Monday, January 30th | 8 Shevat 5783

April 22, 2016 7:18 am

When Will Anyone Stand Up for Israel?

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avatar by Judith Bergman

The Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia.

Over the past week, Israel found itself at the center of more action than most countries see in a decade:

On Thursday, UNESCO adopted a resolution that completely ignores Jewish ties to the Western Wall and to the Temple Mount, changing the name of the Western Wall to “al-Buraq Plaza” and referring to the Temple Mount solely as Haram al-Sharif‎. This is yet another battle in the cognitive war being waged against Israel by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, aided and abetted by pretty much the rest of the world in the form of the United Nations.

On Sunday, Syria issued an overt threat, saying it would use all available means to recapture the Golan. The threat came in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding his weekly cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights. While the threat was ridiculous, given that Syria is a failed state, both the U.S. and the European Union found it to be a good opportunity to weigh in on behalf of Syria, each stating that they do not consider the Golan a part of Israel. Asking Israel to hand over the Golan, in effect, to the Islamic State group, while the West tries to defend itself from them, is the height of hypocrisy.

On Monday, a terrorist attack aboard a bus in Jerusalem wounded 21 people.

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Meanwhile, in the background, there is the constant threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons to snuff out the very existence of Israel and the constant fear of Hamas terror tunnels coming in from Gaza.

This is just an excerpt from the events spanning one week in the life of Israel. I have not even mentioned the heated public debate over an IDF soldier facing manslaughter charges for shooting an immobilized terrorist in Hebron last month or the scrutiny that Israel comes under at every turn.

Most countries would collapse under such intense pressure, and fast. Not only does Israel not allow itself to collapse, it pushes ahead and miraculously even thrives in the process, dealing with all the issues as best it can. Why? Because failure is not an option — it never was, and it never will be.

People who criticize Israel, for whatever reason, especially those who like to compare it to other countries in the West, are usually completely oblivious to, or alternately deliberately ignore, the sheer magnitude of the issues that Israel deals with on a daily basis. Issues that other nations cannot even imagine (although the increasing prevalence of terrorist attacks on European soil is slowly starting to drive home some truths). Israel is not surrounded by the likes of Holland and Luxembourg or Mexico and Canada, but everyone acts as if it were — as if Israel were not situated in the center of a war zone.

Practically no one, even Israelis themselves at times, takes the enormous existential pressure for physical survival and the no less existential pressure to stand up to demonization into account. However, it is vital to squarely, in clear and open language, acknowledge this pressure, because it is a crucial part of what Israel is.

It would be far-fetched and incredibly naive to think that Israel’s detractors will suddenly turn around and anchor their criticism in Israel’s reality and not on the distortions in their own minds. However, those who claim to criticize Israel out of friendly concern, like many liberal American Jews do, ought to practice the ideals of fairness and social justice to which they claim to adhere and anchor that “friendly concern” in the realities of the region and the realities of the issues facing Israel, at all levels. I am less than certain that they are able to do that.

At any rate, it hardly ever happens today. While liberal American Jews want Israel to be ethically flawless — one wonders for whose sake — they pounce on Israel at every given opportunity, ignoring that Israel is not New York or Miami and that the existential circumstances of Israelis differ immensely from those of Jews living in North America. One wonders, in fact, whether liberal American Jews even realize what an existential challenge to one’s physical existence means? How would they even know, given their own life circumstances?

At the very minimum, those who engage in discourse about Israel, especially the critical kind, should be expected to meet the same requirements as those who in engage in any other kind of discourse: fairness, an understanding of the facts and circumstances and some humility in the face of one’s own ignorance. Few people who live outside Israel truly understand the country on a deep level. Yet everyone in the world who has ever read a headline about us claims to be an expert. That is the problem.

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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