Israel is judged by flawed perceptions about power

“Why do they hate us?” It’s a question that often arises, alluding to the blatant bias and hypocrisy with which the world views Israel, its policies, and even the legitimization of its existence. The translucency and lack of subtlety of anti-Israel bias is at times so deliberate that it frequently verges on complete absurdity.

The reporting of the Jerusalem terror attack provides the most recent case of the ridiculous and offensive nature of the bias. Late Wednesday evening, a terrorist drove his car intentionally into a crowd of people, and then proceeded to flee the scene before being shot by policemen. Along with eight injured, a three-month-old baby was murdered that night.

“Police shoot man in east Jerusalem” read Associated Press headlines of the report the next day. When the murder of a three-month old baby is eclipsed by focusing on the shooting of her murderer instead, you know that anti-Israel bias is headed in a far dangerous direction.

Reframing events to play into a specific anti-Israel narrative is not the only way anti-Israel bias is manifested, but also through unrealistic, hypocritical expectations of the state and through displaced blame onto Israel. Examples of these include the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently condemning Israel for not sharing the Iron Dome with the Palestinians (yes, the same Iron Dome that is designed for defense against rocket attacks from Gazan terror groups should apparently be shared with said terror groups), as well as blaming Israel for the high domestic abuse rates found in the Palestinian territories (still puzzled by the progression of logic that managed to connect the two).

Explanations for the obsession with Israel vary, yet most conclude, with the support of sound logic, that the seemingly unfair and lopsided criticism of the Jewish state must clearly be malicious, stemming from anti-Semitism or a like-hatred for the Jewish nation. Yet, while in many instances this does appear to be the case, we have to recognize that our critics also comprise of knowledgeable, open-minded individuals with no apparent prejudice against us, and who happen to be, not too infrequently, Jews themselves. So what is it in the way the facts and information narrate our story that naturally leads people to side against us? And more importantly, should we even care?

During the recent shower of rockets from the Gaza Strip, which has just recently ceased (for how long, no one is entirely sure), I came upon a YouTube video of a siren going off in Tel Aviv: cars and buses unnaturally stopping on a busy side of the road, people scattering to find shelter, the siren all the while wailing dramatically in the background. And while the surreal nature of this situation is the reality with which the Israeli people and the country have grown up and evolved, I was having difficulty understanding how those who condemn and criticize us can expect us to live like this as if it’s perfectly normal (despite the fact that Israel is the only civilized, modern country in the world that has to deal with this perpetual barrage of rockets and attacks against its civilians).

And then, lying underneath the phone-recorded clip, I saw a comment that perfectly and simply clarified it for me: “These poor Israeli’s! [sic] Look at the rags they’re wearing and their destroyed buildings and bangers they’re driving! I bet their supermarket shelves are empty and their bellies groan for food. because of the oppression from Palestinians! It’s just not fair.

This simple, sarcastically-expressed remark plainly encompasses the concept and rationale behind the obvious double standard and anti-Israel stance of our critics. This sentiment is revealed not only through similar anonymous comments, but also through statements from high public figures, who tend to point to Israel’s superior military and technological capabilities as some sort of proof for why Israel is wrong in responding to Hamas attacks.

It’s not the morals, or the logic, or the facts of the situation that are processed when accessing the validity of Israel and her actions, but rather how easily the nation fits the basic characteristics of victimhood. And the clear fact is that the successful, powerful Israel in no way equates with the notions of weakness and disadvantage.

Terrorists shoot rockets in an attempt to kill and terrorize our civilians, and the people of Israel continue living beautifully despite them. With these attacks, an appreciation and urgent gratitude for life and pleasure develops. With these rockets, songs and dances evolve to allow children to deal with this reality. With these missiles, the idea for the Iron Dome is incepted and then engineered. We take the terrorism and hatred aimed towards us and instead convert it into successes and achievements that strengthen us and reinforce our resilience.

And unsurprisingly, with this success and strength we have difficulty inducing empathy and compassion for our cause. What needs to be understood, however, is that the world isn’t against Israel because they hate us, not because they intrinsically despise us, but because people naturally side against the powerful, thriving, and successful nature of the Jewish State.

So, should we care? Although the condemnations aimed against us, the harsh words tossed towards descriptions of the Israeli state, can be claimed to be unfair or irrational, it’s not difficult to see how the world would find it easier to stand on the side of the weaker and the poorer, against the stronger party, regardless of whose actions might be more moral, more just, or more reasonable. Whether that is the appropriate measure by which to define the “rightness” of a conflict is debatable, but the natural human inclination to associate power with wrongdoing is not too complicated to process or understand, despite all the flaws of such thinking.

Israel, who has lived through wars and conflicts since her birth, born out of a history of persecution and hatred against her people, is the Zionist project of the Jewish nation’s hand at self-determination, and has, despite all her challenges, proven to be a success. So perhaps the defensiveness, the short-temperedness, the inclination to believe that a word uttered against us is due to an innate hatred for the people of Israel is uncalled for. Because to be fair, the moments when the international community was most on the side of the Jewish people was when we were victims, when we were suffering. Is the world’s sympathy and ability to identify with us important then? As Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir, famously quipped, “I prefer to stay alive and be criticized than be sympathized.”

Israel is judged by flawed perceptions about power. Just because Israel is stronger, does not mean she is wrong. Yet, if the bias against Israel is an indication of our strength and success, as opposed to any sort of measure of  our morality or principles, we should manage to not find it so offensive.

So, let them “hate” us.

About the Author
Rebekkah is currently studying at the Technion towards her MSc in Neuroscience. She has a Cognitive Science/Neuroscience BSc degree, Middle East Studies minor, and Study of Religion minor from UC San Diego. She lives in Haifa.
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