Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, claimed in an interview to the Daily News that in the latest conflict with the Palestinians in Gaza (Protective Edge), in the summer of 2014, Israel killed “over 10, 000 innocent people.” The fact is that even the Palestinians’ own casualty count does not exceed 2, 300, and this includes Hamas activists, meaning terrorists.
However, Mr. Sanders’ views, which border on anti-Semitism, are nothing new. With supporters such as devout anti-Israel activist, Noam Chomsky, and a record of supporting anti-Semites such as Minister Jesse Jackson when he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, his views on the latest Gaza conflict are no surprise to anyone.
Even so, it makes one wonder how Sanders concluded that a) 10, 000 Palestinians were killed in the conflict, and b) that these Palestinians were “innocent people.” On the one hand he states that Israel’s “attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed.” “On the other hand, ” hesays, ” “you have a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel – a fact – and you know where some of those missiles are coming from. They’re coming from populated areas; that’s a fact.” So he knows that Hamas shoots from within populated areas, yet chooses to blame Israel for shooting into these areas.
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If it sounds complicated, it is. The love-hate relation toward Israel is something that every Jew feels, and it stems from the very root of our nation.
As I wrote in “Why Do People Hate Jews, ” since the inception of our people, we have been different from all other nations. Our peoplehood was formed not by biological kinship or geographical proximity, but by adherence to an idea.
Two elements form the basis of our people: unity and brotherhood. We became a nation at the foot of Mt. Sinai when we pledged to unite “as one man with one heart, ” and we remained a nation as long as we were able to cover our conflicts with a blanket of unity.
To be sure, the nature of Jews is as egoistic as everybody else’s. We came from different backgrounds and from different nations and united under Abraham’s guidance. When you look into how we managed to establish our peoplehood despite our different origins, you realize that a key principle guided the Jewish people: “Hatred stirs up strife, and love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs, 10:12). In other words, the ancient Hebrews were no better than their neighbors, but they had found a way to cover their egos with love.
This is why we became a nation only when we agreed to be “as one man with one heart.” And when we succeeded, we were entrusted with a task: to be “a light unto nations, ” to show how everyone can unite above their egos.
Unity above differences is not just a slogan. It is the essence of our existence. Everything in our world consists of opposites that cooperate to form a harmoniously functioning whole. Just like inhaling and exhaling, every action and every matter consists of work-rest periods, and a complementing positive-negative duality. By learning how to complement the ego with unity, our forefathers had found the formula of life, the “Theory of Everything.” This is the “light” that they were instructed to pass on to the world.
But approximately 2, 000 years ago, we lost our ability to cover our selfishness with unity and brotherhood. Lacking the element that had kept us as a nation since our inception, we could not remain together and dispersed into exile.
And yet, within each of us there is an indiscernible memory. We may not be able to define it, but it tells us that at the very core, we are all united, and we must project that unity to the world.
Bernie Sanders feels it, too. He is well aware not only of the fact that unity is paramount, and that we must all achieve it. In a CNN Presidential Democratic Town Hall in South Carolina, Mr. Sanders said:
“Every great religion in the world… essentially comes down to ‘Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.’ What I have believed, and I believed it my whole life … that we are in this together. That’s not just words. The truth is that at some level when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt, I hurt! And when my kids hurt, you hurt. I believe that what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can’t even understand, it’s beyond intellect. It’s a spiritual, emotional thing. So I believe that when we … say that that child who is hungry is my child, I think we are more human than when we say, ‘Hey this whole world is me, I need more and more, I don’t care about anybody else.’ That’s my religion; that’s what I believe in. And I think most people … share that belief—that we are in it together as human beings. …So we have got to work together, and that is what my spirituality is about.”
Clearly, the “memory” of the importance of unity is very active in Mr. Sanders. But how does it explain his alienation from Israel? The answer is simple: He simply doesn’t see that Israel is spreading the spirit of unity and brotherhood, so he feels alienated from it. He may express it by objecting to Israel’s policy or actions, but underneath it lies the unsaid expectation from the state of Israel to be “a light unto nations, ” to spread unity and brotherhood. Saying that “that child who is hungry is my child” makes us more human than when we say, “I don’t care about anybody else, ” is as close as you can get to saying “We must cover our egoism with unity and brotherhood and become “as one man with one heart.”
Being anti-Israel doesn’t help Mr. Sanders’ cause. It will not bring unity or brotherhood, nor make the world a better place. However, we should use it as a reminder of what Jews should do in this world, and that is to bring unity and brotherhood to all mankind.
We will not be able to do this until we cover our crimes with love, and show the world an example of how this can be done. As Sanders said, “everybody … impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can’t even understand, it’s beyond intellect.” And when we impact kindness on one another, we are indeed more human than when we impact hatred, which is regrettably what Sanders is doing toward Israel at the moment.
If we want to put an end to the Middle-East conflict, we the Jews must first put an end to our internal conflicts and unite above them. Our rekindled unity will spread like ripples in a pond as we demonstrate how we can truly “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.”