The Time of Our Freedom?

Today is the thirtieth Sabbath of the Gaza War. It is also the Sabbath of Passover, the holiday called z’man cherutenu—the time of our freedom—since it celebrates the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. This comes from the Haggadah, the service read at the Passover seder, or sacred—and ordered—meal.

The service also contains the words, “In each generation they have stood against us to destroy us.” So many generations. So many different they’s. The Haggadah in some form has existed for at least two thousand years, and I don’t know when these exact words first appeared, but they are the same in my facsimile edition of The Copenhagen Haggadah of 1739, exactly two centuries before the Holocaust. And my friend Dr. Shlomit Finkelstein found the same words in a Haggadah dated to the late 1330s in Catalonia.

Thus, centuries before the Holocaust, before even the Cossack attempted genocide against Jews in 1648, Jews said every Passover, “In each generation they have stood against us to destroy us.” In this generation, the grotesque mass atrocities committed against Jews by Hamas—who soon promised to do the same a thousand times, as their charter pledges them to do—easily serve to confirm the Haggadah’s grim words. (For details of what Hamas did, see my description and this moving film starring Sheryl Sandberg.)

In the past week or two, US college campuses have imploded with demonstrations and encampments in favor of Palestinians and often Hamas, and virulently anti-Israel and often antisemitic. I say imploded rather than exploded because although they have spread throughout the country, they are implosive because they have mainly damaged themselves. Many have crossed the line from free speech to illegal action, inviting local and state police suppression. Ironically, they have risen up just as deaths in Gaza have reached their lowest levels ever. (See chart.)

Deaths in Gaza as counted by Hamas’s Health Ministry and reported by the UN (OCHA).

Refusal to vacate after repeated warnings has resulted in hundreds of arrests, not always gentle. Some of the activists arrested have had no affiliation with the institutions where they joined students and faculty in testing if not breaking the law. Some universities have cancelled their graduation ceremonies, switched to online classes, and gotten severe criticism from both left and right. We will see administrators resign, donors defect, and Congressional representatives call for an end to government funding.

The student activists compare themselves to the anti-Vietnam war movement and believe they will succeed in getting similar results. Since I was in the leadership of that movement in two different universities, let me point out a few differences.

We believed that the US government was lying to us, and we were proved right. These students believe that Israel is lying and Hamas is telling the truth, while the opposite will be proved true soon. Hundreds of young Americans were dying every week in Vietnam, while not one US soldier has set foot in Gaza.

We understood that Americans would lose faith in the logic of making these sacrifices to protect a small country on the other side of the world. Israel is facing an existential, explicitly genocidal threat on its own borders. Vietnamese who were killed numbered in the millions, while Gazans killed—although tragic—number in the thousands. Israel is also a small faraway place, but most Americans believe, with most politicians in both parties, that facilitating its defense is in our interests, and it is very, very inexpensive.

I wonder how these campus activists will face the anger of thousands of students who had their high school graduations cancelled by Covid and now will have their college graduations spoiled or cancelled by leftist antics. I wonder how many of these true believers will be willing to spend the summer in those encampments. I predict that they will fade away.

But whether they do or not, they will live to see Israel thanked by the nations of the region and the world for disempowering Hamas, and even thanked by the Palestinians long held captive by Hamas. Gaza will be rebuilt as a normal economy and society instead of a terror enclave.

Iran on the other hand will live to see its biggest nightmare: the loss of one of its terror colonies; a greatly strengthened alliance between Israel and the Arab states; and vigorous cooperation between that alliance and Europe, not to mention the US.

I hope Iran learned something by launching 300 drones and missiles at Israel, only to have 99 percent of them intercepted by the joint air forces of the US, the UK, France, Israel, and Jordan, which filled the skies with amazing speed and coordination. The G-7, meeting at the time, condemned Iran, as did many other countries. This is a taste of what Iran will face in its future attacks on Israel. The students can whine and groan and bite their knuckles, but they can’t lead America or the world to abandon Israel.

Antisemitism will still be there—it always will be—and Jews will face an enemy in every generation. But the current wave of it will die down as the positive results of the Gaza war become apparent to the world.

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