To the Editor:
Every Tisha B’av, the national day of communal mourning, Jews read liturgy recounting the horrors of our slaughtered ancestors throughout history and around the world. Every year, our blood runs cold rereading accounts of those nightmares. This year those nightmares became real. Earlier this month, the slaughter in southern Israel has matched the brutality of that liturgy: 1,400 people murdered at a concert, in their cars, in their homes, and nearly 200 taken as hostages. These are scenes we never thought we would see.
We are heartbroken and disgusted by the shocking lack of empathy on much of the self-professed global left for the innocent Israelis who were murdered and kidnapped, and for the Jews in the diaspora who watched helplessly around the world as the most catastrophic slaughter in our history since the Holocaust was perpetrated. For much of the left, however, this was “resistance.” Furthermore, it was “justified,” as if the Jews murdered in their beds and the closets of their own homes somehow deserved to die.
Jews and Palestinians have something in common: the dead bodies commentators around the world either pretend to care about or grotesquely dehumanize were once people we loved. The body count only grows. In the wake of Israeli retaliation the number of civilian Gazan deaths approaches 4,000. We can extrapolate from our own pain, and we recognize the despair and horror haunting Palestinians in and outside of Gaza. Grief should be respected. It would be an expression of gross inhumanity to demand that the Palestinians are only entitled to their grief if they publicly blame the deaths of their loved ones on their leadership.
Jews deserve the same respect and the same degree of empathy. The victims in Israel were civilians. They were not “partisans,” merely because they lived within Israel’s borders. Much of the conversation since the dark events of October 7 has focused on distinguishing Hamas “militants” from innocent Palestinians, a distinction that is real and significant. But why does the same distinction not apply to Israel and its people? Why are Jews living in the Jewish state seen as justifiable collateral damage?
Those who in any way justify the actions of Hamas should consider the macabre tradition in which their rhetoric falls: the mass murder of innocent Jews in cold blood, justifying this mass murder as necessary policy, and celebrating the bloodthirsty evil that is, that has always been, antisemitism. That tradition reached its apex in the Holocaust, an epochal catastrophe that changed the face of Jewish and world history forever but whose legacy is somehow vanishing by the day. The events of October 7 only underscore how much.
David Avrom Bell
Names added after publication:
Phoebe Maltz Bovy
Natalia Mehlman Petrzela
Adrienne Ross Scanlan
Magin LaSov Gregg
Janice R. Levine
Morten Høi Jensen