David Brent

Jewish exceptionalism and John Oliver

The current operation deemed “Guardian of the Wall” by Israel against Hamas in Gaza has brought out all the same old criticisms against Israel. Hamas builds, stores, and launches its missiles from heavily populated areas using its civilians as human shields. Attacks by Israel to destroy Hamas’ offensive capability always brings unwanted innocent victims. No matter how many people the Israeli army calls to warn them of the upcoming attack on their building (simultaneously warning the Hamas terrorists they are actually trying to kill), there are still civilian deaths. There is still the destruction of civilian property. Every person who witnesses the death and destruction is rightly incensed at the damage being done.

Thanks to the military superiority of Israel, the damage done to Hamas is far greater than the damage Hamas is able to do to Israel. Yes, 70% of the population of the country of Israel is under constant threat of having to find shelter from missiles. But thankfully, most of these missiles either fall back inside Gaza, fall harmlessly in open fields, or are intercepted by Israel’s iron dome system. Only a few of the thousands of missiles launched by Hamas have landed in Israel killing civilians and causing damage to property. There is no question that the Palestinians inside Gaza are suffering more than the Israelis.

It is obvious that Hamas is to blame. They are to blame for the suffering of the Palestinians living in Gaza. They are to blame for the suffering of the Israelis and Palestinians living side by side inside Israel. If this were Afghanistan, and the Taliban were launching the attacks, the world would blame the Taliban. If this were ISIL in Iraq, the world would blame ISIL. But here, so much of the world seems to be blaming Israel.

Why Israel? Why the Jews?

It would be easy to dismiss this unjust anger at Israel as anti-Semitism. Yes, there are anti-Semites who attack Israel. But there are also really good people who aren’t anti-Semites and who I used to admire that attack Israel. People like John Oliver. It was John Oliver’s piece on “Last Week Tonight” that at first broke my heart.

I believe that these people are not anti-Semites, but they are against the idea of Jewish Exceptionalism. The Jewish people, and especially the state of Israel, is truly exceptional. It is the only country in the Middle East where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Hindus, Bahai, and others can live safely together in peace. It is the only country where the press is free to criticize the government and not be thrown into jail, poisoned, or even murdered. And even though it is under constant existential threats to its very existence, the state has flourished in every way. From agriculture to science, the Jewish state has led the world in innovation after innovation.

The Jewish people claim to be exceptional. I believe that we have earned that right. But I also believe that this provokes good people to challenge that claim. This doesn’t make them anti-Semites. It just makes them wrong.

I say let people challenge our exceptionalism. We will prove over and over again that they are wrong. That we are exceptional. Peace and prosperity and respect for human rights will triumph. And the Jewish state will continue to light the way forward.

As-salamu alaykum

About the Author
David Brent is a NASA engineer with a master's and bachelor's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned candy entrepreneur. He made aliya in the spring of 2013. David commutes between Israel, where his heart is, and Florida, where his business is.
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