With Israeli troops on the offensive against Hamas in Gaza, international antisemitism is on the rise. This involves hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, and/or political entity. As in the instance when a crowd recently surrounded a Jewish synagogue in Paris, while shouting: “Death to the Jews!”
I come to this issue having taken study tours to the Holy Land on several occasions, before residing in Jerusalem for four years. During the latter time, I was involved with both Jews and Arabs. When asked which side I was on, I replied: “Neither. I identify with people.” Whereupon, the inquirer replied: “That won’t work here.”
Our state department spokesperson recently criticized both Hamas for continuing its firing of rockets, and Israel for alleged failure to properly protect civilian residents in Gaza. As for the former, a Hamas adherent recently allowed: “We will do everything to destroy you and murder your children.” If so, one cannot expect peaceful coexistence.
As for the latter, no counter effort can be risk free, given the deliberate firing of rockets from residential areas. Not unless the Jews decide in a manner of speaking to suffer in silence. The hostile action will simply continue and perhaps increase unhindered.
Who, then, is to blame when civilians perish? While one could argue that the blame should be shared, those selecting residential areas for their initiative would seem more culpable. Conversely, most of the international criticism seems leveled at the Israeli response. While I quite agree that we should encourage proper restraint, it seems presumptuous to think we know when this is the case.
Incidently, the original borders suggested for a two state solution were not feasible according to a military analyst some years ago, and less so today. Significant changes would have to be made, and interim events taken into consideration. Such as the increase in both Israeli and Arab displaced persons.
“Hatred of the Jew has been humanity’s greatest hatred,” Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin conclude. “While hatred of other groups has always existed, no hatred has been so universal, as deep, or as permanent as antisemitism” (Why the Jews, p. 17).
“Antisemites have not opposed Jews because Jews are affluent—poor Jews have always been as hated; or strong—weak Jews have simply invited antisemitic bullies; or because Jews may have unpleasant personalities—kindly Jews have never been spared. Antisemites have hated Jews because Jews are Jewish” (Ibid., p. 22).
In greater detail, “1. For thousands of years Judaism has consisted of three components: God, Torah, and Israel, that is, the Jewish God, Jewish law, and Jewish nationhood.” (Ibid.). Then in this capacity, “as challenging the validity of the non-Jew’s god(s), law(s), and/or national allegiance.”
“2. From its earliest days the raison d’etre of Judaism has been to change the world for the better” (Ibid. p. 23). In keeping with the expression tikkum olam, which is to say: repairing the world. Thus to offend those who would maintain the status quo.
“3. As if the above were not enough, Judaism has also held from the earliest time that the Jews were chosen by God to achieve this mission of perfecting the world. This doctrine of the Jew’s divine selection has been a major cause of antisemitism” (Ibid.).
“4. As a result of the Jew’s commitment to Judaism, they have led higher quality lives than their non-Jewish neighbors in almost every society in which they have lived” (Ibid.). “To cite a few examples: Jews have nearly always been better educated; Jewish family life has usually been far more stable; Jews aided one another considerably more than their non-Jewish neighbors; and Jews have been far less likely to become drunk, beat their wives, abandon their children, and the like.” “This higher quality of life has challenged non-Jews and provoked profound envy and hostility.”
Qualifications aside, the same could be said of Christians. Then, in turn, it might account for the wide-spread persecution of Christians in the past, and on its rise currently. All of which may suggest that both antisemitism and Christian persecution ultimately results from theophobia, i.e., hatred or excessive fear of God. While aptly expressed by Friedrich Nietzche, “I hope there is no god, for then I would not be him.”
As an alternative to antisemitism, “In Jewish tradition, Israel is singled out as the elder brother. That is, it was chosen first, so as to be a light to the nations. Consequently, it is the recipient of special privileges and obligations” (Morris Inch, The Elder Brother, p. 1).
To further explore the elder brother motif, my older brother and I did not always get along well together. So that in later years, I inquired of him: “When did you stop picking on me?”
As if he had anticipated my inquiry, he promptly replied: “When you got to be bigger than me.” Such was his subtle sense of humor.
While allowing for occasional tensions, I much prefer to recall all the good times we had together. Out of deference to the elder brother, whether actual or as a metaphor concerning the Jewish people. In this regard, as a more constructive alternative than antisemitism.
In conclusion, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels’” (Psa. 122:6-7). Pray for shalom (peace, well-being). Likewise, strive for shalom.
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