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The Last Line of Defense By Bari Weiss

2023-11-18 (#130)

If you view one video this year, it should be this.
The battle for America's soul is the battle to defeat antisemitism and woke culture.

Bari Weiss, an American journalist, writer, and editor, talks at The Federalist Society .

Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture
The Federalist Society
November 10, 2023
Washington, D.C.

By the "The Free Press". The Free Press is a new media company founded by Bari Weiss. Honest. Independent. Fearless. A free press for free people. Join them .

Video Transcription:

Thank you so much.

When Jean gave me the list of people who had

previously given the Barbara Olsen lecture, I was absolutely sure

that you guys had made a mistake in inviting me.

I'm not a lawyer.

I'm not a legal scholar.

I'm not a former attorney general.

In my time at the Wall Street Journal, I

edit dozens of op eds about Chevron deference.

But I'm still not sure what the hell that means.

I'm also not a member of the Federalist Society.

My parents, who are here in the front row, who

probably couldn't afford the local country club, raised us on

the Groucho Marks line that I wouldn't want to belong

to any club that would have me as a member.

And then there's the question of my politics.

I hear you guys are conservative, so forgive me.

Then I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we're

standing on the ancestral indigenous land of Leonard Leo.

I read in ProPublica that this is his turf.

But then I Googled Barbara Olsen.

I had the privilege of editing some op eds by

Ted back in the day, and I knew that his

wife had been murdered by Al Qaeda in 911.

But over the past few weeks, in my non spare time,

I spent a bunch of it reading about Barbara herself.

I read about a Texas girl, the daughter

of German immigrants, who was ferociously independent.

I read about how she, a Catholic, wound

up at Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University.

And I read about how she, as an intern

at the Department of Justice, was apparently the only

person with sufficient chutzpah to personally serve the papers

at the PLO mission to the UN.

And I learned that she was on American Airlines Flight

77 because she was headed to LA to be on

Bill Maher's show, and because she had changed her flight

so she could have a birthday dinner with Ted.

And I learned that she had the composure and

the clarity and the courage to call him not

just once, but twice in those horrifying moments before

the plane slammed into the Pentagon.

There is a phrase that Jews say when a person dies,

and that phrase is, may their memory be for a blessing.

And it's an expression of hope.

But it is so clear in the case of

Barbara Olsen and the way that the force of

her life and her character extends and echoes on,

that, it is very much a blessing fulfilled.

To say that I am honored to give

a lecture in the name of such an

exceptional woman would be an understatement.

So thank you.

It is also, since the massacre of October

7, a date that will be seared into

the memory of civilized people alongside September 11.

Profoundly fitting.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Israel is the

only country outside of America which is home to a

911 memorial bearing every single one of the victims names.

And, of course, that is what

we must talk about tonight.

The civilizational war we are in.

The war that took the life of Barbara

Olsen and 3000 other innocent Americans on that

morning of September 2001, and the war that

came hideously across the border from Gaza into

Israel on that Shabbat morning a month ago.

The war that too many foolishly thought had ended,

the physical war currently raging in the Middle East.

With this.

Questions about the right way to defeat Hamas and

other members of the jihadi death cult, the kind

of Operation Israel should be pursuing in Gaza, how

America should abandon its fatal appeasement of Iran, and

a hundred other strategic questions.

Those are subjects for another speech, and one for

which there are many more qualified people to deliver.

Tonight, I'd like to talk about the war of ideas,

of conviction, and of will that faces us as Americans.

I want to talk about the stakes of that war

and how we must wage it, fearlessly and relentlessly, if

we seek to build a world fit for our children,

and if we want to save America itself.

By the time Americans woke up on October 7,

2023, it was clear that what had unfolded while

we slept was not like previous wars or battles

that Israel had fought in its 75 year history.

This was a genocidal pogrom.

It was a scene out of the places that Jews

had fled, a scene out of the history of the

Nazi Holocaust, or the European pogroms before that, or of

the Farhud, the 1941 massacre of Jews in Baghdad, a

city that it's hard to believe now was 40% Jewish

at the beginning of the 20th century.

All of these scenes reminding us of Israel's necessity.

The Hamas terrorists came across the border into

southern Israel on foot and on motorbike.

They came by truck and by car and

by Paraglider, and they came with a plan.

They came to Israel to maim and to

murder and to mutilate anyone that they could

find, and that is what they did.

These were Cossacks with smartphones.

They called their families to brag

that they had murdered Jews. Dad.

Dad, I killed ten Jews, said one.

Others film the slaughter from their GoPros.

Some use cell phones of the victims themselves

to upload the footage of their torture and

their murder, so their families would have to

encounter it first on their Facebook pages.

In all of this, the terrorists

are laughing, they are euphoric.

There is no one who has watched

that horrifying, unedited footage who fails to

note the hideous glee of the butchers.

Some Israels were literally disappeared on October 7.

And I'm not talking about the hostages.

I'm talking about people that were burned at such

high heat that volunteers are still sifting through the

bones and the remnant teeth to identify them.

But more than 200 people are currently being

held hostage by Hamas, and more than 1400

were murdered in those terrible hours.

Among the dead are some 30 American citizens, and

there are at least ten Americans among the hostages.

All of which is why the immediate analogy

the world reached for was to 911.

As with 911, the terrorists caught their victims

by surprise on a clear blue morning.

As with 911, the spectacle and

the savagery were the point.

As with 911, the terrorists notched points on their

sadistic scoreboard, taking from us not just precious lives,

but our sense of safety and security.

They change something within us.

But the difference between 911 and ten seven, two

massacres of innocent people, symbols to their killers of

Western civilization, was the reaction to the horror.

The difference between 911 and ten seven was that the

catastrophe of ten seven was followed on October 8 by

a different kind of catastrophe, a moral and spiritual catastrophe

that was on full display throughout the West.

Before the bodies of those men and women and

children had even been identified, people poured into the

streets of our capital cities to celebrate the slaughter.

In Sydney, crowds gathered at

the opera house, cheering gas.

The Jews.

People rejoiced on the streets of Berlin and

London and Toronto and New York and Paris.

Then came BLM Chicago, using the paraglider, a symbol

of mass death, as a symbol of freedom.

Then came posters across our campuses

calling for Israel to burn.

Then came our own offices at the Free Press in

New York City, vandalized with F Jews and F Israel.

Then came Harvard's task force to create

safe spaces for pro Hamas students.

And then, as thunder follows lightning, more dead Jews.

An antiisrael protester outside of Los Angeles killed a

69 year old Jewish man this week for the

apparent sin of waving an Israeli flag, though NBC's

initial headline made it hard to follow, man dies

after hitting head during Israel and Palestinian rallies in

California, officials say in lockstep the social justice crowd,

the crowd who has tried so hard to convince

us that words are violence, insisted that actual violence

was a necessity, that rape was resistance, that torture

was liberation.

University presidents who leapt to issue morally lucid condemnations

of George Floyd's killing or Putin's war against Ukraine

offered silence or mealy mouthed Pablom about how the

situation is complex and how we need to think

of both sides as if there's some kind of

equivalence between innocent civilians and jihadists.

But the most alarming of all were the young

people who threw their support not behind the innocent

victims of Hamas terror, but behind Hamas and genocide.

At George Washington University, just down the road, students projected

the words glory to our martyrs and free Palestine from

the river to the sea in giant letters.

On a campus building at Cooper Union in Manhattan,

Jewish students had to hide in the library because

a mob was pounding on the door.

At Columbia, my old Professor Joseph

Massad, called the slaughter awesome.

At Cornell, Professor Russell Rickford said

it was energizing and exhilarating.

At Harvard, more than 30 student groups signed a

petition that found a way to blame Jewish victims

for their own deaths, saying that they, quote, hold

the Israeli regime entirely responsible for the unfolding violence.

At Princeton, hundreds of students

chanted, globalize the intefada.

Which can only mean one thing,

open season on Jews worldwide.

At NYU, students held posters that read, Keep the world

clean with drawings of Jewish stars in garbage cans.

Hip young people with pronouns in their bios are not

just chanting the slogans of a genocidal death cult.

They are going around and tearing down the photographs

of women and children who are currently being held

hostage in tunnels that run under the Gaza Strip.

And they do so gleefully.

They laugh, they mock the nine month old

baby who was stolen from his parents.

And in doing so, they are tearing down, or

at least they are trying to tear down, the

essence of our common humanity, or perhaps even the

reality that the hostages were taken at all.

Or maybe it's that they're trying to extinguish their memory,

or the people actually had it coming to them.

Or maybe, and I say this as the mother

of a young child in whose face I see

the face of every single child being held captive.

They are trying to tear down the divine image that

is at the very root of our civilization's conception of

the dignity and the equality of every human life.

What could possibly explain this?

The easy answer is that the human beings who

were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews, and that

antisemitism is the world's oldest hatred, and that in

every generation, someone rises up to destroy us.

They tried to wipe us out. They failed. Let's eat.

That's the oldest Jewish joke in the world.

But that's not the whole answer.

And that's because the proliferation of antisemitism,

as always, is a symptom when antisemitism

moves from this 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 society or the culture or

the country where it is being allowed to proliferate.

Antisemitism is a warning system.

It is a sign that the 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.

It was 20 years ago, when I was a

college student, that I began to encounter an ideology

that drives the people who tear down the posters.

It was 20 years ago that I started writing

about this ideology that seemed to contradict everything I

had been taught since I was a child.

At first, the things I encountered, like postmodernism

and postcolonialism and postnationalism, seemed like wordplay or

intellectual games, little puzzles to see how you

could deconstruct just about anything.

But 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 society from within.

This ideology seeks to upend the

very ideas of right and wrong.

It replaces the basic ideas of good and evil with

a new rubric, the powerless good and the powerful bad.

It replaces lots of things like that.

Colorblindness with race obsession, ideas with identity,

debate with denunciation and deplatforming, persuasion with

public shaming, the rule of law with

the fury of the mob.

People were to be given authority in this

new order, I learned, not in recognition of

their gifts, their hard work, their talents, their

accomplishments, or their contributions to society, but in

inverse proportion to the disadvantage their group had

suffered, as defined by radical ideologues.

And so, as an undergraduate, I watched in

horror, sounding alarms as loudly as I could.

Back then, I was told by most adults,

including Jewish communal leaders, that, yeah, it wasn't

great, but don't be so hysterical.

Campus were always hotbeds of political radicalism,

they said, and this ideology they promised

me would surely dissipate as young people

made their way into the world.

They were wrong.

It did not do that.

Over the past two decades, I saw this

inverted, morally perverse worldview swallow all of the

sense making institutions of American life.

It started in the universities.

Then it moved beyond the quad to cultural institutions, including

some that my wife and I know well, like the

New York Times, as well as to every major museum,

philanthropy, and media company, it has taken root in the

HR departments of every major corporation.

It is inside our high schools

and even our elementary schools.

And of course, as everyone in this room

knows, it has come to the law itself.

When you see a federal judge shouted down at

Stanford, you are seeing this ideology at work.

When you see people screaming outside of the homes

of certain Supreme Court justices, causing them to need

round the clock security, you are seeing its logic.

The takeover of core American institutions by this ideology

is so comprehensive that it's hard sometimes for people

to even notice it, because it's everywhere. Now.

For Jews, there are obvious and glaring dangers

in a worldview that measures fairness by equality

of outcome rather than by equality of opportunity.

If underrepresentation is the inevitable outcome of

systemic bias, then overrepresentation and Jews are

2% of the American population, suggests not

talent or hard work, but unearned privilege.

This conspiratorial conclusion is not actually that far

removed from the hateful portrait of a small

group of Jews diving up the ill gotten

spoils of an exploited world.

And it's not only Jews who suffer from the

suggestion that merit and excellence are dirty wordS.

It is every single American.

It is strivers of every race, ethnicity, and class.

That is why Asian American success, for

example, is seen as so suspicious.

The percentages are off.

The scores are too high.

The starting point as poor immigrants is too low.

From whom did they steal all of that success?

The week since October 7 has

been a mark to market moment.

In other words, everyone can now see how

very deep these ideas run, and we see

clearly that they are not just metaphors.

Decolonization isn't just a clever turn of phrase

or a new way to read novels.

It is the sincerely held political view

that serves as a predicate to violence.

If you want to understand how it could be

that the editor of the Harvard Law Review was

caught on camera a few weeks ago, physically intimidating

a Jewish student, or how a public defender in

Manhattan recently spent her evening tearing down posters of

kidnapped Israeli children, it is because they believe this,

and they believe it is just.

And their moral calculus is as

crude as you can imagine.

Israelis and Jews, powerful, successful colonizers.

So they're bad.

Hamas is weak.

They're considered people of color, so they're good.

And no, it doesn't matter that the majority

of Israelis are also people of color.

That baby, he's a colonizer first and a baby second.

That woman gang raped by terrorists? Shame.

It had to come to that.

But she's a white oppressor.

This is the ideology of vandalism, in the true

sense of the word, the vandal sacked realm.

It is the ideology of nihilism.

It knows nothing about how to build.

It only knows how to tear down and destroy.

And it has already torn down so very

much the civilization that feels as natural to

us as oxygen, that takes thousands of years,

thousands of nudges of progress, thousands of forgotten

sacrifices and risks to build up to.

But vandals can make very quick work of that.

Reagan used to say that freedom is never

more than one generation from extinction, and the

same can be said of our civilization.

If anything good can come out of the nightmare

that began on October 7, it is this.

We have been shaken awake.

We know the gravity of the stakes,

and the stakes are not theoretical.

They are real.

So what can we do?

First, we need to look.

We must recover our ability

to look and discern accordingly.

We must look past the sloganeering and the propaganda and take

a hard look at what is in front of our eyes.

Look first, of course, at what just happened,

at the barbarism that Hamas carried out.

Then look at the reaction to it.

Take stock of how profoundly the lies and the

rot have traveled, how badly the forces of civilization

and of good are faring in this battle, how

it is that the most educated, the most pedigreed,

have become the most morally confused.

The suspect in the killing of

Paul Kessler is a college professor.

To see the world as it is, we have to

prize the distinctions that so many have forgotten, 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 evil.

Just as I don't need a history lesson in the

Arab Israeli conflict to know that the Arab Israelis who

saved scores of Jewish Israelis that day, are righteous.

Look carefully.

Look at your enemies and your allies.

And I say that to myself more than to you.

Many of you have no doubt understood

this for far longer than I have.

But for many people, especially many people in my

cohort, friends and enemies are not who they were,

not who they thought they were before October 7.

Accepting this might be hard for some of you, as

it has been for me, it might mean giving up

on nice things, giving up on Harvard, giving up on

the club or your New York Times subscription.

Sorry, wrong crowd.

But you get my point.

The point is that things, prestige, they

are not the point of our lives.

Harvard and Yale don't give us value.

We give us value.

Something beyond ourselves gives us value.

The something that is visible in the faces

of so many people before me right now.

And in recognizing allies, I'll be an example.

Right now, I am a gay

woman who is moderately pro choice.

I know that there are some people in this room

who don't believe that my marriage should have been legal.

And that's okay, because we're all

Americans who want lower taxes.

But I am here because I know that in the fight

for the west, who my allies really are, and they are

not the people who, looking at facile external markers of my

identity, that I might imagine them to be my allies.

True allies are people who

believe that America is good.

My allies are people who believe that the west is good

and that human beings are created equal, and that saying so

is essential to knowing what we are fighting for.

America and our values, those

are things worth fighting for. And that.

And not any number of nonsensical or

at least tertiary culture war issues.

That is the priority of the day.

The other thing to look for right now is for the good.

To look for the good in these moments of

darkness and to not lose sight of it.

There's a New York coffee shop

owner named Aaron de Hahn.

He had all of his baristas quit the

other day because he put an Israeli flag

in the window and began fundraising for Magenda

Vida Dome, which is the Israeli Red Cross.

So they all quit.

But his cafe didn't close.

It was quite the opposite.

Suppliers sent him free shipments of beans and cups.

Community members picked up shifts for him for free.

There were lines around the block on the Upper

east side just to buy a cup of coffee.

His cafe made $25,000 in a single day just this week.

American cowboys.

I hope you guys have seen these guys on social media.

American cowboys from the Great Plains and the Rockies travel

to Israel to tend the fields and animals of Israeli

farmers who have been killed in the past month.

This is the opposite of the cheap solidarity

of standing with Hamas that we see across

our campuses and in our city centers.

This is the essence of the West.

This is the essence of the idea that

free people and free societies must stick together.

It's not just, as James Woolsley once

put it, that we're all Jews now.

The reverse is also true.

Israel is a mirror for the west and

for the United States, whose founders saw a

version of themselves in the biblical nation that

also inspired the modern Zionists, whose descendants are

now looking toward America with gratitude, but also

with alarm, sensing a shared struggle ahead.

So the first thing we must do is look, the second

thing that we really, you must do is enforce the law.

The wave of the so called progressive prosecutors that

have been elected across many of our cities has

proven to be an immensely bad thing for law

and order in cities across America.

It turns out that choosing not to enforce the

law doesn't actually reduce crime, it promotes it.

And it is no coincidence that many of the same

activists who have pushed to defund the police are now

the people physically harassing Jews in our streets.

Everyone in America deserves equal protection, not only of the

law, but from the forces of chaos and violence.

In Brooklyn, there have been an unconscionable

number of violent attacks against Orthodox Jews

over the past decade, and they've been

correctly identified as hate crimes.

But they're also simply crimes that, if the law

were upheld, would be far less likely to happen.

Whatever their motivation, masking at protests is

illegal in many states so that it

doesn't become an attempt at mass intimidation.

Allah, the KKK.

Now maybe that's a good idea, maybe it's a bad one.

But in nearby Virginia, it happens to be the law.

And yet, as David Bernstein recently pointed out

in Eugene Volak's blog at George Mason University's

Fairfax campus, nearly all of the protesters at

a recent student for justice in Palestine rally

were masked, completely covered.

Were they punished for breaking the law?

I suspect if they had, we would have read about it.

The rallies that we're seeing right now would

likely be less susceptible to erupting in violence

if the attendants weren't covering their faces.

So don't allow selective enforcement of

this law or any others.

If neo Nazis and white supremacists can't

do it, then neither can Hamas sympathizers.

The third thing, 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 have been doing.

Ask any conservative, and I know a few now who's

tried to speak at a public university and had a

security fee imposed on them, or had their speech quietly

removed off campus into a small, restricted venue.

Whether there aren't sorry or had their sorry,

I'm going to start that over again.

Ask any conservative who's tried to speak at a public

university and had a security fee imposed on them, or

had their speech quietly moved to an op campus venue.

Private universities can legally restrict speech, but

their restrictions can't be enforced discriminatorily.

And yet they are.

I'm just going to give you one quite

amazing example from Yale Law School in 2021.

In an example I'm sure all of you

will know, law student Trent Colbert invited classmates

to his trap house in his announcement of

a Constitution Day bash hosted by Fedsock and

the Native American Law Students Association.

It took 12 hours for administrators to process discrimination

complaints, Haul Colbert in for a meeting, and suggest

his career was on the line if he didn't

sign an apology that they wrote on his behalf.

The law school dean also authorized

a message condemning his language.

Why all of this hullabaloo?

Because Trap House was a term that some

claimed had racist associations with crack houses.

But when Jewish students wrote that dean two weeks

after the Hamas attacks, detailing the anti Semitic vitriol

they had received, they got a formulaic reply from

the deputy directing them to student support services for

certain students, kid gloves for others, the MA of

whatever hate their classmates and professors can dream up.

The universities are playing favorites based on

the speech they prefer and the racial

group hierarchies that they have established.

It is a nasty game, and they need to be

called out for it's fourth, and this is my last.

Accept that you are the last

line of defense and fight, fight.

If you study history and if you look at

where Jews stand, for better and generally for worse,

you will understand with almost 100% certainty where a

culture, where a country or where a civilization stands,

whether it's on the way up or on the

way down, whether it's expanding in its freedoms or

whether it's contracting them, where liberty thrives, Jews thrive.

Where difference is celebrated, genuine

difference, Jews are celebrated.

And where freedom of thought and of faith and

of speech are protected, Jews tend to be, too.

And when such virtues are regarded as threats or

thrown to the side, Jews will be, too.

As goes Ohio, so goes the nation,

is the famous political phrase the Jews.

Please don't quote me on this.

We're Ohio, and nothing is guaranteed. Nothing.

The right ideas don't win on their own.

They need a voice.

They need prosecutors.

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.

And to do that without hesitation or apology.

The leftist intellectual Sidney Hook, who broke with the

Communists and called his memoir out of Step for

that reason, used to implore those around him to

always answer an accusation or a charge, to never

let a falsehood stand unchallenged.

We as a culture, are leaders.

We have let too much go unchallenged.

Too many lies have spread in the face of inaction.

Inaction that's come as the result of fear

or wanting to be polite no more.

You are the last line of defense.

Every person is the last line of defense.

And we have to think about it that way.

Don't bite your tongue.

Don't tremble.

Don't go along with the little lies.

Be the skunk at the garden party.

Speak up, break the wall of

lies, and let nothing go unchallenged.

Our enemy's failure is not assured,

and there is no cavalry coming.

We are the cavalry, and our civilization depends on us.

Now, I'm going to close with maybe something unusual for

a Federalist Society lecture, but is a very, very rare

thing for me to not be sitting at a Shabbat

dinner table on a Friday night as the sun sets.

So I hope you'Ll let me close

with a Little bit of Torah.

Tomorrow, in every synagogue around the world, we'll read

the portion of the Torah where Abraham, Abraham's wife

Sarah dies at the ripe old age of 127.

We read in the BIble that she died in Kyriat

Arba, now Hebron, Or Hebron, in the land of Canaan.

And we read that when she does as the Bible Says,

Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to Bewail her.

And the very next verse goes like this.

TheN Abraham rose from beside his dead and spoke to

the Hittites, saying, I am a Resonant alien among you.

Sell ME a Burial site among you so

that I may remove my dead for Burial.

So that's the first thing he does.

He buys a plot of land to bury Sarah.

And the Second thing he does Is that he

goes to find a wife for his son Isaac.

The late, great holy man, Rabbi Jonathan Sachs,

who I was blessed to know, tells us

this, about the sequence of events.

Abraham heard the Future calling to him.

Sarah had died.

Isaac was unmarried.

AbrahAm had neither land nor grandchildren.

He did not cry out in anger or anguish to God.

Instead, he heard the still, small voice

saying, the next step depends on you.

You must create a future that

I will fill with my spirit.

That is how Abraham survived the shock

and the grief, writes Rabbi Sachs.

This is how generations of

Jews before me have survived.

This is how every civilization survives.

I am so honored, as I said before, to

be here, speaking in this place in honor of

someone who stood up courageously for all the things

that mattered most, and who was murdered by the

enemies that we are fighting still today.

Her memory is a blessing for me.

There is another phrase, though, that traditional Jews invoke

when speaking of someone who has been murdered.

And that is HASHeM YikOm Dama.

May God avenge her death.

We human beings leave vengeance in the hands of God.

But fighting.

Fighting is for all of us, especially when

there is something so precious worth fighting for.

Ted once said of Barbara that Barbara was Barbara

because America, unlike any place in the world, gave

her the space, freedom, oxygen, encouragement and inspiration to

be whatever she wanted to be.

There is no place like this country.

There is no second America for us

to run to if this one fails.

So get up.

Get up and fight for our future.

This is the fight of and for our lives.

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