Tel Aviv Diary: 'They' Hate Us. But We Hate 'Them' Too

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An Israeli border policeman aims his weapon at Palestinian protesters as he stands in front of a wall bearing obscene messages during clashes in the West Bank town of Al-Ram, near Jerusalem, on October 22. Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

The European Union announced on November 11 that it would begin requiring the labeling of products produced in the territories captured by Israel in 1967 as "made in the territories captured in 1967" (in contrast to current labels, which imply that those products were created in Israel proper).

This long-anticipated announcement was met with strong reactions from the Israeli government—with some members of the government coalition comparing the European decision to the tagging of Jewish stores in pre-war Nazi Germany.

Most of the Knesset's opposition members joined the bandwagon denouncing Europe's actions—with MK Yitzhak Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, declaring that "this decision is based on hatred, falsehood and ignorance, devoid of any moral value."

When asked to comment, MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, told me, "It is unconscionable that, while Israel is under daily attack from knife-wielding terrorists, the European Union takes a decision which punishes Israel and encourages Palestinian terrorism. This move serves to deepen Palestinian intransigence and push the prospects for diplomacy further away."

Lapid's remarks, along with those of some of the decidedly more strident government ministers, successfully reflects the mood in Israel—one that has even seeped into the usually optimistic Tel Aviv mind-set—which is a feeling that "they" really hate us.

Who "they" all are is not always clear. However, it certainly starts with the Palestinians.

Earlier this week, a friend who had read my most recent column told me he disagreed with the article. I was surprised—not so much that he took issue with the piece but by what he found objectionable.

I thought this friend, who would be considered left of center on the Israeli political spectrum, might have opposed my suggestion that the moment is not ripe for a peace agreement and that we need to wait. Instead, my friend disputed how I could honestly imply that we might be able to reach an agreement for peace at some point in the future. He believes "they" hate us so much that we will never be able to reach a peace agreement.

The view held by my friend is far from unique and reflects a widespread belief—even among those Israelis most opposed to the occupation of the West Bank. Most Israelis today believe it doesn't matter what we do, because "they" will always profoundly hate us.

This view was shaped, in large part, as a result of the events of the past 15 years—starting from the second intifada (when buses were continually being blown up on our streets) to our withdrawals from both Gaza and Lebanon (neither of which brought about peace but rather more rockets fired on civilians and more bombing attacks inside Israel).

The wave of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe in the past few years has only strengthened the belief of many Israelis that the world is still filled with anti-Semites. Continued invoking of the language of the Holocaust (whether in talking about the Iranian nuclear threat, or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent fictional assertion that the Palestinian mufti was the one behind Hitler's decision to proceed with the final solution) is perceived by many Israelis as part of the same continuum of anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust.

The view that an ambiguous "they" utterly hates us has certainly been strengthened by the latest round of attacks on Israelis, which have been taking place mostly in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, far from where average Israelis usually go.

These attacks have been carried out by a wide range of Palestinians, from different walks in their society. However, more than 60 percent of the recent violent attacks have been carried out by youth between the ages of 11 and 22. Scenes of 11- and 13-year-old kids trying to murder Israeli citizens in the streets have certainly helped solidify the notion that they thoroughly hate us—and that there is nothing we can do to change that fact.

Daniel Polisar, former president of the right-of-center Shalem Institute, recently published an article in Mosaic, "What Do Palestinians Want?" In the article, Polisar examines and summarizes most of the recent Palestinian opinion polls, providing proof that the Palestinians do indeed hate us.

One of the polls found that 80 percent of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank believe that (referring to all of mandatory Palestine, which includes all of pre-1967 Israel) "this is Palestinian land and Jews have no rights to it."

Critics of Polisar's piece point out that his article is one-sided as it does not show any of the same hatred that exists on the Israeli side toward the Palestinians. That criticism of Polisar's article is correct but largely irrelevant.

My friend's lamentations over our chances of ever achieving peace (given how much "they" hate us) were complemented by his acknowledgment of how Israeli hatred of Palestinians has grown just as strong among large parts of our society—making it even harder to ever reach reconciliation.

Nearly 50 years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir eloquently and succinctly stated: We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.

Today, Meir's words translate into another sad truth. We may be able to accept the fact that "they" hate us, but their actions over the years have caused a large percentage of Israelis to hate them as well. However, this bitter loathing is a cancer in our society that we must acknowledge and deal with before it consumes us.

Marc Schulman is the editor of historycentral.com.

Tel Aviv Diary: 'They' Hate Us. But We Hate 'Them' Too | Opinion