Photo Credit: Jewish Press

A common theme in contemporary Jewish and Israeli thought is a differentiation between a galut mentality and the mentality of the new Israeli Jew. The galut mentality is the exile mentality. This national mentality was borne of the Jew living in foreign lands among foreign people. This state of existence left the Jew at the whim of others and it portrays the Jew of the last two thousand years as weak and a victim. In contrast, the new Israeli Jew, home and among its own people, is strong and in control of their own destiny. While many people use the galut mentality as a tool to criticize Diaspora Jewry, I think there’s a different lesson to learn from it.

Jewish figures of the exile shouldn’t be characterized as weak, but it’s undeniable that the new Israeli Jew is stronger than their ancestors and is no longer a victim of another people’s persecution. The Jews of Israel determine their future and can defend themselves against their strongest enemies. Victims are pitied, and human nature causes people to blame victims for their circumstances. Rarely does this toxic combination of pity and blame inspire people to offer help. For two thousand years Jews were victims, and no one helped the Jew. It was only when Zionist Jews began defending themselves did Jews earn global respect and the world’s help.

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Many of the media advocacy campaigns waged on Israel’s behalf during the latest Hamas rocket attacks didn’t recognize the pitfalls of playing victim. They focused on presenting Israel as the victim of Hamas attacks and Palestinian terror and lynching. They expected to earn the world’s respect through inspiring the world to empathize with Israel’s experience, but it was a futile effort. Advocates created campaigns asking people to consider what they would do if their city was rocketed, or if they had only 15 seconds to run to a bomb shelter with their children. These were campaigns built on victimhood; these campaigns weren’t effective, and they will never achieve the world’s empathy.

As rockets fell on Israel, President Joe Biden said, “Israel has a right to defend itself – when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas echoed this saying, “The rocket attack on Israel is absolutely unacceptable and must end immediately, Israel has in this situation the right to self-defense. This escalation of violence can neither be tolerated nor accepted.” World leaders didn’t portray Israel as a victim, but rather as having the right to defend itself through military strength. They are statements of respect for strength, not pity.

Israel’s advocates complain the world always takes the Palestinian side. This is true – to an extent. Palestinians play up victimhood better than anyone, and the world pities them. Israel will always be faced with statements of pity for the Palestinians plight. Yet, other than throw Palestinians economic aid, the world has never concretely helped the Palestinians. Pity never earns concrete assistance. If the world really believed Palestinian claims of apartheid, they’d sanction Israel. It’s been 73 years and the Palestinian victimhood show has gotten them great pity but never the help they desire. Victimhood secures pity, but also ensures blame.

After the Independence War in 1948, Israel pushed forward in advancing itself and the Palestinians chose to play victim. Seventy-three years later and Palestinians still call themselves refugees. European Jews don’t call themselves refugees of Nazis and Jews from Arab lands don’t call themselves refugees of their former states. As long as Palestinians play themselves as victims they’ll never secure the world’s respect and they’ll be caught in their current circumstances.

Israel’s success is not only being strong but being proud of its strength. Israel should never wallow in victimhood. When Israel is attacked it should answer its critics strongly – When Israel is attacked, it can defend itself and stop its enemies, and it will. Israel doesn’t want the world’s pity, Israel wants respect.

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Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator who teaches in high schools across the world. He teaches Torah and Israel political advocacy to teenagers and college students. He lives with his wife and six children in Mitzpe Yericho, Israel. You can follow him on Facebook, and on twitter @rationalsettler.
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