Synagogues and churches in Dagestan. A synagogue in LA. There is a connection.

(RNS) — On Monday (June 24), we awoke to two seemingly disparate horrors.

I say “seemingly” for a reason.

First: the attacks on the synagogues and Orthodox churches on Sunday night in two major cities of Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in the northern Caucasus Mountains. At least 15 law enforcement officers were killed, with an additional 26 people injured. One of the civilians killed was Nikolai Kotelnikov, an Orthodox priest in the city of Derbent. The attackers also set fire to a synagogue in the city.

Second: the violence that occurred outside an Orthodox synagogue in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood in Los Angeles. According to CNN, pro-Palestinian protesters chanted “Free, free Palestine — from the river to the sea” and “Long live intifada.” Participants blocked traffic, and video from the scene shows multiple altercations in the middle of the street and on sidewalks.

President Joe Biden posted on X: “I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles. Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic, and un-American. Americans have a right to peaceful protest. But blocking access to a house of worship — and engaging in violence — is never acceptable.”

As singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman wrote on his Substack:

As painful as it is to watch the keffiyeh-clad crowds gather on the sidewalk in front of the Los Angeles synagogue where friends of mine pray, it’s also reassuring to know what people are thinking. I am referring to those who wave Hezbollah flags, shout, “Intifada Revolution!,” bang their drums, and scream God-knows-what at the top of their lungs while stopping traffic in one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in the United States — the Pico Robertson neighborhood, where my wife and I shop for kosher food, where dozens of my friends live, and whose streets I know like the back of my hand. This afternoon’s nascent pogrom, which seemed well on its way to becoming a full-fledged pogrom, was revealing. The so-called anti-Zionists are finally speaking the truth. They now do their truth-telling overtly.

Two terrible events, each one happening in a different corner of the world.

And yet, they are linked, because they exist within a demonic Venn diagram of antisemitism.

But there is more.

Again, Himmelman:

Those who understand this also know what’s at stake, not only for Israel, but for the entirety of the western world, whose liberal values remain the bulwark against the madness of reactionary and terroristic forces coming from countries like China, North Korea, Sudan, Iran, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, South Africa, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, and Qatar. Not to mention from many quarters of the U.S. as we’ve seen.

Which brings me back to the demonstrators outside the Los Angeles synagogue, and other such demonstrators.

It is bad enough that they call for “intifada revolution!” Let us be very clear about what they are saying, and where they are saying it. The intifada was the violent Palestinian resistance to Israel. Those who call for “globalizing” the intifada mean this, and nothing less than this: They want Jews, wherever they are, to feel threatened. As well they should feel.

But when protesters voice support for Hezbollah, our only response must be: Whoa. Whoa, because Hezbollah is not a Palestinian group. It has no claims, therefore, to victimization on the part of Israel. No occupation, no settlements — none of that. 

No, Hezbollah is simply committed to the destruction of Israel — with the backing of Iran.

That is why this current battle is a battle that is hardly only, or even primarily, about the Palestinians. This battle goes way beyond Israel, and way beyond the Jews.

This is a war against the West.

This is what the demonstrators in Los Angeles are supporting, whether they fully understand it or not. It is not only antisemitism, though it is surely that — certainly when you bring your protests to a synagogue.

What the demonstrators on college campuses are supporting as well, whether they fully understand it or not, are those who would celebrate the death — not only of Israel, not only of Jews, but of the West.

“Globalize the Intifada”?

As the horror show cliche would have it: Be afraid; be very afraid.

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