Written for the Beth David Star, February, 2003
As you certainly know, in the past two and a half years since the beginning of the ďSecond Intifada,Ē Israel has been in a difficult fight for survival. This fight occurs not only in Israel itself, but in the entire Middle East, Europe, and America. The fight is not only with suicide bombers but with the Palestinian propaganda machines. The Palestinian leadership has been aided, unfortunately, by the ugly monster of anti-Semitism whose strong roots in Europe have never completely been destroyed. Like a weed, it seems, any remnant of anti-Semitism, however small, can lie dormant until some tragedy like a plummeting economy, a political upheaval, or a pending war start people looking for simple causes and they point their fingers once again at the Jews. I used to think that anti-Semitism in America was a thing of the past in todayís multicultural society. Unfortunately I was wrong ó itís simply more subtle.
Recently, Iíve had conversations with intelligent friends who are deeply concerned with current political, economic, and environmental issues. It disturbs me when these well-meaning people speak of Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. I typically respond with the fact that Palestinians have more freedoms in Israel than in any Arab country. That Arab women in Israel enjoy more freedom than in any other Middle Eastern country. And that Israelís demolition of terrorist homes is certainly more humane, and acceptable, than the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Palestinians that took place in Jordan in 1970 or the expulsion of over 300,000 Palestinians from Kuwait after the Gulf War in 1991.
One response I get is that Israel as a democratic, Western-style country, needs to be held to a higher standard. I disagree because morality is not relative, itís absolute. The Ten Commandments are universal laws for all people, not just Jews, Americans, or democratic countries. In any case, this argument is easy to debunk. Nearly as many Muslims died in Kashmir, a state of democratic India, in a single day in March 2002 as in the entire two and a half years of the recent intifada. Americaís military response to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda after September 11, 2000 was many times more destructive than any action Israel has taken. England deals with IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland and has a record of killing innocent civilians and unarmed IRA members. Spain allegedly tortures terrorists from the ETA who set off bombs for their cause of liberating the Basque region. And Russia, one of the worldís newest democracies, is fighting an all out war against Muslim terrorists in Chechnya.
So what really makes Israel different from other countries? Itís more humane and itís Jewish. There are no other differences. And there are only two reasons to single out Israel for boycotts, protests, and blacklists ó ignorance and anti-Semitism. We must fight against both with facts and with passion.
Bob Zeidman writes a regular column about Israel. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback and suggestions. You can also be put on his email list for information about Israel and upcoming rallies, lectures, and other activities.