Nine Palestinians were recently killed by the IDF in Jenin. Shortly afterward, seven Israelis were killed in Jerusalem on Shabbat. Two more Israelis, a father and son, were shot in the Old City of Jerusalem the next day. The numbers look somewhat equal. Are these acts of violence morally equivalent?
The obvious answer is no. Of the nine Palestinians killed by Israeli troops, seven were armed terrorists. Two victims were unfortunately caught in the crossfire. On the other hand, all of the Israeli-Jewish victims were unarmed. Seven were attending a prayer service and two were visiting an archaeological site. Israeli Jews are not wantonly killing Arabs. On the other hand, Arab terrorists are murdering Jews simply because they are Jewish.
Despite the literal life-and-death consequences for its citizens, Israeli democracy provides the right of freedom of religion to all of its citizens. Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshippers may be seen in mosques, churches and synagogues throughout the country. Freedom of religion and protection against religious persecution is a basic tenet of the Jewish state. The Jewish experience of living as a minority among the nations and Jewish law, the Torah and halacha, both guarantee and protect the rights of the landowner, foreigner, widow and orphan. All are seen as equal in the eyes of the law. This equality has been preserved and codified in the Israeli legal system.
Though it is a liberal-democratic state, Israel is harangued and abused by its own “liberal” press and the United Nations. Most recently, cries have arisen warning of the end of Israeli democracy due to the supposedly primitive and prejudiced views of the new government in Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority continues to financially support murderers of Jews and educate children that Jews are evil occupiers who suck the blood of innocent Arab children.
How is it possible to distort reality in this way?
First, Israel has morphed from the status of the underdog to that of the enforcer of law and order in the Wild Middle East. Liberal society tends to distrust those who enforce the law. The “woke” tendency to distrust and disdain the police reflects this.
Moreover, postmodern liberalism appears to blindly detest any group that exerts power over a relatively weak opponent. Currently, the balance of power between Israel and its Arab neighbors maintains Israel as a strong, democratic state in a sea of relatively weak authoritarian regimes.
After 75 years of representing morality and law in a part of the world that views the Judeo-Christian moral tradition as foreign and hostile, Israel is now mercilessly criticized by a “woke” world that has embraced the dark side of postmodernism. Perceiving Israel as the bad guy in a manner oblivious to reality is currently in vogue.
Bob Dylan expressed the absurdity of this cognitive distortion in his 1982 song “Neighborhood Bully”:
Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They’ve got him outnumbered about a million to one
He’s got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully
Twentieth-century history proved beyond any doubt that the Jew has nowhere else to go but Israel. Yet it appears that, in a grotesque parody, the enlightened world prefers the Jew passively murdered in the gas chamber rather than the active Jew struggling to survive in his ancestral land. Shedding tears over helpless victims being led as sheep to the slaughter is palatable to the world. Thank God, it is no longer palatable to the post-Holocaust Jew.
A second factor that accounts for the demonization of Israel is simply antisemitism. For centuries, our enemies proposed multiple and often contradictory reasons for hating us: Jews are too successful. Jews are a burden on society. Jews are killers of God. Jews have rejected the true prophet. Jews are communists. Jews are capitalists.
These are all variations of the unjustified and vicious enmity that has been hurled at the descendants of Jacob. The rabbis stated it plainly: “Esau hates Jacob.” This hatred has been manifested for more than 2,000 years. It appears under numerous guises such as Nazism, communism, eugenics, religion and, most recently, “woke postmodernism,” to name a few.
Thinkers such as Freud and Nietzsche have traced this hatred to the idea of despising the lawgiver. Two thousand years earlier, the rabbis of the Talmud stated the same idea: “From the time of the giving of the Torah on Sinai, hatred (sinah) descended upon the world.” Law imputes responsibility for actions. When one acts irresponsibly, scapegoating is a natural albeit dysfunctional defense.
In the face of unbridled hatred, Jews ought to embrace their identity with passion and pride. Quivering with fear in the face of irrational antisemitism, even when it appears under the guise of progressive ideas, simply plays into the hands of Jew-haters.
Over 100 years ago Ehad Ha’am, the leader of cultural Zionism, when confronted with the relentless antisemitism of his generation, asked, “Is it possible for the entire world to be wrong and for us to be correct?” His answer was unequivocal and ought to resound in our ears today: “Yes, it is certainly possible.”
Simcha Chesner received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Case Western Reserve University and has lived in Israel for the past 32 years. He is the founder and director of the Jacob’s Ladder schools and clinic for families coping with ADHD and associated disorders and a senior lecturer of psychology and education at Orot Teachers College.