5. Could this all be coincidence?
It may be happenstance that people who live in countries where Jews were hated for millennia are saying that only Jews should not have a country, or criticize that country exclusively, or ignore atrocities perpetrated by other countries, or have deep understanding of those who are moved to murder Jews. It may show nothing but a sensitivity bordering on paranoia to be troubled at the juncture of ancient, enduring hatreds with modern censure. Criticism of Israel across Europe surely has nothing to do with the searing observation by David Cesarani in London's Guardian that "Indeed, the 'final solution of the Jewish question' was probably the only genuine pan-European enterprise of the 20th century." The last thing all Europe agreed upon was the elimination of Jews, and now it agrees on the unredeemable savagery of Israel. To assume a relation between the hatred that was and the vilification that is risks being called "a Zionist propagandist" one of those phrases designed not to describe, but to strangle discussion.
I know people in Israel whose children have been killed. Not because someone else was the intended target, not because of clumsiness or the heedless use of great force, but because the children were deliberately targeted. After all, the murderers last month of the Hatuel family stopped a pregnant woman and four children in a Jeep and systematically shot each of them. Neither the mother nor the little children were armed. They were merely Jews. Imagine if it were done on the streets of a major American city. Here such a person is called Charles Manson; in the halls of the Hague, they are fighters for freedom.
Are Jews always the victims? Certainly not. Israel is in a grip of mutual despair with Palestinians who have suffered much, and their plight is intolerable. That is why more than 150,000 people showed up to demonstrate in Israel on May 15 in favor of a Gaza pullout, the only country in the area where such a demonstration could peaceably take place.
But surely five million Jews surrounded by a billion Arab and Islamic peoples have some right to be terrified. What do we suppose would have happened if Saddam Hussein had a nuclear bomb--which was prevented only by Menachem Begin's decision to bomb its incipient reactor? (Should you not recall, Begin was universally condemned for this action which later saved the world from nuclear terror.)
In writing this I feel the enormous frustration of knowing it will not sway the minds of those for whom hatred for Israel is deeper than reason. I wonder, does anyone imagine that if given the means to wipe Israel off the map, the surrounding Arab countries would not do so? Dear God, professors comfortably sipping their teas and Turkish coffee in the universities of London, Brussels, and Paris would do so--why not the Islamic nations in whose midst Israel's presence is an offense, and her successes an affront?
And yet we are told that it is only Israel's belligerence that prevents peace.
Here is a quotation that explains the problem far more crisply than I, from the Polish critic Konstantyn Jelenski. His essay, published in Kultura in Paris, May 1968, and quoted later by Abraham Brumberg in the New York Review of Books, reads:
Poles have never come out against Jews "because they are Jews" but because Jews are dirty, greedy, mendacious, because they wear ear-locks, speak jargon, do not want to assimilate, and also because they do assimilate, cease using their jargon, are nattily dressed, and want to be regarded as Poles. Because they lack culture and because they are overly cultured. Because they are superstitious, backward and ignorant, and because they are damnably capable, progressive, and ambitious. Because they have long, hooked noses, and because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from "pure Poles." Because they crucified Christ and practice ritual murder and pore over the Talmud, and because they disdain their own religion and are atheists. Because they look wretched and sickly, and because they are tough and have their own fighting units and are full of Khutspah. Because they are bankers and capitalists and because they are Communists and agitators. But in no case because they are Jews.Today, too, the enemies of Israel insist their hatred has nothing to do with Israel being a Jewish state. Rather we are told it is because Israel is singularly evil, oppressive and murderous--but certainly, assuredly, NOT because they are Jews.
The misrepresentations are not new. Sadly they have roots that go back hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years. Other victims of hatred recognize the symptoms. As the black representative John Lewis, central to the civil rights movement, said:
"During a recent U.N. conference on racism we were all shocked by the attacks on Jews, Israel and Zionism...Once again, the words of (Dr. Martin Luther) King ran through my memory, `I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews--because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.' During an appearance at Harvard University shortly before his death, a student stood up and asked (Dr. Martin Luther) King to address the issue of Zionism. The question was clearly hostile. King responded, 'When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.'"
In the Talmud Rabbi Hanina points out that the eye has a dark part and a light part, but it is only through the dark part that we can see. Perhaps the darkness of this hatred will enable those with reserves of goodwill to rethink their position. May they come to appreciate that this single struggling state, fallible, run by human beings and therefore liable to the failings and vices that afflict human nature, is nonetheless a beacon of light in history, born of humanity's darkest age.