"The Identity-Impaired Jewish State"
"A Jewish State, what is that supposed to mean? You call yourselves as you like, but I don't accept it, and I say so publicly." This was Mahmoud Abbas' response to Binyamin Netanyahu's demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State as part of an eventual peace deal. What a classic Arab response to such a lame Israeli demand.
Asking the Arab and Muslim world for verbal recognition of Israel's Jewishness is the height of irony. Fatah and the Arab/Muslim world have always recognized Israel as a Jewish State. They don't recognize us in words – but they do so in actions - as every attack on Israel is the utmost recognition of its Jewishness. They want to destroy us because precisely we are Jews in a Jewish State. They recognize who we are, they just don’t accept it...
Why do we need enemies to give us affirmation, anyway? Where is the Israeli toughness, asserting our right to exist without concern for the opinion of others?
Throughout the long Exile and in the absence of a homeland, the Jewish people needed their host nations to recognize them, grant them security, and provide a nice quiet ghetto to live in – which they rarely managed to do. The founding of Israel was supposed to change all that. "Never Again" would Jews put their fate in the hands of others - the Jewish State was to exist on its own will, without regard to the whims of other nations. Unfortunately, sixty-one years after the founding of the State, we have returned to old-fashioned Exile thinking, basing our policies and plans on the recognition and approval of those who don't have our best interest at heart.
The Israeli government's fawning behavior toward the Pope is another example of the old-fashioned exilic thinking which has crept into our country:
For the last two millennia the Jews were kept lowly and persecuted under Christendom. The Catholic Church taught that G-d kept the Jews around as a 'witness' to their own downfall for rejecting Jesus, and to be 'witness' to the 'Second Coming'. Suddenly, instead of Jesus' resurrection, Israel was reborn. Seemingly, the prophecies of the Jewish ingathering and sovereign revival had come true. In contrast to Church doctrine, the Jews were no longer losers – we were winners, posing a real dilemma for Catholicism.
However, in honor of the Pope's upcoming visit, Israel is rolling out the red carpet. The Postal Authority has commissioned a set of stamps depicting Israel's churches while the Jewish National Fund is conducting a tour of trees that "are believed to have witnessed Jesus’ deeds". Our President, Shimon Peres has even called for the transfer of six "Christian" sites over to Vatican control.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic member of the Pope's welcoming committee, Israel's Ministry of Tourism, has produced a website and movie worthy of the jealousies of any Catholic missionary. The film presents the story of a divine Jesus as absolute truth. It does not politely suggest that the stories and places accord with Christian traditions, but rather asserts that the events Christians subscribe to actually occurred, offering no qualifiers to accommodate alternative beliefs – like Jewish ones. It is chilling to think that in the Middle Ages, thousands of Jews chose to die rather then affirm the Jesus myth, yet now our own Tourism Ministry affirms it wholesale on its official website.
After watching the film, two ironic thoughts may occur to you: 1. Now you understand why the Church has always put such a premium on Jewish converts to Christianity - we are just that good! We make the best Christian propaganda out there. Nothing like a meshumad (Jew for Jesus) to peddle the Pope's wares. 2. When the pro-Pope website and movie came out, you could just hear the collective joy of missionaries worldwide: it must be Messianic times when the Jews themselves are preaching the Gospel of Jesus!
The truth is that there are no closet-Christians in our government. It is simply that the people running the show are representative of the identity-impaired ethos of our time. This ethos leads them to kowtow to, and be pushed around by, foreign interested powers. The Church, as well as the Arabs, love to take advantage of our identity vacuum and to tirelessly promote their alternative narrative of the land of Israel. This is where Jesus did this, this is where Muhammad did that…
Therefore, in this identity-crisis, the first people that need to recognize Israel as a Jewish State are the Jewish people and the Jewish government of Israel. We need to understand that demanding recognition from others is meaningless when we ourselves forget our own identity.
In the case of Mahmoud Abbas, Israel does not need his recognition of our Jewish State. Rather, we need to act like a Jewish State by asserting our sovereignty over our land, and by having a zero-tolerance policy for hate crimes and Nazi-like incitement against Jews. 'Never Again' needs to become a meaningful mantra once more.
Regarding the Pope, let him keep the Vatican and we will keep Israel. Instead of promoting Catholicism, our government should use its time, money, and effort to promote the Jewish version of the Bible, our history. Tourism will not be harmed if the thrust of Israel's marketing campaign focuses on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob instead of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.
The world needs to be told the truth – Jewish Israel is here to stay. Yet, Jews of the world need to understand that the world's acceptance of Israel as a Jewish State is totally dependant on our creation of that fact. We Jews must be reminded that the more we stand up for our truth and our beliefs, the more we will be respected, but the more we compromise on our heritage and our destiny, the more our right to exist will be challenged by those interested in promoting their own alternative narrative.
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