I just returned from a Jewish National Fund volunteer mission in Israel. We painted, cleaned, weeded, picked fruit and packed boxes. All necessary assistance in the face of massive workforce disruptions in a country at war, but we certainly got more from the experience than we gave.

There are hundreds of Americans joining these and similar missions each week now, Jews and non-Jews, including many from the Philadelphia area, to physically show solidarity with the Israeli people in the wake of the unspeakable evil perpetrated on October 7.

A country at war. That’s what we experienced in Israel now. Not a country at peace which has an army at war, as has been the case for the US repeatedly since the Second World War, including on some level right now, but rather an entire nation at war, as was the US or Britain during WWII.

The way the press covers Israel, and I’m not even referring to the bias, but rather that it’s treated as if it was another America, or even another Britain or France, or as if it was just an extension of the American or European Jewish communities transplanted to the Mediterranean, makes it very hard for folks not immersed in the situation to understand the country and it’s mind blowing combination of strength and fragility.

The reality is quite different. First, it’s still so new. Less than a single lifetime, younger than Paul McCartney, for example. 

Second, it’s fabulously diverse, with a majority of people of color, a growing African Israeli community, every gradation of religious commitment and seemingly as many political parties as voters.

Perhaps most importantly, how tiny it is must be understood in order to get the disproportion in terms of the effects of the crimes against humanity which were perpetrated against it a few months ago.

There are 37 Americans for each Israeli. The nearly 6000 Israeli civilians killed or injured on 10/7 — with all the grotesque details of dismemberment, beheadings, burnings, and rapes — equate to over 200,000 Americans. 

The citizen army the Israelis have had to field to defend their country from the enemy vow to keep doing this against them is now on the same scale as the American military at the height of World War II. Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced persons — refugees in their own country — because of the full-scale war in Gaza and the low-intensity war in the northern part of the country, is now the equivalent of every man, woman and child in the seven smallest populated US states all having to move and be cared for somewhere else. Seven states.

The combination of these enormous population displacements could only cripple the economy of any advanced nation.

There has thankfully never been an attack on America at anything like this proportionate scale, yet just imagine for one moment what the United States would do in response to an attack with such a scope of physical and economic consequences, to say nothing of the emotional and psychological toll of the utter destruction of the nation’s sense of safety?

Israel was founded to end the pogroms against the Jews, which had spanned continents and centuries and culminated in the Holocaust. From 1948 until 2023, despite everything that happened in between, this fundamental mission had been achieved. Fewer Israelis, whether civilian or military, had been killed by the vastly more populous nations and forces aligned against them than in the three days of barbarity by the Nazis in Ukraine in 1941, at Babi Yar.

But that fundamental victory against the unbending and unending history of antisemitism ended on October 7.

That, in addition to the material consequences of this horror, is what the Israeli nation is now facing. I went, along with many others, to show tangibly that they are not facing it alone.

What I saw was a country transformed by the terrorists from the highly fractious, ideologically polarized place it was on October 6 to a country of virtual unanimity on the fundamental objective of the war and a willingness to sacrifice enormously to achieve that goal. Again, the analogy of the US in WWII is apt.

In response to the attack on the wholly military target of US naval and air forces at Pearl Harbor, FDR said, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” And he meant it.

We demanded nothing other or less than the unconditional surrender of the Nazis and Japanese imperialists and saw the use of any means necessary, including the use of atomic weapons, as justified to bring about that end and to do so with as few American losses as possible.

In their own righteous might, the Israelis have given themselves the same sort of maximal war aim, but no such blank check on the means of the war, raising losses among their own soldiers in undertaking the nearly impossible job of minimizing civilian casualties when the enemy has built Gaza into one giant war crime scene by shielding its military operations and leaders among and beneath the innocent children. Any assertion that the Israelis are either intentionally, or recklessly, killing civilians, is simply blood libel, contradicted by mountains of facts about the policies and practices of the IDF.

Likewise, in WWII, Americans were not lectured from the Ivy League about whether it was possible to defeat the ideas of our enemies through force — as many urge the Israelis to consider today — but instead pursued and achieved the physical destruction of the means (political power and military capabilities) for our enemies to continue harming either us or their own peoples.

And we prevailed. Not only on the battlefield, but in the transformation of Germany and Japan into the free, prosperous and peaceful societies they have been since the war. 

By the way, we also didn’t decide it was counterproductive to fight ISIS, which not long ago controlled a pseudo-state in one-third of Syria and 40 percent of Iraq and had 200,000 men under arms — much larger than Hamas — because it would just bring even more recruits to their cause.

Again, we concentrated on destroying their means to wield power. And again, we won.

With the United States as a steadfast ally, and continuing Israeli resolve to achieve the true victory over Hamas demanded by justice for their murdered children and seniors and raped women, the people of both Israel and Gaza (and the West Bank as well) could have a similar rebirth of opportunity as did both the defeated and victorious alike after WWII.

What I found most amazing and inspiring about Israel at war today, beyond the astonishing social cohesion, is the optimism. They tell each other constantly to “choose life and joy” and they look to what many would call the miraculous warmth and strength of the contemporary relationship between Israel and Germany as proof that there are simply no hatreds which cannot be replaced, not merely by peace, but even by genuine friendship, if evil is faced unflinchingly and removed from power.

Craig Snyder is the CEO of Indigo Global Corporation, a former President of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, and former Chief of Staff to US Senator Arlen Specter.

2 thoughts on “Craig Snyder: Israel at war”

  1. “ISIS, which not long ago controlled a pseudo-state in one-third of Syria and 40 percent of Iraq and had 200,000 men under arms — much larger than Hamas.” Solid point.
    We do not care about Israel. No one cares.
    Obama (D) needed money and was a flawed man; yet, his administration gave ISIS money.
    Trump (R) had his own money and was a flawed man; yet, his people decimated ISIS.
    It took them a few weeks actually.
    Biden (D) needed money and was a flawed man; yet, his administration gave ISIS money.
    Money. Money. Money. Follow the money.

Leave a (Respectful) Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *