There is a theory called “The 100th monkey effect.” This theory posits that a new behavior or idea leaps from anonymity to popularity once a critical number of people have adopted it. The theory is based on a rather disputed report by Japanese scientists who, in 1952, conducted a study on macaque monkeys in the island of Koshima. According to the report, the scientists observed that some of the monkeys learned to wash sweet potatoes. Gradually, their new behavior spread through the rest of the troop through observation and repetition. However, the researchers observed that once a critical number of monkeys have adopted the habit, e.g., the 100th monkey, this learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands.
When the BDS movement first began, some 10 years ago, no one paid it much attention. About two years ago, things began to change very rapidly. It wasn’t only Operation Pillar of Defense that tilted the scales. Something deeper happened, and in 2013 the BDS movement began to quickly gain ground. It seemed as though their popularity has reached the 100th monkey threshold. Today, you cannot find a single campus in the US, and hardly any Western European country, where the BDS movement does not have a strong foothold.
This is the bad news. But really, for all the damage that the BDS has caused, things could have been much worse.
The good news is that we can stop them.
I don’t mean that we can win the online war against the numerous boycott campaigns, or the hatred spewing galore from the mouths of university professors and some public figures. We will also never be able to balance the double standard toward Israel that the UN so readily displays.
But luckily, we do not need to.
Virtually every guide to successful relationships asserts that before you can love anyone else, you have to learn to love yourself. Likewise, we, the Jewish people, first need to learn to love ourselves, and every good thing that we hope for will subsequently follow.
Within every Jew, even the most assimilated, lies a remnant of the Abrahamic quality that had brought us together as a nation. That quality of mercy, unselfish love, that later formulated into the motto, “love your neighbor as yourself, ” has been the basis of our nation since its inception. This is also the prime loss that we have suffered in the exile.
When we practice that motto among us, we become a light for the nations. It is what they subconsciously expect of us, and practicing it is our only source of strength.
Whenever a war breaks out with our neighbors, we unite, and win. It is an indication that this should be our permanent state. Alas, as soon as the guns silence, the mouths resume their spiteful roar, and the nations’ hatred toward us emerges with renewed vigor.
If we were more aware that inner unity is all that is required in order to quell the hatred, we would not let it sink so readily as soon as truce begins. If we only gave it half a chance and tried to keep it during peace, then war would not break out and Jew-hatred would wane and die out.
Our nation is brave and resilient, but there is no need for any more suffering. We have been through enough to know that unity and love of others as ourselves are the keys to our happiness. Let’s act on them together. All we need is to reach the threshold of the 100th monkey.