In the last few weeks there has been an ongoing debate around whether or not US Vice President Joe Biden actually told the late prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, that the only safe place for Jews is Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported that he said, “Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. …No matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee … and that’s the state of Israel.”
A vibrant debate has flared around this alleged quote, and whether he meant what he reportedly said immediately thereafter, “I just want to assure you … [that President Barack Obama] shares the exact same commitment to the security of Israel, ” or implied that American Jews should leave for Israel on the next plane out.
Vice President Joe Biden and his superior, President Barack Obama, have been accused more than once of being anti Israel and even anti-Semitic. Regardless of what is, or is not, on their mind, I know that the choice of whether or not to be anti-Semitic is not in their hands. It may sound far fetched but I believe that we should gradually come to realize that we are the ones who can make or break anti-Semitism.
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As a Jew whose family was all but wiped out in the Holocaust, I’d hate nothing more than to see another generation face a similar ordeal. Therefore, I think we must be bold and tough, and not allow complacency and apprehension to prevent us from looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves in a new light.
We can shrug off Mel Gibson’s “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world, ” Oliver Stone’s “Jewish control of the media is preventing free Holocaust debate, ” and “Hitler is an easy scapegoat … used cheaply, ” or Gen. Boykin’s “The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” But these days anti-Semitism is coming primarily from the academia. US universities of all levels are displaying anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments to the point where wearing a skullcap has become somewhat of a “political statement.”
Clearly, the numerous academic, cultural, and scientific accomplishments achieved by Jews do not mitigate the growing anger toward us. The arguments justifying the anger focus on morals—whether it concerns Israel’s conduct with the Palestinians or Jews’ presumed control over the countries they inhabit. Therefore, the solution to anti-Semitism should relate to the morals we practice and portray.
Out of everything that Jews have given to the world, the one gift that the world has embraced, but has never been able to implement, is the motto, “love your neighbor as yourself.” At some point in our remote history, before the ruin of the Temple, we sustained a society that, for the most part, successfully implemented this motto.
From our inception, we were not as other nations. We “officially” became a nation at the foot of Mount Sinai, when we pledged to be “as one man with one heart.” In other words, only when we applied the motto, “love your neighbor as yourself, ” did we merit the title, “nation.” It therefore stands to reason that when we do not apply it, we become an assembly of self-centered individuals.
Soon after we became a nation, we were given the promise that we would be “a light for the nations.” The proximity between the unity that made us into a nation, and the promise to be a light for the nations, is not coincidental. This unity is precisely what we need to bring to the world.
This light they await from us, and which we are failing to bring, is the reason why the nations are blaming us for all the wars and troubles, as did Gibson and Boykin. By not spreading unity (because we do not have it), we are “creating” anti-Semitism.
The nations are constantly observing us. Looking at the number of UN condemnations of Israel compared to the condemnations of all other countries combined illustrates the inexplicably disproportionate attention that Israel is getting the world over. But Israel in particular, and the Jews in general, are displaying strife, discord, alienation, and venomous attitudes toward each other that cannot produce a sustainable, much less united society.
So when the whole world is drowning in social, political, and international conflicts, the one nation that should show the way to unity, is showing the exact opposite. No wonder they are blaming us.
The solution is simple: We have to start working on our unity. I’m not saying we have to unite, that would be too much of a challenge, and we don’t know how. But simply trying to unite instead of trying to trample one another with contempt, will show the world the example they are seeking when they examine our actions.
Immediately after we begin to work on our unity, we have to share it with the rest of the world, even if that unity is incomplete. This will be the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise to be a light for the nations.
We need not deny or hide our differences. On the contrary, we need to display them, and show that we can unite above them! We need to show that our uniqueness makes us indispensable to our society because we’re using it for the common good.
We have been saying that we must unite for ages, but what we really meant was “everyone should be like me.” Now we should employ a different goal: everyone is different, but we’re all united in our desire to contribute our unique skills to our community, our country, and the world. When we learn how to connect among ourselves, we will set the example that the world needs in order to rebuild society in a positively connected manner.
If this idea seems far fetched or naïve, or both, we should remember that throughout the history of our people, our sages have pleaded with us to unite. I am convinced that now we are required to at least try, so that this chapter in the history of our nation will not be one of doom and gloom, but one of joy and bliss, not just for ourselves, but for the entire world.