Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Are US Jews interested in dealing with the ethical complications facing Israel?

by Amnon Lord

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav
Originally published with the title "הספר הלבן" ("The White Paper")

The Jewish elite in the US likes to speak about ethics and justice in absolute terms, and don’t confuse them with the real dilemmas that Israel faces. Now they are enlisting the aid of authors to write about the “occupation”

Above all, they want to feel good about themselves. This is what a Jewish American intellectual says about his ultra-ethically fastidious, upper middle class Jewish friends, who are also successful, college-educated, writers, journalists and all the rest. They are ethically arrogant. They do not bother to think about any sort of usefulness or loss. From their point of view it makes no difference whether their declarations have a destabilizing effect on the security of Israel’s Jews. It also does not matter if it has been harming the Palestinians for many years. This does not interest them. A youth enters a community and murders a woman who is everything good, beautiful and humane that exists in this land. That’s not important. “Israel is a super-power, it has the power of deterrence”, they say.

All politicians in Israel, certainly its leaders, are constantly in situations where they must choose again and again between one evil and another. Between alternatives, each of which is worse than the other. Never between good and evil. One might think about an admired leader such as Churchill, as that Jewish American suggested. As admired and respected as he was, in the blink of an eye he decided to sink the entire French fleet in Oran, Algeria and bring about the death of 1,300 French sailors. The Pearl Harbor of the North African region. His decision, which cost thousands of lives, may have been right or it may have been wrong. This is not Benjamin Netanyahu’s situation, and it was not like this for Begin, Olmert, Rabin or Peres. The deliberations over whether to please someone in the world or expose the Israeli population to radical murders in the streets; between having a nuclear facility someplace and the price militarily or politically that Israel might have to pay, is the permanent lot in life for Israeli leaders.

But for the Jews of America, politics is an exercise in arrogance. For years they thought of Israel as a utopian display of kibbutzim, Jerusalem of Gold, and young women in IDF uniforms holding Uzis. This is the Israel that they loved to wear on their chests like a medal. But the Israel that causes them ethical tension has become problematic. It is a burden. The Jews of The New Yorker, Harvard and The Times want to see politics as an extension of their personal ethics, which their synagogues have instilled in them, where people eat alfalfa sprouts and discuss whether to hang the blue and white Israeli flag. But policy-making occupies a different sphere, unconnected to personal ethics. The Jews of America want absolute justice, and if possible, please, all the time.

However, politics, says the Jewish American intellectual, means getting into a dirty business. This is the difference between Dizengoff and Fifth Avenue. Between seeing history from outer space and living inside of history, walking around in a shirt, even a white shirt, that is stained with blood and mud. They want a clean white Shabbat shirt.

And at the top of this list is the royal couple, Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon. They are the leaders of the party of the deeply distorted conscience, who will give the world “The Book of Occupation” on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War. The pure white lily in this ethical pyramid is Mario Vargas Yusa, a former supporter of Israel, who was converted a few years ago by discussions with Gideon Levy and tours of Hevron. Afterward he received a Nobel Prize for literature. “Local representatives”, as Assaf Gavron and Nir Baram are described by the media, will also participate in the compilation, as well as many more people of the world’s grade B and C literature and journalism.

“In the more than twenty years that have passed since the Oslo Accords, optimism has crashed, Rabin was murdered, and the occupation in the West Bank has expanded and strengthened more than ever”, explained Chabon. “We preferred to stay out of the discussion and to move away from Israel”. They go out to defend the “brave folks” from Shovrim Shtika, as Chabon says in an interview with ynet. The way Israel tries to label and brand the Shovrim Shtika people reminds him of something from the past. The Nazi past, of course.

There is no way of knowing what will happen in the world in another year, or year and a half, but we must think ahead. We must ignore the small but terrible holocaust that is happening north of Israel, as well as in other places in the region. Approximately a half million killed in Syria and the wild madness of Islamic State, as well as the terror attacks in Europe and America, do not evince any words from the Waldmans and Yusa. Despite the fact that America and its failures bear a great deal of responsibility. No. They wear their pure white Jewish American shirts and their conscience is shaken when Israel tries to stop someone from setting a legal trap for the IDF’s officers, as a demonstration of contempt for the Israeli Justice System. 

But the intended compilation has another aspect, which is the main one. My guess is that the compilation that Shovrim Shtika produces, implemented by respected international writers, will not have an impression on Israel. Nor in the world. It will be lost in the confusion and blood of the Middle East and Europe. But it will remain as a monument to the mendacity of those who were sworn to report the truth and to the absence of any sense of ethical judgment in current literary people. Just like the authors of prior generations, who swore in the name of the great and murderous utopias.

A Cold Civil War

One could almost say that Israel of today is a civilizational bloc of its own. It is the only country in the West that has no significant doubt about its identity. And this is while Europe is sinking and becoming a lost continent. But the problem is America, whose current president wants to turn it into part of the European Union and now, this battle is for its soul. This is the essence of the battle for the presidency in 2016.

It may be that it is specifically Israel’s identity-cultural horizon that gives it a stronger position than in the past. There is great danger in this, but we are already in a new era, which is impossible to be defined by the word “conflict”. Israel is one side in the regional microcosm of cold war. Like the other cold war that was based on a balance of threat between the Soviet Union and the US, Israel is in a new situation now.

“Balance of threat” means keeping the peace while maintaining delicate balances, without which, things slide into a situation of war. On the other side of the barricade are Hizb’Allah, Hamas and Iran. When we see which methods of fighting those terror organizations have chosen for themselves – a war of missiles – and on the other hand the response that the IDF is planning for them, it is clear that neither side has an interest in seeing something go out of control and war breaking out.  There was a hint of this when Nasrallah threatened that he would blow up the ammonia tank.

The price paid by both of the superpowers in the cold war in order to prevent a clash was to wage peripheral wars that were small compared to nuclear war. Israel, Hizb’Allah and Hamas also look for defined and limited arenas of action in order to manage the continuing disaster within that framework. To prevent a catastrophe.

Amnon Lord

Source: Makor Rishon, Yoman Section, February 26, 2016, Issue 968, pg. 4

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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