Time was when sensible folks truly believed that if you venture too far, you'll fall off Earth's jagged edge to the endless void below. By today, though, you'd figure nobody swallows that any more, certainly not in the erudite parts of what we've for centuries recognized as our globe.
Welcome to the Flat Earth Society, now largely California-based (where else?). You think FES members are crazy? You'd be surprised to learn that they've diagnosed you as profoundly insane for not grasping reality as they know you should. This isn't a joke. The Flat Earthers are dead-earnest.
As earnest as the Jewish state's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who judges that at this particular juncture - all of Israel's other problems having been so satisfactorily solved - there's no more urgent concern than (again) dismantling "unauthorized settlement outposts." The equally self-absorbed Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik discerns at this particular juncture (of all junctures) that "the opportunity now exists for new alliances. Imagine an alliance with Syria. What leader can afford to miss such a chance?"
This isn't a feminine foible. Israel's male politicians can be as dizzyingly ditzy. Defense Minister Amir Peretz is equally adamant that the outposts must go forthwith for the pressing good of the Jewish collective, while Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter omnisciently reminded the nation's benighted commoners that "we're experienced in paying prices" and are prepared to pay "a hefty price" to Syria.
You kidded yourself that following the summer's trauma there'd be no return to obsequious appeasement - be it of the inane unilateral variety or another land-for-peace chimera? Forget it. It's inordinate to expect that the withdrawal fixation of our agenda determiners would dissipate because of what they incontrovertibly wrought time and again since the advent of their Oslo debacle.
Had reason prevailed they'd be hiding for shame in shuttered rooms. But in our unreasonable milieu they insist on having another go at what failed miserably, keeps exacting a terrifyingly bloody price and imperils our very existence.
For a brief respite after their recent Lebanese lark it almost seemed that even they begin to dimly realize the error of their ways. "The Lebanon war shook me," Itzik candidly admitted, "I assumed that surrendering territory would get us peace. We left Gaza completely. Why do they keep shooting? We left Lebanon. Where's all this hate coming from?... Instead of peace-for-land we got war-for-land."
But the light Dalia saw must have been dimmed by the Syrian allure. There appears about as much likelihood of disengaging her and assorted "peaceniks" from their favorite fables as convincing Californian diehards that the Earth isn't a flat pita.
LATE FES president Charles Johnson made it his mission to persuade us that "science is no more than a delusional, fraudulent religion," which he embarked to "replace with sanity." He recruited converts and contributors from the world over, including from such bastions of modernity and enlightenment as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Israel's establishment elite, cliquey opinion-makers, self-serving trend-setters and bon-ton groupies are no less disdainful of empirical fact. Their premise - that Jews must always pay - is as patently false as the obstinate assertion that we inhabit an oversized rocky pancake.
Theirs is perhaps the root symptom of the Jewish nation's abnormality and inability to behave like other sovereign nations. Nowhere is there another country whose citizens ponder daily what more to offer their foes, what they can cede to appease and how to curry a little favor abroad.
The need to pay for our right to live is a uniquely Jewish syndrome. We alone bear an onus to justify what's a self-evident, inalienable right to any other people. Our obsession to analyze things from our enemies' point of view and understand them is simply unparalleled.
The origins of Jewish guilt for burdening oppressors and assailants and the compulsion to make amends are traceable to the penchant of every local medieval tyrant to oblige Jewish communities to pay exorbitantly for the privilege of not being slaughtered. Jews began to treat such levies as being the way of the world, only to be expected.
That's possibly why Israelis can't conceive of their territory as inviolable as that of other nations - ones situated where they are merely because ancestral tribal thugs or robber barons managed to wrest certain land holdings. Nobody doubts ordinary nations' legitimacy or their continued tenure in their various grabbed real-estate.
The Jewish state's postulate, however, is that it's impermanent and its possessions are currency with which to haggle for reprieve. No other nation pays for its right to exist, buys time or seeks acceptance. No nation would countenance such ignominy.
THE FACT that this land-for-peace hypothesis was repeatedly debunked had utterly failed to change the minds of Israel's Flat Earth fanatics. While we still smart from this past summer's disastrous repercussions of the flight from Lebanon and the evacuation of Gush Katif, our Flat-Earthers lose no time to return to their discredited old habits. We've just witnessed the calamitous consequences of divesting ourselves of strategic assets, but, as with Flat-Earthers, hard-evidence and reality-checks don't count.
Samuel Shenton, reviver of the Flat Earth cause, was unfazed even by photos of Earth from outer space. He judged that "it's easy to see how pictures like these could fool the untrained eye." For him the earth remained a motionless disk rather than an ever-orbiting spherical planet, what appeared like a curvature was "no more than atmospheric refraction" and the moon-landings wereâ€¦ a Hollywood hoax scripted by Arthur C. Clarke.
The difference, of course is that Shenton was a harmless loon, who endangered nobody.