Jonathan Tobin, editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS), spoke to an August 19th Middle East Forum Webinar (video) about the conclusions we should draw from recent fighting in the Middle East and the latest round of antisemitic and anti-Zionist actions worldwide.
Tobin said the terrorists in Gaza did what they always do, "shot rockets randomly into Israel, attempting to kill, maim, and injure as many Jews or Israelis of any nationality or religion as they could." Israel's Iron Dome system successfully countered the over 1,000 rockets the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) launched from Gaza in response to Israel's arrest of PIJ's leader in the West Bank. In response, Israel limited its attacks to targeted strikes in Gaza, killing PIJ leaders. Tobin said "about half or more of all of the Palestinian civilian casualties" in the three days of missile attacks were "the result of Islamic Jihad rockets, not of Israeli fire into Gaza."
The difference in this round of fighting, he said, was that Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza and shares PIJ's goal of destroying Israel, remained on the sidelines to preserve the "military infrastructure" of its network of tunnels used to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Although PIJ, funded and directed as a member of "the Iranian terror network," was not supported by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Abbas gave a speech in Berlin on the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Olympic massacre, accusing Israel of committing "fifty Holocausts" against Palestinians, which Tobin called "the ultimate chutzpah."
The U.S. and Western European allies, who usually condemn Israel for striking Gaza, were conspicuous in their silence during the latest round of fighting, a tactic they hope will propel Interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid to victory in Israel's November elections, thereby preventing former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's return to power. Notwithstanding that casualties were low, condemnations against Israel were muted and PIJ, which initiated the conflict, was partly responsible for its own civilian casualties, none of these indicators "actually alter[ed] the argument about Israel anywhere in the world."
Despite evidence justifying Israel's self-defense, anti-Israel entities in the U.S. continue to lie and spread propaganda about the Jewish state. Students for Justice in Palestine on American campuses, and squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in Congress, pushed forward with the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement and of other initiatives to destroy Israel. The U.N. Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry continues to accuse Israel of abusing human rights with "the false claim that Israel is an apartheid state."
Tobin said that Jordan and Egypt, despite their peace treaties with Israel, "trotted out the same anti-Israel tropes." Even the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a signatory to the Abraham Accords "where the antisemitic spirit [is] breaking down," argued at the U.N.'s Security Council that Israel caused the conflict because of "Jews going to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the holiest spot in Judaism." Tobin said "the realities of international discourse" are that Palestinian suffering will often "be in some way attributed to Israeli actions," which is "another manifestation of the antisemitism that drives so much of the opposition to Israel."
The U.N.'s activities, one-quarter of which are funded by U.S. taxpayers, make it difficult for Israel "to operate in the international sphere." Tobin said the U.S. should not remain quiet in the face of the U.N.'s "campaign to actually isolate Israel," and Israel's defenders should "try to defund [the U.N.]." Warning that the war against Israel "is not over," Tobin added that American supporters of Israel have a "duty" to "speak up . . . to speak the truth about Israel, to speak the truth about antisemitism, to bear witness to it," and to "make our feelings, our demands, known to our political leaders."
Even though the Abraham Accords have increased Israel's security, he said "the fact remains that the culture of antisemitism throughout the Arab world still compels even governments that have made peace, that wish for good relations, that look to Israel as a bulwark against the country they really fear, which is Iran ... feel compelled to say terrible things about Israel." Arab governments that engage in commerce with Israel and acknowledge that Israel is a "formidable ally for them against Iran" are not democracies. Rather, these "autocracies or kingdoms" have normalized relations with Israel "against the will of most of their people." While we should celebrate the Abraham Accords, they "are not necessarily permanent."
Tobin said arguments defending Israel, such as that its army is "the most moral" in its tactics used to fight terrorism, that "its scientists are brilliant," or any of the other defenses of Israel's actions "by means of its virtues," are distractions from the "main argument." The debate about Israel and Zionism is simply "whether Israel has a right to exist." He said Israel's critics oppose Israel not for "what it does, but for what it is — the one Jewish state on the planet." The persistence of lies and propaganda against Israel after this latest round of fighting revealed the "basic truth" that Israel's enemies, and their "delegitimization" of the basic rights of Jews to their state, are not only anti-Zionism, but "antisemitism in action."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.