The phenomenon of Israel hatred has complex psychological roots. Israel would not be hated if it were not Jewish, even if it acted exactly as it does today.
An editor of the Cambridge Histories once remarked that when a nonspecialist reads history he can only choose arbitrarily from among conflicting versions of events. This is obviously true. The general reader, unequipped to evaluate or verify what he is reading, will naturally be influenced by the quality of the writing, maybe even by thebiography of the writer or his photo on the dust jacket. It is a little like voting for a political candidate.
All this is true when the subject is neutral. When it isn’t, an additional factor comes into play, and that is the bias of the reader. In what pertains, for example, to the historical enmity between the French and the English, it is natural for a Frenchman to be pro-French and an Englishman to be pro-English. Likewise, it is also natural, in the Arab-Israel conflict, for a Jew to be pro-Israel and an Arab to be pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian. Conversely, it is unnatural for a Jew to be pro-Arab and for an Arab to be pro-Israel.
Among non-Jews and non-Arabs, on the other hand, one would be inclined to say that it is unnatural to take sides at all, unless one has a special bias. In America, in fact, until ten years ago, 40 percent of the population did not take sides. Since that time, however, the “no opinion” vote has dropped, first to 30 percent and now to 20 percent (62 percent for Israel, 18 percent for the Arabs in 2014).
One should of course take poll results with a grain of salt. The fact that 80 percent of Americans “take sides” in the conflict does not mean that they really have an opinion about it. Asked to think about something that they may not really have thought about before, they come down on one side of the issue or the other on the spur of the moment, influenced perhaps by recent events or even giving what they think is the “correct” answer.
A 2011 poll looking for the “happiest” American state, for example, found that 62 percent (West Virginia) to 70 percent (Hawaii) of Americans claim that they are happy (in a country where 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, a third of the population is hovering around the poverty line and a quarter of the population suffers from some form of mental illness). Even anonymously, I think, Americans find it very hard to admit that they have failed to achieve the American Dream.
With regard to the Arab-Israel conflict, “no opinion” is what you might expect from not just 20 or 40 percent of Americans, but even from 80 percent of Americans. After all, Americans have never been particularly concerned or informed about what was going on in the rest of the world. I doubt very much if one percent of Americans would have had …read more