OPINION: We do not have the luxury to be afraid

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OPINION: We do not have the luxury to be afraid

There is no provocation in being who we are and doing what we have to do as Jews. Unity, faith, and hope are the best weapons in our arsenal.

Edinburgh University campus 2024
Edinburgh University campus 2024

As we move further away, month after month from the massacre of October 7th, we increasingly face aggressive adversaries, on the frontlines and elsewhere.

The lack of even the most common decency and sympathy that we saw at the beginning was horrific. It has since been replaced by an active bias, fuelled and engineered by propaganda, designed to turn the hapless victims into perpetrators who deserved execution. “Resistance is justified” – this chant says it all.

Then came the accusations of genocide, war crimes, and even crimes against humanity.

In the last two months, we have seen the last stage of this perfectly orchestrated campaign of systemic denial, and victimization unfold before our very own eyes.

Discourse has become threatening, verbally abusive and even, more recently, physically violent.

Not only are the events of October 7th totally obscured – even by those covering the events – but vitriolic performances are allowed and even encouraged.

There is now little doubt that the wave of violent occupations of campuses in the US and Europe, is led by a small number of students manoeuvered by a greater number of professional agitators and trained militants.

Instead of recognizing the clear pattern of a global destabilization campaign, most governments have fallen into the trap of the “free speech” defense, effectively endorsing genocidal chants and extremist violence as legitimate expressions of support for the Palestinian cause.

In a gradual degradation marketed as being for their “own good”, Jews and their supporters across the world are increasingly ostracized, isolated, and threatened. Walking in the street with a kippah, attending university classes, visiting a Jewish monument or a synagogue – these everyday obligations and activities are now discouraged by authorities which for months have demonstrated, at best, a benevolent neutrality towards increasingly pro-Hamas crowds.

Pic: Simon Tobelem

Understandably, a significant number of Jews now live in constant fear of their Jewishness. Likewise, our non-Jewish friends who are openly pro-Israel are often made to feel unsafe and at risk within their own communities.

This whole process as described above has a very simple name: terror.

This is exactly what terrorism is about: creating a new reality where the equilibrium is broken for those on the wrong side of the “terrorists”. This is not the same kind of terror that Israel experienced on October 7th, and in first instance seemingly not life-threatening. Yet, in a sense, it is no less insidious or dangerous in the long run. This kind of terror is pathological: it constitutes a form of social paralysis which seeks to destroy our essential freedom as human beings.

In such a state, our mind becomes enslaved by a permanent, invisible and yet tangible fear, a feeling of guilt that can only express itself via frustration, anger, and even submission.

The fact that this has not yet been identified as an organized construct, and an incredibly potent case of psychological warfare, is actually evidence that it works and is perniciously penetrating minds within our community and outside.

This is why we don’t have the luxury to be afraid: we cannot allow ourselves to fall into that trap. For those who have already been impacted, we absolutely need to extract ourselves from this “prison”. It is crucial to act rapidly and decisively.

Needless to say, this is easier written than done. However, we saw last weekend that it was possible to keep some sense of sanity in front of the wave of lies and accusations: the public support for Eden Golan, Israeli candidate for the Eurovision Song Contest, has demonstrated a growing level of discomfort with the ongoing psychological abuse and harassment. We would be mistaken to think that the millions of non-Jews who voted for Eden Golan are supporting Israel. But they clearly reject the unidimensional champions of hatred.

We absolutely must take comfort from that reaction. It shows that with some perspective, which obviously we don’t have when in the line of fire, the plot appears in all its wretched ugliness.

We do not have the luxury to be afraid. There is no provocation in being who we are and doing what we have to do as Jews, may we be secular, religious, students or professionals.  There is no provocation in supporting Israel and being openly outraged by what happened on October 7th. There is no provocation in standing firm in front of the authorities and demanding that our rights as human beings be respected at the exact same level and to the exact same extent as the rights of the other side. There is no provocation in expecting, requesting, demanding protection for ourselves, our children and our institutions.

We have to express this relentlessly and adamantly, and it might be more efficient to focus on our side of the narrative rather than engaging with pro-Hamas discourse, which has structurally been designed to leave no room for dialogue or objectivity.

We are the people of hope and faith. Israel’s identity, enshrined in its national anthem, affirms this in the most literal terms. Yet, this is not a naïve hope, nor is it a blind faith. Thousands of years of Jewish history has taught us that the forces of trust and constructive optimism expand inexorably to quash those of hatred. Our enemies know that very well. This is why they seek to undermine these fundamental pillars of our identity.

Unity, faith, and hope are the best weapons in our arsenal. Put them to use, and watch as we will prevail.

Am Israel Chai!

  • Simon Tobelem is a director of We Believe in Israel. He has been a Trustee of BICOM, is a Trustee at British Friends of Hebrew University and is actively involved with many charities, Jewish and non-Jewish, in the UK and overseas. 
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