Peres: Despite being targeted, the Jewish people persist

President urges Jews “to maintain our togetherness and introduce more tolerance.”

peres with presidents 311 (photo credit: Avi Hayun)
peres with presidents 311
(photo credit: Avi Hayun)
With Purim only a week away, it was understandable that President Shimon Peres would invoke the name of Ahasuerus, the ancient king of Persia, at the opening plenary session of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors meeting Sunday.
Peres mentioned the king to illustrate that despite the passing of centuries, the attitude toward Jews, from Ahasuerus to Ahmadinejad, remains unchanged.
Just falling short of comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Hitler and Stalin, Peres wondered aloud why Jews are targeted from generation to generation when they have given so much innovation and creativity to the world out of all proportion to numbers.
“Why do they select us all the time, from Ahasuerus to Ahmadinejad?” he asked.
The only answer he could come up with was that there is some perverse attitude toward the Jewish people’s ongoing commitment to attempting to build a better world.
Quoting from The New York Times, Peres said that Jews make up only 0.2 percent of the world’s population, but 54% of the world’s chess champions and 25% of Nobel Prize laureates.
The percentage of Jewish laureates rises to 31% in the field of medicine.
Today, said Peres, one cannot distinguish between the fate of the Jewish people and the fate of the Jewish state.
“The State of Israel cannot exist without the Jewish People,” he said. “We should not permit ourselves any division. I’m not talking about passports, but about Jewish identity. It’s not about where we live, but in which direction we’re moving historically.”
Peres made the point that the Jewish people have suffered not only through others’ attempts to eradicate it, “but by our own divisions. We have to maintain our togetherness and introduce more tolerance.”
“We cannot permit ourselves a division between the Jewish People of America and the Jewish People of Israel,” he continued. “Because of and in spite of the difference, we must arrive at a spiritual understanding.”
On the subject of nuclear power in the wrong hands, Peres said, “A single nuclear bomb is like a whole army.”
He underscored that the nuclear threat comes not only from Iran but also from Pakistan.
“The danger is not just against Israel but against the whole world,” he said. “Ahmadinejad is not aiming just against Israel, but against the whole of the Middle East. The world is moving too slowly in facing the problem.”
Peres called for a moral voice combined with economic sanctions to deal with the problem.
“The world will become ungovernable if every country in the Middle East has a nuclear bomb,” he warned.
Notwithstanding the nuclear threat, the president’s focus was more on Jewish identity.
“I’m terribly concerned about your children and our children. It’s notenough that they are born Jewish, but that they will remain Jewish.”