The marginality of Jews
January 5, 2018
Trump’s speeches, and what has happened since, remind us once again about the marginality of Jews. Some may feel comfortable, and justly, given his realism about Jerusalem the Western Wall, and non-Israeli sources of problems throughout the Middle East. But Muslims, and Europeans, are rabid, or upset about what he has unleashed.
We are problems for ourselves and others. It’s nothing new. There are signs in the histories told by the Hebrew Bible, Josephus, and much that has occurred since then. It’s probably inevitable in the case of a small nation, divided geographically since ancient times, with a culture that accepts fierce argument, with claims of being at the center of God’s mission.
We’ve learned to cope, and to succeed. Marginality does not require submission and being satisfied. If we cry, we are doing it on the way to our banks and investment advisers, also likely to be Jews.
There is no need to recite the well-known record of the Jews, both in ancient and modern times, in suffering, accomplishments, and contributions.
For some decades, most if not all countries of the world have recognized that Jerusalem is the operational capital of Israel. Now the President of the United States, Russia, and a few others have said it out loud, but all of them with limitations and reservations. And the most important others have been insistent that it isn’t time to make such an announcement, and won’t be until they are satisfied about key diplomatic accomplishments that are elusive to the point of being impossible.
We are not, as we have never been, accepted as full citizens of the world with all the rights and privileges of others. But we are more secure than our adversaries, and living better than most of those who deny us full membership.
The condition isn’t all that different from getting into elite colleges through the 1950s, with quotas and Jew spotters in the admissions offices, then being told that fraternities could have us eating in their dining rooms but not as full members.
Now Jewish students have to maneuver through faculty members and students who see Jews and Israel as undesirables. The greater portion of our pity should go to our adversaries. The hyperbolic responses to Trump’s well crafted and balanced speeches has included not only outspoken rants by heads of Muslim countries that deal quietly with Israel, but Palestinian outbursts that qualify as declarations of war against Israel and the United States, with a virtual ending of any prospects for a peace process.
Declaring the US Vice President persona non grata? Perhaps the Palestinians have some powers we have not been able to perceive or imagine.
Israeli rightists, along with a fair number of us in the center and left are cheering. We can look forward to respite from the pressure to come up with something that will bring the Palestinians to the table.
Estimates are that Palestinians, Jordanians, and others are playing to their mobs, and don’t want to upset their regimes by any serious moves against Israel. Perhaps, but the rhetoric will incite individuals to seek martyrdom along with pensions for their families by taking a knife and going forward to kill a Jew. Gazan extremists have been sending missiles to southern Israel. So far none have created significant damage or injuries. A fair number haven’t made it out of Gaza. The IDF has responded in its usual limited fashion, in hopes of avoiding escalation. But from both the West Bank and Gaza there is potential for yet another round of military operations that hurt us both, but them much more in terms of casualties and rubble.
It doesn’t help to calm Palestinians on the margin of violence when their leaders describe as “cold-blooded murder of a brave freedom fighter” the shooting death of a man who attacked a policeman with a knife.
Even some confirmed leftists questioned the wisdom of Abbas’ comments at a conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“If there is no Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, there will not be peace in the region, in the territories or in the world.”
What will come of Turkey’s promise to open an Embassy for Palestine in East Jerusalem is anybody’s guess.
There are Israeli politicians threatening their own varieties of extremism. The Defense Minister mentions every so often his idea of transferring swaths of Israel heavily populated with Arabs to Palestine, in exchange for Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s annexation of West Bank settlements. A retired general who sees himself as Defense Minister in a Labor government has endorsed the idea of a Palestinian State, but threatens to push all Palestinians into Jordan if such a state is aggressive. Individual MKs from Likud and Jewish Home propose annexing the West Bank or substantial portions of it, while fuzzing on the issue of citizenship for the Palestinian residents. Once again there is a proposal to impose a death sentence on terrorists who murder.
We should expect, and hope, that Jewish sense will stop short of any moves that produce significantly more problems than benefits. If we’ve learned anything in 3,000 years of coping with our strengths and weaknesses, it should include the reluctance to push the goyim beyond where they are willing to go. We can take comfort in the marginality of Israeli politicians who are promoting craziness, as compared to the centrality of Arab politicians who are pounding the podiums and screeching what they are not going to accomplish.
No one should expect an end to this. It’s a function of Jews’ status in the eyes of others, and how we have learned to deal with ourselves and our surroundings. There are no guarantees. We cope with threats from outside, as well as arrogant and unrealistic insiders who demand that we do better, without bothering to compare what we’ve accomplished to the records of other societies, or taking account of our limited resources and continued rejections from those we are expected to bargain with.
It ain’t perfect. Often it’s not comfortable. But compared to the alternatives???
Comments welcome. Irashark@gmail.com.