The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently admonished Iran for not cooperating with the agency after traces of uranium were found in several sites in Iran. In response, Iran disconnected some of the IAEA surveillance cameras that the agency uses to monitor Iran’s nuclear activity. The world condemned Iran for this move, of course, but no action has been taken to prevent its ongoing enrichment efforts, which, according to Western sources, have nearly reached the level that enables Iran to create nuclear weapons. Israel, on the other hand, which makes every effort not to break humanitarian laws in its own conflict, is almost unanimously deviled around the world.
Why does the world hate Israel and not Iran? How can Iran get away with production of nuclear weapons, while Israel is under constant bombardment of condemnations, with on-going committees and delegates whose sole purpose is to find Israel’s faults in its conflict with the Palestinians, delegates and committees with explicit orders to ignore the Palestinian terrorist acts against Israel and even against their own people?
The answer to all these questions is simple: Israel is not Iran. Even when Israel does something good, such as setting up makeshift hospitals for wounded Syrian refugees or sending rescue teams to disaster sites around the world, Israel is still vilified. No one expects Iran to be good to anyone, while all the good that Israel does is never nearly enough.
As unpleasant as this may be for us, I understand why the world treats us this way. Subconsciously, the world feels what we need to be doing, and setting up makeshift hospitals is not one of them. It is great that we do this, and it does help those who need medical services and cannot get them otherwise, but this should not be Israel’s main focus. This is not what the world expects from us, and not what we should expect from ourselves.
We can tell ourselves a thousand stories about how kind we are, what great donors we are, how we help the sick and wounded the world over, and how Israeli agriculture creates food in poor third world countries. We can tell these things to ourselves but no one else listens or accepts them. All we need is to look at the world’s opinion about us as is reflected in UN votes and how the very countries that we help vote against us every chance they get.
I cannot help but justify them; this is not what we should be giving them, and they sense it and react accordingly. What they really need from us, and this may be counterintuitive, is for us to treat each other well, our fellow Jews. Deep down, they feel that our internal division is the culprit behind their woes, and even their own internal conflicts.
The world does not expect us to reverse desertification or cure cancer. It expects much more from us: to reverse hatred around the world. And it expects us to set an example, a living proof that unity above division is possible.
Being “a light to the nations” means that we are a beacon of hope that humanity can overcome strife. After all, it was our king, the wisest of all men, King Solomon, who coined the motto, “Hate stirs up strife, and love will cover all crimes” (Prov. 10:12).
We need to understand that the seemingly insurmountable antagonism and profound alienation among the various factions of Israeli society are purposefully so. These chasms are not meant to be bridged by negotiation or by arrival at some compromise. They are meant to stay as they are, and to realize that our task is not to agree, but to remain one nation even though we disagree. This is the example we must show the world. It is the only thing humanity cannot develop by itself, and the only thing that it expects Jews to establish.
Our ancestors set the precedent. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, we pledged to unite “as one man with one heart,” after which we were declared a nation. Our only merit at the time was our unity, our mutual responsibility. That one merit was the reason we became a chosen nation.
If we live up to our calling, we will be admired and emulated the world over. If we collapse under the burden of hate, we will be deviled, ridiculed, and eventually banished or exterminated.
A surveillance camera is displayed during a news conference about developments related to the IAEA’s monitoring and verification work in Iran, in Vienna, Austria June 9, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Leutner