Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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Is the unity starting to wane?

There is nothing the Jewish people cannot do if they do it from unity. Jews have certainly felt this around the world since Oct. 7. “Together we will win” is the pregnant Hebrew phrase (a mere two words in the Hebrew).

Is that unity starting to wane?

Put differently, is the force for good harder to sustain than the force for evil? 

I am profoundly saddened by what I, at least, sense are cracks in the unity in the prosecution of the war against barbarism, by whose dimensions I never cease to be horrified. See the Page 9 story this week about the Hamas killer who tried to sell the beheaded head of an Israeli soldier. As the father of the poor victim said: for Hamas, barbarism is a compliment.

These are among the cracks in Jewish unity I sense or see: 

• First and foremost, the conflict between defeating Hamas and securing the release of the hostages. 

Netanyahu says that only continued military pressure will free the hostages. I believe in continued military pressure — each neutralized Hamas fighter is a potential Israeli life saved from murder — but I think it’s more likely that the hostages will be freed by a halt in the fighting. I assume that those who favor a halt in the fighting concede the danger this poses to Israeli lives. Again, whichever side you take — pro- or anti-temporary halt — the choice is impossible and the unity is frayed.

• Second, the distance I sense in parts of the Diaspora from the fate of the Jews in Israel. 

It is not unity when Jews in the Diaspora, no matter how deeply and sincerely they say it, feel for “them,” the Jews over there in Israel. If there is a “them,” there is not a “we.” “We” is unity; “us and them,” not so much.

• Third, virtually no Jew thought twice in the days after Oct. 7 about denouncing Hamas’ barbarism. Now, political calculations emerge. For example, if a forthright resolution condemning Hamas is advocated by members of the Colorado state legislature, some Jews think this is a positive move. Others differ; for example, the local Jewish Community Relations Council. The visceral outrage voiced at the Jewish community rally Oct. 15 at the State Capitol by the leaders of the Jewish community and the leaders of Colorado (some of them, the same people) is now subjected to political analysis. Back on Oct. 15, the unity concern seemed to be whether Republican representatives would sign on. They did. Now, the unity concern seems to be whether Democratic representatives include some who would not unequivocally denounce Hamas. It’s not the same unity.

• Fourth, severe criticism of the Netanyahu government.

This is inevitable. Netanyahu and his government presided over the worst security failure in Israel’s history. However, as the war against Hamas began, it was said: “Politics is for after the war. Now, we back the government fully as it prosecutes the war.” 

The odd thing is, while many world actors somehow felt the war would go quickly, almost none in Israel did. Even so, political pressure on the government is now increasing. Whether it’s a lot or a little, I cannot tell from this distance, but there seems to be less patience to wait until “after the war” before advocating for changes in the government. It’s not the same unity.

• If that’s true in Israel, it’s doubly true in Washington. 

President Joe Biden stood firmly, loudly and, given the political pressures on him, courageously for Israel as the war began. Now it’s different, to an extent. Biden is supplying Israel with munitions. That is critical. Biden is also telling Israel how to prosecute the war, to dial it down, thereby endangering Israeli fighters. Biden is responding to the number of Gazan casualties. Bidenseems to have forgotten what he said about them months ago. He said he has no confidence in numbers supplied by Hamas. It is still Hamas supplying the numbers — the same people who behead, rape and mutilate. Reportedly, Hamas’ numbers now motivate Biden to pressure Israel. It’s not the same unity.

So, is the force for good harder to sustain than the force for evil? It is, precisely because the force for evil doesn’t care how many fighters it loses or how much Gazans suffer. It is not wise to ease up on the military battle against Hamas. Every Hamas fighter not killed or imprisoned is a potential Israeli murder victim or felled soldier. This was crystal clear on Oct. 7 and the days following. 

It is still clear to me and to many.

It seems even more clear, from what I can tell, to all of the volunteers in the Diaspora who have gone to Israel to help, and all of the volunteers in Israel who have put their lives aside, in whole or in part, to do everything from doing farm work to resettling evacuated residents of the Negev or Galilee.

Together we will win.

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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