Tunnel Vision

Jewish Light Editorial

• Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan likens Israel’s actions against Gaza to the Holocaust and condones anti-Semitic propaganda in his effort to win re-election.

• Thousands of protesters in major European cities condemn Israel for recent Palestinian fatalities, conveniently ignoring that Hamas violates international law anew every single time it fires rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

• Pop star Selena Gomez tweets, asking fans to pray for peace in Gaza, perhaps unaware that  any such non-Muslim prayer uttered in the territory would lead to dire consequences, including death.

The gloves have come off in rhetoric about Israel around the globe. As in the past, public discourse — often put forth as anti-Zionist rather than anti-Semitic — has recently both wittingly and unknowingly shown the disparate treatment of Jews. 

Want some examples? OK, let’s start here: How many Arabs and Muslims have been killed by the murderous regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad? Or by the merciless and theocratic Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? How many Muslims have been killed in internecine fighting among Sunni and Shia factions?

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Hundreds of thousands, to be sure. Yet Erdogan’s political hate-mongering alleges that Israel’s self-protective response, resulting in one-tenth of 1 percent of those killed in recent Syrian, Iraqi and other nearby conflicts, rises to Holocaust-like genocide.

Never mind that hundreds of smuggling tunnels containing rockets intended for civilian attacks have been found under Gaza. Or that there seem to be no bomb shelters for Palestinian civilians. Or that Hamas orders its residents not to evacuate after Israel provides calls, pamphlets and online warnings in advance of strikes.

The protestors across Europe are of mixed ilk. While some are simply (and most wrongly) protesting actions by the State of Israel, many have chanted and raised signs denouncing Jews and Judaism — even escalating to the terrifying July 13 riot outside the Synagogue de la Roquette in Paris, which trapped some 200 people inside the building. Yet who among the protestors has spoken up with such volume and such numbers against the frightening Islamism that has wrought death, destruction and shrinking freedoms across the Arab world?

Gomez, on the other hand, was probably caught in a crossfire she didn’t anticipate when she tweeted in support of Gazan peace, and shortly thereafter she sent out another message clarifying her desire for peace and safety for all.

But taken together, her simple and naïve missives make a necessary point: Those who ask for resolution without a critical examination of context on the ground risk perpetuating outright anti-Semitism.

Why? Because they create a sense of moral equivalency that doesn’t exist.

An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ openly seeks to annihilate Israel, and Hamas’ leaders have made scores of anti-Semitic comments through the years.

Hamas does not harbor open religious expression. Such exercise has been repressed in Gaza, and Egypt’s military regime has banned the Brotherhood in part because of its extreme practices and crimes against non-Muslims, including the sizable Egyptian Coptic population.

As explained in a Jerusalem Post editorial on June 17: “Whether or not Hamas leaders are emboldened by ISIS’ victories in Iraq, the two terrorist organizations share many of the same objectives, such as the establishment of a Muslim Caliphate that operates according to Shari’a (Islamic law).”

Gomez’s calls for peace are no doubt well-meaning and without a shred of hate, but she and others fail to understand that resolving this conflict isn’t as simple as putting down weapons. It’s a battle for survival of democracy, even if flawed, and higher aspirations vs. hateful, iron-fisted theocratic rule.

Can criticism of Israel be rendered without anti-Semitism? Sure, it has done so for decades, both from outside and within the world Jewish population. And democratic nations like Israel and the United States are fair game for commentary and criticism, whether in domestic, foreign or military affairs. Arab Knesset members participated openly in anti-Israel rallies this week; try marching with an anti-Hamas placard in Gaza and you’d likely succeed in becoming head-free.

But when the inflammatory rhetoric ignores the true facts on the ground, Jews take a beating.

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning:

“I don’t think any nation in the world would sit there while rockets are bombarding it, and you know that there are tunnels from which terrorists have come, you know, jumping up in the dead of night, some with handcuffs and with tranquilizer drugs on them, in an obvious effort to try to kidnap people then hold them for ransom.”

We hope for peace as much as Gomez or anyone else. But if you accept Kerry’s contention that no country would tolerate these barbarous acts, then can you offer any reason at all, short of disparate treatment toward Jews, why the world singles out Israel for scathing criticism in these conditions?

We can’t.