The entire body of the Jewish people today -- in Israel, in Europe, in America, in Australia and New Zealand, and throughout the world -- is in grave danger. Our very existence as a people and as a faith is in jeopardy. The threat to our survival has two components to it: the external siege being waged against Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world by the international jihadist movement, its sympathizers and appeasers; and the internal siege that we Jews, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, including the United States, are waging against ourselves.
We will look first at the external siege -- war that is being waged against us. It has its military, diplomatic, and ideological-propaganda aspects.
On the "military" front (if that is the right word for the front of violence and terror) we have been under constant assault since the signing of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993.
During the past fourteen and a half years the Palestinian Arab terrorists have murdered over 1,800 Israelis, two thirds of them civilians. This is more than the total number of Israelis murdered by the Palestinian Arabs in the forty-four years preceding the "peace accords." Many of the killers have been members of the Palestinian Arab "police force" established with Israel's consent in Gaza, Judea and Samaria under the Oslo accords. Indeed, Palestinian "police" have murdered three Israelis just over the past month.
For the past seven years, Israeli towns and villages near the border with Gaza have been subjected to rocket attacks; during the past two years, the city of Sderot, with a population of some 23,000, has been bombarded with rockets nearly every day. Its residents have about twenty seconds whenever a warning siren sounds to duck into a shelter. The missiles have killed some people; many more have been wounded; and thousands, including Sderot's children, have suffered shock and trauma.
Egypt, supposedly at peace with Israel, has enabled the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza to move vast amounts of armaments, money and soldiers into this territory, and to transform themselves from a guerilla force into an army able to fight Israel on nearly equal terms. The Israelis have even captured on videotape Egyptian "border guards" helping to smuggle in terrorists.
Then there are the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, who killed about 140 Israeli soldiers and 43 civilians in 2006, many of them with long range rockets that struck deep inside the Galilee, including Israel’s third largest city, Haifa. Hezbollah recently struck again with rockets at kibbutz Shlomi. Since the 2006 Lebanon war, Hezbollah has completely rearmed, and now has missiles that can strike at the heart of Tel Aviv.
Standing behind Hezbollah are Syria and Iran. Both of these hateful regimes make no bones about their desire to destroy Israel. Both are armed with chemical and biological weapons, missiles that can reach every inch of Israeli territory, the most advanced fighter jets, and numerous other ultramodern weapons. Both regimes are working at break-neck speed to develop nuclear weapons. This has been thoroughly documented, despite the attempts of the recent "National Intelligence Estimate" to deny this reality.
Threat of violence
The campaign of violence against Jews has been extended to the Diaspora. There has been a massive increase in anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe. In London, Paris, and Brussels, Jews are routinely assaulted on the street and on public transportation facilities. Many synagogues have been vandalized, and some burned to the ground. Desecrations of Jewish cemeteries are so common that they have ceased to be news. In "peaceful" Switzerland, a rabbi was gunned down recently in the street simply because he was wearing traditional Jewish garb.
Nor should we American Jews think that we have been immune to the spreading hatred. According to FBI statistics, of some 1,500 hate crimes connected with the religion of the victims last year, over 1,000 were directed at Jews -- more than five times the number of crimes directed at the next most vulnerable group, Muslims, and more than ten times the number of hate crimes directed against Christians. On March 1, 1994, a Lebanese Muslim murdered a Jewish boy and seriously injured several others on the Brooklyn Bridge, simply because they were Jews. On July 4, 2002, at the El Al terminal of Los Angeles Airport, two Jews were killed and four wounded by an Egyptian gunman, simply because they were Jews seeking to board a plane for Israel. On July 28, 2007 an Arab Muslim man walked into a Jewish center in Seattle, murdered a Jewish woman and injured five other women simply because they were Jews.
Even more troubling, perhaps, is the strange insensitivity often displayed by our own government toward many of these hate crimes. For example, the FBI described the murder of the Jewish boy on the Brooklyn Bridge as a case of "road rage," even when the political and religious motives of the assassin were attested to by many witnesses. And when the Egyptian, Muslim fundamentalist gunman mowed down Jews at the Los Angeles El Al terminal, the FBI investigating officer asserted, "there is no evidence that this was terrorism."
On the diplomatic front, Israel has been under relentless pressure from the international community, including, sad to say, our own beloved United States, to make unilateral concessions to the Palestinian terrorists that place Israel in deadly peril. The so-called "Quartet" of great powers, consisting of the United States, the European Community, the United Nations, and Russia, has bludgeoned Israel into accepting the so-called "Road Map" plan, which requires Israel to withdraw more or less to its June 4, 1967 borders. The late Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, once aptly called these lines "the Auschwitz frontiers."
Pressure to implement the "road map" has continued relentlessly through the Annapolis conference last month and during President Bush's recent visit to Israel. The United States has also put relentless pressure on Israel to withdraw security checkpoints that are vital to preventing the movement of terrorists and their weapons into Israel, to end all construction of Jewish housing outside the 1967 borders, including those neighborhoods of Jerusalem outside of this "green line," to acquiesce in the partition of Jerusalem, and to evacuate Jewish residents from the so-called "unauthorized settlements" or "illegal outposts" -- many of them on land legally owned by Jews, in some cases owned by Jews for decades.
The Palestinian Arab leadership, for its part, has demanded that Israel accept within its borders all four million Arabs who claim that they are descended from refugees who left Israel sixty years ago, during her War of Independence. They also want Israel to evict the roughly 450,000 Jews who live in areas outside the 1967 lines, which would require Israel to resettle these unfortunate people, too, within its now-truncated territory. Obviously, Israel could not survive the importation of millions of Arabs who have been taught to hate her from birth. But it also would be very difficult to absorb half a million Jews forced from their homes. They would have good reason to hate their own country.
Yet the United States has given Israel little encouragement to resist these demands of the Palestinian Arabs.
But by far the most insidious and dangerous front in the war against Israel is the propaganda war. In the Arab countries and Iran, this takes the form of the crudest lies and stereotypes derived from Nazi propaganda and the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But it is also being waged in a more subtle way by the media throughout Europe, the United States, and even within Israel itself; and by the academic and educational establishments of all of these countries as well. The Western media and academic "experts" portray Israel as a Western colonial implant into the Middle East that has uprooted and dispossessed the "indigenous" Arab population and stolen their land. Israelis are portrayed as religious fanatics intent on seizing other people's land in order to fulfill Biblical promises.
Nor should we overlook that the hate propaganda and libels directed against Israel are directed against the Jews of the Diaspora as well, especially American Jews. Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer and former President Jimmy Carter claim that American Jews exert excessive power over American foreign policy; that they use this power on behalf of a foreign country, Israel, to the disadvantage and injury of the United States; and that we silence anyone who criticizes Israel with threats, unfair criticism or dismissal from their jobs.
All of these allegations, both those against Israel itself and those against its Jewish supporters in the United States and elsewhere, are lies. But through constant repetition, they have been bought into by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, including Europe, the United States, and saddest of all, within Israel itself. This is the ultimate fulfillment of Hitler's observation in Mein Kampf that the bigger the lie is, if it is repeated often enough, the more likely it is to be believed.
But it is we Jews' siege of ourselves from within our own communities that presents the gravest danger to our survival as a people and as a faith community: our self-doubts; our demoralization; our loss of confidence in the righteousness of our own cause; our lack of unity; the loss of our religious beliefs, and of what is an essential part of our religion, our mission as a people.
Because so many of us have lost faith in the righteousness of our own struggle for survival, and have accepted the lies of our enemies, the government and people of Israel have been increasingly yielding to the demands of our enemies and false friends without even putting up a struggle. In order to survive, we must win a victory over the sickness of our enemies; but before we can do that, we must heal ourselves.
For some Jews, their psychological sickness has progressed to the point of outright identification with the enemies of our people, and active participation in their ideological, propaganda and political assault on us. These Jews have actively taken sides with the enemy, at least on the level of ideology, communications and propaganda -- perhaps in the belief that "if you can't beat them, join them." These Jews constitute an internal Jewish fifth column that threatens us more severely than all our external enemies combined. The anti-Israel and anti-Jewish Jews among us are like a dagger pointed directly at the heart of Israel and the Jewish people.
Thousands of Jewish journalists, academics, filmmakers, artists and "intellectuals" in the United States, Canada, Europe, and within Israel itself have actively participated in the campaign of vilification and lies against Israel. There is even a "minyan" of Jewish reporters working for the notorious al-Qaeda mouthpiece al-Jazeera. These Jewish haters of Zion have a greater impact and credibility than any other group of anti-Israel propagandists. Who, after all, would believe that Jews would lie about their own people and institutions? And their impact is greatest on their fellow Jews, of course; they have sapped the will of Israelis to resist the demands of their enemies, and the will of the American and other Diaspora Jews to stand behind Israel, by persuading them that Israel's cause is not just.
But our internal propagandist fifth column, disastrous though its impact has been on our morale, is only one of the negative influences contributing to the collapse of the Jewish will to resist the relentless pressure of our enemies.
A tremendous, and humanly understandable, war-weariness has gripped Israelis. Prime Minister Olmert gave voice to this terrible war fatigue when he said,
"We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies."
We must remember that a man or woman struggling to walk to safety through numbing cold may become very tired indeed, to the point of wishing to lie down in the snow and fall asleep. But then he or she will not wake up.
Loss of faith in God and in the truths of our religion is yet another reason for our spreading defeatism and our failure to resist the assault on us as Jews. It is our religion that teaches us that we are a distinct people with a land of our own. It is our religion that teaches us that we have a unique destiny, and that we must survive as a people if we are to fulfill our mission to be "a light unto the nations." Once we forget our faith, the temptation to assimilate into our environment completely and forget about what happens to our fellow Jews becomes very great.
And for us, the Jews of the golden American Diaspora, our very comfort, prosperity and seeming security have concealed the common danger from us -- much as they concealed from the Jews of Germany and elsewhere in Europe the grave danger that they faced from Nazism, until it was too late to do anything. They think, "What has all this got to do with me? I am leading a perfectly contented and prosperous life here in America with my family. I am very comfortable. Why should I care about what is happening to other Jewish people 6,000 miles away?"
The answer to this understandable human reaction is the answer that Mordecai sent to Esther when she expressed her fear of approaching King Ahasuerus to appeal for the life of her fellow Jews: "Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king's palace. On the contrary . . .you and your father's house will perish." (Esther 4:12). If Israel should fall, do not imagine that we American Jews shall escape persecution by enemies who see our vulnerability.
Our lethargy and indifference are grave mistakes that will come back to haunt us. While World War II was going on, few Jews in America even knew about, or much less reacted to, the genocide being committed against our brethren in Europe, even though the essential facts about their fate were known to American Jewish leaders as early as 1942. It was only after the war ended and photographs of the bodies of the victims appeared in the newspapers that the enormity of what had happened began to sink in with American Jews. Serious discussion and study of the Holocaust did not even begin among us until the 1960s.
This time, we will not have the luxury of a slow response to the dangers facing not only the Jews of Israel, but also ourselves.
Nor should Christians and other non-Jews in America and throughout the Western world be indifferent to what is happening. The international jihad waged by the radical Islamists targets not only Jews, but all Christians (referred to by the jihadis as "Crusaders") and all of Western civilization as well. The Jews are the first on the list of groups targeted for extinction by the radical jihadis, but they are by no means the last on this list. In our vulnerability to the poisonous ideological winds sweeping in from the Middle East and South Asia, we Jews are the proverbial "canary in the coal mine" -- the first to suffer the lethal effects of the poison, but not the last.
John Landau contributed to this article.
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Rachel Neuwirth, an internationally recognized, political commentator and analyst. She specializes in Middle Eastern Affairs with particular emphasis on Militant Islam and Israeli foreign policy. She has been published in prominent news papers of Europe, Asia and the US. She is frequently quoted by reputable Media.