I am always amazed at the power of one assassination or violent act to upend the fragile progress of humanity—in particular the painstaking work of building bonds between people and constructing peace. Hamas has certainly caused such a rupture, at least in the short term and possibly for far longer.
In fact, the attack—and its aftermath, including the punishing war it has provoked and Hamas’s wildly successful anti-Israel and antisemitic PR campaign—could usher in the final death throes of two very important human achievements. Not only is the enterprise we call the State of Israel endangered, so is the entire foundation on which it stands—the Western liberal democratic world order.
In the United States, the attack has broken open divisions now on full display on the streets, on campuses, on social media, in government and in conversations around the dinner table. Yet the America we live in cannot afford these divisions at this time of rampant populism. As Eric K. Ward, the recipient of Moment’s 2023 Inspirational Leadership Award, recently described it, “American democracy is Humpty Dumpty, and a loose coalition is all that’s holding it together.”
All Americans, including Jews, need to stop drawing lines in the sand. Rather, we need to come together to recognize the tragedy that has been unfolding in the Middle East and stand united to defend our Western liberal democratic world order. As battered as it is, it’s informed by centuries of human progress based on wisdom gleaned from countless missteps. History has shown us that liberal democracies, with independent judiciaries and institutions that balance one another’s power, provide the best protection for political, ethnic and religious minorities. Our very right to publicly argue with one another—which we do so well—stands upon this gift inherited from previous generations. Yet liberal democracy and the moderation it requires to function well have become so familiar, even meaningless, to us that we keep forgetting that it’s our responsibility to protect and nurture them.
World orders, of course, never stay the same. They evolve and sometimes they end. I hope ours doesn’t, and we stop allowing ourselves to be divided and cease ceding moral and other authority to despots and extremists under any banner. History has shown us that we can transcend deep-seated hate to heal trauma and work together. To do this we need to teach our next generations not just the Jewish story but that of the world order that has made so many lives better and has the potential to do the same for more people.
Telling these stories is one of our goals at Moment, and one way we do it is through our MomentLive! broadcasts. Today, in commemoration of the passing of Henry Kissinger, we recommend “Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy,” in which Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under President Obama, is joined by former CBS News correspondent and Moment contributor Dan Raviv for an in-depth look at Kissinger’s design for Middle East peacemaking. And don’t miss today’s MomentLive! program, where I’ll be in conversation with the Bahraini journalist Ahdeya Sayed about the history and importance of Bahraini-Israeli relations, antisemitism in the Arab world and how the Israel-Hamas War is viewed in various Gulf states. It’s important for us to hear of the brave voices in the Arab and Muslim world who are willing to publicly decry antisemitism.
Together, we can navigate this crisis wisely and calmly with new clarity that allows us to value what we have and invest in it. After all, I know many people (some of them personally) from the illiberal, authoritarian and fundamentalist places in the world who, given the choice, would sacrifice much to be able to live in a liberal democracy. We need to keep ours strong and safe, not just for ourselves but as a beacon of hope for them.