Within hours after the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, landmarks around the globe — including the Eiffel Tower, Brandenburg Gate, Trevi Fountain and the World Trade Center — were bathed in lights showing the red, yellow and black of the Belgian flag — much as the French flag appeared after the Paris attacks last November.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims and to the people of Belgium. But when it comes to terrorism, not all victims are equal.
Since October 2015, 30 Israelis have been murdered in a wave of premeditated knife attacks, with an additional 217 injured. Israelis today are on constant alert as they conduct their daily lives — working, going to school, grocery shopping, waiting for a bus or walking down the street. Parents have been murdered with knives or hatchets in front of their children. Attack victims have included pregnant women, teenagers and toddlers.
When an attack takes place in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, there is often a deafening silence from the world, an effort to conflate the killing of Israelis — mostly civilians — with a broader “cycle of violence” or, at worse, a pivot to suggest that Israel bears responsibility. These are textbook cases of blaming the victim.
Many American political leaders have expressed solidarity and spoken out for Israel’s right to defend its citizens from attack. But where is the global sense of outrage?
Just as Israel is often deemed uniquely qualified for criticism over exercising self-defense, it also appears to be uniquely unworthy of outrage in the face of terror attacks.
The cruel irony is that many countries have been able to improve security — from airport screening to intelligence gathering to the functioning of hospital trauma centers — by relying on Israeli experience and expertise.
The people of Israel need our help. The United States must lead the international community, calling on political leaders of all nations that purport to fight terrorism to speak out loudly against attacks on its citizens, and to pressure Palestinian leaders to do all they can to stop the targeting of Jews for murder.
I urge all who read this message, in any city or nation, to insist that your leaders and local media give the same consideration to Israeli terror victims that they would give to victims in your own community, or in any country other than Israel.
I issue this call as someone who has seen the carnage first hand. If Hadassah’s hospitals can practice non-discrimination toward people who seek to do us harm, the world can act the same way to support people in harm’s way. Discrimination is odious when it denies people their right to life — or the recognition of our common humanity — based on race, nationality or religion. It’s time for the world to understand that Israeli lives matter.
Ellen Hershkin is the national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.