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The many forms of Zionism

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Question and Answer

Zionism, the term that has been bandied around by the anti-Israel lobby, isn’t a uniform approach to Israel. It has many forms resulting in differences even between individuals with similar political views, but it stands on the belief in the need for Israel, a Jewish state.

The SA Jewish Report questioned two Zionists to show how different their views are.

Gavin Rome

1. What do you believe Zionism is?

Zionism was an ideology that returned historical agency to the Jewish people and led to the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Today, Zionism’s core principle is that it’s better for the Jewish people to shape their lives in the state of Israel than to remain scattered minorities among the nation states of the world.

2. How do you interpret what happened from 9 to 21 May in Israel?

An avoidable tragic paragraph in the annals of the Jewish/Arab-Palestinian conflict.

3. Whose fault is it and why?

Largely, the immediate “fault” lies with Hamas and its eliminationist and expulsionist “river to the sea” ideology. There are nevertheless underlying fault lines for which both sides are to blame. However, the spark for this latest awful episode was Hamas’s cynical and missile firing exploitation of tensions in East Jerusalem.

4. What do you think about the way Israel dealt with it?

Once Hamas had commenced its bomb-all-of-Israel missile campaign, Israel reacted responsibly in fulfilling the basic responsibilities of a nation state, namely to protect its citizens from harm. I’m, however, critical of the ultra-nationalist East Jerusalem settlement project and the government’s support for the establishment of belligerent settler enclaves in Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

5. Who do you support (politically) in Israel and why?

Any of Labour, Meretz, or Yesh Atid. Each of these parties would better protect the institutions of democracy (a free press, the rule of law, respect for the constitutional role of the Supreme Court, and tolerance for dissent), which have been subjected to cynical, populist subversion by the past decade’s governing coalitions.

6. How do you feel about the occupied territories or Judea and Samaria?

I’ve been a lifelong opponent of the West Bank settlement project. I remain of the view that civilian settlement of the West Bank has been, to use the phrase of historian Barbara Tuchman, nothing less than “the march of folly”.

There should, nonetheless, be no withdrawal if this would lead to the establishment of a hostile armed entity in the West Bank, as would seem to be the case for the foreseeable future.

7. What do you believe should happen to solve this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?

A good time out. No grand agreements or accords, but a defined period of time in which both sides do their utmost to avoid antagonising the other. As to how to achieve such a base, I’m sadly at a loss but I’m sure there are those better qualified than I am who could formulate a realistic proposed framework.

8. Do you believe the Israeli government is doing enough to solve this conflict? What should it do?

No. Cessation of settlement projects in the West Bank would be the first step. Each new settlement makes the only possible route to the end of the conflict (namely two separate states existing side-by-side) increasingly remote.

9. Do you support a two-state solution, and what does that mean to you? If you don’t, what do you support?

I support a two-state solution. This would entail both parties ultimately one day making difficult and anguishing compromises. In contrast, a binational state in which each community has semi-autonomous and equal rights within a federation of all of its citizens is a romantic utopia which appears to be desired neither by the Jewish nor the Palestinian polities. Also and in contrast, a Jewish state in which the Arab residents of the West Bank aren’t citizens and thus don’t have the right to vote would, in my view, amount to a perversion of the Zionist idea.

10. How do you feel about Benjamin Netanyahu and his way of governing?

He has undoubtably achieved much: the liberalisation of the Israeli economy, many years of uninterrupted economic growth, and accords with Arab states. Unfortunately, his exploitation of populist tools has had the effect of weakening Israeli democracy.

11. If you could do two things to improve Israel, what would you do?

I would rather not answer this question. Not living in Israel, I’m unqualified to address the practicalities which this question implies.

12. Who do you believe should be the next prime minister of Israel and why?

I don’t “believe” in any person or politician. Having said that, I have been impressed by Yair Lapid’s non-confrontational and quietly respectful leadership style.

  • Gavin Rome is senior counsel at the Johannesburg Bar. He has acted as a judge of the high court on several occasions.

Joni Kowensky

1. What do you believe Zionism is?

A conviction that Jews have an archaeologically visible, ancient connection to Israel, with Judea (where Jews originated) being the epicentre for thousands of years. Israel has a right to exist within safe borders, defend herself, and to be a religious Jewish state (like its Muslim neighbours). Zionism isn’t political, its borders and governance is political, but the principle isn’t.

2. How do you interpret what happened from 9 to 21 May in Israel?

Israel showed extreme restraint in waiting for more than 500 rockets to be fired before retaliating. The Iron Dome saved thousands of people, and Hamas used larger missiles and barrages than before. Israel avoided civilian casualties in densely populated civilian areas, hitting more than 1 500 targets with less than 250 deaths reported by Hamas. This number includes Hamas’s own inflicted deaths from its 680 missiles that misfired, committing double war crimes in firing at civilians from its own dense civilian areas. One such situation killed a Gazan family of eight. Israel continues to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas uses civilian casualties as its modus operandi, helping Hamas to win the world over. Israel needs to prepare better in terms of social media and education.

3. Whose fault is it, and why?

Mahmoud Abbas has been in charge of Fatah/the Palestine Liberation Organization since Yasser Arafat. Prior to elections, realising he was losing, he arrested his opposition and announced that due to riots, elections were cancelled. Days later, his supporters stormed the Temple Mount, triggering incidents of violence throughout Israel, falsely using a private rental dispute in Sheik Jarrah as a pretext. Hamas saw an opportunity to fire rockets into Israel, unprovoked, as it does every few years.

4. What do you think about how Israel dealt with it?

Israel needs to focus on social media and hasbara (diplomacy). It has managed riots and attacks on Jews and Arabs in Israel equally. It dealt a large blow to Hamas’s more than 100km of terror tunnels, and bought Israel some intermittent peace. Fake media that sent all the terrorists into the tunnels, helping it to save civilians, was genius.

5. Who do you support (politically) in Israel and why?

Likud has always successfully defended Israel in the international arena. Global support during the last conflict, as well as the Abraham Accords and warming relations with Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco and others, is a testament to this. Adding an Arab member to the party, and being joined by former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, voted “mayor of the world”, who was elected by Arabs to be mayor for many years, shows that the party isn’t as right wing as some think.

6. How do you feel about the occupied territories or Judea and Samaria?

“Occupied territories” isn’t a correct description of the three areas in Judea and Samaria, for which Israel, the United States, and Palestinian leadership agreed to the borders during the Oslo Accords. When Jews and Israelis can enter Area A, where Palestinians manage all military and government infrastructure, without risk (like Palestinians can in all the other zones), the situation will improve. You cannot look at these territories in isolation from Gaza. A solution can be reached only when Hamas and Fatah stop fighting each other so that there is one peace agreement.

7. What do you believe should happen to solve this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?

First, Palestinian leaders have to stop calling for Israel’s destruction and chanting “from the river to the sea”, proving that they want all of the territory of Israel and the country’s annihilation. Then, when all their leaders can negotiate as one, the Trump peace plan is the best bet. The Palestinians would get more land, an extra island, a harbour, and airport, if peaceful. Neither party wins as much as they would like, both have to compromise. However, until the Palestinians come to the party, this isn’t possible.

8. Do you believe the Israeli government is doing enough to solve this conflict? What should it do?

It’s in a very tough situation but a new method may be needed as the cycle has repeated itself since Hamas’s violent overtake of Gaza. By tackling Iran, the key funder of Hamas, it has greatly weakened it, and communication with regional allies has been strong.

9. Do you support a two-state solution and what does it mean to you? If you don’t, what do you support?

Though the mandate of Palestine was divided into Jordan and Israel (one for Arabs, one for Jews), Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza already represents a three-state solution where Jews compromised a great deal. I support the Trump peace plan in which Israel yet again gives more land for peace, once all preconditions to stop incitement and aggression have been met.

10. How do you feel about Benjamin Netanyahu and his way of governing?

Netanyahu’s governance of Israel’s security and foreign relations has been great. It would be unfair to comment on Israel’s internal governance with its complexities, diverse population, and cultures, as I don’t live there.

11. If you could do two things to improve Israel, what would you do?

There needs to be an education drive among Palestinians to help break down the lies and hate they were taught so we can unite in business, agriculture, and technology. There should also be an Arab-led alliance to disarm Hamas and Fatah to monitor a free election and smooth transition to fairly elected officials.

12. Who do you believe should be the next prime minister of Israel and why?

Israeli politics are complicated, and it is tough to say anything while not understanding life in Israel as an Israeli. Netanyahu has done well where mentioned above, and Barkat could be an exciting chapter in Israel’s story.

  • Joni Kowensky is the Head of Betar South Africa, Deputy Chairman of the SAZF and WZO General Council.

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Lifestyle

The hidden, humbling history of the Litvaks

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Kęstutis Pikūnas put together a beautiful coffee table book called ‘Passport – The Litvaks’ about the Jews of Lithuania. Being Lithuanian and having grown up there, he knew nothing about Litvaks beforehand. The SA Jewish Report asked him about his experience.

How did this project come about, and do you have a Litvak background?

When I first started writing these Passports, my goal was to present Lithuania in an annual English publication for a foreign audience.

Being Lithuanian and having lived abroad for many years, I wanted to tell the story of Lithuania through its people from the best possible angle. This ambition came from bitter personal experience and the fact that many people identified me as a foreigner who came from a culturally and economically poor country. It triggered a sense of inferiority and frustration, leading me to try to prove everyone wrong.

Little did I know that as I interviewed luminaries, I learnt humbling life lessons. I realised how little I knew about the history of my homeland and how selective and superficial my approach was. This was the beginning of my journey.

I don’t have a Litvak background and when I started the project, I didn’t plan to dedicate one whole publication to the Litvaks. This was because I knew very little (or close to nothing) about Litvak culture, heritage, and history.

I was born at the time when Lithuania was still under the Soviet regime, so we didn’t learn about it at school, nor did my parents talk about it at home.

When I was compiling the second volume, I met Professor Irena Veisaitė, who was among the few Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Meeting her was an eye-opener.

Hearing her extraordinary story of survival and courage, I was left with countless unsettling questions. How come I had only learnt about this now? Why was my perception so superficial for so many years? Where does this disinterest and denial come from?

This initial conversation led to a dear friendship and further discoveries. After interviewing her for the second volume, which also features an interview with South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (known as Zapiro) and Litvak businessman Eli Broad, it was clear to me that the third volume would be dedicated to the Litvaks.

What did you expect to learn from the project?

I had way more questions than answers. As I learnt more, I felt a deep sense of shame about the massacres and local collaborators.

To this day, I find it hard to comprehend how, in this modern day and age, we still choose to turn a blind eye to the uncomfortable truth, trying to forget rather than talk openly about it.

It always puzzled me. We all know that Jews lived in Lithuania for hundreds of years. They created, built, and loved together. There are plenty of signs all across Lithuania of that. But I understand that realisation comes gradually. This is what this experience has taught me.

What were you trying to achieve and why?

I wanted to induce empathy and honest dialogue. I believe storytelling is a powerful tool, and it can work miracles if it captures the reader’s attention on a personal level.

I’m happy that I had an opportunity to record and perpetuate what I consider an inseparable part of Lithuanian history.

A friend of mine (I had no idea he was Jewish), whom I interviewed, said, “History is made up of facts, but treating these facts selectively, choosing what feels acceptable and familiar but ignoring anything that may be unpleasant, is foolish. This road leads to nowhere, and often results in hostility.”

I believe that knowing history through its dry facts and figures is one thing, but being able to understand the events and reasons why and how it all happened is another.

Another important detail which is important to mention is that I didn’t have to do this book, I chose to do it. It was never my intention to invent something new, quite the opposite. I wanted to feel it, discover it, and “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. And I don’t regret a single minute of it.

What were the stories/anecdotes that stood out for you and why?

It would be hard to pick out one story that stood out the most while compiling this publication as they all are personal and delicate. Probably the reaction of my peers surprised me most as I was keen to learn what my family and friends knew about Lithuanian Jews and the history of Lithuanian Jewry. To this day, there are so many ridiculous superstitions, myths, and twisted narratives about the Jews. I simply don’t get it. As for anecdotes, there aren’t that many, and they are far from funny.

What were the most emotionally tough parts to deal with?

Quite a few. Being at murder sites and talking to Holocaust survivors about their experiences moved me immensely. It would be impossible to describe that feeling in words as it’s utterly incomprehensible how this could have happened. Just standing there next to a pit, or simply looking into a person’s eyes who witnessed the atrocities without saying a word, these silent moments speak volumes to me.

Was there anything uplifting and inspiring in the process?

The courage of those who stayed true to human values. Those who resisted, and risked their own lives to save their neighbours or even a stranger. Their stories and testimonies will stay with me for the rest of my life. Of course, becoming friends with those who contributed and those whom I interviewed for this publication is another rewarding experience.

What were your impressions of the South African Litvaks you spoke to?

I only had the chance to interview Robbie Brozin, who later introduced me to Justice Albie Sachs. Each of their stories are unique and valuable. I have to admit that even in my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought that I would ever have the chance not only to interview them, but make friends with them. This is very important. I keep in touch with them and our friendship is dear to me.

How did you deal with the South African aspect of the book?

The story of South African Jews is unique. Not many people know that more than 90% of the Jews in South Africa came from Lithuania. Right before the pandemic, I was planning to go to South Africa together with the photographer and spend some time there documenting. As strong and insightful as Albie and Robbie’s interviews are, I believe it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I hope that in the near future it will be possible to travel again and continue what has been started.

What was the reason for putting Sachs on the cover?

Our first conversation lasted for maybe more than three hours and prior to that, we simply agreed to talk, without a set list of questions or any further commitments. I’m happy that Sachs kindly agreed to our talk being transcribed, edited, and published. He embodies everything that this publication is about. I could go on and on about the reasons why Albie is on the cover, but I believe that G-d is in the details. And I have to say that Steve Gordon, a dear friend of Albie, took fantastic photographs.

On completion of this book, what have you learnt about the Litvaks?

An awful lot! I quote Meryl Frank, a Litvak from the United States, whom I also interviewed: “The worst thing a person can do to another is to ignore them, to fail to see them, and erase them from history. I have seen a change in Lithuania over the 15 years I’ve been visiting the city of Vilnius [Vilna]. I believe that with the passage of time and the recognition of history, there is a possibility for building bridges.” I honestly believe that there is no better time than now to reach out for each other’s hand. The truth has the power to liberate.

What would you want those who read your book to learn or understand?

This is probably the hardest questions of all, because while compiling this book, I was often asked questions like: “Why is this important?”; “Why should I care about the past?”; “Why do you care?” and so on and so forth. I think there’s no right answer to this question. I truly hope that the reader will take away a sense of empathy and compassion.

Why do you believe this is an important book, and who is it important for?

The book is relevant to everyone, and it’s especially important for us ethnic Lithuanians, Lithuanian Jews, and Litvaks. It’s a genuine invitation to review and, hopefully, renew the relationship.

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Community

Stand up for what you believe, says chief rabbi

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Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein stood up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-Israel statement in the media, and on 28 May, asked for Muslim leadership to join him in calling for tolerance and non-violence. The reaction was fierce.

1. What was your response to Ramaphosa’s newsletter about Israel two weeks ago?

The essence of my letter to the president was to present the facts, both in terms of the most recent Gaza war and then in the context of the wider historical frame of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, emphatically rejecting the apartheid accusation against Israel which is utterly without foundation in reality.

2. What was it that inspired you to respond to him in the Sunday Times?

I believe passionately in the power of facts and the truth. The justice of the cause of Israel is served and strengthened by sharing the facts of the situation. I have shared my views with the president in private meetings. But I felt it was necessary to air these points in the public domain so the rest of the country could benefit because there is so much misunderstanding, confusion, and even outright ignorance of the basic facts.

3. What response did you get from the community and others?

I received many warm messages from so many people – inside and outside the community – who appreciated that the other side of the story was being told openly and proudly on the pages of a national newspaper.

4. How do you interpret South Africans’ reaction to the 11-day battle between Hamas in Gaza and Israel?

You must distinguish between the response of the ruling party and that of the country as a whole, which is much more positive. The African National Congress has taken a one-sided view of the conflict, but in my experience, the majority of South Africans are tremendously sympathetic and supportive of Israel.

5. Do you believe there has been a fair, unbiased response in mainstream media?

The problem of media bias is a global one. It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of who the aggressor is and who the victim is. At the heart of much of the suffering in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the militant theology of Hamas, which openly seeks the genocide of all Jews in Israel and the total eradication of the Jewish state. It’s a theology that preaches the targeting of Israeli civilians and the use of its own people as human shields. I don’t think this is understood properly. I firmly believe peace is attainable. As I mentioned in my letter to the president, if the issue was land and the establishment of a Palestinian state, it would have happened long ago. There have been multiple opportunities which have been rejected time and again by the Palestinian leadership. The suffering of the Palestinian people is a result of its militant theological leadership. It’s a heart-breaking human tragedy.

6. Last Friday, you called on Muslim leaders to join you in calling for tolerance, for people not to threaten or harm each other verbally or physically over the conflict in the Middle East. Why did you do this?

It’s so disturbing to see Jews around the world attacked and living in fear as they enter shuls and schools. I contacted South African Muslim leaders because I believe that all South Africans, including Jewish and Muslim communities, should live without fear of threats of violence or intimidation. Because of the emotions of this conflict – which run higher than anything else I’ve seen – it’s vital for leaders to come forward – especially religious leaders – to preach peace.

7. What was the initial reaction when you contacted the Muslim leaders?

I phoned the senior leadership of the two main Muslim organisations, the Muslim Judicial Council and the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, and asked them to issue a joint statement with me calling on our communities to respect differences with regards to these issues. Both organisations declined.

8. What was their reaction after you put out the statement?

The Muslim Judicial Council publicly rejected my call for a joint statement on unity and tolerance.

9. How did you feel about this?

I’m disappointed because religious leaders need to be a force for peace and tolerance in the world. I’ve had a longstanding relationship with some of the most senior Muslim leaders here, and we have worked well together with the National Religious Leaders Council. Their rejection of my overtures is a real pity. They’re letting down their own community and the country.

10. Ronnie Kasrils was extremely derogatory in his opinion piece in the Sunday Times this week. What’s your reaction to that?

Kasrils’ response is the perfect example of how so much of the anti-Israel lobby conducts itself – by delegitimising and denigrating their opponents instead of rationally debating the issues and analysing the facts. I will continue to fight for the facts to be heard in a rational and respectful way.

11. Why do you think a man like Kasrils, who has Jewish roots, would do such a thing?

The real question is not how Kasrils interacts with me personally. The real question, which only he can answer, is why he has such hatred for Israel. The irrationality of his hatred for the Jewish state comes through in everything that he does and says.

12. Are you planning to react to what was said? If so, how?

I don’t believe in mudslinging; rather, I speak to the issues. I’m not interested in responding to personal attacks. The facts speak for themselves. And I’ve laid out the facts very carefully in my letter to the president.

13. Following the past few distressing weeks, how do we move forward as a community?

The most important thing to realise as a South African Jewish community is that this is a global problem, felt by Jewish communities throughout the world. There’s been a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents everywhere. It’s clear evidence of the deep connection between the global movement to delegitimise and destroy Israel with a virulent antisemitism that has emerged under the guise of anti-Zionism. Criticism of the state of Israel per se can, of course, be made in good faith. But when that criticism becomes a distortion of truth to demonise Israel, it becomes a dangerous form of antisemitism.

One aspect of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s) definition of antisemitism is to accuse the state of Israel of being founded on racism. The apartheid accusation, ironically, is a form of antisemitism. Isn’t it tragic that the hatred of the anti-Israel lobby is so intense that it’s using the sacred memory of the victims of racism to perpetrate another form of bigotry.

14. What message do you have for the community now?

We must live with pride and dignity in South Africa. We live in an open and free democracy, and we must be proud of our support for the state of Israel. We have to be ready with the facts. We have no one and nothing to fear. We can stand up to this pressure, and we do so as free, independent citizens of this country. We can be proud Jews, proud of our Zionism, not only because our hearts and souls are connected to Israel through our Torah, but also because of the facts which support the justice of the cause of the state of Israel. So, let’s go forward with strength and confidence.

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Israel

America’s culture war could threaten Israel from within

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Frans Cronje, the chief executive of the Institute of Race Relations, wrote a penetrating critique – “Ramaphosa woefully misreading the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, News24, 20 May – which referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 17 May letter to South Africans, titled “From the desk of the president”. Cronje talks about his motivation for writing the response, and why challenging the narrative of the president’s letter is important.

Why write a response to Ramaphosa?

The key points made by Ramaphosa were incorrect, and so we wrote as much in defence of the truth as in defence of Israel. He argued that Israel’s occupation was the root cause of the current conflict and that Israel was evicting Arabs from East Jerusalem in a manner akin to apartheid-era forced removals. He also said that Israeli security forces had launched assaults on Muslim worshippers, that Israel’s strikes on Gaza were “senseless”, and that Israel had bombed journalists. We were able to demonstrate that those claims were either misleading or baseless in that Israel was under attack, had a right to self-defence, and that South Africa should be standing with Israel.

What is your take on the consequences of the conflict?

A positive of sorts is that Hamas’ ability to target Israel has been degraded. A second is that the Abraham Accords held up in the face of a determined Iranian effort to fracture them. A third is that American support for Israel held across the Democratic Party, in spite of an attempt from within that party to isolate Israel. A fourth is that several central European states were bold in their support of Israel.

And what were the negatives?

There are a number, but let’s deal with two big ones. A first is the extent to which Arab-Jewish relations within Israel may have fractured. If the damage is serious, it potentially opens an internal front of conflict that must be added to the external fronts that Israel has always fought on.

Iran knows that a military assault on Israel from without is, in a sense, futile, because Israel’s military defence is too strong. If you cannot attack it successfully from outside, you might have better luck trying to do so from within. That few Israelis saw the tie between America’s culture war and their own internal security worries me.

The second negative is that Western opinion on Israel has, I think, been altered over the past week. Coming on the back of America’s culture war inspired by the spectacular rise of critical race theory in the West, Israel is now more vulnerable than ever to American public opinion turning sufficiently far that a future White House might limit support for Israel. The effect would be to weaken its external defences. Should Israel’s enemies succeed in fomenting an internal front while also weakening external defences, Israel becomes very vulnerable.

You’ve spoken a lot about the role of Iran.

Yes, indeed, this is critical to understanding what transpired over the past week. The Iranians, after the setback of the Abraham Accords last year, have, I think, regrouped. Iran is emboldened by what I read as the Biden administration’s naivete on Iranian nuclear ambitions. It’s a lesson of history that you cannot placate or appease revolutionary ideologues. I also suspect that the Iranians have astutely perceived that the rise of critical race theory in the West presents them with the opportunity to apply the theory to the Israeli/Palestinian question in order to undo American support for Israel.

You’ve spoken a lot about critical race theory – what is it?

The potential influence of this theory is now the greatest threat to the survival of Israel. Critical race theory underpinned the culture wars that spurred the Black Lives Matter and QAnon movements in America to exploit that country’s existing racial divides to cleave a great chasm across which America’s damaging social and political contestations now rage. It’s an ideology designed to foment conflict given that its theoretical point of departure is to cast societies into unbridgeable racial camps of victim and perpetrator. Usually the theory holds that the perpetrators are white and the victims black, with whites using their influence over Western societies to become rich by keeping blacks down. The only way to liberate the victims is to destroy the institutions of Western democracy and the “wars” to do so are culture wars. Jews have featured prominently on the periphery of critical race theory debates. Ellie Krasne of the Heritage Foundation put it well:

“According to the theory’s perverse logic, Jews are first and foremost members of the oppressor class, bearing guilt for any wrong done to any non-white group by any white people. Simply put, critical race theory repeatedly casts Jews as having outsized economic success, even relative to other white people, and this supposed success makes them the worst of the … oppressors. Antisemitism has long depicted Jews as racially inferior and extremely clever puppet masters who surreptitiously control banks, politicians, and the media. Modern-day critical race theory does much of the same. This, coupled with antisemitism, targets Jews and blames them for perceived societal ills. But the goal isn’t simply hatred of the Jewish people; it’s to upend the civic order. Jews are just the scapegoat.”

Iranians will try to exploit the theory to “upend” Israel via fomenting a culture war against “Israeli apartheid” that will incite Arab Israelis to turn against their Jewish neighbours while turning Western opinion against Israel to cut off American support.

How well positioned is Israel to counter these threats?

Israel may have a problem here. General William Westmoreland, the commander of United States forces in Vietnam, would later agree with the lament “[that] we lost the war not in the jungles of South East Asia, but on the streets of Washington and in the living rooms of America”.

This is very much the evidence of the past week – that Israel might have been dominant on the physical battlefield, but it doesn’t possess strategic understanding or resources to contest the culture-war battlefield.

How could that danger play out?

In five steps. First, Israel remains so confident in its military defensive capacity and never develops an equally strong strategic capacity to confront the far greater and more insidious danger of culture wars.

Second, America stays soft on Iran, allowing the latter to better resource its proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria.

Third, every few years, Iran incites rocket attacks against Israel in order to present Israel’s response as genocidal Israeli aggression.

Fourth, that message gets traction in the West because it resonates well with critical race theory and the idea of “Israeli apartheid”.

Fifth, reading the public mood, a future Democratic administration in Washington gradually cuts Israel off. This may take 10 to 15 years, but Israel would be a sitting duck, and its Jews forced out of the Middle East into a great new global diaspora.

Some Jews and Israelis will say this cannot happen.

I’m afraid the things that cannot happen do happen more often than they should.

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