Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Jews are Seen – America versus the World

An article in the New York Times about Israel’s gloomy mood on this – the day Israel is celebrating its independence. It tells of a very unsurprising statistic. A BBC poll shows that Israel’s approval rating among people around the world is one of the lowest. Right there with Iran and Korea.

It is sad that after the experience of Holocaust that the nations of the world still so hate the Jewish people via its perceived surrogate - Israel. One can point to their explanations for that – mostly having to do with the perception that Israel mistreats Palestinians.

I’m am not going to go into the fact that the Palestinian’s sad lot is almost entirely their own fault – or better said – that of their leaders both past and present. Any fair minded individual would see that. I am not going to go into it because I do not believe for a moment that this is the real reason for the world’s hatred of us.

I truly believe it is in their blood. Esav Sonei L’Yaakov. Descendants of Esav (Non Jews) hate Yaakov (descendants of Jacob). European History is replete with genocidal examples of that. As Menachem Begin once said about the Poles, it is in their mother milk! I would include Europeans. That is what fueled the Holocaust in my view.

Yes there are exceptions. Many of them. The BBC poll said that 19% of the world had a favorable view of Israel. That is a lot of people. But 81% of them hate us. Israel is the current ‘stand-in’ for Jews. That makes it politically correct since they can say it is all about Israel and not Jews. I’m not saying criticism of Israel is always based on anti-Semitism. Clearly it isn’t. But I do believe that in most cases around the world it clearly is.

The documentary ‘Shoah’ by Claude Lantzman examined this phenomenon in Poland. It concluded that the hatred is as strong and deep as ever- ingrained by centuries of prejudice handed down generation to generation. It exists many decades after the Holocaust. Lest anyone think this documentary had a religious bias - it was produced by a secular Jew who probably never heard of the term ‘Esav Sonei L’Yaakov’.

To me this explains the attitude of Europeans. And it ought not to be lost on Israelis. My advice to them is to ignore this poll and look at Israel’s true friends the American people. Though Israel’s approval rating has declined recently thanks in no small part to the current administration, the support is still pretty strong. Especially to the very large segment of Christians who identify as Evangelicals. Support there is nearly 100%. If I understand correctly Evangelicals comprise about 20 -25% of the population.

As difficult as the relationship between the United States and Israel is now, it is still far and away many times stronger than Israel’s relations with any other country. Though cooled somewhat now - it is a friendship with tangible benefits. The President - through his Secretary of State re-iterated this strong level of support today in a Yom Ha’atzmaut message to Israel.

I have always said this about the American people and it is worth repeating again today. They are truly exceptions to the rule of Esav Sonei L’Yaakov. They have shown that over and over again in so many different ways. I’ve written about this in the past and provided many examples of it. I’m not going to repeat them here.

This has always been the case ever since the founding fathers established its philosophy in its own Declaration of Independence - formalizing religious tolerance in the constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Yes there was prejudice against Jews in the past – all the way up until the Holocaust. Mostly having to do with social biases. But ever since the Holocaust has entered American consciousness – mostly through the influence of Hollywood - acceptance has become nearly universal.

So much so that it has caused an unprecedented problem with conversions to Judaism. Conversions are at an all time high. Class based discrimination has melted away and all but disappeared. In the past members of high society who on rare occasion converted to Judaism (Halachicly or otherwise) were shunned and even disinherited. Now they have become an accepted part of that world. High society rarely bats an eyelash when one of their own converts. Once ostracized a convert to Judaism is now accepted into it quite willingly. Ivanka Trump comes to mind as an example of that. Even daughters of Presidents are marrying Jews with the full approval of their parents. Ask the Clintons.

While this is and should be a matter of great concern for us as intermarriage which is forbidden by the Torah - is at an all time high, it does demonstrate one thing. Jews are for the most part accepted by American society as equals in all walks of life. That’s saying a lot with all the recent bad news about religious Jews committing financial crimes. Nowhere else in the world is that true. To the extent that it exists at all - hatred of Jews in this country is mostly reserved for kooks and fringe groups.

God bless the American people. As for Europe - it can sink into the ground for all I care.