Why Do People Hate Israel? (A Self-test)

It's that time of year, when that same question comes up yet again: Why do people hate Israel?

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Every year, the BBC World Service publishes a Country Ratings opinion survey, meant to indicate which of the world's nations are among the most popular, and which the most disliked.

In 2013, as in years past, more than 26,000 respondents were asked to rate a list of countries as to whether the influence of those nations in the world was "mainly positive" or "mainly negative."

Israel placed fourth from last, exceeded on the negative scale only by respondents' expressed distaste for North Korea, Pakistan, and last-place Iran.

Over the years, a poor showing by Israel has been something of a hallmark of the BBC survey. Six years ago, in a similar poll conducted a few months after the IDF's Second Lebanon War offensive, Israel came in dead last, with Iran, North Korea, and an Iraq-beset United States not far behind.

The BBC poll raises a number of questions – not least about the poll itself, and, for that matter, the BBC. But for the purpose of this space, let's return to the question of why Israel rubs so many people so far the wrong way.

Even a cursory look at enmity toward Israel makes clear that its sources are many and vastly varied. The fundamentalist Muslim, the Jewish (also Israeli) anarchist, the European academic, the Satmar Hassid, the apple pie American Methodist, the Price Tag punk settler – every one of them may have different triggers for their ire at the Jewish state.

Take the EU, for example. In a Second Lebanon post-mortem titled "To Israel with hate – and guilt," the Economist asked "Why has Europe become so reflexively anti-Israel, just when America has become so reflexively pro-Israel?"

Noting that The Guardian was once a vigorous advocate for Zionism, the article observes that the left "which now controls many of Europe's chanceries, and certainly much of its media, feels a sense of betrayal – which is why many now attack Israel with all the zeal of the convert."

"To European socialists, who had rallied to the underdog Israel in 1967, the Palestinians were now the oppressed and displaced. Israel came to be seen as a neo-colonial regional superpower, not the plucky survivor of the Holocaust keeping powerful neighbors at bay."

Bearing in mind that attitudes about Israel tend to be wide-ranging to a volcanic degree – I thought that it might be useful to expand the BBC questionnaire into a kind of self-test, patently unscientific to be sure. To weigh your I'm Mad At Israel Today Quotient. Or, perhaps, mine:

Question 1: People hate Israel because:

A: Israel is an illegitimate state, conceived in the original sin of the expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian people, ravenous in its colonialist policies, racist by definition. It has no legitimate right to exist.

B: The current government of Israel is eroding the democratic principles on which the country was founded. It avoids progress toward a two-state solution and a just, lasting compromise with the Palestinians. Protesting that it is a victim, the most threatened state in the world, its default is to opt for military solutions over diplomatic.

C. The current government of Israel is spineless, unwilling to allow Jews to pray on their holiest shrine, the Temple Mount, unable to resist American pressure to curb settlement, unprepared to show the force and resolve needed to defend settlers from Palestinian attacks, to definitively rule out a Palestinian state, to anchor Jewish (rather than universalist) principles clearly in Israeli law.

Question 2: The principle cause of hatred of Israel is:

A: The very basis of a Zionist state, exclusionist, militaristic, a pariah of the world community, as well as Israel's actions in service of those goals, at times reminiscent of policies of Nazi Germany.

B. A complex interplay of factors, which include a perception of Israel as intransigent on or uninterested in peace issues, outrage over settler violence and flouting of allies, Orthodox Rabbinic delegitimization and dismissal of the view and practices of the majority of the world's Jews, a perception of repellent arrogance on the part of Israel's leadership.

C. Ingrained anti-Semitism at the heart of Islam, unresolved Holocaust guilt on the part of Europeans, the treasonous, vocal disloyalty of Israeli leftists and Arab citizens of Israel, and, in particular, the world press. Starting with the BBC. And Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.

Question 3: Hatred of Israel will only be resolved when:

A: The Zionist state is replaced by a single democratic Palestine and all Palestinian refugees are allowed to return.

B. A viable Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem, is established alongside an Israel based on the '67 lines, with agreed-upon land swaps.

C. Hatred of Israel will never end, no matter what Israel does. Withdrawal from territory, or disbanding settlements will only encourage it. It is time to declare sovereignty over all of the territories.

Scoring: 10 points for each A answer, 50 for each B, 200 for each C.

Advice for further reading:

30-40 Points: Mondoweiss.net, ElectronicIntifada.net

50-150 Points: 972mag.com, The Forward, Open Zion, Tikun Olam, Haaretz.

200 Points or More: Commentary Magazine, Caroline Glick. 

A demonstrator displays a sign reading "Boycott Israel, racist state" outside the Belgian foreign affairs building during a protest in Brussels, May 31, 2010. Credit: Reuters

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