For the Love of JewsJuly 22nd, 2014

Every year the Gallup organization polls Americans to measure their opinion of various countries. When Gallup asked this past February, “What is your overall opinion of Israel? Is it very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?” seven out of ten Americans answered “very favorable” or “mostly favorable.” It’s a poll result that’s been consistent for many years.

It doesn’t cost anything to express approval of Israel, but it costs plenty to express disapproval. Critics of the Jewish state can expect to be accused of bigotry and hatred of Jews. That’s because it’s the only country on earth and in all history that was created as penance for religious persecution. Holding a positive opinion of the country and the religion it embodies is part of the penance. If you don’t subscribe, you’re not contrite, and you sympathize with Hitler.

I searched the Internet in vain for a survey question that might compensate for this possible bias. “Does Israel reflect your values?” might elicit interesting results. I suspect most people believe, privately, that Israel does not reflect their values.  I’ve heard people say Israel has adopted the value system of its Nazi oppressors. The word “apartheid,” long associated with white supremacy and violent racism in Africa, is now used in some quarters to describe Israel and the territories it occupies. That the Jewish state kills innocents intentionally to evoke terror in its Arab neighbors is established: its leaders intimate as much in their cryptic pronouncements, and its people demand Arab bloodshed without hesitation.

If public opinion of Israel were measured more responsibly, we might detect reservations among Americans about the Jewish state. And if Gallup’s favorability rating expresses a bias, public opinion could diverge quite a bit from what’s measured. It’s possible that pictures of death and devastation in occupied Arab lands are having an effect, as yet unmeasurable, on what people really think of Israel and its people. Another possibility is that the brutality of the Jewish state is contaminating the reputation of the Jewish religion.

I love my Jewish friends and relations, and many of my favorite people–Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein and Groucho Marx come first to mind–have been Jews. But Israel is creating a bit of cognitive dissonance for people like me. If the state of Israel is sanctioned by the Jewish religion, then the Jewish religion has to be genocidal, and that has to say something about the worshippers. Is it permissible for us to judge people according to the righteousness of their religion? Maybe not, but we do it anyway. Today we decide that Islam makes people brutal and destructive. Tomorrow it might be Judaism.

I worry that blame for the misconduct of the Jewish state will be placed on all Jews. It wouldn’t be the first time a minority was made a scapegoat. And public opinion can turn on a dime. The Jewish state could present a real threat to the Jewish religion and Jewish worshippers. Current events might soon convince American Jews to repudiate this rogue state.