Co-authored by Atara Friedland
WARNING: Sensitive Content
To all those who didn’t email me the week of October 7th to ask if I and my family are okay.
To all those who won't address it for fear of upsetting people.
To all those who say we can’t talk about it because we’re sponsored by xyz agency and they might get offended.
To all those who are acting professionally by not ruffling feathers.
This is for you.
Not another Holocaust
Something doesn’t sit right with me when I hear people saying that this is the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. This isn’t another Holocaust. This attack is something else. The Holocaust was about mass, systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing (the kind where, with intention, one group of people is targeted for complete annihilation). This was much more similar to a Pogrom. There were all the standard, old methods of torture, such as cutting the fetus from the womb of a mother, stabbing it, and only then shooting her in the head in front of her other children; killing children in front of parents and parents in front of children; shooting children until they begged to be killed; decapitating and dismembering people, including children; burning people alive; putting babies in their own kitchen ovens; raping girls next to their dead friends; and everything else you would imagine in a standard Pogrom on Jews - all of this is verifiable on the internet either through videos released by Hamas themselves, or by reports from witnesses or members of the press who were allowed to view the footage that the bereaved families requested not be released publicly. But this wasn't exactly like the Pogroms of Europe, either. This Pogrom was filmed by the terrorists themselves - they wanted the world to know. This Pogrom included completely unique forms of torture, such as sending video footage of the murders to family members via social media and taking over 240 hostages, including Holocaust survivors and infants. The number of hostages keeps changing as we are still identifying our dead, which is difficult when there is burning, decapitation, and dismemberment.
This is not another Holocaust because, actually, this is something new.
"Again is now"?
The Name Palestine: Sixty years after the destruction of the Second Temple of the Jews on the Temple Mount by the Roman Empire, the Jewish people rebuilt. The Romans wanted to disconnect the Jews from the land, which had previously been called Judea, so they renamed it Palestina. It remained known by some form of this name throughout history while it passed from one empire to the next.
History of the Land: As far as any documentation I’ve seen shows, the Palestinian people started in the 20th century. There are no references to Palestinian rulers or government, no mention in letters throughout history prior to that of meeting Palestinians, no Palestinian artifacts discovered in archaeological digs or any other indication that there was some united group called "Palestinians" before the 1900s.
On the other hand, Jews have had a well-documented presence in Israel for over 3,000 years. Even after they were exiled and lost autonomy of the land with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Jews maintained a continuous presence in the land. In archaeological excavations in Israel today, Jewish books and Jewish artifacts are found. Jerusalem is mentioned over 600 times in the Jewish Bible, the Torah. It is not mentioned once in the Quran.
Independence: In 1947, the UN suggested the Partition Plan, borders dividing the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews agreed, even though the division would mean allowing 450,000 Arabs to remain in the Jewish portion of the state. The Arabs said no to this plan. As soon as it was ratified, they started a war to wipe out the Jews and reclaim “their” land. They began this war by killing a bus full of civilians. After 15 months of fighting, the Jews won the war. Many Palestinian people died or fled as a result of this war. Some were forced out of their homes by Israelis. There is no denying these facts. It is important to note these sad events occurred because Palestinians rejected the international community's two-state plan and started a war to make sure the Jews would not be able to live in peace under that plan.
Two States: The Palestinian people have been explicit throughout the past century that they do not want an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. They want a Palestinian state that completely replaces Israel. This is the meaning of the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” referring to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which is the entirety of Israel. They rejected all offers made to them from 1947. In 2008, when the Israeli Prime Minister offered them all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as their capital, they rejected this offer as well.
In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, forcefully removing 9,000 of their own citizens and leaving behind greenhouses and cultivated farmland. Where are those greenhouses now? Gone. The farms? Gone. The Palestinians looted them after the Israelis left - they used the water pipes to create rockets, which they fired into Israel. Gaza borders Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, and Egypt. Both Israel and Egypt are careful about the borders with Gaza and monitor who and what enters and exits those borders because Gaza is governed by Hamas, a terrorist organization. Many Arab Muslim countries in the region can absorb Palestinians who do not want to live in Israel or Gaza, and many Gazans have emigrated in recent years, but Hamas bureaucracy makes this difficult.
Ethnic Cleansing: Jews in Arab Muslim countries, such as Morocco, Egypt, and Iran, experienced ethnic cleansing in the last century. This means that, in 1948, many Arab Muslim countries had large Jewish populations, but today, they have close to no Jews.
Refugees: Arab Muslim countries have kicked 2 million Christians out of their countries, but for some reason, the Western world doesn’t seem particularly interested in them. The UN has two organizations for refugees - one for the millions of refugees worldwide, and one just for Palestinian refugees, the UNWRA. Another anomaly - Palestinian refugee status is handed down from generation to generation, whereas most refugees’ children and grandchildren in the rest of the world are not considered refugees. For example, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are not considered refugees.
Aid: The UNWRA was created in 1949 and has funneled billions of dollars in aid from the international community toward the Palestinians over the past 70 years. The Palestinian people get more money in aid than any other group of people from the US, the European Union, Arab countries, or the UN. Much of the aid given to the Palestinians has been invested in terror, building tunnels, and buying weapons. This aid has not been used toward building Palestinian infrastructure, which is why they do not have access to their own systems for electricity, water, or fuel despite all the aid they receive, and they continue to rely on Israel to supply them with these systems.
Apartheid: Arab Israelis enjoy full legal rights, just like all Israelis. Arab Israelis work in hospitals, offices, stores, public and private settings, and the army, if they choose. They receive standard Israeli medical care and education.
The Solution: This conflict is not actually about the land since the Palestinian people have not accepted any proposed solution, and their slogan, by definition, is about wiping out the entire Jewish people, also known as genocide. They refer to their suggested solution as the Final Solution, which is a familiar concept to Jews. The Hamas constitution is clear in its goal, which is to eliminate Israel.
Antisemitism: Hamas' Final Solution also speaks to the reason people conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism: those who wish to destroy Israel also are explicit about their wish to destroy Jews. On the topic, antisemitism is a term used to describe discrimination against Jews. Therefore, even though Arab Muslims may also have semitic origins, that is irrelevant to the use of the term. Further, even if a Jewish person discriminates against Jews, it is still referred to as antisemitism.
Proportionality: The only time proportionality is discussed in war is when it comes to Israel, which only ever engages in war when it is attacked by one of its neighbors. There is no proportionate response to mass rape, torture, abduction, and murder of civilians. If there were one, though, I'd imagine it would at least include ensuring that they wouldn't do it again. That is Israel's only goal - to ensure its people's safety in the face of the threat of genocide (reminder that genocide means killing a group of people with intention to destroy the entire group). This is why Israel is more likely to actually #freepalestine before anyone else is, since it is working tirelessly to destroy the actual Palestinian oppressors - Hamas.
Terrorism: Palestinian people are not the same as Hamas, the terror organization. If, however, Palestinian people support Hamas through celebrations of their terror acts, giving out candies in the streets when Jews are killed by them, voting them into power, and speaking out in favor of Hamas, then we have to believe that the majority of them support Hamas. War is a terrible thing. Innocent people end up dead. That is painful and sad and we should pray for days of peace and safety for all. And that doesn’t mean that terrorists should be allowed free reign. The Nazis argues that they would have been killed if they didn’t fulfill the orders of their superiors. I like to believe that the majority of the world still holds the Nazis accountable for their actions.
It’s essential to understand the danger of inaccuracies in representing this information. To be abundantly clear, fake news means dead Jews. Fake news surrounding this topic means anger and incitement for people encouraged to violence on the basis of religion. Thus, inaccuracies in representing information become physically dangerous, such as what we saw on October 17 in the false reporting of the misfiring of a rocket from within Gaza on a hospital parking lot.
And dead Jews are not a pretty picture for the future of humanity.
I am a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, grew up in NYC during 9/11, and moved to Israel with my family in 2020. Despite the perpetual target on my back, these intersecting identities do not allow me the privilege of identifying as a victim unless I am fully ready to embrace my own grave and allow for “again is now.” By the same logic, Israel is blamed for having a defense system, the Iron Dome, that is successful enough to keep casualties from near-constant rocket fire to a minimum. Near-constant rocket fire is the reason my children can’t have consistent school right now. There isn’t enough room for all of the children in the school’s bomb shelters, and we only have 1.5 minutes from when a siren goes off to get into a shelter before the rocket hits. 1.5 minutes is a lot for Israelis, as many places in Israel have only 1 minute, 45 seconds, or even 15 seconds, which means people cannot leave their homes.
And as sweet as the allure of victimhood is, I’m not ready to embrace it. We prepared for 80 years for the world to remember without us needing to prove our victimhood, and yet it seems to have forgotten. I’m sorry; I don’t mean to be ungrateful for all the outpouring of solidarity from allies around the world. Your support is critical. It’s just tough when we need to keep tiptoeing around the fragility of those who scream for our total annihilation.
Maybe being a white woman isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when it’s used to justify the torture, capture, and murder of your brothers and sisters, giving "context" to a pogrom as it unfolds. Maybe I'm trying to grieve and not even being given that dignity because my right to grieve is being questioned on a global scale. Talk about traumatic invalidation.
Maybe as we throw our love, efforts, and money to support our over 100,000 displaced families from our Northern and Southern borders, we're being accused of not providing aid for our enemies who have used that aid to attack us.
Maybe I’ve heard this story before, and I’m just not impressed. Maybe I feel like throwing up when I think of my tax money being spent on electricity for Hamas to use to terrorize my own family because if we don’t pay for their electricity, we’re causing a humanitarian crisis. I’m still not entirely clear on why they can’t provide their own electricity or get it from any of the other Arab Muslim countries that surround the area. Maybe I didn’t expect any better of humanity because I understood that the place they called home could never truly be the place I could call home. Maybe I’ve been forced to focus on the pain of others while simultaneously being terrorized and ostracized for far too long.
The World Will Know
A song has been playing in my mind since the start of all this. Particularly since I saw Hamas terrorists themselves documenting their brutality and sharing it for all to see. It’s a song from the Disney movie I watched as a kid called “Newsies.” The lyrics that are playing in my mind are:
And the world will know
That this ain't no game
That we got a ton of rotten fruit and perfect aim
So they gave their word?
Well it ain't worth beans!
Now they're gonna see what "Stop the presses" really means
And the day has come
And the time is now
And the fear is gone
…And the world will know
And the world will learn
And the world will wonder how we made the tables turn
And the world will see
That we had to choose
That the things we do today will be tomorrow's news
…And the time is now
And the winds will blow
And our ranks will grow and grow and grow and so
The world will feel the fire and finally know!
Everyone in the world is watching right now. It seems to me they’re either trying not to look, ready to point the finger at the Jews, or fighting for truth because truth is a battleground today. Maybe that’s what’s different now. Maybe now, with all cameras on the Middle East, the world will really know and have total freedom of choice as we all move forward into a new reality, one in which never again truly is now. And who knows what that might look like for the world.
To those who asked how I could post this on my professional website, won’t that be bad for business - how could I possibly not?
Oh, and to those who haven’t emailed, we’re alive. We’re safe, today. But we’re not okay. We are absolutely not okay.