By Shalom Freedman
Shalom Freedman is a writer living in Jerusalem.
On March 6, 2007, the BBC published a survey taken in twenty-eight countries that rated Israel as one of the world’s most hated countries [specifically, the one most dangerous to world peace — ed.] along with Iran, North Korea and the US. Putting aside the fact that the generally hostile to Israel BBC did its survey during the Second Lebanon War, at a time when Israel’s popularity was at its lowest, it is still possible to give a certain credence to the results and ask why the Jewish State is so despised.
Israel, after all, ranks among the world’s leading nations in its quality of life, its democratic form of government, its contributions to medical and scientific research, and its technological advancement. Israel is also a country which, in the slightly more than five decades of its existence, has absorbed over one and one half million immigrants from over eighty countries and provided them the opportunity to live happy and productive lives.
Israel, in comparison to a whole variety of nations which have come into the world since the formation of the United Nations, is one of the great social and economic successes of mankind; and this is aside from its unique accomplishments of having revived an ancient language, and brought back to sovereignty in their ancient homeland a long exiled, dispersed and persecuted people.
Why again, then, is Israel so hated?
One obvious answer might be the envious reaction of its neighbors to its successes. Israel has long ago left the rest of the region behind in the development of its economy and its educational institutions. But this answer would have relevance only for nearby neighbors and not for the great mass of mankind. Israel is after all a small nation, one barely visible on ordinary maps of the world, and its population is about one tenth of one percent of all of mankind.
This would seem to suggest that it is not anything so much about Israel’s actual situation, the facts of the matter, which is responsible for this hatred, but rather various myths, even anti-Jewish ones, which a great portion of mankind has come to hold.
One of these myths, generously distributed throughout the world by the Saudis, is contained in a document called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a famous tsarist antisemitic forgery dating to the 19th century. This document claims to report the deliberations of a Jewish cabal whose aim is to take over the world. This myth is now widely accepted as truth throughout the Islamic world.
This myth connects up with another myth — widely disseminated by Palestinian and other Arab propagandists — of Israel as a military behemoth which cruelly and inhumanly oppresses the poor Arab population of the Middle East, and threatens to expand its dominion by aggressive war. This myth of a warmongering Israel no doubt leads to much hatred of Israel in the world. Israel is perceived as a violent country which is threatening to bring mankind into another world war. Here Israel is seen as the ally and surrogate, and even (quite paradoxically at times) as the controller of the United States. Israel’s repeated efforts to make peace with its neighbors, its withdrawals from territory to do so, its restraint in the face of endless provocations and violence against it, its generally moral army restrained by strict codes of proper behavior, do not interest the world or the propagandists.
The fact is that the hatred of Israel is the triumph of propaganda and prejudice, which friends of Israel, however thankless the task, must continue to resist and dispel.