The current state of affairs in Israel is full of lessons and truths. The sooner we learn them, the sooner we can stop the attacks.
1. We can stop feeling guilty.
A few good things have come out of the recent wave of terror in the streets of Israel. The first is that the facade that jihadis are somehow struggling for self-determination, social justice, or any other noble idea has been unmasked. It is clear to us now that, unlike what we’ve been urged to believe for the last 30 years, jihadis don’t want peace. They want to annihilate Jews, Judaism, and the State of Israel. This is great news. Because once the pretense is dropped, we stop falling for it and begin unloading the guilty feeling that we are at fault for everything. We drop the idea, for example, that building in Jerusalem or Judea is causing this war. Those few voices who still try to blame the victims sound delusional and their ideas are being debunked. At the same time, there is a realization that within Israel is a hostile minority that simply does not accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state. Clarity is forming, and it will lead to victory.
2. The Jewish fighting spirit is back.
The second good thing is that the Jewish fighting spirit is back on the streets. Men and women, old and young, are responding to terror with defiance. Pepper spray, rolling pins, umbrellas, selfie sticks, kicks, fists, running, and especially shooting — Israelis are shooting bad guys (and gals). Yes, there have been some horrific videos of Jews being gouged as though we’re back in a medieval Polish countryside. But even in those videos, soon enough, a gun-toting Jew vanquishes the jihadi zombie. We don’t cower and shriek as they wish we would, and it demoralizes them. Our people’s healthy fighting instincts have (amazingly) not been corrupted by the media, or by the ideology of weakness. Remember: Fighting back is good, so stay tactical out there, folks!
3. When we’re terrified, they win.
Speaking of videos and fear: Today’s video-centric world often works in the jihadis’ favor. Terrorists want to make us feel terrified. They try to achieve that by doing a terrible act and publicizing it, using video to drive terror into our hearts. If a viewer is terrified after watching the news or YouTube, then the terrorists have succeeded. Don’t let them. Don’t let them scare you. Don’t let them bully you. Don’t let them unnerve you. When you walk out of your house with a big fork in your bag, you are saying that you’d rather fight than be scared. When you don’t cancel that trip to Israel, you are saying that you will not be cowed. Remember, we Jews have always kicked bullies to the curb. From Abraham to King David to the Maccabees. We’ve fought the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and British, with tenacity and much success. The jihad bully is next.
4. Don’t mess with us. You’ll lose.
The media, the U.S. administration and the U.N. are full of claims that Israel is using too much force, indiscriminately slaughtering innocent people in response to the jihad. This is classic anti-Semitic propaganda, blaming the Jews for some heinous crime that in reality is the work of the anti-Semite. (This tactic was also used in the blood libel and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”) On the one hand, it is important to correct those pervasive lies.
But when Israelis intentionally and justly neutralize terrorists, it is important not to backpedal or mumble the pathetic formula that our army is moral or that we try to save the lives of the terrorists we just shot. Rather, it is much better to say, “You see? This is what happens when you mess with us.” In other words, we are one crazy little post-Holocaust country and we have zero tolerance for Nazi-like jihads, and if you start up with us, you will face our ire and our fire. Contrary to how the world makes it seem, it’s OK for us to want to survive, and it’s OK to say it.
5. Thanks, “world,” but we can take care of ourselves.
Regarding “the world”: It will never come to our aid. We already knew that, learned it the hard way in the 1940s — that’s how the expression “never again” came to be. Part of the reason we established the State of Israel is because “the world” can’t be relied on to defend us. So why do we whine about “the world”? Please let us stop hoping that the U.N. and the EU will condemn someone other then Israel, and let us stop waiting for them. If we want to take care of business, then we have to do it ourselves. Self-determination takes determination and no one will clean up our mess or come to our rescue. Time to grow up, take charge, even lead.
6. Jihad is a force of chaos.
On one level, what we are dealing with here is radical Islam’s fight against Israel, a Jewish, non-Muslim entity in the Middle East. On a deeper level, this fight is between two universal forces: the creative and the destructive. Israel is about life, innovation, clean water, farming, education, medicine, health and prosperity. Israel is about enshrining the past and building the future.
But jihadism is like a veil of darkness, repressive and regressive. It sees no value in individuals, and only seeks to suppress people into conformity. Everywhere the jihad goes, it brings entropy and chaos, the opposite of creativity and life. And jihad is not content with the regions of destruction under its control. Rather, it is bitterly jealous of that small green country in its midst. Jihad hates the Jewish state precisely because it is an oasis of life in the heart of its Middle Eastern desert. This distinction makes it all the more clear what value there is to jihad civilization — none — and they hate us for it.
7. Our kindness goes too far.
However, while jihad is the enemy, out-of-control liberalism is its real enabler. Jihad exploits Western liberalism as a weakness and a portal to spread its venom. To defeat jihad, we have to root it out, deny it any ground in which to sprout, and be anything but liberal with it. We must not allow the extremists to teach jihadism in the schools, to rally on the Temple Mount, to blare out murderous messaged from their minarets, and certainly not allow them to use the Knesset, for heaven’s sake, to spew their venom. We arrest them, hound them, chase them. They must know that if they have seditious thoughts, we can hear them, and we will find them. (For a model of how to fight the jihad, just look at our decidedly-not-liberal-with-jihad Egyptian neighbor, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.) It certainly won’t be easy to put the jihadi genie back in the bottle, but it must be done. It is a matter of our survival.
8. Don’t mess with Allah.
Jihad is religious. It understands the language of God better than Western talk of compromise, negotiations, and peace processes. This is what I tell would-be jihadis in the streets of Jerusalem: “In 1948, we were 600,000 Jews in this land. Now we are 6 million. You have fought many wars against us, but you have never won. Have you ever wondered why? Are we more numerous than you? Are we richer than you? No. It is because Allah wills it and He has blessed us to build up this country. Even the Quran talks about the Jewish people coming home — yet you refuse to submit to Allah’s will. In the meantime, your countries have fallen apart. Where is Syria? Where is Iraq? Where is the strong Egypt of the past? Gone. Do you know why? Because jihad is destroying you, not us. If you keep fighting with us, it will be your own Islamic State that will destroy you, all because you did not accept and submit to Allah’s will.” I have used this argument many times and seen the initial shock and subsequent expressions of acceptance on their faces. In short, blame it on Allah.
9. We will never leave.
And speaking of a language that jihadis understand, we must send them one unambiguous message: We are never, ever leaving. Arabs on the street ask me, “When will there be peace?” and I tell them, “There will be peace when you understand that we will never leave this land and never give up Jerusalem. We are more majnun [crazy] then you are about this place. So you might as well accept the reality. If you don’t, the war will continue, but we will win in the end, because we are never, ever, leaving.” Jihad gets courage from a sense of eventual victory. Take that away and replace it with a sense that the war against Israel is totally futile, a clear message that they will never win, and watch the jihadist motivation dwindle.
10. Jerusalem is at the heart of it.
Finally, to defeat the jihad against Israel, we must realize that the epicenter of the struggle is Jerusalem. Jihadis want to keep us out of Jerusalem, out of the Old City, and certainly off the Temple Mount, because they sense correctly that the bedrock of their power (and ours) is Jerusalem. Holding on to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount gives them religious authority and clout, and keeps us from achieving our true potential as sovereigns of this land. Indeed, almost all of their anti-Israel propaganda has an image, emblem, or icon of the Dome of the Rock. They are fighting to take the heart of our story, Jerusalem, and replace it with their Al-Quds. In the face of this assault, we must not retreat or relinquish any sovereignty in this city. We must not capitulate to the terror by dividing the city, or by keeping Jews away from the Temple Mount. Every person can be part of this fight: Visit Jerusalem, buy in Jerusalem, walk the streets of Jerusalem, pray in and for Jerusalem, and declare our rights to a sovereign and Israeli Jerusalem. In short, to beat the jihadis’ vision of Al-Quds, we must say the following phrase, and mean it: “Next year, and every year, in a rebuilt and united Jerusalem.”
The jihad against us is only partly about physical violence. It is mostly about mental intimidation and exploitation of our weaknesses. Yet this challenge is also an opportunity: If we rise to the occasion, overcome fear, and beat back the jihadi scourge, then Israel will take its rightful place as a world leader in the defense of freedom, along with being a nation of innovation and the world’s spiritual superpower.
Yishai Fleisher is an Israeli journalist, educator, NGO founder, and jurist. Follow him @yishaifleisher.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.