This week Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, was “the latest watchdog to accuse Israel of perpetuating a version of the racist legal system that once governed South Africa,” according to The New York Times. The HRW 213 page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” claims to present “the present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government, ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size, and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.”
The position of HRW has not changed for years, and this report is nothing new. What has changed, however, is the world’s response to it, embracing the report as solid truth. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the equivalent of the State Department) lambasted the report as baseless and biased, but no one really cares what Israel is saying. For years, the Israeli government’s strategy has been to state the fact that it has offered the Palestinians sovereignty over 97% of the territories three times over the past twenty years, but the Palestinians rejected all of them. Israel reminds the critics that Israeli Arabs are equal citizens and are represented in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and even if they speak explicitly against the existence of the State of Israel, they are not silenced because of the democratic principle of freedom of speech.
But facts and reason do not matter. When it’s “open season” on Israel, everyone joins the hunt. Israel’s apologetic strategy will not abate the animosity toward it, and it doesn’t even matter if it’s guilty or not. When there is hatred, some blame will always be found to place on the hated one. Especially now, when the dweller in the White House has changed and Israel is no longer the favored country there, it is as though the world has been given a green light to attack, and this is exactly what it does.
We shouldn’t be surprised. We should be very worried, but most of all, we should get very active. Unless we act now, things will become worse, and soon. We need to understand that the world wants to get rid of the Jewish state. Therefore, the hiatus we were given while Trump was in office was only a temporary pause. This pause has ended, and the world will use every pretext to portray the Jewish state as evil.
Since it is useless, we should stop focusing on others and start focusing on ourselves. It is time to work on our inner solidarity, our social cohesion. The division we project sends a clear message to the nations: Get them now while they are weak!
If we were united, they would not only stop accusing us of whatever evil they can concoct, but they would finally see some benefit from our existence. After all, the only purpose of our being in the State of Israel, Jews from all the exiles, is to set an example of uniting all the cultures and ethnicities. If we unite, it will reignite the latent feeling within every person in the world that the Jews have a purpose in this world: to be “a light unto nations.” When our ancestors joined Abraham’s company, they were strangers who joined him only because they subscribed to his teaching that unity above hatred is the right way to live. When the offspring of those strangers united under Moses’ leadership at the foot of Mt. Sinai, they pledged to bond “as one man with one heart.” Only then, when they achieved this level of unity, were they given the task of being “a light unto nations.”
Our current disunity, our unfounded hatred, tells the world that we are not a light unto nations. In fact, we are the opposite of it: sending a constant message of division and mutual derision. This is why they hate us.
Here is a great example of the transformation that will take place if we unite. Ukraine born Vasily Shulgin was a senior member of the Duma, the Russian Parliament, before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Openly and proudly, he proclaimed himself an anti-Semite, and often reiterated that statement. In his book What We Don’t Like About Them, he analyzes over many essays his perception of the Jews and what he thinks they are doing wrong. For instance, Shulgin complains that Jews are “very smart, effective, and vigorous at exploiting other people’s ideas. However,” he protests, “this is not an occupation for ‘teachers and prophets,’ not the role of ‘guides of the blind,’ not the role of ‘carriers of the lame.’” In another essay, Shulgin becomes almost poetic as he describes where the Jews can lead humanity if they only unite and rise to the challenge: “Let them … rise to the height to which they apparently climbed [in antiquity] … and immediately, all nations will rush to their feet. They will rush not by virtue of compulsion … but by free will, joyful in spirit, grateful and loving, including the Russians! We ourselves will request, ‘Give us Jewish rule, wise, benevolent, leading us to the Good.’”
The writing is on the wall; we can unite of our own volition, or we can be pushed to it against our will. If we refuse to do it either way, it will not end well. In 1929, Dr. Kurt Fleischer, the leader of the Liberals in the Berlin Jewish Community Assembly, stated that “Anti-Semitism is the scourge that God has sent us in order to lead us together and weld us together.” In 1929, we would not listen. I hope this time we will.
[Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen representing New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and the Palestinian territories, stands next to Kenneth Roth executive director of HRW, while speaking before departing Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar]