On March 3, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu plans to address a joint session of Congress about Iran’s nuclear program, just two weeks before the Israeli general elections, following an invitation from John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house.
The address has evoked such an incensed debate, weeks ahead of the event, that the prime minister is considering various alternatives to the original proposal. The pros and cons that commentators, politicians, and other officials introduce in favor or against making the speech, and most importantly, the tone in which they present their arguments, should be a wakeup call to all of us. Our biggest problem is not Netanyahu’s speech; it is the disunity among us that screams out of story headlines, news items, and every media outlet in existence.
The Jewish nation was established once we pledged to be “as one man with one heart.” At that time we were also given the task to be “a light for the nations.” Our sources tell us that we have been exiled from the land of Israel for one and only reason: unfounded hatred. Since the onset of the exile, we have not been able to mend the rift that splintered our nation, and anti-Semitism as such has begun. In a word, there is anti-Semitism because we have begun to spread disunity instead of unity.
Throughout the centuries, we have been subject to every form of wickedness the human mind can possibly conceive. We have been blamed of causing the Black Death, drinking the blood of Christian children (now the same story is spreading through Muslim countries with Muslim children), exploiting and robbing people through usury, manipulating kings, governments, and the media, plotting to take over the world, spreading communism/capitalism, spreading Ebola, committing genocide, and just recently, starting ISIS.
In an interview for JLTV (Jewish Life Television), Ambassador Gideon Behar, Director of the Department for Combating Anti-Semitism at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “anti-Semitism is like a virus that manifests through different symptoms, but the symptoms are never the under-cause.” Until recently, his view was a minority stance. Now, finally, we are beginning to realize that there is no single cause for anti-Semitism, but that anti-Semitism is there, and uses specific pretexts at specific times to emerge.
Yair Rosenberg’s story in Tablet magazine, “Who’s Behind Italy’s Rising Anti-Semitism?” demonstrates the opportunistic manner in which anti-Semitism works its way to the surface. Rosenberg concludes that “a crucial reality that must be recognized if resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe is to be fought: that hatred of Jews does not stem from any one particular group, whether Muslims, the far-right, or the far-left. Instead, anti-Semitism finds its roots in many diverse sources. Ostensibly, these groups might seem to have little in common, but anti-Semitism has always derived its potency from its ability to ensnare entirely opposite worldviews in its prejudicial and conspiratorial thrall … Indeed, anti-Semitism would never have achieved its impressive influence in Europe were it not for its ability to forge coalitions across ideological and religious lines.”
It appears that instead of being “a light for the nations” through our unity, we are uniting the world against us in the view that we are “the darkness for the nations.” In the face of global anti-Semitism, we are displaying horrifying levels of discord, disunity, and indeed unfounded hatred. By so doing, we are entrenching anti-Semitic views even deeper in Europe and the world over.
The world is watching our every move, word, or gesture. The disunity we display is immediately used against us in anti-Semitic rants. In his foul composition, Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote, “The Jew is only united when a common danger forces him to be.” Today, this statement would be considered wrong—even a common danger cannot bring us all together. And since the world is watching us so closely, it is absorbing the message we are spreading by our example of inner discord, mutual distrust, and growing animosity among us. Not surprisingly, we are blamed by high-ranking military officers for causing “all the problems in the world,” and by celebrities for being “responsible for all the wars in the world.”
Since the media is where views are shaped in our interconnected era, this is where we must begin our “Anti-Semitism Reversing Campaign.” It is pointless trying to disprove anti-Semitic arguments as false. We will not be trusted because distrust in one another is what we spread. Instead, we must focus on the positive: we need to show that we can unite above our differences. And the deeper the differences between us, the more impressive it will be when we unite above them. We need not mute or play down the magnitude of the tear among us. We should acknowledge it, and unite above it. This will be a true display of social courage and a role model that others will want to emulate.
Our nation has always known disputes, but it has always known how to overcome them and emerge stronger. The current chasm that is threatening to swallow us is just another phase on our path. If we view the differences as a challenge we must face as a united nation, then we will show the world the opposite example of the one we are giving at the moment.
“Society is unity in diversity,” wrote acclaimed American sociologist, Prof. George Herbert Mead. Many centuries earlier, our own Book of Zohar described in a sentence the entire process of fusing a society above differences (portion, Ahrarei Mot): “‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together.’ These are the friends as they sit together, and are not separated from each other. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then they return to being in brotherly love.”
Elsewhere in the portion, the book narrates, “You, the friends who are here, as you were in fondness and love before, henceforth you will also not part… And by your merit there will be peace in the world, as it is written, ‘For the sake of my brothers and my friends let me say, ‘Let peace be in you.’’”Amen to that.
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