Compared with other minorities — especially the Arab one in Israel — Jews have it so good.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addressing the crowd at the vandalized Jewish cemetery in St. Louis in February. Would an Israeli minister ever show up at a vandalized Arab cemetery? Credit J.B. Forbes/AP
You’ve got to envy the Jews, the most privileged minority in the free world. The Arabs in Europe, the Muslims in America, the blacks and Native Americans, the Gypsies, the aborigines, Arab Israelis, and of course, the Palestinians in the territories – all these groups can only dream of enjoying the kind of rights and standing enjoyed by the Jewish minority in the world. Or to put it in stronger terms: No Jew in the world is as oppressed as is the Arab citizen in Israel. And nowhere else will you find a minority that is the target of as much incitement by its country’s leaders as is the Arab minority in Israel.
The Jewish minority is established and organized, its rights are safeguarded, and it has a nation-state to immigrate to. And which minority makes the most noise? Which ones causes a huge fuss over every attack on it? And to whom do the world’s statesmen make a pilgrimage after every attack? There is anti-Semitism in the world, and it is on the rise. But the outcry it causes is out of all proportion to the reality. Especially when you compare the lives of Jews to the lives of other minorities, in particular, Muslims.
There is no country in the world where a senior minister would have the nerve to say that the Jews belong in another country. But that is exactly what Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a former immigrant himself, is saying about the Arab citizens of his country. The world isn’t stirred up by this, though – Lieberman didn’t attack Jews. Not the way the headlines screamed after “The Holocaust is Fake News” was scrawled on the wall of a synagogue in Seattle. Much more racist and violent graffiti can be found along the roads of the West Bank and Israel, but there is no protest, and no erasure.
Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in America. Vice President Mike Pence himself rolled up his sleeves and picked up a rake. But what do the cemeteries of the Palestinian towns and villages that Israel destroyed look like? Toppled headstones, pasture for cows, barbecuing sites and nasty graffiti. No Israeli politician is ever going to pick up a rake and go fix them up.
Graffiti in Hebron/Al-Khalil (JDL: Jewish Defence League)
America and Europe are awash in hatred toward minorities. The Jews are the least of its victims. Recently there have been several hate crimes against the Indian minority in America. Did anyone hear about them? In Kansas, two Indian engineers were shot – one was killed and one survived. The killer thought they were Muslims. Did anyone hear about this? “Go back to your country!,” shouted another shooter who fired at an American Sikh in Seattle. It’s a lot harder these days to be a Muslim than it is to be a Jew. Try getting through an airport with a Jewish name or a Muslim name, with a kippa or a hijab. There were 5,818 hate crimes recorded in America in 2015, with a 67 percent increase in the number of attacks against Muslims compared to the previous year. That was before the advent of the Donald Trump era, which could lead hate crimes against Muslims to spike much higher. And the vice president is repairing Jewish headstones.
It’s hard to be a Jew. It’s a lot harder to be a Muslim. Would the Trump administration ever dream of sending a Muslim-American envoy as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians? An Arab in a keffiya? Jason Greenblatt, an alumnus of the hesder yeshiva (combining religious studies and army service) in Alon Shvut, a West Bank settlement, wears a black kippa (which he removed during his current visit to Israel). He is the impartial American mediator, continuing a long tradition of Jewish mediators in the region. The Jewish Greenblatt is the representative of the administration that’s seen as anti-Semitic, and also the representative of the persecuted and oppressed minority.
The terrible past must not be ignored, but it also mustn’t overshadow the present. Anti-Semitism must be fought, without inflating its scope for political benefit, as is sometimes done. The Jewish establishment, which lives off anti-Semitism in part, would do well to make itself heard regarding other minorities. The Anti-Defamation League recently did so, in a praiseworthy move.
Israel cannot fight anti-Semitism while also fueling it with its occupation policy. It also lacks the moral right to preach to others about how to treat minorities, as it meanwhile incites and oppresses and dispossesses its own minorities. The Arabs can only envy the Jews of the world.
Smashed headstone in the Sheikh Murad cementery, located in South Tel Aviv, 2011; Photo Mya Guarnieri
Some 20 gravestones at the cemetery in Kufr Birim in northern Israel were found vandalized, April 15, 2015. Photo Wadie Abunassar