Our friends are not those who, until recently, never mentioned that Gazan casualty figures come from a health ministry run by Hamas — a mistake they would never make if, say, they were relaying figures produced by the Russian government. Or who describe the people murdered on Oct. 7 as “Jewish settlers,” never mind that they were living in towns and kibbutzim that are part of sovereign Israel. Or who speak of people who murder babies and kidnap elderly women as “fighters” or “militants.”
Our friends are not at universities where every third building seems to be named for a Jewish benefactor. Schools like Stanford, which now defends the right of students to chant “from the river to the sea” — a call for the annihilation of an entire state — on free speech grounds are often the same places that, only recently, barred a student from campus for “racist social media posts.” Free speech is fine as a standard, not as a double standard.
Our friends are not those in the academic and corporate D.E.I. offices or the diversity trainers who think that Jews don’t count as a minority or who try to shunt Ashkenazi Jews into a “whiteness accountability” group. Diversity that thinks only of race is anti-diversity; inclusion that functionally excludes Jews is not inclusive; equity that treats Jews as second-class victims is not equitable. This should be axiomatic.
Our friends are not in the universe of people represented by the likes of Tucker Carlson and the guests on his show. Under the guise of a prudential foreign policy, the neo-isolationist right is morphing into the anti-Israel left, repeating its tropes that Israel is “annihilating Gaza.” These are the people whose thinking would be mainstreamed by a second Trump term.
The list could be longer. Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying. More than 3,800 years of Jewish history keeps yielding the same bracing lesson: In the long run, we’re alone.
What can Oct. 8 Jews do? We can stop being embarrassed, equivocal or defensive about Zionism, which is, after all, one of the world’s most successful movements of national liberation. We can call out anti-Zionism for what it is: a rebranded version of antisemitism, based on the same set of libels and conspiracy theories. We can exit the institutions that have disserved us: “Defund the academy” is a much better slogan than defund the police.
Jewish America abounds with dreamers and entrepreneurs who took crazy risks in their careers to find value and create things that never existed before. It’s time they apply the same talent and energy to creating new institutions that hew to genuinely liberal values, where Jews need never be afraid. In time, the rest of America may follow.