The rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, the fanatic Muslim extremism of Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, ISIS, and the Wahhabis, the cancerous spread of the International BDS movement, the political manipulation of people’s fears and hatred of the “other,” a double-standard when it comes to criticizing Israel that doesn’t make the same demands of other countries in similar conflicts, all are cited by Jews and Israelis as evidence that the world hates us.
Let’s assume for a moment that they are right. Why would the world hate us?
Perhaps, the resentment comes from the biblical story about which most everyone is familiar and in which the Jewish people is the original recipient of God’s promise.
Or perhaps, the hostility comes from our people’s rejection of the prophecies of the founders of Christianity and Islam whose adherents dominate so much of the planet.
Or perhaps, the story of the birth of Zionism and the state of Israel provokes dissonance in the minds of those who abide the myth that Judaism and the Jewish people ought to hold an inferior place relative to classic Christianity and Christians, Islam and Muslims.
For whatever the reason (and there are many), it’s true that the world pays inordinate attention to us Jews and the state of Israel. There are more foreign correspondents in Israel today than in any other country except the United States.
Years ago, Tom Friedman wrote:
“Quite simply, the West has a fascination and preoccupation with the story of Israel, a curiosity about it, an attraction and even an aversion to it that is out of all proportion to the nation’s size. And equally, Israel has an uncanny ability to inject itself into the news like no other country of four million people.” (“The Focus of Israel,” NY Times Magazine, February 1, 1987)
Friedman characterized Israel’s story as “the oldest, most familiar super story of Western civilization” of which “The Bible is the First edition,” and it is that super story, he suggested, that drives people’s attitudes towards Jews and the state of Israel.
Does the world really hate us?
In a recent poll, 71% of Israelis think that the world has a double standard when it comes to criticizing Israel, and 69% of Israelis say that Israel’s current relationship with the world is either “not good” or “not so good.”
It’s true that the world uses a double standard to measure Israel’s behavior and policies; but, this doesn’t mean that the world is against us. Though other countries expect a higher level of behavior of Israel, so do Jews because Israel was created for that purpose of being a moral “light to the nations,” and even with its remarkable accomplishments in every area of human endeavor, we Jews by nature do not settle for what “is”; we are a people seeking redemption for ourselves and for the world.
I do not believe that the world is against us. Nor do I believe that the vast majority of the world’s population cares about Jews or the state of Israel one way or another, because for most countries Israel doesn’t affect their populations who are far more concerned with and worried about other matters.
Of those who do care a great deal about Israel, their main concern is the occupation and the settlements, and about whether Israel and the Palestinians will ever be able to find a secure, just, reasonable, end-of-conflict two-state resolution of their conflict.
The truth is this – never in Jewish history have there been as many powerful leaders of more nations allied with Israel as there are today, even when Israel’s leaders insult them.
Millions of French citizens of every ethnic and religious background marched in the streets of Paris after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket terrorist attacks this past year. Those people were allied with Israel and the West. They were not against us, but we Jews who resonate more to headlines about those who hate us than to headlines about those who love us are quick to ignore statements of support and solidarity.
Yes, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and ISIS are serious threats to the safety and security of the people of Israel. Yes, the international BDS movement and criticism of Israel in the blogosphere that quickly devolves into anti-Semitic ranting and delegitimization of Israel’s existence must be taken seriously and combated. Yes, there will always be anti-Semites. Of course, we have to be diligent in stating the truth and in our self-defense. But diligence in defense of our interests does not mean painting the entire world with the same extremist brush.
Last week’s Torah portion Shlach L’cha told the story of the 12 scouts sent by Moses to spy out the land, and we were reminded that we cannot be led by fear and the mindset of the victim. We are not “grasshoppers.” Israel is by far the strongest and most secure nation in the Middle East. Israel holds most of the cards in the relationships it has with the Palestinians and its neighbors, and despite legitimate threats against her, we foolishly build a fortress around ourselves and let no one in because we think the world hates us. They don’t!