Rob Rinder

As Israel fights, our duty is to deploy reason, facts and hope

Every one of us has to transform into powerful advocates for our people, our values and the state of Israel

October 24, 2023 14:55

I don’t know what the opposite of a trigger warning is, but here’s mine: the following column will (I hope) try to be calm and reasonable in tone, even as it sets out why we must fight for the right of Israel to exist.  Those who want other types of language — red-faced, BOLD CAPS, furious stuff — look away now.

There’s enough of that online.

That’s not to say that I’ve not felt anger, or spent two of the most sorrowful and anguished weeks of my life.  So have most of us.  The days since the atrocities of Simchat Torah have been filled with more grief, more rage, more desperation than is possible to describe. The prose, poetry and even the prayers of our community cannot justly express it.

Not only that, but it’s been combined with an isolation that’s never seemed more acute, and that unique (near impossible to share) sense of how this particular sort of hatred towards us feels.  It twangs on the rawest thread of our DNA, plucks the darkest chord of an instrument played for millennia.

Sure, some have supported Israel. Nevertheless, there’s still the despair when we see just how many haven’t.  There’s also this extraordinary sense abroad, dark and threatening, that we Jews are somehow obliged to explain why we shouldn’t be treated this way.  Just as we seek comfort in our grief, the burden suddenly falls on us to justify our safety, to make an argument for our very existence.   

I hear the question — I ask it myself — why should we have to make the case?  Would other communities who’ve experienced injustices of this magnitude be forced to argue for themselves like this?  To be compelled to explain, while still mourning, why they shouldn’t be the victims of terror?  Of course not.  But we must.  It’s what we have always done.

Every one of us has to transform into powerful advocates for our people, our values and the state of Israel, and we have to do it while still reeling from the horror of Hamas’s barbarism and while praying for all the innocent people of the region.

Of course, constructing arguments is threaded deeply into our faith and history; as every Jewish mother knows, we’re all potential lawyers (and some might cross-qualify as doctors).  It stretches back to Aaron being Moses’s advocate and forward to Dame Ingrid Simler being appointed to the UK Supreme Court just last week. In fact, one of the great legal figures of my lifetime — the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — was a proud Jew.  I’ve thought a good deal recently of her struggles with prejudice, and the poise and charity with which she faced them.

She emphasised how important it was not to be consumed by anger. That, she said, will only “zap energy and waste time”.  Instead, one has to focus on solidly and convincingly making one’s case.  Now is the hardest moment of all to be reasonable, to be hopeful, to be considerate — but that is what we have to be.

Because there can be nobody in the country who has their mind changed by the shouting and screaming of protesters calling for “freedom… from the river to the sea”. That can’t be our way. Just when it seems tougher than ever, we need to be resilient and clear-headed.

“Fight for the things that you care about,” said Ginsburg, “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

How do we do that? We must be prepared to listen and to hear. Even when the most despicable comments are made, being able to acknowledge you’ve calmly heard them is key.

Then, there are facts. We all have to know and deploy them. Whether it’s the nature of international law or the name of a child taken hostage or a Holocaust survivor slaughtered, or Magen David Adom providing blood for Israelis and Palestinians alike, or our love of life and prayers for peace for all peoples of that region.  We have to have these facts and examples ready.

Many will not want to engage, but perhaps one in a hundred will walk away with a better understanding of the real complexities of the situation, and that is the start.

In that way, slowly but surely, we can and must win the hearts and minds of the enemies of long-term peace. For even as this task seems impossible, we must never abandon hope. Because our hope is what they came for and we can’t ever let them take it.

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October 24, 2023 14:55

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