My prediction for the election:
More of the same unless it changes.
Totally true but not particularly helpful.
So let’s try something else. A troubling, perhaps very troubling assessment of what this election is about, and what its outcome might mean to Israel, Jewry, the world.
First, a caveat. Those Jews who are endlessly eager to fling that dreary old epithet, “Self-Hating Jew,” at any Jew who dares criticize or even notice the imperfect, the scandalous, the erroneous, the wrong – please be advised that “Self-Hating Jew,” like “Anti-Semite,” properly refers to an obsessional pathology, and should be reserved for such.
Using it promiscuously is a great way to get yourself not taken seriously, perhaps even unfriended.
A Self-Hating Jew is not, by definition, someone who disagrees with Benjamin Netanyahu or Naftali Bennett or the Haredim — or Noam Chomsky or J Street or that sad little gaggle of Jewish BDSers.
No more than an anti-Semite is some one who fails to support Israel uncritically, and/or has grown tired of the arrogance, the hectoring, the lecturing, the kvetching and the “we’re entitled” demands.
Despite the well-crafted phoniness, the deliberate triviality and the zestful rancor that have become inseparable from elections in the democratic (read here: oligarchic republican) world, this election matters. It will answer a simple question.
Every nation, every human being, has values. Every nation, every human being, has hierarchies of values. Some things are more important than others. This election will answer the question: What is most important to the State of Israel?
And everyone who votes, or fails to vote, will answer the same question personally.
What is most important to you?
This election is, of course, about many things. Economics. Corruption. Minorities. Policies. Personalities. But it may all come down to a simple choice. Will Israel seek to take its place among the nations as a defender of more than itself? Or will it yield to the anti-Semites, the Islamists, the cynics of Left and Right, the invincibly self-interested, and to those Jews who believe that hastening the Final Redemption and the Coming of Maschiach is the proper policy of a secular state in the deadly age now upon this planet?
For the past few weeks, for the past few decades, I’ve been kicking around some ideas. None is new; it often seems that everything that can be said about Judaism and Israel was said, long ago. As a Nu? Jew, I claim neither originality nor apostasy, only a keen interest in what comes next. Therefore I think it’s important to make a few things, once again, explicit.
What are Jewish values? Many, perhaps the most visible, apply only to Jews and are therefore of scant interest to the world. Beyond those, Jewish values are nothing that the world can’t get somewhere else, often far more accessibly and attractively presented. When the world looks at this “Light unto the Nations,” and its proffered guidance, it may rightly ask:
“What do we need you for?”
And perhaps rightly add: “You want to turn your home into some kind of religious-nationalistic-militarized theme park? Have at it. We won’t interfere. But neither will we support. Or defend.”
Still the world may need Israel for something. That is, for something beyond all those apps and all that high-end investment-grade real estate. Could it be, might it be, that this election is about the secular working out of that venerable Jewish doctrine, Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world? All the world. The Jewish. The Christian. And yes, the Islamic.
Perhaps it’s not enough to enter the world as it is. Perhaps we also have to do our part – perhaps a rather large part – in fixing it. Especially since neither Europe nor America seems much motivated to do so.
Could it be that, all the evils of the last half-century notwithstanding, it’s for the best that no Palestinian State has yet arisen? Best for all. Would such a state have succumbed to the obscene tyranny of Hamas or, even worse, become another ISIS?
The possibility cannot be discounted. But neither can the possibility that an independent Palestine united with a Hamas-free Gaza, in firm and obvious if not formally acknowledged alliance with Israel, Egypt and Jordan against the Islamists, might prove an act of Tikkun Olam.
Forget the peace treaties, the White House ceremonies, the Nobel Prizes. Forget the Green Lines and all other former borders, no matter by whom crafted or decreed. Might such an alliance, such a bloc of territory, be a worthy proof of Israel’s intent to take its place among the nations? And where might it lead?
Perhaps it might help the Islamic world come to terms with its own metastasizing dilemmas
Impossible? Is it any more impossible than that photograph of Anwar Sadat flying home from Jerusalem, looking out the window at the IAF honor guard surrounding his plane? And who might create such a situation? Who will be the next Menachem Begin? Can we or the world afford to wait for the next Anwar Sadat?
But are the Jews as a nation, as a folk, capable of such an act of Tikkun Olam?
Ask the Greeks. Two millennia and more ago, they mostly wrote off the Jews as members of the human race. Perhaps it’s time to understand a bit more of why, amid the cynicism and corruption of late antiquity, they found no other verdict possible.
This matters. If the State of Israel is to prove capable of more than survival, wealth-getting and oppression, capable of Tikkun Olam . . . if the Jewish people are to survive as more than a black hole of ultra-Orthodox fanaticism surrounded by the debris of what was once a great religion and people . . .
Next: What the Greeks Tried to Tell the Jews, and Why It Matters Still. At Least a Little,