Another Tack: The diabolical force within

Establishing equivalency between fighters for Jewish sovereignty and those who would destroy it is a popular pastime.

It's doubtlessly mere coincidence that Election Day fell precisely on the 36th anniversary of the premature death of one of Israel's most prolific and innovative poets - Natan Alterman. But happenstance isn't without profound irony. In the just-concluded campaign, Kadima headliner Meir Sheetrit crowed that "ideology is dead." Heritage, principle and remembrance are suppressed in favor of proclaimed panaceas and facile fix-its. There's no time for forgotten poets in times of celebrated superficiality, especially for a departed poet's prescient admonitions against degenerative and life-threatening collective amnesia. A founder of the Land of Israel Movement, Alterman was acutely pained by the fact that leftist trendsetters (already then) cast doubt on the legitimacy of their own state's existential struggle, portraying it as the aggressor and dismissing Jewish claims to the Jewish homeland. To him these were dark omens presaging a mental aberration that could precipitate Israel's downfall. Dreaded incipient symptoms of a pernicious national memory-loss syndrome featured in several unpublished works discovered after his passing in Alterman's literary estate. The most evocative of these poems, "Then Satan Said," became his embittered, somber last legacy. There Alterman conjured an allegorical evil stratagem in which: ...Satan then said: How do I overcome This besieged one? He has courage And talent, And implements of war And resourcefulness. …only this shall I do, I'll dull his mind And cause him to forget The justice of his cause. TO REALIZE just how thoroughly the sinister scheme of Alterman's symbolic Satan succeeded, one need only have read the Yediot op-ed this week by much-respected historian Ze'ev Tzahor, which blasts the "great effort currently invested to construct a demonic image for Hamas and its leaders and to inculcate it in the public's mind." Bottom line: Hamas honchos aren't incorrigible. How does Tzahor conclude this? By pointing to MI5 documents declassified earlier this month. Stashed until now in Britain's National Archives in Kew, they bring to light tireless efforts to malign Menachem Begin as an arch-terrorist. Indeed these revelations now star on virtually every anti-Zionist Web site. The secret files make fascinating reading. Begin is depicted as an unconscionable bloodthirsty villain, who probably underwent plastic surgery to render his features unrecognizable. The Brits even had a go at warning Washington that this former Siberian gulag prisoner "may be a Soviet agent." "We do not believe his late conversion into a politician," wrote London's intelligence assessors already after Israel's independence. "We continue to regard him as a gangster and would not allow him into this country even in transit." Tzahor rightly debunks this bogus portrayal of a dedicated liberal-democrat. But his argument is that because Begin was wrongfully vilified, we mustn't speak ill of Hamas. Establishing equivalency between fighters for Jewish sovereignty and those who would destroy it is a popular pastime - so much so that it has become conventional wisdom, if not altogether axiomatic, both here and abroad. It's a compelling comparison for intellectual dilettantes in deceptively relativist post-modern milieus where no objective truths exist, only degrees of manipulation. The more moderate premise (as distinct from the vogue of delegitimizing Israel outrightly) is that there's no difference between the prenatal Jewish state and the prenatal Palestinian. They're no worse than we were. IT SERVES distortion's interest to omit mention of the fact that pre-independent Israel fought only in self-defense and simultaneously spent its energies on reclaiming the wilderness, creating from naught urban and agricultural miracles in a hostile land, replete with health and education infrastructures, trade unions, free press, arts, sciences, vibrant debate, social justice and underlying humanistic values. Everything for a viable democracy was in place, despite unparalleled traumas and economic hardship, which the world didn't rush to alleviate (as it does for the Palestinians). The Palestinian Authority, though backed by Arab oil wealth and a solicitous international community, is a corrupt despotic quagmire. The welfare of its populace is subordinated to the holy war against Israel. Foreigners are supposed to feed the hungry masses, so that genocidal preparations can be bankrolled without debit. Money is fungible. Tolerance is nonexistent. No journalistic or religious freedoms prevail. Schools, media and mosques indoctrinate youngsters in fanatically noxious Jew-hatred and brainwash them to become human bombs. Both Fatah and Hamas envision a judenrein state. Hamastan is an Islamo-fascist outpost, which no state in Europe or America would suffer next door to its vulnerable population centers. But the hallmark of progressive enlightenment is to exhort Israel to accept an entity dedicated to its annihilation. Clause 8 of the Hamas Charter declares that "Jihad is the Palestinian state's goal and death for Allah is the most sublime objective." Clause 11 stresses that entire Palestine, from river to sea (leaving no room for Israel) "belongs to the Muslim Wakf. It, or parts thereof, cannot be relinquished." These are their words, not our fabrications. With enemies like them, any denigration is superfluous. Our tragedy is that numerous Tzahors among us bend over backwards to deny that we at all face implacable enemies, who possess nothing like our ethos, broad-mindedness and infinite (even if self-destructive) mercy. The Tzahorite rationale is to preserve Oslo pipe dreams at any cost. Having lost one counterfeit peace partner, Israelis can pin delusional hopes on an even more unlikely interlocutor. We aren't, as Tzahor maintains, "demonizing our adversaries as Satanic." The true Satan in our demented saga is Alterman's emblematic archfiend - the diabolical force within ourselves - that leads our own opinion-molders and educators to belittle, becloud and eventually consign to oblivion the justice of our cause. Or, as Euripides put it thousands of years earlier: "Those whom the gods seek to destroy, they first drive mad."