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Friday, December 30, 2011

Letter from Jerusalem: A message to the Jewish left on your efforts to “save us from ourselves”


This was originally posted at CiF Watch
Be it the NYT’s Thomas Friedman, NIF’s Ben MuraneJonathan Freedland - or even such overtly hostile anti-Zionist voices such as Walt and Mearsheimer or the editors at the Guardian - a common paternalistic refrain from Israel’s obsessive critics is that they don’t dislike Israel at all, but are merely acting out of ‘tough love’ towards a Jewish state which continually pursues policies that aren’t in their own best interest.  
So, as a citizen of Israel, I respectfully ask my American Jewish friends who see their role as providing guidance to ‘save us from our ourselves’, to please show a bit of humility the next time you provide advice which will result in very real consequences that neither you, nor your family and loved ones, will have to burden.
Please avoid the hubris of telling my democracy, continually under siege by state and non-state actors who don’t disguise their malevolence towards us and rejection of our existence within any borders, what kind of risks we should take on the hope that our every peaceful gesture will be reciprocated in kind.
Kindly attempt to refrain from decidedly ahistorical assumptions, such as the belief that a cessation of construction in “East” Jerusalem or the West Bank (whatever your views on such communities beyond the Green Line) will necessarily be reciprocated with peace from our Palestinian neighbors.
While we appreciate a friendly debate with our diaspora supporters, please understand that it wasn’t diaspora Jews who saved Israel when multiple Arab armies sought Israel’s destruction on the day of its birth in 1948; nor in June 1967 when 500,000 Arab troops amassed along its borders, and Arab leaders assured rapturous crowds in Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad that the Jewish state’s end was near; nor when Arab armies launched a surprise attack in 1973 on the holiest day of the year.
It wasn’t diaspora Jews who, in 1976, launched a daring raid to save Jews (Israelis and non-Israelis) held hostage in Uganda, by Palestinian and German terrorists, from execution.
It wasn’t diaspora Jews who, in 2002, fought a bloody house to house battle in Jenin – where Palestinians used bombs, grenades, booby-traps and machine guns to turn the camp into a war zone - to root out a terrorist infrastructure responsible for scores of suicide bombings during the 2nd Intifada. 
And, it wasn’t diaspora Jews who have had to absorb over 12,000 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel since 2002.
Like any democracy, Israel not only has a right to defend its citizens, but a moral obligation to protect its men, women and children from ongoing clear and present dangers.
The recent Israeli withdrawals from S. Lebanon and Gaza, 63 years of statehood – and certainly much of Jewish history – simply does not support this seemingly immutable belief in the efficacy of the assumption of good will. 
Yes, we certainly seek (and sincerely appreciate) your moral support in our ongoing battle against enemies waging a relentless cognitive and military war against our nation, and respect those who genuinely empathize with our plight but merely differ with us on how to successfully defend ourselves from such an onslaught.
However, we are not children.
Respectfully, when engaging in such criticism please attempt to avoid the hubris of believing that you alone possess the sechel, wisdom, and moral understanding necessary for peace which has somehow eluded Israeli citizens, scholars and even the most dovish statesmen for nearly 64 years.
After leaving politics, Yosef ‘Tommy’ Lapid, an Israeli journalist, politician and Holocaust survivor (who died of cancer at the age of 77) was appointed to head the Yad VaShem Memorial for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
This is part of Lapid’s speech upon his appointment to Yad Vashem:
Six million of our dead speak to us from the earth. ‘We did not think’, they say to us, ‘that such a thing could come to pass. We trusted others’ benevolence…..We believed there was a limit to the madness. BY THE TIME WE AWAKENED FROM THESE DELUSIONS IT WAS TOO LATE.
Do not follow in our footsteps. THE ENLIGHTENED WORLD COUNSELS US TO COMPROMISE, TO TAKE CHANCES IN THE NAME OF PEACE. And we ask the enlightened world, on Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance DAY, WE ASK ALL THOSE WHO PREACH AND MORALIZE TO US; What will you do if we take chances and make sacrifices and put our trust in you – and then something goes wrong, WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN, ask our forgiveness. say, WE were wrong, SEND BANDAGES, Open orphanages for the children who survive? pray that our souls rise to heaven? 
As Lapid asked, and as I urgently repeat, what will WE do if your most stubbornly held assumptions about peace in the Middle East are dead wrong?

We have little room for error, and there is no nobility in victimhood.
Adam Levick
Jerusalem, Israel

Friday, December 9, 2011

Better Jews. The Moral Vanity of Israel's Leftist Jewish Critics


The following was published at The Propagandist, and won first prize in their second annual political essay contest.
Ben Murane, an American Jew and head of New Generations for the left-wing lobbying group New Israel Fund, recently wrote an essay, under his blogging pseudonym  KungFuJew, titled, "Reinterpreting Jewish communal service".
The essay attempts to "reinterpret" Jewish communal service in universal terms and represents the quintessential guilt of liberal diaspora Jews over Jewish particularism.
Writes Murane:
Accused, I was, of not caring enough for those other than Jews…of working only for Jews.
Murane has been accused of the sin of working for an organization which focuses primarily on the fate of the Jewish state and evidently felt the need to defend himself  from the charge of "selfishness".
Instead of turning the accusation back on his interlocutors, and refuting the suggestion that Jews are unique in caring more about the fate of their own community than others, Murane immediately sought to assuage his guilt about being a Jew who cares about Jews.
There are plenty Jews in my world of the predominantly young and unaffiliated who are tired of the drumming of “Jew Jew Jew” and recoil from its incessant self-centered, self-referential, selfish concerns.
Murane, distinguishing himself from those parochial Jews who, triumph "selfishness", writes:
What I abhor about the fight “against” intermarriage is the drive to identify and then root out non-Jewishness to protect us against its invasion.
Here, Murane  flirts with noxious idea that Jewish particularism is inherently chauvinist, racist, and illiberal, and distinguishes himself from those evidently unenlightened Jewish souls who champion Jewish values, Jewish people-hood, and Jewish survival.
Despite the erudition of Murane and his political fellow travelers, they fail to understand that a desire to maintain a distinct communal identity is not exceptional, but the norm throughout human history.
People throughout the world, be they Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, or any of the thousands of unique ethnic groups which make up the fabric of human diversity, similarly aspire to maintain their community - to inculcate their children with the belief that their unique culture is worth defending.
Judaism is - in its passion to maintain a thousands  year old faith tradition - not unique but, rather, the norm, and thoroughly consistent with the ideals of tolerance and pluralism.  
Turning to Israel, and clearly feeling the need to disassociate himself from the obtuseness of nationalism - those Jews who, unlike him, are citizens of Israel - he writes:
Israel becomes a place where the ends justify any means because we must secure safety for the Jews first, foremost and instead of all other peoples... a bitter fest of greed to hoard and preserve power for ourselves to share with no one.
Then, clearly well versed in the vocabulary of the "multiculturalist" radical left, he denounces "our [Jewish] communal infrastructure" which, has, he says, "become an entrenchment of race and class privilege."
Yes, Jews, who make up 2/10 of 1% of the world's population, are a privileged class: a tiny, historically oppressed minority trying desperately to survive is really only the last gasp of a powerful oppressor.  
Murane's rhetorical flourish continues:
The effort then to sort between the Jewish and non-Jewish — be it in ideas or genes — smells of what we learned at the hands of our cruelest rulers in times we’d rather forget.
Yes, Jewish particularism as racism. Zionism as the cruel embodiment of everything we suffered under countless antisemitic despots and dictators. Racial supremacy with a Jewish face.
Murane's moral triumphalism concludes:
I am just one example of a brave new breed of Jewish communal professionals. [Emphasis mine]
I'm sitting here writing this in my home in Jerusalem - a citizen of the first sovereign Jewish state in two thousand years. 
My wife and I reside in a nation surrounded by politically reactionary terrorist movements who openly seek our destruction, and who quite explicitly express ideas about Jews - and not merely Israelis - which are decidedly racist and illiberal
Yes, of course, my primary concern is to protect my  family and friends from those who wish us harm  just as Egyptians, Jordanians, Greeks, Germans, Turks, Chinese, Americans (and citizens of the 193 nations in the world) care more about the safety of their own national community than that of others.
This recurring tendency of Jews, such as Murane, to pay greater attention to their own moral performance than to the necessities of survival is a trait which Ruth Wisse characterizes as “moral solipsism”.
In displaying the resilience necessary to survive in exile, many Jews have come to fetishize weakness, and believe that they could pursue their mission as a “light unto the nations” on a purely moral plane.
However, Jewish history has surely shown that such weakness only increased Jews’ vulnerability to scapegoating and violence.
Yes, with national sovereignty there is a price that has to be paid in terms of the occasional infliction of human suffering (even if unintentional) that invariably occurs as the result of even the most responsible and restrained use of national power.
But in the lives of individual adults, as in the lives of responsible nations, rarely is there the luxury of making choices that will lead to perfect justice for all concerned. Rather, with every serious decision in front of her, Israel must carefully weigh the costs and benefits of various possible acts, and try to make decisions which will likely result in the most positive outcome for the Jewish state - the only Jewish homeland that ever was and ever will be.
Unlike Murane, I don’t have the luxury of concerning myself with the fact my fierce and unapologetic determination to defend and maintain a presence in our people’s historic homeland causes some Jews discomfort, or risks alienating us from our "progressive" non-Jewish friends.
To those not willing to get their hands dirty by fighting for a Jewish democracy under siege, all I can say is please step aside and let others not as easily tempted by such  moral vanity take their place.
Finally, I've always been one to strongly argue that the phrase "self-hating Jews" is a misnomer.
Jews such as Murane don't hate themselves at all. 
Such Jews fancy themselves a "brave" Jew - indeed, a better Jew.
So, as a lesser Jew, all I can say is that I’d rather be loathed and alive than posthumously loved.
You can think of it as the morality of Jewish survival.

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