A popular motif amongst maps during medieval times was to place Israel in the center of the world, and Jerusalem at its heart. A particularly famous version is the Bunting Map dating to the 16th century. Famous for its clover-leaf design, no traveler of the globe would want it to plot a course. The map is not to scale nor is it accurate in the relative placement of cities, countries or continents. Yet a traveler of faith or politics could find no more accurate a guide than the Bunting Map which gets right to the heart of the matter by placing Jerusalem at the epicenter of the world.
Accepted wisdom has long held that the key to peace in the Middle East is to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The news of the day would argue conclusively to the contrary. There is turmoil, flux, and slaughter throughout the Arab world and it has nothing at all to do with Israel as an actor. Israel constitutes the calm center surrounded by the maelstrom of the Arab world: Syria has degenerated into a more entrenched state of depravity with its reviled leader gassing civilians; Egypt is in full revolt mode as the military junta led by General Sisi, the initial choice of former President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government, sets Egypt’s forces against his former comrades in the Brotherhood; Jordan’s Hashemite rule is thought to be the next casualty of the interminable Arab Spring as Jordan’s overwhelming Palestinian majority (considered to be anywhere from 70-80% of the population) may create the first of a chain of several Palestinian states stretching like an archipelago from Jordan to Gaza; there are flare-ups in Tunisia where the never-ending Spring began; and tension grows in Turkey and Iran, non-Arab Muslim states which, despite a guise of democracy, are totalitarian governments with a growing popular dissent. Despite turmoil from Turkey to Tunisia, Syria to the Sudan, Libya to Lebanon, it seems — five centuries later — Israel is still the center of the world’s attention, even when nothing is happening here in Israel.
This past July, for example, during a time of quiet and relative optimism with a U.S.-brokered resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks about to begin, in an act of exquisitely poor timing, the European Union imposed its restrictions rendering Israeli entities operating in Judea and Samaria ineligible for E.U. grants, prizes or loans, beginning with the 2014 calendar year. Israel will remain a perverse obsession for Europe and can never expect fair treatment from this quarter.
In contrast to the E.U., Israel has grown to expect support from its purported ally, the United States, yet it seems even the U.S. is putting unwarranted focus on Israel. According to a Washington Post article based on the information delivered by fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) computer specialist, U.S. intelligence officials actively spied not only on foes but on friends as well. Israel, undoubtedly the closest ally to the U.S. in the Middle East and arguably in the world, was lumped together as a “priority target” of intelligence-gathering efforts with China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba. If this categorization with despotic and rogue states is any indication of the U.S. commitment to Israel, Israel can expect no support from the U.S. in any negotiations with the Palestinians nor in dealing with Iran when Iran crosses the Red Line in its undeterred march towards nuclear capability. This revelation compounds U.S. hypocrisy in its refusal to release Jonathan Pollard while it spies on Israel and pressures Israel to release convicted Palestinian terrorists. And this is from Israel’s most dependable ally!
The above two cases are in the past, and doubtlessly Israel has worked it into its foreign policy equation with the E.U. and the U.S. with which it has diplomatic relations. Syria, however, poses a separate problem — it is a terrorist state, clearly not bound by any code of conduct, and Israel has no relations with it. While Assad is burning Syria to the ground, the West is fiddling, and Israel will pay the price regardless of the West’s course of action. If the West chooses to do nothing to punish Assad for using chemical weapons, Syria will be emboldened to act more freely and Iran will know the West has no resolve to stop its nuclear ambitions. If a coalition of Western powers (whatever diminishing configuration that may be) led by the U.S. chooses to take the moral stance and severely punish Assad and his regime, Assad, by some demented calculus, has threatened retribution against Israel despite the Jewish state standing on the sideline.
It is shameful that there has been no outcry of “FOUL!” by the West for this threat, made by Syria against Israel. This silence only intensifies Israel’s justifiable sense of isolation. It is a tragic irony that when the world should be focusing on Jerusalem, the world is silent. This strange duality of an aggressor’s obsession with the slaughter of Jews/Israel and the abandonment of Jews/Israel by the supposedly enlightened and morally advanced West is an all too familiar historical theme, with the Iraqi Scud missiles falling on Tel Aviv in the First Gulf War being the most recent and the Holocaust being the most extreme.
It is strange and disturbing to find support in the words of the greatest anti-Semite in history but no one was more aware of the centrality of the Jews and Israel to the world than Hitler. Certainly, he understood the relationship of Jews to the world better than today’s leaders of the West. He recognized that the true battlefield of World War II, and of today, was not the campaign fought between the Nazis and the great Allied powers of the West but between evil and the conscience of the West and mankind, the Jewish people. Israel remains the focal point of world interest and scrutiny because Judaism remains the conscience and soul of the world.
The Haggadah teaches and history reaffirms that in every generation evil will arise and try to obliterate us. This generation’s iteration of the evil Haman or Hitler, obsessed with destroying us, whether it is in the person of Bashar Assad or the nation of Iran, will fail. In 500 years from now, maps will still show Israel at the center of the world with Jerusalem its heart, for the world cannot live without a heart and soul.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com