7 June 2001
the first time this Pesach, I had difficulty reading some
passages that recommend the destruction Israel's enemies.
Perhaps it felt wrong because it was too close to reality.
Perhaps history was repeating itself. It definately felt too
close for comfort.
There is today a real danger that the country will slowly
turn into a state of Apartheid. If we really care about Israel's
long term future, we need to save Israel from the damage that
the settler policy and the prolonged occupation is causing
us. Israel is still the state of the Jews, and it is inconceivable
that world Jewry would be able to enjoy the respect and tranquillity
that they do enjoy in the West today, should Israel slip further
down the slope of totalitarian policies.
are two types of violence that is particularly dangerous in
this respect. The first is the institutionalised violence
wrecked by a painful and prolonged occupation and suppression
of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Very soon, the
Israeli occupation of these lands will become the longest
running in modern history. It involves systematic breaches
of right of movement, travel, expression, meeting, organisation,
education, in addition to a number of international laws pertaining
to the treatment of populations under occupation by a foreign
power. All human rights issues are subject to the capricious
and discriminatory treatment at military courts and are not
subject to appeals.
second type of Jewish violence is the aggression perpetrated
on behalf of the settlers, particularly in areas of supreme
friction, as in Hebron. The repeated torching of shops and
attack on people and property is an extremely worrying new
development. There is a tacit acceptance of this kind of behaviour
on the part of the army, and there does not seem to be issues
that trouble the civil administration in Jerusalem and its
police forces. Thus settlers have rioted in several locations
in the West Bank and the tacit non-involvement of government
institutions has been particularly damaging.
is not only a symbol of the Jewish People held up to the nations
of the world, especially the West, it also lies at the core
of Modern Jewish self-perception. Even Jews who have never
visited Israel and who are not in any real sense Zionists,
perceive their Jewishness through the prism of the Jewish
State. The situation that we are rapidly facing at the moment
is one where a young Jewish child in the US or in Europe is
faced with condoning Israel's acts opposite the Palestinians,
or lose an important part of what connects them to their religion
situation is unprecedented. There has perhaps never been a
time in history when young Jews are ashamed of the actions
of their own people. It is also not sufficient to argue that
Jews should not treat their constituency as a special case.
We are not better or worse than others. We also have our share
of lunatics and bellicose warmongerers.
realistic in its outlook, the view that the Jewish case is
no different than any other, is flawed for two reasons. It
is problematic because it merely describes a situation that
cries out for intervention. It is not enough just to throw
our hands up and say, 'Oh well, we cannot be angels'. Furthermore,
the argument is flawed because there is no reason why we should
not in fact expect the utmost from ourselves. We should expect
that our tradition and our history has conditioned us in ways
that should protect us from edging into belligerence.
on earth would we commit our lives to our honed traditions,
from Pesach to Shavouth, from Yom Kippur to Chanukah, from
tzedaka to tikkun olam, why would we uphold these traditions
in the teeth of a historical intolerance, if we did not believe
that these rites conferred some ethical reflexes upon us.
Why pay the price of continued Jewish consciousness, if this
is not , in some way, supposed to make us stick out from the
grey majority. Is this the way Theodore Herzl and the Zionist
venture hoped to create normalcy? Through showing the world
and ourselves that we also can harbour the basest of impulses
and, when pressed, revert to acts that only a generation ago
we would associate with Russian pogroms?
is what should be foremost in our minds as we mull over the
range of options that lay before Israel today. We have to
keep in our minds that Israeli policies encompass more than
the security concerns of its it's citizens. It encompasses
that kid in London or Chicago who will decide to say that
t The path that Israel is following is no surprise. Countries
that seek to maintain by force the occupation over another
people will eventually drift toward repressive or even fascistic
measures of the sort offered by Barak cannot work. Israel
had the choice to end the occupation, dismantle the settlements,
and get out of the West Bank, but it chose not to, and in
doing so ensured that it would drift to the right until it
was inevitably faced with the likes of Ariel Sharon at its
Taba talks ended in failure because the Israelis offered the
Palestinians: 1) No sovereignty of the Temple Mount; 2) 80%
of the settlements intact; and 3) No Right of Return (or acceptance
of responsibility for creating the refugee problem in the
first place). At Taba, Israel offered the return of 1,500-3,000
individuals, and no official declaration of responsibility
and required Arafat to sign a declaration of principles, in
which he would announce the "end of the conflict";
should have been foreseen that no Palestinian leader could
possibly sign the "end of the conflict" without
a solution to the refugee problem. To present this as a overgenerous
offer betrays a deep lack of understanding of the issues involved.
Israel cannot dictate the terms of an agreement that involves
50 years of dispossession and several millions of individuals.
It cannot absolve itself of, at the very least, partial responsibility
for creating and maintaining the refugee problem. And it cannot
keep vast majority of the settlers with the cantonisation
of the territories that this entails.
problem with the current slide to the right and the totalitarian
thinking that seems imminent and mystically unavoidable, is
that it hurts the Jewish people. It causes young Jews to deny
their connection to Judaism rather than claim an identity
aligned with oppressive policies and defined by people who
think that power is the paramount value. That, surely, must
be the opposite of what the Zionist project is supposed to
© 2001-2002 Brit