The following article by Rabbi Raymond Apple originally appeared on the website, The Jewish Thinker, on 18 July, 2013. It is a response to the announcement that the European Union will be launching new guidelines restricting interaction with Israeli entities in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
No, I don’t agree with the EU attitude to Israel and by extension to everything Jewish. But fair’s fair, and since the EU have been so negative towards us they are bound by logic, decency and conscience to balance it with something positive.
Here is what I suggest they do. Not battle over formulating a statement but approving one that has been around for decades. The words are those of the novelist Phyllis Bottome, in her book, The Moral Storm, published in 1938:
To be a Jew is to belong to an old race that has lived in every country in the world, and that has enriched every country it has lived in.
It is to be strong with a strength that has outlived persecutions. It is to be wise against ignorance, honest against piracy, harmless against evil, industrious against idleness, kind against cruelty!
It is to belong to a race that has given Europe its religion; its moral law; and much of its science – perhaps even more of its genius – in art, literature and music.
I do not say that there are no bad Jews – usurers, cowards, corrupt and unjust persons – but such people are also to be found among Christians. I only say to you this is to be a good Jew.
Europe of all places knows how hard it tried – without success but causing immense horror and grief – to eradicate the Jews. It still tries – with honourable exceptions.
But without those Jews and their contribution to European civilization, the European continent would revert to primitiveness and decay.
Without the things the Jews have pioneered and developed, the Europeans would have to close down their schools, universities, hospitals, laboratories, libraries and opera houses, and their commerce and communications media too.
If the EU dislikes this or that element of Israeli policy I suppose we have to grant them the right to say so. After all, we ourselves have a diverse range of opinions about what our government should do.
But to be fair they must balance the negativity with an expression of appreciation of the good side of the picture – the remarkably creative contribution Israel continues to make to its own identity and to world culture.
But let’s be blunt.
If they don’t want products from the so-called “settlements”, they ought to empty their supermarket shelves of thousands of items that come from places with which other places have a quarrel.
If they don’t want Israelis at their universities, the universities – even the really famous ones – might as well simply shut up shop.
If they want to preach, they must first address themselves and ask whether their own internal prejudices and problems do not undermine their right to the moral high ground.
And to be honourable, they must recognise that being so bold and blatant in their attitude to Israel forfeits any chance of their being an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs.
If – on the other hand – the EU decide to do the decent thing it will help to make the air cleaner everywhere in the world.