Yosef Burg spent his twenties in Nazi Germany, where he helped Jews escape, arranged clandestine religious services, earned his doctorate and received his Rabbinic ordination. He then got out just in time. His mother and grandmother didn’t.
Dr. Burg served under every Israeli prime minister from 1951 to 1986, from Ben Gurion to Begin to Peres.
His son took a different path.
Avraham Burg’s latest masterpiece for The New York Times is Israel’s Fading Democracy. Burg previously argued that “A parent who doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to a child is a bad parent. An American president who allows everything to the children in the Middle East to do is a bad president for the world.” In this piece he calls on American Jews to push the American government “to intervene and save Israel from itself.” To defend Israel and its democracy, Burg demonizes Israel’s elected government and asks America to treat it as an unruly child.
Rude and arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government, exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with ‘no Arabs’ and ‘no gentiles.’”
All free societies have some malicious speech. Yes, there is unfortunately some hate speech against Arabs. There is also plenty of hate speech against the Israeli right, the settlers, and the prime minister. There is probably more hate speech against ultra-Orthodox Jews than against any other group. I don’t even know what he’s talking about when he refers to hate speech against Gentiles. If there is hate speech here against Gentiles, there is certainly far less of it than hate speech against ultra-Orthodox Jews. To further assert, without evidence, that some people in senior government positions hold these views is reprehensible. Burg is so anxious to demonize the Israeli majority in American eyes that he’s lost any sense of restraint and decency. That he does so in the names of Judaism and democracy is Orwellian.
Burg falsely asserts that in his visit to Israel, Mitt Romney’s “key message is to encourage us to pursue a misguided war with Iran.” Burg should coordinate with the rest of the leftist press who think his key racist message was that Palestinian culture is inferior. Or he could tell the truth: that the key message was that he stands with Israel.
Burg refers to Netanyahu as a warmonger, ignoring the fact that Netanyahu’s two terms have been among the most peaceful and prosperous in Israel’s history.
Burg falsely projects a future where a “Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” For years the left has been scaring the public with false demographic projections. But the Arab birthrate is dropping, the Jewish birthrate is rising, and the immigration and emigration numbers favor the Jews. No less importantly, Israel has withdrawn from Gaza. Unless it reoccupies it, the idea of a Palestinian majority in the areas controlled by Israel is highly unlikely. Presumably Burg knows this, but hopes his readers don’t.
Burg condemns Israel as a “religious, capitalist state.” Which is peculiar. Perhaps he’s been following US politics too closely. In the US the religious conservatives lean towards free markets. In Israel it’s the opposite. In fact, it’s Israel’s socialist leanings that enable the growing ultra-Orthodox segment which Burg so vigorously condemns.
The most interesting part of Burg’s piece is his messianic ending.
“When a true Israeli democracy is established, our prime minister will go to Capitol Hill and win applause from both sides of the aisle. Every time the prime minister says ‘peace’ the world will actually believe him, and when he talks about justice and equality people will feel that these are synonyms for Judaism and Israelis.”
Israel IS a true democracy, playing a very rough hand impressively though imperfectly. Our prime minister went to Capitol Hill and won applause from both sides of the aisle.
And the idea that if Israel would only do the right thing the world will applaud us is beyond stupid and naïve.
It’s nice to pretend that there’s some original sin that we committed that caused people to hate us, and that we can reverse it and earn their love and respect.
In The Prime Ministers, Yehuda Avner writes of Golda Meir’s feeling of betrayal from her fellow socialists during the Yom Kippur War.
I just want to talk to my friends, my fellow socialists. For my own good, I want to know what possible meaning socialism can have when not a single socialist country in all of Europe is prepared to come to the aid of the only democratic nation in the Middle East. Is it possible that democracy and fraternity do not apply in our case?”
She called a conference which was attended by the heads of social parties and challenged them. Avner writes
You know us and who we are. We are all old comrades, long-standing friends. What do you think? On what grounds did you make your decisions not to let those planes refuel? Believe me, I am the last person to belittle the fact that we are only one tiny Jewish State and that there are over twenty Arab States with vast territories, endless oil, and billions of dollars. Of course you have your interests. But what I want to know from you today is whether these things are decisive factors in socialist thinking too?”
“Would anybody like the floor?” asked the chairman when Golda Meir sat down. Nobody did. The silence was palpable. It was broken only by a man’s voice behind her who said audibly, “Of course they won’t talk. They can’t talk. Their throats are all choked with oil.”
Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers
This is before Netanyahu’s warmongering. Before Begin. Before Israel left the socialist path. Whatever our original sin was, it preceded Golda Meir. Maybe it began in 1967 or in 1948. I wonder when Dr. Burg thought it started.
Dr. Burg dedicated his life to bringing different camps together. When asked the most important part of the “religious-nationalist” camp he said “the hyphen.” He worked with prime ministers from the left and right to build Israel. It’s tragic to watch what his son has become.