Within the walls of Jerusalem an antagonistic power struggle is taking place without a clear strategy or leader who can adequately defend against a potentially impending attack.
I wrote that sentence last year while reviewing a book about Josephus, Masada and the Fall of Judea, Jerusalem’s Traitor by Desmond Seward. Unfortunately, given the many political divisions that exist in Israel today, it still applies.
In “The Jewish War,” Josephus compared the hostile groups who were occupying Jerusalem to wild beasts who were devouring their own flesh.
Today nations that surround Israel have been in a state of tumultuous transition. By consequence an increasing level of threat against the Jewish state has only grown and in effect created a similarly constricting siege around Israel. This week a gas pipeline was blown up in Egypt a country that supplies Israel with 40% of its natural gas. At the same time and internally, there’s widespread political division within the borders of Israel on issues that pale in comparison to the dangers outside.
Yet what is occupying the Knesset? Last year it was the so called “conversion bill” that was lending distraction or as Alana Newhouse accurately wrote in a New York Times op-ed,
“Why, they will wonder, as Iran raced to build a nuclear bomb to wipe the Jewish state off the map, did the custodians of the 2,000-year-old national dream of the Jewish people choose such a perverse definition of Jewish peoplehood, seemingly calculated to alienate supporters outside its own borders?”
This last week it was the recent passage of a bill by the Knesset outlawing boycotts against Israel and the reaction it’s caused. It is a prime example of infighting and acerbating internal strife, while not assessing the truly dangerous threat that is slowly attempting to cast another kind of siege around the country.
Iran is swiftly moving in the direction of becoming a nuclear power while providing support and arms to Hezbollah to the north in Lebanon as well as in Syria. Egypt with a mighty military built up over the past 30-years is on the brink of officially electing the Muslim Brotherhood into power. And just this week it was reported that China violated export agreements and is providing sales of missiles and parts to Iran, Syria and Pakistan.
Just as the Roman Army slowly put its grip around Jerusalem, there is a constricting rope being dangerously hung around Israel.
Josephus was and still is called a traitor by many. Equally too are Israeli’s who are coming out in favor of the boycott. While the boycott issue is a nefarious one—falsely disguising itself as the modern day Montgomery Bus Boycotts of the 1960s—it’s a trap for Israel to get tangled in. Rather than get caught in it, political leadership should point out the stakes associated with the more serious existential threats aimed at Israel.
Seward’s book provided a cinematic eye for dramatic scenes involving the mighty power of the Roman army with their immense weaponry, exceptional engineering and military leadership. Contrasted, was the disturbing infighting within the walls of Jerusalem among the zealots.
In the end, Josephus’ description of the destruction of Jerusalem and the numbers (90,000 prisoners and 1,1,00,000 slaughtered) is breathtaking in their magnitude.
Avoiding such a scenario should be the focus of policy makers and the public.
Abe Novick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.