Analysis from Israel

Earlier, I cited a new poll showing two-thirds of Palestinians reject any two-state solution that entails recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, while the same majority sees a two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward Israel’s eradication. It also showed 72 percent deny Jewish history in Jerusalem, 53 percent support educating schoolchildren to hate Jews, and 73 percent support the Hamas charter’s call for killing Jews behind every “rock and tree.”

But perhaps even scarier than the poll itself was the delusional response of Israeli leaders when briefed on it by pollster Stanley Greenberg and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project, which commissioned it. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli leaders said “they were encouraged by Palestinian support for talks.” Indeed, 65 percent of respondents preferred talks to violence as a tactic for achieving their goals. But what good is that if there’s nothing to talk about – which there isn’t as long as Palestinians deny the Jewish state’s right to exist?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded much more sensible in an interview with author Etgar Keret last month: He said forthrightly the conflict is “not about territory,” but about the Jewish state’s right to exist, and will therefore remain unsolvable until Palestinians recognize “Israel as a Jewish state.” Keret then asked what, if so, could be done to further peace:

Netanyahu told me right away that the practical plan for advancing the peace process is to reiterate this at every opportunity.

“You have to see the effect it has on people,” he said, smiling. “You say it and they just remain slack-jawed.”

Just that day, he said, during a conversation with local politicians, he saw it happening before his eyes. Another writer at the table pointed out that we’ve said it more than once and it hasn’t convinced most countries. Netanyahu nodded and said the Palestinians have been spreading their lies for more than 40 years, and lies that have become so deeply entrenched cannot be uprooted quickly.

 

Netanyahu is dead right: The only way to make progress is for Israel to keep explaining the conflict’s real cause until the world finally internalizes it and begins addressing it. For Palestinians will never accept a Jewish state unless convinced it’s necessary, and the only way to so convince them is for the world to make clear that it won’t support Palestinian statehood absent such acceptance.

For that reason, Netanyahu was also right when he told Bulgaria’s foreign minister a few days later peace would come faster if Europe stopped treating Palestinians “like a spoiled child” and instead began to “tell the Palestinians the truth” about the concessions they will need to make for any agreement – like recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and dropping their demand to resettle Palestinian refugees in Israel – instead of only spelling out the concessions it wants Israel to make. For again, as long as the international community refuses to say otherwise, Palestinian will keep thinking they can secure Israel’s retreat from the territories without having to give up their quest for its destruction.

The problem is even Netanyahu himself rarely follows his own advice. Instead, he and other Israelis leaders endlessly declare the Palestinians really want peace, and thereby allow the world to maintain this fiction. Indeed, had Israel not actively assisted the Palestinians in spreading this lie, it never would have “become so deeply entrenched.”

Nobody will defend Israel’s interests if Israel’s own leaders don’t. Thus, until they start telling the truth, consistently and unanimously, the world will keep upholding the convenient fiction that peace is achievable if only Israel would concede a little bit more. And peace itself will remain an unattainable dream.

Subscribe to Evelyn’s Mailing List

Physicians, Heal Thyselves

It’s no secret that many liberal Jews today view tikkun olam, the Hebrew phrase for “repairing the world,” as the essence of Judaism. In To Heal the World?, Jonathan Neumann begs to differ, emphatically. He views liberal Judaism’s love affair with tikkun olam as the story of “How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel.” In fact, he believes tikkun olam endangers Judaism itself. Anyone who considers such notions wildly over the top should make sure to read Neumann’s book—because one needn’t agree with everything he says to realize that his major concerns are disturbingly well-founded.

Neumann begins by explaining what he considers the modern liberal Jewish understanding of tikkun olam. It is taken, he says, not just as a general obligation to make the world a better place, but as a specific obligation to promote specific “universal” values and even specific policies—usually, the values and policies of progressive Democrats.

He then raises three major objections to this view. The first is that the only way to interpret Judaism as a universalist religion with values indistinguishable from those of secular progressives is by ignoring the vast majority of key Jewish texts, including the Bible and the Talmud, and millennia of Jewish tradition. After all, most of these texts deal with the history, laws, and culture of one specific nation—the Jews. The Bible’s history isn’t world history, nor are its laws (with a few exceptions) meant to govern any nation but the Jews. Judaism undeniably has universalist elements. But to ignore its particularist aspects is to ignore much of what makes it Judaism, which therefore corrupts our understanding of Judaism.

The second problem is that if Judaism has no purpose other than promoting the same values and policies touted by non-Jewish progressives, there’s no reason for Judaism to exist at all. Consequently, the tikkun olam version of Judaism really does threaten Judaism’s continued existence, and it’s no accident that the liberal Jewish movements that have embraced it are rapidly dwindling due to intermarriage and assimilation. After all, why should young American Jews remain Jewish when they can do everything they think Judaism requires of them even without being Jewish?

This also explains why, in Neumann’s view, tikkun olam Judaism endangers Israel. If there’s no reason for Judaism to exist, there’s certainly no reason for a Jewish state. Indeed, Israel is anathema to the tikkun olam worldview because it’s the embodiment of Jewish particularism—the view that Jews are a distinct nation and have their own history, culture, and laws rather than being merely promulgators of universal values. Thus it’s easy to understand why tikkun olam Jews increasingly abhor the Jewish state.

Read more
Archives