Independence Day 2013.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
To be Israeli is to be hated, every moment of every day, by millions of people around the globe, many of whom have never set foot in Israel and never met an Israeli, or even a Jew. My favorite example is a South Korean who used to send viciously anti-Israel letters to an Israeli newspaper from Seoul every few weeks. It never ceased to amaze me: Couldn’t he find anything closer to home – say, the North Korean gulags – to fulminate over?
But this panoply of hatred – expressed through and endless stream of demonstrations, articles and speeches (not to mention bombs and rockets) – often blinds us to an equally astonishing fact: To be Israeli is also to be loved by millions of people around the globe, many of whom have also never set foot here and never met an Israeli, or even a Jew.
The most obvious example is America. We’re so used to America’s friendship that we often forget how remarkable it really is. After all, Israel has never fought side-by-side with America in wartime, as American allies like Britain, Canada and France repeatedly have, nor does it provide generous funding for America’s global initiatives, as allies like Germany and Japan do. And while it does contribute substantially in fields such as intelligence, counterterrorism and military technology, these contributions, by their nature, aren’t usually well-known to the broader public.
Granted, by any objective standard, our shared democratic values and Judeo-Christian heritage ought to make such friendship a foregone conclusion. Yet they haven’t evoked similar feelings in many other Judeo-Christian democracies: In Europe, Israel is widely loathed. Only in America is popular support for Israel so strong that, for instance, 79 out of 100 U.S. senators cosponsored a resolution last week pledging “diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence” should Israel feel compelled to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Moreover, supporting Israel isn’t cost-free. Americans are routinely told that their country’s support for Israel inflames global antipathy toward America. Canada, another member of the select club of Israel’s best friends, is widely thought to have lost its bid for a UN Security Council seat because of its pro-Israel positions. The Czech Republic, the troika’s third member, took flak from the rest of the EU for being the sole European country to vote against the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid at the UN last November. It’s no small thing that, year in and year out, a few brave countries choose to risk global opprobrium to support Israel – just because it’s the right thing to do.
Even more remarkable, however, are the individuals who have chosen to champion Israel’s cause in countries where it’s unpopular: They must contend with the daily opprobrium of their own countrymen.
Take, for instance, Irish filmmaker Nicky Larkin. Hailing as he does from a viciously anti-Israel country, he considered it only natural to come to Israel to make an anti-Israel film. But once here, he discovered that the truth wasn’t as simple as he’d been taught. He returned an outspoken supporter of Israel, a stance that has cost him both friends and jobs. Yet he refuses to stop speaking the truth he discovered here.
Or consider Jose Maria Aznar and David Trimble. Aznar is a former prime minister of Spain (another virulently anti-Israel country), Trimble a former prime minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Both could have devoted their retirements to some uncontroversial cause and been feted around the world. Instead, they chose the highly unpopular cause of combating their continent’s anti-Israel prejudice.
Aznar launched the Friends of Israel initiative, whose goal
is to “counter the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders.” Trimble, alongside joining him in that initiative, regularly defends Israel in international forums. Just last month, he addressed the UN Human Rights Council to denounce
its “investigation” of Israeli settlements; in 2010, he served as an external observer on Israel’s Turkel Commission, which probed the botched raid on a Turkish flotilla to Gaza, thereby lending it international credence that undoubtedly contributed to a UN panel’s surprising exoneration
of Israel the following year.
Then there’s the handful of Norwegian journalists
who are waging a crusade against their country’s financial support for the generous salarie
s the Palestinian Authority pays to jailed Palestinian terrorists. The information was brought to their attention by an Israeli organization, Palestinian Media Watch. But in other countries, journalists and parliamentarians exposed to PMW’s information have preferred to accept the PA’s glib denials. That would also have been the easier path in Norway – yet another country whose anti-Israel animus
is legendary. But this group has refused to let the issue drop: They’ve already forced their government to admit that the PA’s denials were “imprecise,” and are now demanding action.
I could name other examples: journalists like Julie Burchill
in England or Pilar Rahola
in Spain; politicians like Fiorello Provera
in Italy or the late Kaare Kristiansen in Norway; army officers like Britain’s Col. Richard Kemp
; evangelical Christians like Pastor John Hagee of Christians United for Israel or the folks at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. But there are far more whose names I don’t know, and may never know: hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who continue to support Israel in defiance of the world’s vociferous “accepted wisdom.”
That Israel, despite the hatred that surrounds it, has survived and thrived for 65 years is due primarily to its own efforts and those of its Jewish brethren round the world. But it also owes a debt to all the non-Jews worldwide who have worked, and are still working, to help us repel this tide of hatred.
For all of them, the fact that Israel has flourished against all odds is reward enough. But in the aftermath of last week’s 65th anniversary celebrations, it’s worth taking the time to say “thank you” – if only to remind ourselves that, however much our enemies wish otherwise, “the people that dwells alone” isn’t quite so alone as we often think.The writer is a journalist and commentator.