[Make sure to read Daniel Greenfield’s contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
On a Tuesday in November, around a third of a million American Jews left their jobs, skipped class and headed to Washington D.C. Some didn’t make it. In Detroit, bus drivers deliberately stranded hundreds of Jews heading to D.C. Others ran into less widely reported problems.
Even among those who arrived, tens of thousands never made it through into the secured area. In the final count, 290,000 people passed through the metal detectors at the ‘March for Israel’.
This was not only the largest ever rally by American Jews, but the largest gathering against Islamic terror.
Having a third of a million people show up at the National Mall is not completely extraordinary. Farrakhan’s Million Man March did manage to turn out 400,000 black people from a total population of 34 million. The ‘March for Israel’ brought over 300,000 out of 4.2 million Jews.
There are an estimated 4.2 million American Jews by religion. 7% of them showed up.
Accounting for the very old and very young who could not have made the trip, that’s 1 in 10 American Jews traveling to be in D.C. on a random Tuesday on fairly short notice.
The demographic equivalent would be 3 million black people, 4.5 million Latinos, 1.2 million Asians and 14 million white people rallying on the National Mall.
While the Million Man March received widespread media coverage at the time and in succeeding anniversaries, and was immortalized in movies like Spike Lee’s ‘Get on the Bus’, the media offered less coverage of the ‘March for Israel’ than it did of far smaller anti-Israel events.
The March for Israel ruined the media’s narrative that American Jews are turning on Israel. And so the media did what it always does: it protected the narrative by spinning and suppressing..
The Washington Post. which recently censored an anti-Hamas cartoon, falsely claimed that only “thousands” had attended the rally even though its own photos clearly showed far more than that. The AP began its coverage with the false claims of “thousands” and later updated it to the still false claims of “tens of thousands”. It’s easy to see from aerial photos that this is not true.
While the Post put the Women’s March, which turned out 470,000 participants, on its front page, it buried the ‘March for Israel’ in its metro section.
But despite the predictable media bias and the flaws of the rally, organized by liberal groups, it was an important statement of where American Jews stand. After weeks of the media providing disproportionate coverage to pro-Hamas rallies of hundreds of people by hate groups like If Not Now, hundreds of thousands of Jews stood with Israel and its war against Islamic terrorism.
In contrast to the pro-Hamas rallies in D.C. where flags were burned and monuments vandalized, the pro-Israel rally was a sea of American flags and attendees sang the anthem. Police officers were assaulted at pro-Hamas rallies and thanked at the ‘March for Israel’.
It wasn’t just across the ocean that the difference between Israel and Hamas was made clear, but right here in America. Pro-Israel rallies don’t break down into violence, vandalism and orgies of hatred for America. It’s the pro-Hamas rallies that turn into riots over and over again.
The ‘March for Israel’ had plenty of flaws. Like most liberal Jewish establishment projects, it sacrificed meaningful commitments for simple truisms (Hamas is bad, Israel is good) even if these truisms are now being disputed by academia, the media and large parts of the Left. Rather than taking a direct position on the issues being debated in D.C., pauses in the fighting, trading a ceasefire for hostages, and whether the PLO will take over Gaza, the march sought the broadest possible unity platform which maximized turnout, but didn’t break new ground.
Some rally speakers pledged support for a two-state solution: meaning an Islamic terrorist state inside Israel, whose existence is the reason for thirty years of terrorism against Israelis. The only Israel they seemed to be willing to support was one willing to give its enemies every possible chance until they finally do something so horrific that fighting back becomes justified.
There was little concept of who the enemy was, apart from Hamas, and what the issue was, apart from antisemitism coming from undefined sources, including on college campuses. And so there was also little concept of what standing for Israel actually meant beyond opposing Hamas. Speakers at the rally expressed pain, grief and determination, but lacked any real focus.
Biden spurned the rally, refusing to send a high-profile official, instead dispatching Deborah Lipstadt, the administration’s antisemitism monitor, but offering no larger presence at the event as another sign that he is moving even further away from his support for the war on Hamas. Other elected officials however showed up as did a whole lot of other seemingly random people.
The emphasis on unity did bring together people you would otherwise have trouble imagining participating in the same event. Not just Speaker Mike Johnson alternating with Democrat House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, but Pastor John Hagee and former Will and Grace star Debra Messing, a baffling appearance by Van Jones who didn’t seem to know which rally he was at, and a musical performance by Ishay Ribo, a major Israeli Orthodox Jewish pop star probably unknown to much of the parts of the audience that binge watches Will and Grace.
While to outsiders, American Jews may seem like members of the same group and reflect familiar stereotypes, the reality is those few millions consist of a dizzying variety of different groups which have little in common with each other and inhabit echo chambers. The ‘March for Israel’ brought together devout and secular, Reform and Orthodox, Christian supporters of Israel and Hollywood celebrities: people whose worlds never really meet.
And it took a major crisis to get at least some Jews from suburban temples and urban synagogues, those who study the Talmud and those who believe in Tikkun Olam, to temporarily stand in the same place and realize that Islamic terrorists, like the Nazis, want to kill them all.
That brief community is not likely to last, just as the unity of unity that brought together New Yorkers after 9/11 fell apart into infighting and routine, but it still is a meaningful moment.
Although it may not last, it is a rehearsal for what needs to happen for all of us, Jews and Christians, people who believe in something and those who believe in nothing, in the face of an enemy that wants to destroy us all.
There is plenty to criticize about the ‘March for Israel’, but the content of the march mattered less than the statement that bringing so many people together to stand up to terror made.
The flaws of the rally were those of American Jews: many still addicted to the illusion of peace with terrorists, incapable of questioning their partisan political allegiances and trapped in their echo chambers, in pain, but failing to understand where the pain is coming from.
But for all its failures of imagination, the March for Israel was representative of American Jews. From the mother of a hostage to a standup comedian outraged at the hypocrisy of his industry hostage, from angry college students to the politicians they hope will save them, the rally was a snapshot of what is wrong with American Jews, but also a reminder that there is hope.
The Left has put out a narrative that American Jews are turning on Israel. Those who are still Jewish, rather than merely possessing Jewish last names, have not. American Jews suffer from a painful ignorance and some of their lost descendants, like Kamala’s stepdaughter, may rally for the enemy, but those who have not given up on being Jewish have not abandoned Israel.
In Washington D.C., representatives of the scattered strands of American Jewry briefly met and stood together in the shadow of enormous hate and evil. And briefly became one.
After the Passover Massacre by Hamas in 2002, one hundred thousand Jews had rallied in Washington D.C. That rally may have been smaller, but resembled this one in many ways.
Elie Wiesel, then still alive, told the crowd that, “this day will be remembered in the history of American Jewry.” It was not. But that failure of memory is a choice. Whether or not this one will be remembered is also a choice. The choice is a matter of commitment and priorities.
If American Jewry is to have a history, it will have to remember and more importantly act.
Nearly 1 in 10 American Jews showing up in D.C. on a random Tuesday is a historic moment. But whether it will change history is up to that third of a million and all the others who watched from home and attended rallies locally. History is made up of the choices that we make.
Will the March for Israel crystalize a wave of commitment in Jewish communities? Will it change how people vote, how they act and the cultural values that they pass on to their children?
Either we make history or we become history.