With exhilarated alarm, they alert us to how unloved we are overseas. Our news purveyors appear to take uncommon pleasure in driving the point home.
The other day broadcasters announced solemnly that “Germans have become markedly more critical of Israel, with 59% describing it as aggressive, according to a survey published by the Stern weekly.”
This monumentally significant poll was conducted on the eve of German President Joachim Gauck’s visit to our backwoods.
We’re definitely on a treacherous downward spiral because, as several reporters stressed, “a similar Stern survey in 2009 found that only 49% considered Israel aggressive.” Ouch!
Underscoring how we’re perceived by the descendants of active Nazis and of those who inactively couldn’t care less about their Germanic genocide, we were somberly informed that “70% of Germans agree with the statement that Israel pursues its interests without consideration for other nations.” Three years ago, just 59% of holier-than-thou Germans regarded us as an egocentric and thoughtless bunch. Things were so peachy then.
But were they?
It was with utter glee that our media seized upon the annual BBC poll geared to identify the countries with the most “negative influence” on the world. “Israel’s image hits another nadir in Europe,” gravely intoned our talking heads. According to 24,090 respondents worldwide, only Iran and Pakistan outranked Israel in perceived malice. Iran got top billing (55% of the vote), Pakistan was the runner-up (51%), while Israel and North Korea tied for the title of third-worst (50%).
This sufficed to convince our memory-deficient correspondents that things were never as bad. Last year, they told us, a mere 47% claimed that we upset them most. Things indeed seem to be deteriorating ominously.
But are they?
Next on the hit-Israel hit parade came the American State Department’s castigation of our use of the term “illegal infiltrators” to describe the African illegal infiltrators who illegally infiltrate into our sovereign domain (where we and not the current Washington elite supposedly have the final say-so).
Occasionally calling a spade a spade elicits warranted world disapproval, warned local opinion-molders with paralyzing panic. The never-put-a-foot-wrong Obama administration has just – again – frowned upon us for not living up to its expectations of absolute political correctness. Time to quake in our sandals.
But is it?
Is there indeed anything new in the fact that we’re cast as the villain of whatever drama plays out in the international arena at any given time? Right now we mar global contentment by constantly nagging about the Iranian “commitment to Israel’s destruction” (as Tehran’s military chief-of-staff recently declared without undue niceties, but failed thereby to cause noticeable unease among Western democracies).
Nonetheless, even before the Iranian threat to obliterate us became potent and before we suggested that we might be forced to maybe help ourselves, we weren’t exactly popular among the smug spectator states.
Let’s rewind and recall.
In 2007, the same BBC poll (then with 28,389 respondents in 27 countries) also revealed that we aren’t liked. But in contrast to third-place now, five years ago Israel topped the list of trouble-making countries and even beat Iran for the dubious distinction.
That was when Ehud Olmert headed our government, and there has never been an Israeli PM as wrong-headedly generous with territorial and other existential concessions as he was. Yet Olmert’s inordinate, risk-fraught largesse was rewarded with heaps of scorn from the polled masses abroad. So much for leftist land-for-popularity slogans (akin to the land-for-peace farce).
But what’s the fuss?
Even 2007 was nothing new. In 2003, the EU citizenry voted Israel “the greatest danger to world peace.” The same happened in 2000, when Ehud Barak headed Israel’s second-most compromising government ever.
Right-wingers, left-wingers, patriots, defeatists – it makes no difference, not in this 21st century, nor in the 20th, 14th, 7th or in BCE days. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Jews always have and still attract abuse – even when they call themselves Israelis. From time immemorial they found themselves in the eye of whatever storm was brewing. They didn’t rouse the tempest, but it always menacingly revolved around them.
From the dawn of history Jews were civilization’s codifiers of ethics and harbingers of progress. That’s enough in itself to render them unbearable irritants. Higher ideals accentuate others’ deficiencies. Jews robbed the world of its complacency and, as mankind’s killjoys, they became catalysts of controversy.
When humanity was caught up in paganism’s fear, frenzy and frolic, we introduced the principled One-God. When others adopted offshoots of our monotheism, they accused us of deicide or of spurning Allah’s Prophet.
Concomitantly, the secular lot – be they of the fascist or the professorial varieties – denigrate Jews as imposers of austerity, moralistic emasculators and corrupters of mythical natural bliss.
Jews were the reviled plutocrats and the bourgeoisie in dictatorships of the proletariat, and the proletariat agitators to robber-barons and captains of capitalist industry. We were too ostentatiously rich or too bedraggled poor, too repulsively ugly or too exotically enticing, too obsequious or too arrogant, too downtrodden or too exploiting, too high on the moral ground or baking matzos with the blood of Christian tots (or Muslims, depending on libelous particulars).
We were continuously too smart for our own good and therefore accused of cabals and hatching nefarious plots. We were the perfect target because we were weak, but decried as too strong when we strove not to be so helpless.
Taking up our cause was always unfashionable. It still is. Arnold Toynbee’s exasperating “fossils,” we remain the irksome touchstone for whatever transcends the sordid and selfish. We are in their faces, be they Nordic or Malay – even when we belittle ourselves, borrow their inane ways, look like them, adopt their fads, dance to their rhythms and try to win their acceptance at any cost. Our existence constitutes a constant embarrassing reminder of their crimes.
We were always guilty as charged. We Jews – in our independent Israeli present or in our Wandering Jew past – always endangered the peace of the world, much as pudgy, bespectacled Piggy did in William Golding’s philosophic and conceptual masterpiece, The Lord of the Flies. This allegoric novel probes the descent into primitive tribalism and savagery of plane-wrecked schoolboys on an uninhabited island. Eventually animal instincts vanquish the last vestiges of civilized reason and collective sanity.
The worst offenders are the uniformed choirboys, seemingly the most cultured (like boastful German kulturtrager or academic Israel-bashers on campuses everywhere). Piggy’s ethics and responsible good sense plainly produce conflict. Without his bothersome input, all would happily share the same dark impulses and infectious brutality. Only Piggy spoils things, being obviously too far removed from humanity’s barbaric roots and always obsessing about rights and wrongs.
Mankind, like Golding’s marooned kids, creates its own demons and then hysterically seeks to accord them a tangible identity it can berate and bully, hate and harm – like Piggy, or like Jews, a.k.a. Zionists, Israelis or whatnot.
Like wisdom-dispensing Piggy, Jews are humanity’s intellectuals, offering it only enlightenment. Piggy’s glasses, through which he observes the world and makes sense of chaos, are also the source of fire and light. But while benefits from Piggy are grabbed, he himself is shunned. His higher ideals accentuate the others’ misbehavior. Depriving them of their peace, he becomes the driving force of discord. Like us.
Our detractors always remember that we’re Piggy, never one of the boys. They’ll always side with our attackers and blame us for it. It’s time we stop blaming ourselves too, trying to make sense of their antipathy, winning them over and convincing them that we’re regular folks. It’s time to stop trying to make them like us, secure their approval and good press or care about their opinion of us.
Smearing Jews inevitably justifies enmity towards them. They bring it on themselves. They always did. Europeans who decades ago shouted “Jews to Palestine,” and showed no mercy to those who couldn’t flee in time, now shout “Jews out of Palestine.” With Jews unwanted anywhere, the bottom line precludes any Jewish survival.
Killing Jews was never like killing others. Since Israel is foremost in Ahmadinejad’s sights, there’s no urgency for even nonviolent measures like persistent no-nonsense sanctions against his nuclear ambitions. If only Jews are nuked, the rest of the world can tolerate Iran’s bomb. A Jewish-only target is almost a plausible compromise.
It’s not about issues or our misdeeds. It’s time for in-house popularity-seekers to quit trying to curry favor by joining the anti-Piggy clamor and snitching about the generic Piggy’s trumped-up transgressions, his outlaw settlements and defiant self-defense. Nothing good can come of additionally tarnishing his already unjustifiably battered image.
It’s time for this world’s nonfictional Piggy to overcome his awe of remorseless choirboys who presume to pass judgment on him. If we’re to preempt the bloody end of the fictional Piggy, we must overcome our awe of remorseless Judeophobes – genteel or otherwise – who presume to pass judgment on us. Our lives depend on it. No less.