Last week, Rashida Tlaib, accompanied by her fellow “squad” members and several other progressive members of Congress, introduced the first-ever congressional resolution that would see the US formally recognize the Palestinian “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” which is how they refer to the establishment of the State of Israel. By all indications, the proposal will not pass. Nevertheless, it is another chunk off the thinning wall that protects Israel. It will not be long before Congress joins the growing choir of voices calling Israel an apartheid state and voting to revoke it.
But it is not for their wit that they are winning, but for our folly. We are fighting the wrong war. If we fought for our own cohesion rather than against their divisive rhetoric, we would have no problems with anyone.
Instead of fighting against the forces that seek to weaken us, we should fight for the thing that gives us strength—solidarity. Currently, we are wasting our time, resources, and energy in every direction on pointless apologetics that convince no one, not even ourselves. We are trying to explain that we have a right to live in the land of Israel, but when even we have no idea why we are here, can we complain that others don’t, as well?
Every nation takes pride in what makes it unique, in its legacy and traditions. We have abandoned our culture, abandoned our legacy, and adopted cultures and traditions of other nations. Why then are we surprised that they despise us and regard our existence as redundant and undesirable?
Instead of clinging to our own legacy and offering it to the world, just as every other nation does, we have built a patchwork culture that combines the legacies of other nations, but nothing that belongs to the unique gift we were meant to bring to the world. In such a state, we really don’t deserve our land, the land of Israel.
Our legacy is the achievement of our ancestors to form a nation out of complete strangers. Although they were often hostile toward each other, they nevertheless insisted on unity at all costs. King Solomon defined it as love that covers all crimes (Prov. 10:12), and The Book of Zohar (Aharei Mot) says that by carrying it out, we bring peace to the world.
In the previous century, Rav Kook wrote in his book Orot HaKodesh, “Since we were ruined by unfounded hatred, and the world was ruined with us, we will be rebuilt by unfounded love, and the world will be rebuilt with us.” When the great 20th century kabbalist and thinker Baal HaSulam talks about “national pride,” he means the pride to be the trailblazers of unity above all differences.
When acclaimed historian Paul Johnson wrote in his comprehensive composition A History of the Jews, “At a very early stage in their collective existence the Jews believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot,” he meant that the Israeli society was to be a “startup nation” in achieving solidarity where it did not seem achievable.
The more divided the world becomes, the more the Jewish pilot society is needed, and the more the world resents us for not building it. It is no wonder that the most rabid antisemites also admired the Jews and sought their example. Henry Ford, in his venomous compilation The International Jew—the World’s Foremost Problem, also inserted statements that show what he expected from us: “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems … would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”
In fact, even the Nazis initially supported the fledgling Jewish state. It was for their own reasons, of course, and they later retracted their support and sided with the Arabs, but when they first came to power, they fully supported the Zionists’ efforts to build a Jewish state in the land of Israel.
If the November 29, 1947 League of Nations vote to establish a Jewish state took place today, no one would vote in favor. In fact, no one would even propose it. We have no one to blame for it but ourselves. Rashida Tlaib and her cohort are only a reminder of what we are refusing to do: restore our legacy of unity above all differences and divisions, and become the pilot society that the world expects from us.
U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib delivers remarks at the opening plenary session of the National Association of the Advancement for Colored People’s annual convention in Detroit (Reuters)