The Oct. 7 horrific murders and the extraordinary anti-Israeli outbursts afterward on U.S. campuses and elsewhere both aim to delegitimize Israel. Physically and verbally, Jews and Israel are attacked by those who believe that Jews are not a people and do not deserve self-determination. These are antisemitic acts at their worst. What should we learn from this outbreak of hate? Of course, we have to remember forever those who were traumatized as a result of Oct. 7.
Jews should accept a harsh reality. We have accomplished a great deal over the last 75 years in Israel and in the Diaspora, but accomplishments and achievements do not equate with total and irreversible civic and political equality. Earning Nobel Prizes, making endless contributions to modern civilization, boasting a massive Israeli GDP and succeeding in so many fields have not translated into unequivocal equality.
Ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a two-state solution is not going to make antisemitism disappear, nor is it going to induce most Muslim and Arab Middle Eastern populations not to wish for Israel’s disappearance. When the chant “From the river to the sea” appears in marches on U.S. campuses and has for years in Arabic newspapers, no one is referring just to the lands that Israel acquired in the June 1967 war.
The disastrously toxic combination of philosophical hate driven by limitless access to petrodollars must be neutralized. Zionism succeeded because we took destiny into our own hands. Israel and Jews in the Diaspora will survive and with distinction if we collectively rebuild our strategic deterrence, if we adjust our governing institutions so they can readily accept change in priorities, if we choose leaders who are not mesmerized by their own grandeur, if we rededicate ourselves to taking pride in learning our own story, and if, we relentlessly message that story.
The vial of actionable engagement must last way beyond eight days, it must last for lifetimes to come.
Ken Stein, PhD is the emeritus professor of Emory’s Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli studies, he is also president of the Center for Israel Education.