Weiss: The War in Gaza Is a Fight for Civilization against Barbarism
The current war between Israel and Hamas has created unlikely allies. On Friday, liberal journalist and founder of The Free Press, Bari Weiss, gave a remarkable speech at the conservative Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention. One attendee said it may have been the most enthusiastically received speech in the 20-year history of the annual Barbara Olson Memorial Lecture. She received a standing ovation which lasted a minute and a half.
In Weiss’s speech, titled “You Are the Last Line of Defense,” she pleaded with America — and the world — to stand up against the horrific barbarism of Hamas and other evil actors and fight for what’s right — the values shared by Jews, Christians, and the civilization of the West. These are the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and understanding that all people (of all religions and races) were created equal by God.
What happened on October 7 was not just another battle. As Weiss described:
“These Cossacks had smartphones. They called their families to brag that they had murdered Jews. ‘Dad, Dad, I killed 10 Jews!’ Others filmed the slaughter with GoPros. Some used the cellphones of their victims to upload the footage of their torture and murder to their Facebook pages. In all of this, the terrorists are euphoric. No one who has watched the unedited footage fails to note the glee of the butchers.
“Some Israelis literally disappeared on October 7 — burned at such high heat that volunteers are still sifting through the bones and the remnant teeth to identify them. But we know that more than 200 people are currently being held hostage by Hamas and that more than 1,400 were murdered in those terrible hours. Among the dead are some 30 American citizens. There are at least 10 Americans among the hostages.
Immediately after this horrific massacre, many rightly compared it to America’s 9/11. Innocent people going about their everyday lives were viciously attacked by radical Muslim terrorists. But there is a glaring difference: Instead of the world mourning alongside and defending the innocent victims, millions defended the Hamas terrorists’ barbaric slaughter instead.
Weiss explained, “University presidents — who leapt to issue morally lucid condemnations of George Floyd’s killing or Putin’s war on Ukraine — offered silence or mealy-mouthed pablum about how the situation is tragic and ‘complex’ and how we need to think of ‘both sides’ as if there is some kind of equivalence between innocent civilians and jihadists.”
Weiss called out the millions of college students all over the world who have unbelievably justified the massacre of innocent people on October 7. She gave several examples of what is happening on these college campuses, saying:
“Hip, young people with pronouns in their bios are not just chanting the slogans of a genocidal death cult. They are tearing down the photographs of women and children who are currently being held hostage in the tunnels that run under the Gaza Strip. They do so with pleasure. They laugh. They mock the nine-month-old baby who was stolen from his parents.
“In doing so, they are tearing down — or at least trying to tear down — the essence of our common humanity, or even the reality that hostages were taken at all. Or maybe it’s that they are trying to extinguish the memory of the hostages, who to them are not worth saving … or actually had it coming to them.
“Or maybe — and I say this as the mother of a young child whose face I see in the face of every captive — they are trying to tear down the divine image that is at the root of our civilization’s conception of the dignity of every human life.”
It’s hard to understand why anyone needs to be convinced that they should care about what is happening in Gaza — after all: these are human beings that were savagely raped, beheaded, and burned alive. What more needs to be said? Not caring is like not caring about the six million Jews that were savagely murdered during the Nazi’s Holocaust. However, if one still needs to be convinced, please read the following words by Weiss:
“When anti-Semitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system — a sign that society itself is breaking down. That it is dying.
“It is a symptom of a much deeper crisis — one that explains how, in the span of a little over 20 years since September 11, educated people now respond to an act of savagery not with a defense of civilization, but with a defense of barbarism.”
Many people question the importance of worldviews, apologetics, and words, thinking that these things don’t really matter. They just want to go on with normal, everyday life. Why do we have to talk about cultural Marxism, moral relativism, or a biblical worldview? But these things matter for individuals, families, communities, and ultimately civilization. As Christians, this is a part of loving God and loving fellow human beings as ourselves.
As Weiss said:
“At first, things like post-modernism and post-colonialism and post-nationalism seemed like wordplay and intellectual games — little puzzles to see how you could ‘deconstruct’ just about anything. What I came to see over time was that it wasn’t going to remain an academic sideshow. And that it sought nothing less than the deconstruction of our civilization from within.
“It seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong.
“It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob.”
Weiss concluded her speech by offering four action steps:
- We must recover our ability to look and to discern accordingly. “To see the world as it is, we must prize the distinctions between good and bad. Better and worse. Pain and not pain. Safety and danger. Just and unjust. Friends and enemies. I do not need ‘context’ to know that tying children to their parents and burning them alive is pure evil, just as I do not need a history lesson on the Arab-Israeli conflict to know that the Arab Israelis who saved scores of Jewish Israelis that day are righteous.”
- Second, we must enforce the law. “The rallies would likely be less susceptible to erupting in violence if the attendants weren’t hiding their faces. So don’t allow selective enforcement of this law, or any others. If white supremacists can’t do it, then neither can antifa or Hamas sympathizers.”
- Third, no more double standards on speech. “Public universities are constitutionally forbidden from imposing content-based restrictions on free speech. And yet, that’s precisely what they’ve been doing. Ask any conservative — and I now know a few — who’s tried to speak at a public university and had a ‘security fee’ imposed on them or had their speeches quietly moved off campus and into small, restrictive venues where there aren’t brazen content-based restrictions on their speech imposed by public universities.”
- Accept that you are the last line of defense and fight, fight, fight. “[It’s] time to defend our values — the values that have made this country the freest, most tolerant society in the history of the world — without hesitation or apology,” she urged.
“The leftist intellectual Sidney Hook, who broke with the communists, and called his memoir ‘Out of Step,’ used to implore those around him to ‘always answer an accusation or a charge’ to not let falsehood stand unchallenged.
“We have let far too much go unchallenged. Too many lies have spread in the face of inaction as a result of fear or politesse. No more. Do not bite your tongue. Do not tremble. Do not go along with little lies. Speak up. Break the wall of lies. Let nothing go unchallenged.
“Our enemies’ failure is not assured and there is no cavalry coming. We are the cavalry. We are the last line of defense. Our civilization depends on us.”