On Sept. 11, 2001, some of al Qaeda's victims jumped from the World Trade Center's windows. Better to fall to their deaths than be consumed by hellish flames.
That stomach-churning image, more vivid in my memory than I'd like, led to a hopeful thought: Surely, decent people will never again condone terrorism.
A second hopeful thought from that awful day: In the future, the use of terrorism will set back, rather than advance, any cause to which it is attached.
Before long, however, prominent journalists were insisting that, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Over the years since, this moral sophistry has expanded in the media, academia, and international institutions.
On Oct. 7, 2023, many of Hamas's victims may have preferred to leap to their deaths. Instead, they were tortured. Children were tied to their parents and set on fire. Women were raped and murdered; their corpses desecrated. Babies were decapitated. Toddlers were dragged from Israel across the border into Gaza and called "prisoners of war."
Far-right antisemites celebrated. But so did illiberal leftists – those who proclaim themselves "social justice warriors," fighting for "vulnerable and marginalized groups," self-proclaimed champions of "safe spaces."
It's their contention that Hamas has a right to "resist" Israeli "occupation" and that "resistance" includes any and all acts of violence, however barbaric.
As to "occupation": Do they not know that all Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005 in the hope that Hamas might become less obsessed with killing Jews?
Instead, Hamas, founded in 1988, killed and maimed members of Fatah, its Palestinian rival and, soon after, began launching rockets into Israeli villages.
Despite that, Israelis have supplied Gazans with electricity, water, fuel, and construction materials (often repurposed by Hamas to make weapons). Gazans were welcomed into Israel to earn their livings – 20,000 a day prior to Oct. 7. Countless Gazans have been treated in Israeli hospitals.
Israelis did all this and more not just out of the goodness of their hearts but also in the hope that they could nudge Hamas towards pragmatism – a less lethal conflict.
Israelis did attempt to prevent Hamas from importing weapons. Does that constitute a cruel and unfair "blockade"? The question is moot because we now know the attempt failed.
Is there any way in which the terrorists who invaded Israel on Oct. 7 are different from the Einsatzgruppen – the "mobile killing units" deployed by the Nazis to slaughter Jews in Europe during World War II?
Like the Nazis, Hamas intends genocide. The Hamas Charter is quite candid on that score. Hamas's patrons in Tehran have been both threatening and inciting genocide since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Israel is slandered as "racist" even though it's the most diverse nation in the Middle East.
Israeli society is slandered as "apartheid" even though the 20 percent of Israel's citizens who are Arab Muslims are the freest – and among the most accomplished – Arab Muslim communities in the Middle East.
Israelis are slandered as "settler colonists" even though Jews may be the longest surviving indigenous people of the Middle East. "The Jews are the Native Americans of this piece of land," author Jamie Kirchick recently pointed out to comedian/commentator Bill Maher.
How dishonest must one be to regard a Jew living in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem as a "settler colonist"?
A little history for uneducated college students and their ill-educated professors: Over the centuries, foreign empires sent their armies to Zion – a biblical name for the ancient Jewish homeland – where they slaughtered, enslaved, and expelled Jews.
Some Jewish communities survived and remained. Others left and returned when that became possible.
To be fair, the Ottoman Empire did not turn Jews away from Jerusalem when, beginning in 1492, they were driven out of Spain along with settler colonialist Muslims.
Other Jews built communities throughout the broader Middle East – for example in Iraq, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
Then, in the aftermath of World War II, the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel, Arab governments expelled their Jews, close to a million of them, inadvertently demonstrating the necessity of Jewish self-determination in a small part of the ancient Jewish homeland.
The descendants of Jewish refugees from Muslim lands now constitute roughly half of Israel's citizens. Add to that Arab Muslim Israelis and it turns out that the overwhelming majority of Israelis don't have ancestors who ever set foot in Europe.
The 10/7 pogrom was not just predictable, it was predicted. In 2009, Ze'ev Maghen, an expert on Islamic history at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, wrote that Iran's rulers were "casting an entire people as a parasitic infestation," with the intent to "create an atmosphere in which the massacre of large numbers of Jews and the destruction of their independent polity will be considered a tolerable if not indeed a legitimate eventuality."
And now such prominent media figures as Karen Attiah, Global Opinions Editor of the very establishment Washington Post, minimize the terrorist atrocities of 10/7, ignore the genocidal intent against Israelis, and accuse Israelis of "genocidal intent against Palestinians."
For the record: The populations of both Gaza and the West Bank have been growing over recent decades.
During this same period, however, much of the media, elite universities, and most international institutions have succumbed to a cult of anti-Israeli, antisemitic, and anti-Western ideologues.
What happened to the decent people? They've been marginalized. And they doubtless feel vulnerable.
These are not hopeful thoughts, but until we acknowledge all that's broken, the long, difficult process of repair cannot begin.