A month after the savagery, the new assault is on memory. And some Jews are part of the problem.
Some Israeli progressives are saying "we're done" when it comes to advocating for Gazans. And some American progressives will erase history to preserve relationships that probably don't even exist.
We begin with memory —
with what Israel is doing to preserve it, and what others are doing, for whatever reason, to uproot it.
We continue with a message from a leading Israeli progressive who has changed his views—something that did not happen after any of the previous Gaza wars. What changed this time? A video from a Hamas leader we’ll see below.
And finally, if you recall the story of Inbal Liberman, the 25 year old woman credited with saving her kibbutz, you’re not alone. She’s a bit of a phenom, and at the end of today’s post, we’ve translated a portion of an interview with her to give you a sense of what some of these young people are made of.
For now, we turn to memory.
Prior to World War II, the Jewish population of Vienna was about 200,000 people, and growing. Among many other projects, told us friends who’ve just returned from some extended time there, the community built a huge residence for the aged.
Then came the Holocaust, and most of Viennese Jewry was wiped out. A smaller community still exists (it’s said to be about 8,000 people at present), so the home for the aged is far too big for the community’s needs. To make ends meet, therefore, the home has opened its door to the elderly no matter what their religion or ethnicity.
Which means, because this is Austria, that among the residents of the home, there are some Holocaust survivors living alongside some very aged Nazi perpetrators.
“That must be intense,” I said to the person telling us all of this, trying to imagine what that must be like.
“Not really,” she said. “Many of them have lost their memories—so they just smile at each other as they shuffle down the hall.”
We’ll come back to Vienna.
Even as it conducts a war in Gaza, with the possibility of the conflict spreading to Hezbollah in the north, to Syria, to Yemen and even beyond, Israel is now also engaged in a battle over memory.
That, of course, has always been the case. That’s why archeology is such a central Israeli endeavor, and why Palestinians have long denied any Jewish historical attachment to the Land of Israel.
Yasser Arafat was the expert at the “it never happened” take on history. As is well known, he denied that there had ever been a Temple in Jerusalem, his point being that the Jews had not come home, but were, instead, interlopers just like the Crusaders—and just like the Crusaders, they’d eventually be gone.
A comment by Dennis Ross in his excellent The Missing Peace is almost funny, though he certainly did not intend it to be so. (Make sure to read Ross’ superb recent column. in the New York Times, I Might Have Once Favored a Cease-Fire With Hamas, but Not Now.) Ross, who in addition to many other roles, served with distinction as Middle East Envoy under President Bill Clinton, said to Arafat:
Mr. Chairman, regardless of what you think, the President of the United States knows that the Temple existed in Jerusalem. If he hears you denying its existence there, he will never again take you seriously. My advice to you is never again raise this issue in his presence.
Arafat, though, stopped making that argument only when he died. And Mahmoud Abbas picked up the thread, making precisely the same absurd claim.
The world, of course, pretended not to hear or to understand what the strategy was really about. And now, all those people—in New York, Los Angeles, on college campuses throughout the US, in London and more—who are ripping down the posters of the children, women and elderly now being held hostage in Gaza are joining the Arafats and Abbas’ of the world. For they know that one way to attack the Jews is to erase memory.
How does one explain the Jews on the Upper West Side, carrying their Zabars bags, walking along West End Avenue ripping down the posters? (I spoke to a person who witnessed this.) Fine—they oppose the war against Hamas. I get that.
But to oppose Israel’s actions, one has to deny the memory of what happened?
Actually, yes, you do. Because if the memory of October 7 moves you or shakes you, then it’s harder to deny Israel the right to do what it needs to in order to ensure that its citizens don’t live that way any longer.
In what must be the height of irony, those seeking to preserve memory have an ally in the form of Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, who in this MEMRI video that has gone viral, declares that what Hamas did on October 7, they will do over, and over, and over again … until Israel is gone.
A friend of mine here in Jerusalem, whose father was a survivor of Auschwitz, has told me many times that his father used to say to him, “When a non-Jew tells you he’s going to kill you, believe him.”
We do believe Ghazi Hamad. That’s why we’re intent on destroying Hamas.
Now, speaking of things we need to remember, take a look at these photos below. Who are these men weeping? Why is the guy in the lower photo leaning against the wall, almost unable to stand up? What is so wrong that those women have to come to his aid?
The men in these photos are Members of Knesset. Yesterday, a few dozen MK’s were shown videos of what happened on October 7. It’s the stuff we haven’t seen. As bad as what many of us have seen is, this was apparently much worse. The MK’s were not allowed to bring their phones into the meeting. They were not allowed to bring staff.
The Knesset reportedly even stationed a physician at the door, who recommended that they take tranquilizers before viewing the footage—the doctor had the meds to give out on the spot. Most of them refused.
It’s not yet clear exactly what they saw—I imagine we’ll hear more in the days to come. But they are said to have seen children begging for their lives before they were slaughtered.
But also much worse than that, some are reporting. What could be worse?
The assault on memory is coming from every direction. It is so vile that even President Isaac Herzog, about as soft-spoken a man as one is likely to ever see in Israeli leadership, had had more than enough in an interview with the BBC.
When you watch this clip, you’ll quickly see why the BBC decided not to run it. (It runs about 4 minutes—the first three minutes are the critical part).
Israelis are facing an unfolding crisis, but also an important opportunity to rebuild. If you would like to share our conversation about what they are feeling and what is happening that the English press can’t cover, please subscribe today.
And now, another assault on memory.
I know next to nothing about the organization that sent out the message below. And forging partnerships between Jews and Muslims in America is certainly a noble endeavor. So I assume that the people involved are genuinely well-intended.
But I’ve lost count of how many friends in the US sent me the statement below. Read it, and ask yourself where it stands in the “assault on memory” battle.
Thousands of people “lost their lives.” How, exactly, did they “lose their lives”? Was there an earthquake? A tsunami? A volcanic eruption? Covid?
They didn’t “lose their lives” at all. We’ll come back to that. And we’ll see what Gershon Baskin, an Israeli progressive who has worked with Palestinians—and even with Hamas, to help free Gilat Shalit—now has to say to and about Hamas.
Oh, speaking of Hamas, do they appear in this message from newground?
So, there’s no Hamas. And by the way, in which country did these unfortunate people “love their lives”? Oops, no mention of Israel, either.
The first 1400 people to die in the conflict did not “lose their lives.” They were murdered, butchered. Raped. Beheaded. Killed in front of their living parents. Murdered in front of their living children. Burned beyond recognition. There are videos of Hamas barbarians arguing over who “gets” to behead a victim.
No Israel. No Hamas. Just “lost their lives.”
If building bridges requires that kind of intentional amnesia, who needs it?
Gershon Baskin, an Israeli, is as much of a progressive as any of his American progressive counterparts. For years, he has cultivated relationships with Palestinians. He has been very critical of Israel’s conduct of its previous wars with Hamas. He helped negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit, and as a result, got to know members of Hamas, some of whom he is/was still in touch with.
But no one who gets what this country is about is going to be complicit in the erasing of memory. So here is what Baskin had to say to Ghazi Hamad after he saw the MEMRI video clip we showed above.
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