If Jews are the canaries in the coalmine of how a civilization, state, or country will treat religious or ethnic minorities, what is Israel — the only democratic state in the Middle East, and the only Jewish state in the world? For several years now, I have been asking the question: Will our culture and the international community allow us to fight the war we need to fight to prevail? An interim answer to that question is now playing out for Israel, our international canary in the darkest of mines.
Israel, which comprises some 10,000 square miles, compared with Arab countries that total over five million square miles — not including Iran — has shown itself to be a model of democracy and decency. Over one million Arabs live in Israel with full rights of citizenship, they vote and serve in Israel’s parliament. Syria wants Israel gone and Iran’s president openly calls for Israel’s destruction. With the exceptions of Egypt and Jordan, no Arab state officially recognizes Israel as a state. And yet, bereft of oil, Israel’s per capita gross domestic product tops 24,000 dollars (compared with the oil-rich Saudi Arabia whose per capita GDP hovers at 13,000 dollars), and it remains a thriving bastion of democratic liberalism in an ocean of oligarchies and dictatorships.
Israel has been the state sponsor of no terror, has kidnapped no innocent citizens of other countries, and has fought for its life ever since it was founded in 1948 as its neighboring states have started war after war to wipe it off the map. And yet, Israel is continually asked to cease defending itself by the United Nations, by the European Union, and by a coterie of other international organizations that have called on Israel’s neighbors to cease their terrorist activities and human rights violations almost never. It is an expectation of Israel that it act like a civilized nation. Fair enough. But the expectation of the terrorists is zero. A contemporary, international version of “boys will be boys” governs in the form of “terrorists will be terrorists.” That is all they have to live with, and up to, in the way of judgment. Meanwhile, it is illegal for Jews or Christians to become citizens of Saudi Arabia, it was Zionism the U.N. once condemned as “racist.”
While the formula for the long-sought-after goal of “peace in the Middle East,” has long been based on the trope of “land for peace,” where Israel would give up disputed land in exchange for peace or recognition, Israel has given up land time and again, and yet somehow one million Israelis are spending tonight in bomb shelters. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 there was no peace, when Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas took over the territory and used it as a base for rocket launches ever since.