Dear Rabbi Fried,
Last week you explained the UNESCO declaration about Jerusalem not belonging to Israel from a Jewish perspective (which I must say was a bit provocative). Do you have anything to add about the U.N.’s treatment of Israel in general, the double standard and the constant focus on Israel?
— Marge L.
Your question can be separated into three questions. There are several perspectives to be discussed with relation to the U.N.’s conduct with relation to Israel; we shall try to look at one or two of these.
I once saw a full-page New York Times ad which punctuated the absurdity with which the U.N. deals with Israel. There was a red line down the middle of the page. On the left side were enumerated all the countries allowed to join the U.N. Security Council, listing hundreds of names of countries which needed to be written quite small to fit in the page. On the other side of the line were written all the countries NOT allowed to join the UNSC, which could be written quite large. Guess which countries are not allowed to join? You guessed it! Only Israel! (Actually 2018 will mark the first time Israel will actually be allowed a bid for candidacy in that council.) What is the message?
Of course, from a sociopolitical perspective, a large part of the message is clearly anti-Semitism (which to be politically correct would be called “objections to Israel’s policies”). But, as we mentioned in last week’s column, we need to look more deeply into world events and see what they teach us spiritually — especially utilizing the essay of Rav Wasserman ob’m which we mentioned, who taught us that the nations do unto us that which we do upon ourselves.
For that we need to take a fresh look at these events through the lens of Torah. “Behold! It (the Jewish people) is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Here it is, that red line! We will not be reckoned among the nations! Not for anti-Semitic reasons (God was not an anti-Semite!), but to teach us a lesson about ourselves and our mission.
To be a “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 49:6), we need to recognize clearly that we are not one of those nations we are meant to be a light unto. In order to serve as an example to the others we must live by, and hold ourselves to, a higher standard. We truly are different! Our sources tell us that there are 70 principal nations of the world. We are not one of those 70, but rather represent them all. (See Deuteronomy 32:8 and commentary of Rashi.) The 70 Jews who went down to Egypt represent all 70 nations, as we are meant to illuminate them all with our light, the light of our Torah. Hence, there are 70 core languages, but Hebrew is not one of them, rather the source of them all. (See Genesis 11:1 and Rashi that the entire world spoke Hebrew until the tower of Babel, where the Hebrew was split into the 70 languages. See also Genesis 49:6 and Rashi that Pharaoh spoke all 70 languages but not Hebrew, which gave Joseph an advantage over him.)
When the Jews try to pretend that they are simply one of the nations of the world, forgetting their unique mission above and apart from the others, we are not so subtly reminded by the nations of the world that we are not one of them, hence the U.N.’s red line in that Times ad.
By the same token, our being held to a double standard in the U.N., leading to nonstop lies, condemnations and resolutions, is clearly, from a sociopolitical perspective, the fruits of their blatant anti-Semitism. From a spiritual perspective, however, we need to again look deeper. The Talmud teaches that no lie “has legs,” or can stand, without a bit of truth mixed in. What bit of truth could there be in this double standard? (For example, the Jerusalem Post reported this week that it is difficult to get an accurate count of civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq because they are lacking the constant monitoring by human rights groups that were present during Israel’s recent war with Gaza, counting every single casualty and immediately posting them.)
The bit of truth mixed into their falsehood is that, indeed, as a light unto the nations we are truly held to a higher standard, in our dedication to the service of God and to sanctify His Name in all that we do. It is when we forget that positive double standard, which is indicative of our elevated mission that we are held to a negative double standard; what we do to ourselves is what they do to us. When, however, we remember that mission and fulfill it, we are truly esteemed and respected by the nations of the world. “You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the people, who shall hear all these decrees and who shall say, ‘Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!’” (Deuteronomy 4:6)
Dear Rabbi Fried,