Halimi case, the court, astonishingly, found that there could be no criminal responsibility because the law “itself does not make a distinction with regard to the origin of the mental disorder.”
The court missed the point: the indisputable self-confessed anti-Semitism of the killer
Of course, the question of Traoré’s responsibility is far from clear-cut. But what the experts, and eventually the court, have all failed to see is that the center of gravity in the case is not Traoré’s drug abuse or erratic behavior, but the indisputable self-confessed anti-Semitism that motivated him to commit a heinous crime.
It was anti-Semitism which led Kobili Traoré to target Sarah Halimi specifically, not “delusional mystical elements,” as one of the experts had claimed. And in doing so, he showed sufficient discernment. Not grasping this fundamental fact is probably the court’s biggest failure.
It could have weighed in on how the law fails to distinguish between a drug-addled delusional puff and outright insanity.
It could also have sought to clarify the question of legal responsibility. Instead, by doing neither it created an unacceptable state of impunity.
The lawyers of the Halimi family have vowed to seek justice both at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and in the Israeli court system. The latter is possible due to Sarah Halimi’s Israeli nationality. This is not unusual. For instance, in terrorism cases, France regularly claims jurisdiction when the victims are French citizens. A ruling on this anti-Semitic hate crime in Israeli courts would perhaps provide a modicum of justice for the Halimi family.
In the aftermath of the verdict, Jewish communities in France and across Europe are outraged at this denial of justice. They fear for their safety and that of their loved ones and feel that the justice system may no longer be on their side.
In dealing with this case, Europeans would do well not to dismiss this outpour of emotion as “hysteria.”
As we have seen, there are several legitimate grounds why the court’s decision is deeply flawed and the proposed amendment to the law must remedy this unjust state of affairs and ensure that the tragic fate of Sarah Halimi never befalls anyone else.
B'nai B'rith International has widely respected experts in the fields of: