Friday, December 13, 2013
Why Israel is boycotted
1. What lies at the root of the European boycott of Israel? What lies at the root of the anti-Israel statements that various cultural icons are constantly making -- statements that camouflage anti-Semitic sentiment? What lies behind the false and malicious comparison of Israel to South Africa's apartheid regime?
The attempts to boycott Israel or mark its products, interfere in its ancient geography or mark it as racist, fascist or Nazi are the current political expression of Israel's ancient characterization as "a nation that dwells alone." The return to Zion is the Jewish nation's return to history, to life as a sovereign people in its ancient homeland. Calls for boycott were made even before the establishment of the state. While these calls came from the extremist factions at the time, they moved toward the center as the years went by, particularly after 1967. That was when we came back to the cradle of our nationhood, to the historical places most closely connected with our identity. Most important, we came back to Jerusalem, which is also linked with the identity of the world's nations. The fight against Israel -- which is a fight against history's law of the return to Zion -- is evidence of how hard it is for Israel's opponents to deal with the Jews' return to life after having been in a state of living death for so long. That is why we and our products are marked, why the badge of shame is being placed upon us once again, why we are being isolated and boycotted. This is our adversaries' way of saying: "You are not one of us."
2. As Balaam, the prophet hired to curse the Israelites, looked out over the Israelite tribes gathered on the plains of Moab just before they entered Canaan, he had a moment of clarity. It was then that he said: "Behold a people that dwells alone, that is not counted among the nations."
I have just said that he made this statement in a moment of clarity, but it may also be seen as a sophisticated attempt to isolate the Jews. The main representative of world culture at that time marked out, with his words, the boundaries of life for the new nation. Even at our people's beginnings, the world marked us: "They" are a people that dwells alone, and we do not count them among us.
We have done much since that prophecy was uttered. We founded a kingdom and a temple and set up prophets for ourselves and for the world. As a political entity we endured two destructions, and hundreds of individual ones until the most horrific of all seventy years ago in Europe. But never, in word or deed, did we abandon the hope of returning home, of restoration, of being a free people in Zion and Jerusalem.
Except for brief periods of relative calm, the nations of the world did all they could do isolate and shun us. Jews also marked themselves by their dress and their customs. The Jewish people lived outside history, acquiring the image of a people in a living death, with all the significance of that image, for good reason. We lived on the margins of history and outside it, running for our lives from place to place.
The Jewish Haskalah (Enlightenment) period in the 18th-19th centuries marked a new development. The Jews made an effort to integrate into society and become contributing citizens. Berlin became the new Jerusalem. Many proponents of the new movement, called maskilim, assimilated, but many did not, even though they abandoned religious observance. But more than a century of the Haskalah led to disappointment in the end. The Jews' hopes of integration went unfulfilled. The surrounding society's fear and abhorrence of Jews who had blended in, leaving behind all external signs of their Jewishness, only grew greater.
Some foreigners take advantage of a society's goodness without contributing to it. Sometimes they even work to undermine it or act openly against it. Not so the Jews of Europe. They tried to be more German than the Germans, more French than the French. Thousands of Jews died as soldiers in the wars between the empires. They made contributions in science, culture, commerce, law and politics. But none of this helped when crisis struck. Once again Jews were marked with the yellow badge, and even those whose ancestors had assimilated three generations before were forced to wear it.
The Zionist movement was a ripe fruit that fell into the hands of thousands of young people who had left the Egypt of their day, the Jewish shtetl and had no desire to assimilate. They wanted only to return to the Land of Israel. Now the Promised Land became an actual destination, and the return to Zion a practical political plan.
3. What is the founding myth that the West kept before its eyes for two millennia? What did they see in the streets, on signs, in books, in churches, in the symbols of their governments? What was it that Westerners saw from birth to death? A crucified Jew.
With the advent of the Haskalah, and all the more so that of Zionism, the Jews sought for the first time in centuries to leave the role Christianity had prescribed for them -- to serve as a living example of the truth of the Christian faith and as human fodder for the re-enactment of the crucifixion, through the terrible violence used against them -- and re-enter history. The Jews came down from the cross and sought to live among those who had seen them, up to that time, through the founding myth of the crucified Jew. As we saw in the previous century, the attempt failed, ending in unprecedented disaster.
With Zionism -- the completion of the process of coming down from the cross -- the Jewish people's future changed. Jesus came down from the cross, wrapped himself in his prayer shawl and went back to being a Jew from the Galilee, leaving his empty image behind in Europe. The establishment of the State of Israel was a profound disruption of Christian Europe's founding myth. As if it were not enough that Jesus came down from the cross, he also went back to his ancient homeland and took up arms to keep from being crucified again. Even if the power of religion had waned, the myths through which it shaped the culture of the European nations had not. They remained the basis of thought and action, and they are the basis of the current anti-Semitic and anti-Israel acts such as the boycott against us, the efforts to delegitimize us and the attempt to put blame parallel to that of the Holocaust upon us.
The fight against our possession of those parts of Israel that are the most important to our identity as an ancient nation is a fight against the return to Zion. It is a struggle against the normalization of the Jew and attempt to "clean up" -- to put the Jew back on the cross so as to return to the old order. From this perspective, the Palestinians are the spearhead of the global fight of those who oppose the return to Zion. From such a profound perspective, the recent agreement in Geneva can also be seen as sacrificing the Jews for peace and quiet.
But even as the Europeans think they are getting peace and quiet, they are on the verge of a crisis. A mighty force has implanted itself in Europe -- tens of millions of non-Christians unwilling to adopt Western culture. In an act of historical irony, Europe expelled the Jews and Muslims came instead. Now, Europe stands helpless. The institution of political correctness has left it powerless and has paralyzed the West's early-warning system there. The decline of the West that Oswald Spengler wrote about in the 1920s is in full force. Once the West has declined and fallen, Spengler wrote then, the fellah waits to take over.
But for Israel, all is not lost. The West, too, has a mighty force -- tens of millions of people who understand that the danger they face affects not only the Jews, but also their very existence as a civilization. In this fight, Israel serves as a front-line post against the collapse of the West. Non-acceptance of the calls for boycott and refusal to wear the new badge of shame are moral imperatives for every decent human being. The dispute over the Land of Israel has nothing to do with territory. If it did, we would have resolved the conflict long ago. This is a fight over identity. The return to Zion is not our hope only; it is the hope of the entire free world.