Being the Chosen People has its downside as well as upside.
The benefit may be the self-confidence produced for a people who have chronically have been targets of discrimination, exile, or worse.
The problems appear in its contribution to anti-Semitism among those who sneer at the concept, as well as hyperegotistical nationalism among Jews, which appears among individuals who are neither religious nor particularly nationalistic, but takes the form of certainty that Jews suffer more than others. One can measure it with the frequency of oy gevalt, Why Us? Yet Again.
We can argue as to whether suffering, survival, prosperity or success are more characteristic of Jews than others, or which of those terms are most appropriate for Jews historic and present.
Here we'll leave aside things that cannot be established with any reliability, and deal with some features of Israel that look pretty much like other places.
- Competition between numerous interests in the population and economy, providing the stimuli for dispute and problems in resolving conflicts between politicians, activists, journalists, elected officials, administrative units, and courts.
- There is never enough resources to meet all the demands for what are said to be essential.
- Decisions coming from different sources conflict with one another, and often fail to be implemented
- There are numerous symbolic disputes, or conflicts about issues that are of intense importance to individuals, without having any obvious connection to material costs or benefits
- Much of the noise about what to do seems superfluous, insofar as basic postures seldom change in major ways. Incrementalism prevails..
- Rather than solving problems, officials cope with a little of this and a little of that, seemingly trying to minimize damage while not expanding conflict to dimensions that would be more costly in blood or treasure, yet with no hope of dealing with underlying issues in any permanent manner. Governing with one's fingertips seems an accurate description of how officials operate in a complex and tension-ridden environment.
Israel is dealing with an uptick in Palestinian violence with measures largely defensive and reactive. That's appropriate for the low level threat coming from enraged individuals, with Palestinians organizations apparently impotent or fearful of doing much more.
The police have sent personnel to problematic locales, perhaps letting them know that they are more free to use deadly force against those involved in violence. There's been a temporary closures of roads, meant to pressure Palestinians economically as well as minimizing the passage of individuals intent on violence, then relaxing controls on a point by point basis in response to a lessening of violence traced to specific sources.
The police are also acting against Jews who act improperly. There is praise for those who risk themselves by tackling Palestinians with knives, but charges against those who kick and beat Palestinians already injured and immobilized. Defense is to be applauded, while efforts to lynch are to be punished.
Quarrels abound about doing more or doing things differently. Right wing politicians criticize the Supreme Court for delaying or altering plans to destroy terrorists' homes, while left wing politicians charge the accusers of threatening democracy by criticizing judges who they claim are above politics and the country's last hope for remaining civilized.
Politicians argue about returning the bodies of Palestinians killed while attacking. Some see their return as allowing ceremonial and inciting funerals where the person killed is honored as a martyr for the Palestinian cause, while others say that holding the bodies feeds greater hostility among Palestinians. The IDF has responded to the posture of the Defense Minister and has returned bodies more or less immediately. The Police have responded to the posture of the Minister for Domestic Security, and have held on to the bodies they have produced. Some bodies have been returned with conditions that funerals be at night, and for family members only. More common are funerals where thousands participate, chanting inflammatory slogans.
Security personnel, politicians, and some judges are acting more forcefully against violent Palestinians, while civil rights advocates and other judges are expressing concern. Most stone throwers escape with nothing more than being chased by police or soldiers, and smelling the foul stuff sprayed on them for crowd control. Some are injured or killed in the melee. A 16 year old has been sentenced to three years in prison for throwing stones. A 13 year old filmed in a deadly knife attack along with an older cousin who was killed has been remanded to custody on charges of murder and attempted murder, while officials sort through the issues of his being a juvenile.
The police received a court order to destroy a synagogue in the West Bank town Givat Zeev, said to have been built improperly on land owned by Palestinians. Those asserting that the synagogue is kosher and must not be destroyed have assembled their supporters from near and far, and are promising to foil the efforts of heretical cops. The police have argued that violence elsewhere is keeping them busy, that they do not have the personnel to carry out of the court order, and have been given another two weeks to do the job.
If there truly is something special about what is happening here, it may reflect our history, how others as well as ourselves continue to view us, and what fate may have destined to be our location in the middle of things.
Being on the junction of continents, alongside or between contending empires has been the Jews' burden since ancient times. Again it returns with the Islamic State churning things up over our northern and southern borders.
Palestinians may be pathetic in their weakness compared to aspirations, and unable to take advantage of repeated efforts to produce a decent agreement about their future. Yet enough of their people are wired with intense feelings of personal, family, religious, and/or national suffering to produce chronic tensions and occasional violence at the many work sites, shopping streets, and boundaries of neighborhoods where Jews and Arabs exist alongside and mixed with one another. When things heat up, individuals from both sides seek ways to preserve their humanity and good cross-cultural relationships, while keeping themselves safe from those intent on harm.
Politicians are responding to European efforts to label agricultural products from the West Bank as coming from Occupied Territory by proclaiming the return of the Nazis' Yellow stars ("Jude"). Individual Palestinians working in Israeli industries in the West Bank are urging their politicians, so far unsuccessfully, to lay off boycott campaigns which threaten them with unemployment. Israelis involved in agriculture have found markets for their produce where there is no worry about origins.
It is part of our skill or good fortune that now we find ourselves aligned with greater powers against an enemy that has gone too far in the direction of barbarism. Russia, the US, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are more or less on the same side, not entirely happy with one another, and nervous about Iranian participation. It will test Israel's military and political skills to continue attacking weapon transfers to Hezbollah in Syria without getting in the way of Russian attacks against the opponents of Assad and/or the Islamic State.
Palestinians of the West Bank are suffering from economic constraints made worse by those who see knives or boycotts as the way to their salvation, while those of Gaza are living amidst rubble not cleaned up from IDF operations of 2009, 2012, and 2014.
Israel has come from poverty,warfare, and several waves of mass migration, where only the Russians began early to contribute more than they cost. It is now ranked as one of the world's wealthiest economies and most healthy populations.
The media add to our notoriety, our problems, and our sense of success.
Jews have been writing about Jews for more than 2,500 years, from when whoever contributed the earliest verses of the Hebrew Bible, still said by many to have come from the Almighty, to the latest hit being reviewed--most likely by another Jew--in the New York Times, whose editors and readers are also disproportionately Jews..
Jews' tendencies to argue is part of our creativity, and has something to do with the mixed press we give to ourselves.