What Do We Want for Israel, Now and in the Future?


This year, Tisha B'Av once again reminded us of the dangers of "gratuitous hatred" without rhyme or reason for one's fellow Jews; the kind of hatred for its own sake, which seems more recently to have become part of our everyday Israeli reality.

While divisions between Orthodox and secular Jews, or the bitter antagonism toward settlers in the West Bank, are nothing new, they've lost none of their malevolent edge. No less distressing are the actions of those Israeli lecturers who defend the anti-Israel boycott in the name of academic freedom, or the much larger numbers of those who denounce any criticism or sanctions against these boycotters as "McCarthyism."

Such harsh polemics are happening at a time of unprecedented hatred toward Israel as a nation. The hysteria surrounding the Gaza flotilla incident brought this trend to new heights of hypocrisy. It reflects the ongoing campaign of branding Israel as the "Jew" of nations — libeling it as a racist, bloodthirsty pariah-state.

At the same time, U.S. Jewish support for Israel's policies has also been eroding. This has potentially dangerous consequences for our relations with the Diaspora, already tense over the issue of non-Orthodox conversions.

True, the majority of Americans still show remarkable empathy with Israel's dilemmas, and President Barack Obama has recently chosen to adopt a somewhat friendlier tone to Israel's premier. Many European leaders, while less supportive than the United States, are by no means blind to Israel's security needs, the Iranian threat or the disastrous implications of Hamas rule in Gaza. Nevertheless, the global weakening toward Israel's legitimacy as a state remains troubling.

The assault from without is not unconnected with a growing sense of spiritual disorientation and deeply conflicted Jewish identities within Israeli society. This trend is, if anything, the most dangerous of all, since social, economic and cultural alienation are centrifugal forces accelerating the divisive schisms that already exist in Israeli society.

For some of the anti-Zionist or "post-Zionist" intellectuals, the foundation of the Jewish state in 1948 is the "original sin" that has caused all subsequent Mideast wars. They have, in effect, uncritically adopted the Palestinian narrative, which is not only supported by almost all Muslim holy warriors and many radical leftists, but has infiltrated an influential sector of mainstream Western opinion.

If we're to move forward, we will have to find more creative means to circumvent this destructive discourse, and show the world that another path is possible — — one that rejects jihadi barbarism and terror, but also excessive reliance on Israeli force alone. This will not be easy.

We do need to be more sensitive to the suffering of our Arab and Palestinian neighbors. But they, too, must take responsibility for their own terrorist nihilism, self-deception and historic guilt (such as the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands). They must once and for all end their tolerance of genocidal incitement to holy war against Israel.

This will necessitate a major effort of intellectual honesty, introspection and self-criticism on all sides. It also requires considerable political will, broad international support, and an unequivocal recognition of the identity and rights of "the other."

In order to come with clean hands to the table, we Israelis might begin by putting our own house in order.

Professor Robert S. Wistrich is director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad.


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