From The Forward (April 19, 2002)
"The whole world is demanding that Israel withdraw. I don't think the whole world, including the friends of the Israeli people and government, can be wrong."At this moment in time, many Jews who love and support Israel hear the soft voice within, asking the question to which Kofi Annan recently alluded in Madrid: Can we alone be right, while the whole world around is wrong?
— Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General, speaking in Madrid, Spain
The evidence that we are standing on the other side of the "whole world" is manifest. The Arab League is united in condemnation, and Egyptian students march for an end to their country's diplomatic relations with Israel that were engraved at Camp David. The United Nations Security Council roundly condemns Israel several times in mere weeks, and its human rights commission again takes up the Durban chant against Zionism that was silenced by September 11. The European Union is rife with talk of boycotting the Jewish state. Synagogue attacks in France give vent to the feeling expressed with gentility by the French diplomat who termed Israel "that sh—-y little state." All three major political parties in Germany vie to lead their nation in condemning Israel. England accuses Israel of using British-made tanks illegally. Mobs attack Jews from Ukraine to Belgium to the Netherlands. The pope condemns Israel for its military presence outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, while armed Arab terrorists repose inside, holding monks and nuns as icons for terror.
We Jews are bemused. Are we the only ones who see the unrelenting suicide bombings of women and children at pizza stores, of teenagers at a discotheque, of families at a Seder celebration?
After 19 months of slaughter at open-air fruit markets and bus stations and bat mitzvah parties, deadly shootings of motorists, stabbings of school children in caves, has no one seen this but us?
Do we alone notice that the attacks target Jewish and Arab civilians alike throughout pre-June 1967 Israel, from Haifa to Hadera, West Jerusalem to Beersheba?
The whole world demands Israel take risks for peace with Yasser Arafat — again. Are we the only ones who perceive that, after he was conferred a Nobel peace prize and given authority to create a new polity and a new atmosphere for coexistence, he desecrated the next eight years by wielding television to inculcate grotesque images of murder, radio to disseminate a culture of hate, schools and summer camps to train young people to murder the Jews they were being taught to hate? Can no one but us decipher the receipts he signed, authorizing funds to purchase weapons of terror?
The whole world endorses President Bush's call for war against terrorists and those who harbor them. The United States invades Afghanistan to uproot the infrastructure of terror and hunkers down there for seven months, preparing to extend the incursion into Pakistan.
Aerial bombs strafe cities. Thousands of civilian non-combatants are believed dead. The Taliban government crumbles, but the incursion continues. We must find Osama bin Laden. We must find Mullah Omar. We must reach Daniel Pearl's killers. And we yet shall begin the mother of all incursions into Iraq.
We Jews see this. We also see the same "whole world" roundly condemn Israel for its incursion into a jungle of terror. Israel will not drop incendiary payloads from the air on civilians, so Israeli reservists, husbands and fathers, die in house-to-house fighting in Jenin, where the terrorists booby-trap buildings, station snipers and outfit children as human bombs.
Israel asks that Arafat turn over the assassins of an Israeli cabinet minister and the mastermind of the Karine-A affair that tried to smuggle 50 tons of explosives to his minions. But the whole world wants Israel instead to pull back while the bombers of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and the Tanzim play for time. Doesn't the whole world see what we see? Can we alone be right?
Well, yes. If we Jews are anything, we are a people of history. From our first patriarch to Israel's precision-targeted destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, which laid the foundation for a successful Operation Desert Storm and the rescue of Kuwait, our history provides the strength to know that we can be right and the whole world wrong.
We have confronted the question many times. The whole world was polytheistic, and we alone preached belief in one God. We preached a Day of Rest, and the whole ancient world mocked us as lazy people. We were right, and the whole world was wrong. They said we crucified a Jew — as if the Romans would have allowed any of its subjects to do such a thing, as if Jews ever had such a punishment in our code — and we insisted such a thing was beyond impossible. We were right, and the whole world was wrong. In the Middle Ages, the whole world said that we use children's blood to make matzo; we denied it. They said that we poisoned the wells of Europe, and we denied it. We were right, and the whole world was wrong. The Crusades. The blood libels and Talmud burnings in England and France, leading those nations to expel Jews for centuries. The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. The ghettoes and the Mortara case in Italy. Dreyfus in France. Beilis in Russia and a century's persecution of Soviet Jewry. The Holocaust. Kurt Waldheim in Austria. Each time, Europe stood by silently — or actively participated in murdering us — and we alone were right, and the whole world was wrong.
Today, once again, we alone are right and the whole world is wrong. The Arabs, the Russians, the Africans, the Vatican proffer their aggregated insights into and accumulated knowledge of the ethics of massacre. And the Europeans. Although we appreciate a half-century of West European democracy more than we appreciated the prior millennia of European brutality, we recognize who they are, what they have done — and what's what.
We know, if they don't, that they need Arab oil more than they need Jewish philosophy and creativity. We remember that the food they eat is grown from soil fertilized by 2,000 years of Jewish blood they have sprinkled onto it. Atavistic Jew-hatred lingers in the air into which the ashes rose from the crematoria.
Finally, the best of Europe truly are wracked by the burdened conscience of what they, their parents and their bubbes and zeides did, or failed to do, in the 1940s. So, instead of confronting a shameful past that belies their self-vaunted Romantic civilization, they seek now to assuage their consciences with the mendacity that Israel 2002 is no different from Europe 1942.
Yes, once again, we are right and the whole world is wrong. It doesn't change a thing, but after 25 centuries it's nice to know.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, an attorney, is a board member of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation-Council's Jewish Community Relations Committee and national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America. He is the author of "General Sharon's War Against Time Magazine."