It Can Happen Here

It Can Happen Here


Leonard Zwelling

It is hard to explain to my non-Jewish friends the depth of the fear and rage engendered by the events in Israel of October 7.

First, as I recently wrote, this massacre has erased a fifty-year delusion (conceptzia) that Israel was impervious to terrorism across its border in Gaza. There’s also a wall around a great deal of the West Bank that has prevented incursions from Palestinian terrorists who would harm Israelis citizens, but that wall does not stop conflict between Israeli West Bank settlers and Palestinians. Certainly, during our visits to Israel, particularly recently, most Israelis tolerated the existence of the Palestinians on their borders, but didn’t really give the people or their plight a second thought. But we saw the poverty and despair in the Ramallah refugee camp. The violence emanating from Gaza should have been anticipated if the Israeli government was more worried about security and less worried about expanding the settlements and neutering the Supreme Court. This is not to say that such depraved violence can ever be excused. It cannot. But it must be understood or there is no hope to ever ending it. This hatred has been taught to the young of Gaza who are susceptible to it, because they have lost hope for tomorrow and Hamas will stop at nothing short of eradicating all Jews.

Second, in the end, we Jews have nowhere else to go as Golda Meir told Joe Biden many years ago. The ultimate lesson of the Holocaust is that we Jews are safe nowhere. We have been persecuted everywhere, including here in the United States. Charlottesville made it clear that there are still Nazis after us here.

And, as Gary Saul Morson writes in The Wall Street Journal on October 19, “Dostoevsky Knew: It Can Happen Here,” “it is the human condition to be susceptible to evil and once that susceptibility is traversed, evil deeds are not far behind.”

As Dostoevsky wrote in The Possessed,

“And therein lies the real horror that…one can commit the foulest and most villainous without in the least being a villain! And this happens…all over the world, since time began.”

One hundred years later, Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote,

“Ideology –that is what gives evil-doing its long-sought justification and gives the evil-doer the necessary steadfastness and determination…so that he won’t hear reproaches and curse but receive praise and honors.”

Finally, we Jews fear what is happening on college campuses where there are pro-Palestinian demonstrations blaming Israel for the atrocities of October 7. One can intellectually grasp the viewpoint of the Arab Palestinians without blaming this horrific violence on the victims.

What scares the hell out of any thinking Jew is being reduced to a stereotype and then persecuted for being Jewish. This is happening now and it is also happening in the Muslim-American community where a 6-year old boy can be stabbed by his landlord simply because he was Muslim

The current climate in America scares me. There is tolerance among the left for true evil by Hamas and excusing it by blaming the victims. Those extremists are just as frightening as those on the right who adore Mr. Trump and his populist, anti-immigrant (his family came here from somewhere), anti-Muslim rhetoric. He’s against Muslims now, when will he focus on the Jews despite so many Jews who back him. His MAGA voters want no part of us.

But, the thing that I am most worried about is that despite Mr. Biden’s nice words, there is no real leadership that will protect us here and now there is a threat to the only place else we can go.

Empathy for the victims of all of this violence, including those in Gaza, is appropriate. When is someone going to articulate a real solution that preserves the Jewish state and allows the Palestinians to thrive in Gaza and on the West Bank?

When I hear someone lay out a real plan or even a process to get to a plan, I might feel better. Until then, I don’t sleep so well.

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