by Brian on November 19, 2023

in In the News,Politics,The Old Country,War in Gaza

“Betrayal.” That’s how Shimrit Meir, who served as a senior advisor to prime minister Naftali Bennett, described her feelings following the surge of antisemitic speeches, letters, marches and violence that has erupted around the world in the aftermath of the October 7 “Black Sabbath” attack in Israel.

Shimrit Meir

Meir, who was interviewed on the Unholy: Two Jews on the News podcast, was under no illusions that the empathy towards Israel displayed by the world immediately following Hamas’s atrocities would last once the IDF began pounding the Gaza Strip.

Still, she didn’t expect the embrace to be so brief.

Hamas’s attack was, after all, an attack unlike any other, with the terrorists documenting their pogrom on cell phones and GoPros and uploading it to the Internet in real time. If the Nazis had modern technology, I’m not sure they would have the audacity to live stream their atrocities; they worked hard to conceal their genocide. 

But there’s no denying what Hamas perpetrated on Simchat Torah – it’s all out there for anyone with a strong stomach to see.

But deny it is exactly what has been happening.

From Queen Rania of Jordan, who told CNN there’s “no evidence” that Hamas murdered babies and children, to pro-Palestinian protesters in the U.S. and Europe who place the blame entirely on the Israeli side. 

A poll conducted by CAPS/Harris found that 32% of young adults 18-to-24-years-old do not believe Hamas killed 1,400 Israelis. Nearly half of the same age group remain convinced that it was an Israeli air strike that hit the Al-Ahli Hospital, despite evidence from multiple sources pointing to a misfired rocket from Gaza itself.

The result has been quick and heartbreaking: On campuses across the U.S., Jews are feeling unsafe.

Israeli poet Maya Tenet Dayan was in San Diego for a teaching residency. 

“I don’t like being an Israeli in California right now,” she wrote in Haaretz. “I feel an existential threat. I’m frightened to say where I come from. I’m frightened that someone will hear my children speaking Hebrew in the street. Most of the time, I’m helpless, because how do you even begin to explain? I talk with people who have no idea where Israel is on the map yet their opinion on it is unshakable.”

“What shocked me,” political commentator Andrew Sullivan added, “was the vivid and genuine expressions of solidarity with the mass murderers — even as their atrocities were in front of our eyes. That requires real ideological commitment, to repress every human impulse of empathy.”

What has happened to humanity’s moral compass? Why is it so hard for people to condemn outright evil when it comes to the Jews, to say clearly, as philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris did, “There are not many bright lines that divide good and evil in our world, but this is one of them.”

The explanation lies in “cognitive-dissonance reduction,” Shany Mor, a lecturer at Reichman University in Herzliya, wrote in The Wall Street Journal

Cognitive dissonance occurs when what one experiences in the real-world conflicts with a long-held internal belief. It’s unpleasant, so people try to minimize it, Mor explained.

Cognitive dissonance reduction, then, is “the process by which people reconcile new information that contradicts their firmly held priors. The result is an ostensibly coherent system of thought.”

By applying cognitive dissonance reduction, politicians, journalists and everyday antisemites are able to ignore the fact “that Hamas’s belligerence is the cause [not the consequence] of Israel’s blockade of Gaza,” Mor wrote.

So, if missiles are being fired and innocent civilians are abducted, if Israel is, according to anti-Zionist activists, the epitome of evil, then the attacks must be Israel’s fault, not the Palestinians’, who are denied even a modicum of agency.

“Hamas’s gruesome attack poses a threat to this worldview, and the only way to resolve it is by heightening Israel’s imagined malevolence. The terrorist atrocities don’t trigger a recoiling from the cause in whose name they were carried out; they lead to an even greater revulsion at the victim,” Mor explained.

Moreover, Mor continued, “If the only thing that can explain a Palestinian action is Israeli ‘evil,’ then Israel’s opponents have to imagine a level of Jewish evil commensurate with what Hamas did—shooting children in front of their parents, setting houses on fire with residents inside, raping women.

When it is forbidden to criticize murderers or the society that created them, Mor concluded, “all that is left is to defame the victims.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid wants to ask the terrorist-supporting global far-left, “Do your feelings exempt you from knowing the facts? Do you know, for example, that Hamas doesn’t support a two-state solution? They don’t even want to free Palestine. And what about LGBT people? Do you really not care that the people you’re supporting hang gays?”

Logic, it seems, is unable to counter the intense urgency to reduce cognitive dissonance. 

Shalom Hartman Institute fellow Dr. Micah Goodman says that Israelis’ burning desire for acceptance helps fuel the problem. 

“We want love and we want fear,” Goodman explained. “We want love from the West. We want fear from the Middle East” to restore deterrence against our enemies. 

The problem is that it’s a zero-sum game. “Everything that we are going to do to restore the fear is going to erode the love,” Goodman noted.

What will happen next? Will Israel prevail? Who will govern Gaza once Hamas is gone? Will this lead to a massive shake-up of the governments on both sides – and beyond? 

One thing that is, sadly, all too known is that the theme of Dara Horn’s latest bookThe World Loves Dead Jews, is no longer just a catchy title. It’s a reality we tried to ignore, one which we cannot – and should not – have to endure, and yet which the Jewish people, betrayed once again, will continue to bear for eternity.

I first wrote about my feelings of betrayal for The Jerusalem Post.

Image from Shimrit Meir’s profile on X.

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