TIME Ideas foreign affairs Dear Fellow Liberals: Im Done Apologizing for Israel Overview of a tunnel built underground by Hamas militants leading from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel, seen on August 4, 2014 near the Israeli Gaza border, Israel. Ilia YefimovichGetty Images
Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.
Some years ago, I was seated at dinner next to a British law professor, whom my husband, also a law professor, had invited to a conference that hed organized. The conversation soon turned, as conversation often does among professional intellectuals, to Israel, specifically to the then-recent conflict between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters in the West Bank town of Jenin, which my dinner partner (and much of the European press) referred to as the massacre of Jenin.
Oopsforgot about it already? Heres a refresher: in 2002, the IDF went into Jenin during the Second Intifada, after Israel determined that the town served as a launching pad for missile and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. The 10-day operation claimed the lives of around 50 Palestinian gunmen, and 23 Israeli soldiers. My acquaintance, after repeating Palestinian claims of atrocities committed by Israeli forcesclaims that had already been roundly debunkedcapped off his assessment by saying, What happened in Jenin was no more and no less than another Holocaust.
As a liberal American Jew, Im tired of apologizing for Israels actions regarding its own security, and as of last month, Im done with it. Im done for the following two reasons: my eldest child, Sam, motivated by a desire to do something more meaningful than argue about religion, policy and politics, is currently serving as a lone soldier in the IDF, and he spent much of July in Gaza, as part of a team dismantling terror tunnels. In New Jersey, where the rest of his family lives, we didnt know, from one day to the next, if wed ever see him again. The second reason is that Israel, despite its highly imperfect record (unlike that of, say, America or France or England or Pakistan or Kenya or Argentina) is the worlds sole guarantee against another frenzy of murderous hatred against my people, a hatred that is once again raising its voice, and fists, not only among the dispossessed Muslim residents of Europe, but, most especially, in the official organs of the chattering, and highly influential, classesso much so that the off-hand remarks of my long-ago dinner companion seem almost reasonable.
Facts are such nifty things, so solid, so sure. Yet we as a species dont seem to cotton to them, especially when it comes to Jews.
In Pakistan, one human rights group estimates that 1,000 women are murdered in honor killings by their families every year. In Nigeria, Islamic militants have killed more than 1,500 people in 2014, according to Amnesty International. And the death toll from the slaughter in Syriajust spitting distance from Israeladds up to a robust 191,000. But the worldor at least the world as personified by the British law professor with his fondness for exaggerationdoesnt pay a lot of attention to these Muslim but non-Palestinian corpses. Nope: youve got to be a dead person in Gaza or Hebron to claim the worlds sympathy. Merely being an Arab, or a Muslim, doesnt cut the mustard, because when Muslims are murdering other Muslimslike more than 2,400 Iraqis killed by other Iraqis in June of this year. The civilized world, or at least the chattering classes, does little more than shrug.
Instead, from the Telegram we get this Gaza conflict causing PTSD in children after seeing dead bodies and witnessing heavy shelling. From the Times: UN demands halt to Gaza incursion as tanks smash hospital. A simple Google search will net you hundreds of like-minded headlines. By the way, guess how many citizens were killed during the second half of last year in Egypt? According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: 3,143.
But its more satisfying to focus on Israel, that miniscule sliver of desert with an equally miniscule population (some 6 million Jews and 1.7 million primarily Muslim Arabs), hemmed in on one side by hostile Arab countries whose Muslim populations add up to a healthy 320 million, give or take, and the other by the Mediterranean Sea. Because Israel isnt just any other imperfect Democracy, with a host of domestic and international problems of its own. Oh no. Not to put too fine a point on it, but were talking a whole country filled primarily with Jews. So the whole place is only as big as the State of New Jersey, while the rest of the Middle East is about the size of 90 percent of the contiguous United States? So what?
Dear Fellow Liberals: Im Done Apologizing for Israel