May 8, 2022

On the evening of May 15, 1948 at the hall of the Tel Aviv Museum, David Ben-Gurion, born in Plonsk, Poland in 1886, chair of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel to be known as the State of Israel. It would be a state based on freedom, justice, and peace; it would ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex.

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No one at the meeting or in the 74 ensuing years could have suspected that an Austrian-German politician named Adolf Hitler would have approved of the creation of Israel. However, on May 1, 2022, in his fanciful, disgraceful, and delusionary remarks in an interview on an Italian TV program, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov attacked Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelensky: “the fact that Zelensky is a Jew does not negate the Nazi elements in his country. I believe that Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood. For a long time now we’ve been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.”

There are three interesting factors in Lavrov’s nonsensical and disgusting remark. One is that Lavrov accepted that the definition of a Jew is determined not by religion, but by purity of blood.

The second is the perverse implication that blames Jews for their own genocide. The third is the adoption of implicit anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. War criminal Vladimir Putin appears to have belatedly apologized to Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett for Lavrov’s remark, but this does not remove the revelation of the anti-Semitism of Russian elites, holding views that resemble those in the U.S. of Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

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Following this remark, Russia falsely claimed that Israeli mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine along with Azov militants, an alleged “far-right militia group.” This falsehood comes at the same time that a delegation of Hamas officials, who continually threaten Israel with rocket and mortar attacks, is in Moscow in discussions with Russian foreign ministry officials. Hamas is propounding the argument that Palestinians do not want a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel but “we want it all, from the River to the Sea.”

Israel this week will be celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day) with BBQ, musical performances, carnivals, and military productions. In 74 years, it has been transformed from a desert to an oasis and survived five major wars. The country has already commemorated Memorial Day, Yom Ha’Zikaron, a somber day remembering fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism., when the siren sounds throughout the country to stop everything for one minute.

The population at the founding of the State of Israel was 806,000. Today, it is 9.5 million: this includes 7 million Jews, of whom 80% are native born, two million Israeli Arabs, and 480,000 members of other groups. A considerable part of recent immigrants into Israel have arrived from Ukraine or Russia or surrounding areas, though one of the more intriguing ones is Jared Armstrong, African-American basketball player from Philadelphia who wants to be approved for Aliyah, citizenship in Israel.

Like all countries, Israel has made mistakes, often as a result of trying to protect its people, well aware there are barbarians are at its gates, Hamas, Hezb’allah, and Iran. At 74 the country of supposed dreamers, still defining itself, has to defend itself. Yet even its defense in this regard is often criticized as “disproportionate.” The country has problems: a shaky governmental coalition; income gaps among the population; socially challenged and divided people; differences between the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews; the Arab minority, and the Palestinian issue. The poverty rate amid the Israeli Arab population is more than one-third, and almost half the Haredi, ultra-orthodox community, live below the poverty line but mostly identify with the State of Israel.

More important is the development of this independent homeland, some 3,000 years after the first Jewish commonwealth in the Holy Land, the only liberal democratic state in the Middle East, a state based on the rule of law, free and fair elections, civil rights for all, freedom of speech and religion, an ally of the U.S.

When the Russian aggression started, Israeli prime minister Bennett did not want to criticize or antagonize Moscow, and tried to maintain good relations with Russia. He has tried to be a mediator, speaking to both Zelensky and Putin.