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The Woes of Anti-Israel Wokeism

The mouth-frothing and virtue signalling over the conflict in Gaza has let fly some of the most venomous antisemitism since the dawn of the Third Reich, writes Adam Epstein

The state of Israel was founded 73 years ago, and not a moment has passed when this small, beleaguered democracy hasn’t assumed a posture of self-defence…

Security, not to mention strategy, is not a choice for Israel, but an essential precondition of its existence. Founded on roughly one-sixth of one percent of land that is theoretically Israel’s indigenous home, but was also long under Turkish rule as part of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years.

After centuries of displacement, the state of Israel came into being in the wake of the Holocaust, and yet has not known anything resembling peace since the United Nations proposed its partition plan on November 29th 1947. On May 14th 1948, David Ben-Gurion, who was Israel’s key founder, and who became Israel’s first prime minister, declared the existence of the Jewish state. The following day, its Arab neighbours attacked it. The assault would be the first of many attempts since then to obliterate it.

Israel’s current battle with Hamas has yielded the phoney and ahistorical claptrap about Israeli ‘aggression’, its ‘occupation’, and most specious references to the Jewish homeland as an ‘apartheid state’ that ignorantly consigns 1.2 million Israeli Arabs – who readily enjoy all the rights of full citizenship – to an invisible existence.

Such vile language – the kind that calls Israel’s rights to defend itself against incoming rockets from Hamas as ‘genocide’ – is neither left-wing anti-imperialism nor peace-loving naiveté. It’s a spate of bilious rhetoric perpetuated by many in the Western media and its amen corner mostly on the left, even as they offer up rhetoric about the need for a two-state solution, while making dubious delineations between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Most disquieting of all is how strident anti-Israel discourse masquerades as ‘legitimate’ criticism – or, more hypocritically, as ‘justice’ – while the rest of the world immolates.

Unlike most of the world’s other besieged nations and inhabitants, why is Israel, and its military uniquely vilified? Why does this Jewish safe haven, barely the size of New Jersey, and regularly attacked by its closest neighbour, Hamas which is hellbent on its annihilation, fall victim not just to double standards but passionate vituperation?

So again I ask: Why Israel? What accounts for the rabid emotions of otherwise muted peaceniks, and all those Western ‘progressives’ who painstakingly contort themselves to reconcile their commitment to social justice with chic and pseudo-intellectual forms of Jew-bashing? What other country’s actions result in displayed placards in cities worldwide that read ‘Death to Jews’ or as a recent Twitter hashtag declared, ‘The world needs another Hitler’? Or experience anything like the Boycott Israel campaigns (the BS of BDS)? Or anti-Israel demonstrations calling for a new Holocaust? Or simply the wholesale rejection of Zionism. These demands are as futile as they are ominous, and ironically serve to buttress the case for a strong, indefatigable Israel. Does a democratic redoubt boasting freedom of speech and assembly, religious tolerance, one of the world’s largest LGBTQ Pride parades, and independent judiciary in the world’s most volatile region really merit such feverish condemnation?

Myanmar continues to commit genocide against Rohingya Muslims in breach of orders by the UN’s top court, and nary a peep for this besieged minority from the so-called social justice warriors who waste no time in slanderously accusing Israel of embarking on its own genocidal mission against Palestinians. China repressed Tibet for decades, and now reportedly consigns a Muslim minority called the Uighurs to concentration camps (essentially a Chinese gulag), and we barely hear a whimper. Russia became the first nation since World War II to annex territory from another European country (here’s looking at you, Crimea), but presumably this qualifies as acceptable imperialism to those who lecture Israel about its ‘colonial’ conquests. Nothing – nothing – engenders the loud and often vitriolic energy of the global anti-Israel movement.

U.N. member states like Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Uganda waste no time in endorsing Russia’s imperialist actions, while regularly being among the world’s most ardent human rights abusers. Not for nothing did the late Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., remark some 40 years ago that diplomacy regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict at the U.N., “has nothing to do with peace, but is quite simply a continuation of war against Israel by other means”.

Why would Israel want this war? For a tiny nation consistently lectured by many a bad faith actor on the need for ‘peace’, there is a curious collective amnesia of late. Remember the 1978 Camp David Accords, in which Israel returned the Sinai desert to Egypt, then its longtime nemesis and agitator, in exchange for what remains and long and enduring detente? Remember Israel’s 1994 peace treaty with Jordan signed a year after the Oslo peace process showcased an historic handshake on the White House lawn between then Israeli prime minister Yitzak Rabin and then PLO chief Yasir Arafat? Or one might recall how after a relatively long period of quiet in the region, President Bill Clinton and another Israeli leader, then prime minister Ehud Barak, proposed a monumental offer to the Palestinians that included the very same West Bank that Israel is accused of occupying now? That deal would have yielded all of Gaza (which Israel evacuated in 2005 only to be under attack ever since) and 90 percent of the West Bank, as well as small land swaps to account for the suburban sprawl of Jerusalem close to the 1949 armistice line. Arafat rejected the offer following good faith negotiations, and instead launched an intifada (uprising). Nor was this the first intifada, of course. But given what we have faced in recent weeks – grim daily reminders of casualties on both sides – there is a disturbing silence, and/or more collective amnesia, over all the deaths that resulted from those uprisings, among them more than 1,000 dead Israelis.

And there is more collective, and arguably wilful amnesia: Jewish parents long lived with the prospect of Palestinian suicide bombers murdering their children. Assuredly, that’s why Hamas and its thwarted attempts to ambush Jews through subterranean tunnels is what Israel continues to destroy for the sake of its own security.

But what use is history or facts when a misguided, dangerous moral equivalency has transformed the Middle East debate into a hodgepodge of double standards, short-sighted idealism and the return of the world’s most enduring and reprehensible hatred? The incendiary language and epithets hurtled at Israel, and consequently Jews writ large, is not just noxious in words only. The mouth-frothing and phoney virtue signalling by many ‘activists’ over the conflict in Gaza has, wittingly or not, let fly some of the most venomous antisemitism worldwide since the dawn of the Third Reich.

Last week alone, global antisemitic attacks were up 438%. If the precarious existence of being Jewish is safeguarded by a strong and secure Israel (and it is), then by definition, a movement that discredits and seeks to destroy Israel is unequivocally antisemitic. Critics often scoff at this implication, but that has less to do with logic than it does with misbegotten identity politics and modern day wokeism which curiously leave little to no room for the plight of worldwide Jewry. It is nothing less than grotesque that the perilous trajectory of a nearly 6,000 year Jewish diaspora, one marred by age old persecution which culminated in the mass murder of Europe’s Jews at the hands of the Nazi death machine, is minimised, if not erased by today’s social justice warriors. 

Indeed, the origins of the ongoing skirmish are no longer of importance. On display is a very incongruous coalition which sees leftist activists and intellectuals, human rights groups and oppressed peoples worldwide finding common cause with an Iranian backed terrorist government that spurns modernity, women’s equality, LGBTQ rights and free speech, and one that, without hesitation or qualification, seeks to vanquish not just Israel, but Jews themselves. These are the tragic implications that seem to be obscured amid the loss of life on both sides.

Hamas’ savagery and its own missile assaults against Israel (3,000 fired just last week) are regularly turned on its own people. Hamas performatively wails in the name of peace. In reality, they have no interest in peaceful coexistence.  Lost in the media spin is how many innocent Palestinian lives have come at the hands of their own government. Only the most naive would believe that Hamas’ reign of terror will now end, given that a cease-fire has ostensibly been reached. Or magically, that the profusion of antisemitic incidents generated by unending attacks on the Jewish homeland will suddenly subside or disappear. Tragically, this all makes for a ghastly turn of events just 76 years after the soldiers of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front liberated the Auschwitz-Bikenau concentration camp. 

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Adam Epstein

Though he currently works in political media, Adam Epstein has enjoyed a career as a celebrated Broadway producer. His theatrical productions have received 46 Tony nominations and garnered 12 Tony Awards, one of which Adam himself received as a producer of the hit musical Hairspray in 2003. His other Broadway credits include A View From a Bridge, The Crucible, Amadeus, The Wedding Singer and Cry-Baby. Adam has also been an adjunct faculty member of New York University (where he also earned his BA in political science), and guest lectured at Harvard and Columbia, and he has also had numerous essays published on politics and culture. He recently earned his MA in American Studies from Brown University, and has appeared on Fox News as a liberal pundit. Currently, Adam hosts his own show, THE DISPATCH, which appears weekly on his own YouTube channel.

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