Surviving Post-Zionism (Extract)

Extract of an article in Issue 2, May 12, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. A 60th anniversary is generally time for a midlife crisis, or even intimations of mortality. The punditocracy has not disappointed and has showered us with disheartening comment, ranging from charges of chronic underachievement to predictions of decline and even imminent demise. One can take heart that Zionism has seen off such doomsayers before. In 1948, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall advised Zionist diplomats to defer independence because the new state would be overrun by an Arab onslaught. A recession preceding the Six-Day War gave rise to the bitter witticism requesting the last person leaving Israel to shut off the lights. The demographic disaster that was to turn the Jews into a minority by the 1980s has not materialized and perhaps may never come. One can even argue that the nuclear threat is not new. The Soviet Union threatened to obliterate Israel while, like Iran, it conducted training camps for terrorists and spread international anti-Semitism. Otto von Bismarck once remarked that God reserves a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America. Those, like me, who are religiously observant, believe, in the teeth of a frequently lachrymose history, that Israel too enjoys providential protection. Since a destruction of the third Israeli commonwealth could be totally catastrophic for the Jewish people, it will simply not be allowed to happen. But we cannot be dismissive of the problems. As opposed to previous periods of travail, we are handicapped by ideological agnosticism and apostasy, and an erosion of national solidarity. Sixty years have put paid to the hope that the normalcy of statehood would resolve the "Jewish Question." Jewish statehood has merely transposed the problem of anti-Semitism to the state level: Israel still fights for its right to exist, a right that other countries from Albania to Zimbabwe can take for granted. Those who declare their intention to eliminate Israel are not regarded as international lepers, but as candidates for engagement and dialogue. All this has opened up an old fault line between Jews who espoused Zionism as a cure-all for anti-Semitism and those who merely believed that it provided better odds for surviving the malignancy. For the former group, Israel and the Jewish people's inability to be at peace now has been a major disappointment. And for some of them it has triggered a reflex reminiscent of the Enlightenment - to blame ourselves. In Europe, the avid quest for emancipation led some Jewish intellectuals to condone anti-Semitism as an understandable response to unsavory Jewish traits, such as cultural and occupational backwardness and parochial nationalism. For some Israelis and Jews, the "occupation of the Palestinian territories" has replaced the consternation about forelocks, caftans and Yiddish. It is legitimate to oppose settlement just as it was legitimate to expect Jews to open themselves up to the secular world. But when the line is crossed from disagreement to hatred, we have a problem. What was worse than the razing and expulsion of the Katif Bloc was the government's failure to provide substance to advertisements it aired prior to the expulsion that it "had a solution for every settler." And once the Gaza settlers became dispensable, the way was open for similar apathy towards Sderot and other towns and villages in the Gaza perimeter. Extract of an article in Issue 2, May 12, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.