Professor of Political Sociology David Miller of the University of Bristol recently referred to Jewish students on his campus as “pawns” of Israel, “a violent, racist, foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.” Such accusations are baseless and absurd. However, the more interesting point about this statement is that while more than 100 MPs [Members of Parliament] and peers from every big political party called on the University of Bristol to act against Prof. Miller, some 200 academics from the United Kingdom and the United States signed a petition defending him. This petition demonstrates that Miller’s views are not only his own, that many people share them, even if some of them hide their antisemitism behind the “free speech” cloak.
Because Miller’s views are so pervasive, I think it is time for us to realize that silencing antisemites will not stop antisemitism. Instead, we must use such incidents as levers to explain our place in the world as a nation and as a state.
First, we must agree that no matter how badly we want to be like everyone else, Jews are not like other nations. If the whole world singles you out for condemnation, simply telling the world that it is wrong will not convince anyone. Even if the facts are in your favor, hate filled people do not listen to facts; their feelings are the only justification they need. Therefore, if the world hates us, and it does, we should try to understand why.
Take any nation, besides Jews, and you will find a common origin. Every nation started with a nucleus that had some biological affinity. The Jewish people, from the very beginning, were different. We began when people from different places, different faiths, and no biological affinity whatsoever, found a common tenet that they shared and wanted to implement in practice. That tenet was union above division, affinity over enmity, or as King Solomon put it, “Love will cover all crimes” (Prov. 10:12). Rabbi Akiva stated it even more explicitly when he said that the tenet “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the great rule of Jewish law, the Torah.
Through their efforts to practice this hitherto unthinkable idea, our ancestors created such a tight bond among them that they united “as one man with one heart” and formed a new nation out of countless prior enemies. In a sense, the ancient Israelites implemented among themselves the idea of world peace before anyone had thought of the idea.
Indeed, right from the very beginning, it became clear that the unique union the early Jews had established should serve as a role model for the rest of the world, that this is how nations should live with one another. But no one, besides the Jews, had ever done it, or tried it, or even thought of the idea. Clearly, it was up to the Jews to spread the idea and the method for implementing brotherhood above differences and hatred. This is why the Torah writes that the Jews were intended to be “a light unto nations,” that their task was to show the way for achieving peace and harmony throughout the world, as they had achieved among themselves. Acclaimed historian Paul Johnson eloquently captured the essence and vocation of the Jewish people in his book A History of the Jews: “At a very early stage in their collective existence they [Jews] believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot.”
While we were in exile, we were dispersed among the nations and could not be that pilot society. But now that we have returned to our land, the ancient duty has become valid, and accordingly, the demand of the nations that we implement it has grown more pressing.
The State of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, is therefore the place where Jews should unite above their differences and cover all the crimes of mutual hatred with love. If we do this, the world will justify our existence as a sovereign state. If we do not, they will use every pretext to deny our legitimacy until they finally resolve to terminate the existence of the Jewish state.
The more we stall with implementing our ancient union and our ancient task, the more the world will hate us. The more international relations deteriorate the world over, the more the world will blame it on the Jews, and particularly on Israel. We should not take this lightly; it is our chance to carry out our mission, and we must not miss out on the opportunity. If we shun this invitation to be “a light unto nations,” the world will not forgive us, and we will have no one else to blame but ourselves.