“These are the times that try men’s souls: I call not upon a few, but upon all: … Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it.….” COMMON SENSE, December 23, 1776
We are sickened and saddened by the Hamas atrocities of this past week. There is no reason to go into the brutality of the videos posted by the perpetrators: of a massacre at a music festival or a dead naked woman’s body being desecrated, of the horror of beheadings and dead women, children, and elderly. That which Israel has been looking to avoid has become unavoidable, and world opinion, which is with Israel now, will dissipate. This war that was forced upon Israel will take months, not weeks.
In addition to the standing army, Israel has called more than 300,000 men to reserve duty. This war will cost Israel dearly: it will harm the economy, people will be physically and emotionally wounded, and many will die. People will put their their lives on hold for months. No one is asking that of us, but we are not helpless, and we must move beyond our depression and our social media posts. We know it will take only one bad headline for antisemites in Europe and the U.S. to be back in force. It is already very bad on college campuses. The media won’t be far behind.
Israel is facing the most dangerous time since the Yom Kippur War. But despite all the ominous news there remains potential for a political solution, for peace and stability in the region and security for Israel. This hope rests on Israeli strength and on the relationship between the United States and Israel.
And it rests on something else: On our commitment to keep the U.S.-Israel relationship strong.
America’s support for Israel cannot be taken for granted and is needed in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, in the wider Middle East, and in the United Nations.
That is why your support for organizations like AIPAC, NORPAC, and JINSA is so important — whether it is with your money or by showing up to events locally and in Washington. We must do our part to ensure that America stands with Israel.
That is why it will be critical to call the media and others to account when they talk about cycles of violence, moral equivalence, and the bigoted assumption that Palestinians cannot be expected to take any responsibility for their actions or attitudes. That is why your support for organizations like HONEST REPORTING and your taking the time to write letters and speak up publicly is so important. We must hold the media, ourselves, and others to intellectual honesty, moral clarity, and factual accuracy.
How does this happen? With single acts of leadership and commitment. Over 20 years ago, after attending an AIPAC conference, I wrote about two moving stories of such leadership.
Twenty years ago it was also difficult to be a pro-Israel activist on campus. When Inbal Baum, a junior at UC Berkeley, woke up for her Tuesday morning class, she imagined it would be like any other walk to class. Instead, she was met by 50 students wearing mock Israeli army uniforms, who had transformed Berkeley’s Sather Gate into an Israeli military checkpoint to protest what they called Israeli apartheid. “Are you Israeli?” they screamed at Inbal and hundreds of students trying to enter the gate.” Many students halted, not sure what to do. Some stood in tears. Inbal had a choice. She could step aside — or she could step forward. Inbal chose to lead and walk through that gate. She refused to let fear overtake her. Instead, she became an activist. She organized a series of teach-ins to educate her peers about the situation and challenges facing Israel. In place of slogans shouted through a bullhorn, instead of intimidation, she brought speakers to campus, wrote letters to the editor, and brought nine other campus leaders with her to lobby in Washington.
Wouldn’t you be proud if she were your child? Will your child be proud of you?
Some 3,000 miles from Berkeley, also 20 years ago, Jeff Snyder continued with his Jewish communal work. He has served as chairman of the Young Leadership Cabinet in his local Federation. But he had always shied away from political involvement. Watching the news reports as a new intifada raged, he, like Inbal, made a decision. He faced a choice — and he stepped forward. Jeff wrote to about 200 people throughout the nation whom he knew from his work, asking them to fly to Washington for an emergency summit. “Israel is in crisis,” he wrote. “We need to form a cadre of leaders to work with new members of Congress.”
More than 70 young professionals put their careers and families on hold and flew to Washington with very little notice to become part of an effort to ensure that every freshman and sophomore member of Congress had a pro-Israel liaison to help them wade through the complex issues affecting the U.S.-Israel relationship. It would have been easy for him to watch the news, shake his head, and take comfort in the many charitable endeavors he was already a part of. But it takes leadership to say, “I am not doing enough. I have kids, work, and many obligations — I can’t even count how many obligations — but for all that I am doing, I am not doing enough.”
The expectations put upon us are not like those put on other people. But then Israel is not like other countries. While it has the full measure of crime, and traffic, and pettiness of any modern country, it is also a dream etched in rock and earth — carved through the courage of ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things. The days ahead will challenge that dream.
And so, as they have before, the people of Israel will rise to the challenge. So must we. Get involved in any way you can. For me, the best way to do that is through Congress. There is no more influential body with which we can be so effective. And so I will make local events a priority, and will make one more trip to Washington, and then another and another, and hope when my children look back, they will be proud.
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David Schlussel of Teaneck is chairman emeritus of NORPAC and a former political outreach chair of AIPAC.