Zionism is facing internal conflicts: the secular against the religious, the Left against the Right, and the demonization of the settlers by certain parts of the Israeli population. All of these conflicts weaken Israel and lead to a divided Israeli public.
Despite their seriousness, however, they are still not the most serious conflicts facing Israel. The most serious threats facing Israel and Zionism are external. These threats challenge the very existence and legitimacy of Israel. While the calls for the disappearance of Israel were once confined to the Arab and Muslim worlds, they are now openly spoken throughout Europe and the western intellectual world. Even the Holocaust as a historical reality is being openly challenged.
The very validity of Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, is now looked upon as a threat to civilization by millions of people, many quite influential, throughout the world. Israelis and Jews are once again the subject of hatred and suffering. Absurd remarks are made about Israel that have no basis in truth. Anti-Semites, hiding behind the mask of anti-Zionism, feel they have license to make comments against Jews and Israelis that they would dare not make against any other people. Unfortunately, the pace of these attacks is increasing.
Unfair and false criticism is not limited to the fringes. Rather, some of the most influential figures in the world routinely bash Israel. These include George Soros, the late Nobel prize-winning Portuguese author Jose Saramago, and the Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire. Unfortunately the list of bashers of Israel and Zionism is long and growing.
If Israel does not face this threat head-on, its existence might be at stake. For many years, Israelis felt the truth and justice of their cause was enough of a response to Israel-haters. Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant communication, truth and justice are not enough. Lies and hatred must be met head-on and responded to.
Two articles I recently read highlight the challenges facing Israel. A BBC poll once again found that Israel is considered a threat to world peace and one of the most unpopular countries in the world. In terms of admiration and popularity, it placed on the same level as Iran and North Korea.
I also read about a 16-year-old Norwegian Jew who was attacked by a classmate. The attacker forcibly placed a heated coin on the Jewish boy’s neck and admitted that he attacked him because the teen was Jewish and that the attacker hated Israel. The Jewish boy suffered burns. Incredibly, the school did not take serious action against the attacker.
Unfortunately in today’s world, attacks against Israel are often thinly veiled attacks against Jews. The level of criticism is unfair and exaggerated. The reality that Israel is a country under constant physical attack is forgotten. Israel’s scientific and cultural contributions to the world are ignored. Many throughout the world consider the IDF to be a law-breaking army, a particularly obscene comment that ignores the reality that the IDF goes out of its way to protect Palestinian civilians. What other army drops leaflets that warn civilians to get out of harm’s way? Compare Israel’s pin-point bombing of weapons factories in Gaza with Russia’s all-out bombing of Chechnya.
The selectivity of the criticism against Israel and Zionism is stunning. We have all heard of the flotillas to aid Gaza. Where is the flotilla to Syria? Many anti-Israel critics will condemn Israel for the assassination of a Palestinian terrorist. Yet they remain silent about the slaughter of 20,000 Syrians.
Israel must confront the attacks upon its legitimacy and its right to exist as a sovereign nation. These attacks are relentless and without end. It must respond to each lie that is told against it. The current Israeli ambassador to the United Nations has done a very good job in defending Israel. So too have Prime Minister Netanyahu and Ambassador Michael Oren.
Last month, I traveled to Israel to participate in the Hoops for Chesed program. I hope that my experience in Israel will make me a better ambassador for Israel and enable me to confront false attacks that are made against Israel.