by Stephen Schecter
2nd part of 2
SO LOP-SIDED AND CRAZY HAS THE 'SITUATION' BECOME, as Israelis refer to their predicament, that words are no longer useful, though without words there are no thoughts and without thoughts there are no actions. Does it matter if one can explain why so many educated people so misread the
No one has an interest in preventing that but the Jews themselves. And now that they have a state, they are obliged to see to it that Jewish blood is no longer spilled simply because it runs in Jewish veins. This, after all, was the raison d'être of Zionism: a Jewish state to normalize the Jewish condition, to bring the Jews in line with the modernity their Holy Book inaugurated so long ago. For make no mistake about it. The rise of the West would have been unthinkable without the leaven of interpretation which the Hebrew Bible first introduced into European culture via the
The Jews would therefore do well to look to their Bible to defend their Jewish state. There they would read the simple truth God explained to Moses and Moses to the children of
It was true then and it is true now, but the Jews still have not learned their lesson. Reluctant to keep the covenant, they were ever reluctant to be a political people and assume the mantle of sovereignty, which first and foremost requires the monopoly on the legitimate use of force and the willingness to exercise it. God understood what Freud understood but Herzl did not: all nations are founded on crime. What distinguishes the Jews is not the crime, but the kind of nation they will build upon it. Yet the Jews still think they can leapfrog over the initial moment and enter directly into the realm of justice. In short, the Jews still think they can outsmart God. The irony is they cannot even outsmart the Palestinians.
To put an end to their own paradox the Jews have to act, simply, brutally, and eloquently. They have to realize the still unfulfilled Zionist dream and assert sovereignty over their homeland, which includes Judea and
It is shocking and depressing that after everything that has happened to the Jews, after everything we have done and not done, we are still at the same point of departure, and with us Western civilization to which we were so inextricably linked. But we do have a land, and nothing in God's universe requires that we again commit national suicide, or that we pay needlessly to see this does not happen. Every day the world thinks of something new to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and every day we try and respond to the false and malicious accusations, unaware that the undermining takes its toll. What was the Goldstone Report after all, but a warning to
PUT NOT YOUR TRUST IN PRINCES, THE PSALMIST WARNS US. Once again the old Hebrew Scriptures show themselves to be presciently modern. The man who wrote them being a king, the one Jews sing is still alive, still alive, he knew of what he wrote. But Jews prefer to trust in princes rather than a system designed to hold them to account, again betraying their inbred hostility to statecraft. The modern Israeli electoral system, based as it is on an extreme form of proportional representation, guarantees that no election will ever yield a majority government. Any government that is formed will involve horse-trading between parties of all kinds, parties whose policies, if not raison d'être, are quite opposed. The upshot is a government whose members themselves are in constant opposition, using their support for the prime minister to bolster their power over matters most dear to their hearts. Such a system increases tremendously the power of party bosses and personalizes power to an unprecedented extent when compared with democracies based on a first past the post system. It also means that no government can ever be held accountable for its policies, since every party to the government, big and small, can always blame its coalition partners for its failure. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, the public, and those whose function is to help public opinion discover itself, resort to criticism in highly personal terms, focusing on the leaders and their moral failings, even, in the last resort, flailing away at the crumbling of the moral fabric. Healing is then sought in a return to the 'old values' from which everyone is running as fast as he or she can, as usually happens in a modern society. What people do not see, of course, is that the 'old values' are precisely what the Jews have been indulging in for millennia.
Time and again the Jews wandering in the desert challenged Moses's leadership. From the incident of the Golden Calf to the Great Rebellion of Korach and his cousins, the Jews showed themselves thoroughly ungrateful to the man who had led them out of Egypt and impervious to his statesmanship. Hundreds of years later, ensconced in the
Corruption is a convenient slogan which is then extended to the body politic itself. Those who continue to argue that
Such shenanigans belie a far deeper and older national trait embedded in our founding text. Even as the Hebrew family morphed into the Hebrew nation, its ways of settling disputes remained characteristically familial. Korach's revolt was but a replay of the lament of Joseph's brothers, the fall of the House of David was also the result of family intrigue, and even the collapse of the Hasmonean dynasty, ostensibly a conflict between temple and state, had its roots in family passions. Even today the question of negotiating Gilad Shalit's release is posed in familial terms. Everyone in
Instead Jews complain, at home and abroad, the way Jacob's children did their whole lives long. They complain and tell stories, and think their stories will ensure their survival. Yoram Kaniuk, an Israeli novelist, wrote a book called Ahavat David (David's Love), based, despite its disclaimers, on the life of Moshe Dayan. The book is a searing indictment of modern life, modern love, modern
EMIL FACKENHEIM, THE JEWISH PHILOSOPHER WHO MADE ALIYAH TO ISRAEL, wrote that since the Holocaust Jews have one more commandment to add to the 613 ones in the Torah: the obligation to survive. An obligation he would impose on the Jewish state itself. To which I would add the obligation to survive without the needless shedding of Jewish blood as the price for survival. The list of Yom Hazikaron should be closed as once the rabbis closed the Tanach. Why else does Hanoch Bartov write his wonderful books, like the novel Regel Ahat Bahutz (One Foot Outside) of the lad and his Yishuv coming of age in the nineteen thirties and forties? Why else, when reading it, do my eyes well up with tears at the unspeakable crime done to my people and my heart with longing for the time when Hatikva and Hagana heralded the promise of the Promised Land, that time before the poet Amichai wrote that this is the life of promises and this land the land of promises? And when I read his biography of a Lithuanian Jewish family, Mehutz Laofek, Meever Larehov (Beyond the Horizon, Across the Street), that endured the unspeakable horror of the Nazis only to lose a son in the War of Independence, a war that the Jews had to fight because even half a loaf to the Jews was too much for the Arabs, my rage knows no bounds. I rage against the Arabs, who never had the mercy to tell the British to open
Words, you will say, like Hamlet. Words, words, words. Bur words produce stories, and stories are what's left when we are bereft of everything but hope. Now there is no hope left, none that allows us to think that the future will be better, that the sacrifices were not in vain, that the enemy is defeated once and for all, this enemy that others already fought against. World War Two, current affairs suggest, might as well not have been fought, though I am glad it was and that the good guys won. But all illusions are gone that the cause for which so many perished has triumphed. No such luck. No such hope. Western recidivism with respect to the Jews has trumped modernity and the stories it told.
The difference which the Jews gave to humanity as a blessing will continue to evolve, but the culture which it spawned is beyond redemption. The Jews too are beyond redemption, which is, of course, no reason for their extinction. After all, we can still be proud of the beauty of our gift, still make it our business to survive if only because we bore that gift, we and no others. For that alone Israel ought to act in its defense as decisively as the Lord once commanded the Israelites of old to act, that very Lord who knew a thing or two about the havoc difference brought into the universe. And when the world has evolved into the global multicultural society people think it is heading towards, and every nation has taken down its barriers and embraced the tolerance in whose name Israel's post-modern and post-Zionist critics pillory the Jewish state, the Jews can follow suit if they wish, proudly being the last people standing, the one that shuts the door on the tradition they inaugurated. Until that happens however, they would be best to figure out something else, something at once old and new, something to make Zionism complete. Something like a two-state solution, but not the one people usually think of. No, something like the two kingdoms of old: Israel and Judea, not this time at loggerheads, but mutually respectful, each one protecting the other, doing what each does best and what the other is reluctant to do. Judea will protect the borders and
A retired sociology professor from the Université du Québec à Montréal, Stephen Schecter has written six books, numerous essays, short stories and poems in both English and French.
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