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Directing Hatred Towards the Right Places

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Opinion

A view of the al-Hol camp for internally-displaced people in northeastern Syria, where British-born Shamima Begum was discovered in 2019. Photo: Reuters / Khaled al-Hariri / File.

Last week, I attended the White House Hanukkah party, and some people wrote to attack me.

The White House protocols were for everyone to be masked and the event was not at all packed, leaving plenty of room for social distancing. Yes, people took off masks to take photos when they could employ sufficient distance from other guests. But masks — whose necessity I of course fully believe in — were the order of the day, with the exception of people eating latkes and other foods.

Yet, the amount of hatred that my attendance unleashed on my social media pages was large. “You’re an enabler. You enabled Trump’s denial of his election loss to Joe Biden.” “You allowed Trump to get away with trying to steal the election.”

In my career as a rabbi, I have experienced plenty of controversy and hatred, but I received a lot of it here. And it’s time to respond.

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Now that he has exhausted all legal recourse, Trump must concede the election. And Republicans should embrace President-elect Joe Biden’s “time to heal” approach in trying to unify the country.

But the political left must halt the vitriol they’re fostering. I need not vote for Joe Biden to agree that in a 50-year public career, he has displayed decency and humanity. And I need not agree with all of Donald Trump’s policies to concede that in four years, he has helped to reshape the Middle East and the US-Israel relationship.

Just a day after the event, Trump announced a peace deal between Israel and Morocco. Let’s not forget that former US Secretary of State John Kerry swore that Israel would never have peace with its Arab neighbors or the Gulf States unless they first made peace with the Palestinians. Kerry could not have been more wrong.

It’s a challenging time in America because so many Americans have gone insane with hatred, both on the left and the right.

But the only thing worth hating in life is unalloyed, unconditional evil — mass murderers, genocidaires, and those who destroy human life. But not political opponents. Hating mere political opponents is immoral not only because it destroys a nation, but it also allows the true evildoers to go unchecked, as we misdirect our revulsion away from legitimate targets.

Take the United States during World War II; it was a bystander for more than two years after Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Had Japan not attacked Pearl Harbor, who knows if America would have entered the war. For some reason, we could not, as a nation, summon sufficient hatred of the Nazis to fight them even as they conquered all of Europe and began the annihilation of the Jewish people.

After the Holocaust, Jews and others adopted the slogan “Never Again,” and yet the slaughter of innocents has happened again and again in the 70 years that have passed since the liberation of Auschwitz.

The history of the modern world is a history of genocide and the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. Historian Paul Johnson estimates that at least 100 million civilians were murdered in the 20th century alone by bloodthirsty tyrants. This is a staggering number. The world could not summon enough hatred of these individuals or their dastardly deeds to bring them to justice.

Depressingly, the trend has continued into the 21st century. December 9, 2004 was the 56th anniversary of the approval of the Genocide Convention by the United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile, another genocide was taking place in Sudan.

In the sixth millennium that Judaism counts since creation, evil is still growing with increasing strength, with brutal regimes continuing to control hundreds of millions of lives and terrorism striking throughout the world. Seventy years after Hitler’s demise, madmen run nations, gassing their own people, torturing civilians, and filling mass graves with the bodies of innocents, as we are witnessing in Syria. Amid the world’s protests of “Never Again!” multiple genocides have occurred since the Holocaust.

Those genocides were in the recent past. Instead of “Never Again,” the reality has been “Again and Again!”

And one of the principal reasons? We have to learn not only to love the victims of murder, but to hate and resist the murderers themselves. And when we spend all our time directing our hatred toward fellow Americans over political rifts, we allow those who are truly deserving of our revulsion to be overlooked.

It’s time for Americans to stop hating each other and instead work together — amidst legitimate political differences — toward making the world a place that is bereft of injustice and filled with the light of love, peace, and human brotherhood.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” and is the author of the forthcoming Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell, is the international best-selling author of 33 books. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley. 

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