People forget how small Israel is. Its entire population is a little over 7 million - smaller than Lima, Peru. Its land area is about 8,000 square miles, smaller than New Jersey or Belize. By comparison, Jordan, its neighbor to the east, occupies 35,000 square miles; Egypt, its neighbor to the West, covers 386,000 square miles.
There are more than 20 Arab states with a combined population of 325 million, and more than 50 majority-Muslim states with a combined population of well over a billion. By contrast, Israel is the world's only Jewish-majority state- and 20 percent of its population is Arab, most of them Muslim.
So why is so much attention -- and firepower - focused on this tiny nation? Israel's many enemies and critics say it is because the Jewish state has deprived Palestinian Arabs of a homeland. But Jordan, situated on the three-quarters of historic Palestine lying east of the River Jordan -- from which the country took its name when it was created in the 1920s - is populated, not surprisingly, mostly by Palestinians. As for the royal family that rules there, it was exiled from its ancestral home in Mecca, after the Saudis - a warrior clan subscribing to Wahhabism, a radically fundamentalist version of Islam - conquered the lion's share of the Arabian Peninsula and named it after themselves.
Palestinians also inhabit Gaza, from which Israel withdrew every settler and soldier four years ago. And, under various peace proposals, Israel has offered to remove its citizens from more than 90 percent of the West Bank, a territory occupied in 1967 at the end of a war with Egypt (from which it took Gaza), Jordan (from which it took the West Bank) and other Arab neighbors whose explicitly stated goal was Israel's eradication.
Defenders of Israel argue that it is despised for different reasons, not least because it is an outpost of Western values in a region, the broader Middle East, engaged in a long-term project of religious and ethnic cleansing. One country after another has become inhospitable toward its minorities. As a result, Jews, Christians, Baha'i's and Zoroastrians are among the minority groups that have been eliminated, decimated or compelled to flee to more tolerant corners of the world.