I often read articles, email forwards, and blog posts which seek to defend Israel’s right to exist by evoking the history of the Jewish people, its high moral and ethical standards, its choice to fight only in self defense, or its many remarkable contributions to the betterment of the world. While I agree that Israel has accomplished great things in its 62 years of existence, and still can accomplish many more (MANY more), I think these attempts to justify Israel’s existence by extolling its virtues miss the mark.
Here are some reasons often given for why people should love Israel, be proud of Israel, leave Israel alone, or otherwise come to grips with the fact that Israel exists (in no particular order):
1. The Jews are a small minority in the world and yet furthered the progress of civilization by introducing monotheism, the Marx Brothers, and the Pentium to the world.
2. Jews have suffered discrimination, ghettoization, imprisonment, and murder at the hands of non-Jews for thousands of years.
3. Israelis have invented lots of cool, fun, life-saving stuff that the world enjoys.
4. Jews in general and Israelis in particular have garnered more Nobels (given their tiny representation in the world’s population) than the goyim.
5. Israelis help other countries after natural disasters, sending planes with tent hospitals, specialists, equipment, machines, and medical supplies, regardless of how the affected country treats us at the UN.
6. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.
7. Jews returned to the land of their forefathers, purchased land legally, were discriminated against by the British colonial government here which gave the Arabs a free hand to murder Jews whenever they felt like it, and in the end had to fight not only to make good the promises the British had made them and broken, but for their very lives.
8. Jews were killed by the millions in the Shoah while the world watched and (for the most part) did bupkes to stop the killing.
9. Israel has many shared political, cultural, and economic interests with the US and the West.
10. Israel has the most moral army in the world, a free press, and an activist liberal court system which collectively are completely unabashed about investigating and trying real war criminals.
These are NOT reasons why Israel should be loved or respected in the world, or why the world should recognize Israel’s existence. These are reasons Israelis and Diaspora Jews have to be proud of Israel, but they are not necessarily shared by anyone outside that small population group. Nor should they be.
So why should other countries stop spending all their condemnation sessions at the UN beating up on Israel? Why are the standards by which Israel is judged by the rest of the world completely whacked? And why does Israel deserve to exist at all?
Because Israel IS. That’s it. Nations are not made by consensus, and if a nation does things that other nations don’t like, there is no discussion of abolishing the offending nation. There is criticism, there is disapproval, there is sometimes even war (when there is no other option). But a nation is not made by LL Bean, and cannot be returned via parcel post for any reason, or no reason at all. South Africa with its apartheid policies was criticized, boycotted, and divested from, but in the end it solved its own problems without outside intervention, without being wiped off the map. Pakistan, with its surreptitious nuclear tests, saber-rattling against India, and now concerns of involvement with worldwide Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, has not received any threats to its existence. And China, with an appalling human rights record on multiple levels (Tiananmen Square massacre, trafficking in organs harvested from prisoners, annexation of Tibet) has not only not been liquidated; the nations of the world are either tiptoeing around it politically, or falling all over themselves to trade with it.
The mayor of Efrat, Oded Ravivi (one of the few politicians for whom my vote has not been the Kiss of Death), made a short speech at a demonstration in Gush Etzion a few weeks ago against Obama’s harsh treatment of Israel, and the resulting encouragement it has given local Arabs to begin stoning Jews again. Oded spoke briefly and to the point. He said that all nations act in their interests. Obama believes his policies, so counterproductive for peace and dangerous for Israelis, are in America’s interests. Israel, too, is a nation with its own interests. And like all nations, it is Israel’s obligation to act in its own interests, whatever they may be.
But America and Israel are such great friends, many would argue. There’s”no light between” as some have said. But perhaps Charles DeGaulle had it right when he said, “No nation has friends; only interests.”
And no nation should be threatened with extinction for acting like a nation.
(Happy 62nd Birthday, Medinat Yisrael!)