2023 isn’t 1933 // Some things shine amid the darkness

President Joe Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

For the benefit of young’uns reading this, a “telegram” was a primitive sort of email, accessible only at the post office and for which one paid by the word.

That’s the background you need for an old joke about a telegram sent by a Jew to a friend. It read: “Start Worrying. Letter to Follow.”

Worrying is a Jewish thing, reflecting the recognition that nothing should be taken for granted. The wisest of men tells us in Mishlei (28:14): “Fortunate is the man who is always afraid.”

There is much, indeed, to generate anxiety these days. A brazen attack on Jews in Eretz Yisrael by bloodthirsty savages, the resultant war and, Hashem yinkom damam, the casualties among Israeli soldiers. Hundreds of Jews being held hostage. People who seem incapable of understanding that terrorist groups like Hamas are malignant tumors on humanity, in need of excision for the patient to survive. A rise in anti-Semitism worldwide and in our own country. Ivy League students whose ignorance of history and reality is compounded by their mindless embrace of causes du jour, even hateful, murderous ones.

Those who see the specter of 1930s Europe can’t be faulted for that shudder-inducing déjà vu.

At the same time, though, the very mesorah that counsels ongoing angst also insists on hakaras hatov—in its most basic sense: “recognition of the good.” And, chilling parallels to older days notwithstanding, there are, amid all the darkness, things that shine.

Like the administration’s full-throated support for Israel’s determination to destroy Hamas. Reiterated last week by President Biden, speaking to Democratic donors.

While media stressed his report that he warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israel losing international support and decried “indiscriminate bombing” (political bones thrown to less Israel-supportive fellow Democrats—and Arab-American voters in states like Michigan), less reported was Mr. Biden’s concurrent insistence that, despite that warning, “We’re not going to do a thing other than protect Israel in the process. Not a single thing.”

“Nobody, nobody, nobody on G-d’s green Earth,” Mr. Biden continued, “can justify what Hamas did. They’re a brutal, ugly, inhumane people, and they have to be eliminated… There’s no question about the need to take on Hamas. There’s no question about that. None. Zero.”

“Our commitment to Israel,” he added, is “unshakable.”

And, as if to stress that point, the administration later approved the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million. And, despite demands by some in Congress to place conditions on US military aid to Israel, officials said the US has no such plans.

When the presidents of three major universities, asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews constituted bullying and harassment under their schools’ code of conduct, responded with evasiveness and platitudes, a firestorm of outrage came from the administration, Congresspeople from both parties, pundits and the public. One president tendered her resignation, and both she and one of the others issued apologies for their lapses.

The Department of Education is investigating scores of colleges, including Rutgers, Stanford and the University of California, after reports of alleged antisemitic discrimination on their campuses.

Just over a week ago, after the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condoned the Shemini Atzeres terrorist attack, the White House removed the group as a resource in the administration’s National Strategy to Counter Anti-Semitism.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution that “strongly condemns the rise of Anti-Semitism on university campuses around the country.”

Last week in Paris, France hosted an international conference to counter Hamas activity. Over 20 countries participated, discussing the targeting of Hamas’ funding and countering the spread of Hamas propaganda on social media.

And the Swiss parliament voted to cancel the $21 million in annual funding it provides the terror-abetting United Nations Relief Works Agency [UNRWA].

For the first time ever, an official Chanukah celebration took place at London’s Westminster Hall, built in 1097, during the First Crusade. Political leaders across all British parties attended.

When Hitler, ym”sh, assumed power in 1933 and Jew-hatred festered, there was no substantive American or European effort to oppose the Nazis.

Yes, there is ample reason to be fearful today. But there is also reason for hakaras hatov.
No one knows what 2024 will bring. But one thing is certain: 2023 isn’t 1933.

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