Black Hole

The delicate balance between power and victimhood created since the establishment of the State of Israel has become a phenomenon challenging the Jewish community. Had Israel been in existence before World War II more than likely there wouldn’t have been a holocaust. The converse is also true: The lack of statehood and power contributed to victimhood. That demarcation line between powerlessness and being powerful defines much of Israeli culture, state of mind and its actions. Exercising power judiciously requires a sophisticated refined sense of morals and ethics on a national level.

Every action or inaction of the State of Israel regarding its treatment of Palestinians inside and outside of Israel’s borders is examined by self-appointed prophets, the liberal progressive Jewish leadership through the lens of their convenient application of prophetic vision when it suits them. Where Israel is concerned a double standard comes into play by other nations as well as liberal progressive Jews. They haven’t reconciled themselves with a Jewish state that is equal to other nations with a defined sense of ethics and the master of its own destiny. Prior to 1948 we were victimized and had been since the creation of the Diaspora two thousand years ago. It wasn’t difficult throughout that period for Jews to take the moral high ground on almost every issue.  Bereft of power, all that remained was our victimhood and the dream of a state, perpetuated by the mythological messiah: two concepts that play off each other. There are those that would say that the holocaust was the trump card that earned us a state.

When we briefly had power during the two commonwealths our morality was no different than the prevailing moral code of the time as evidenced by the countless diatribes of the prophets, major and minor alike. Morality was never the guiding principal of the Hebrews as can be ascertained by studying the conventional and accepted history of their invasion into Canaan and the first and second commonwealths. The manner in which Canaan was conquered, the internecine tribal warfare and plunder which followed, Saul’s dethronement, David’s behavior in war and peace, Solomon’s conduct in love and war, the conduct of the business affairs of the Temple (first & second) are all evidence of a paucity of moral conduct as per Western standards today. Overarching then was the need to consolidate power, expand the borders, achieve security and provide relative quality of life for its citizens. The process by which this is achieved and sustained rarely reflects if ever, the dreams of poets and prophets. The vision of the Biblical prophets was myopic: an unrealistic dream of establishing heaven on earth claiming their mandate from God, regardless that the Bible was clear that the heavens belong to God and the earth belongs to man.

Exacerbating is the liberal Jewish community’s obsessive attempt at applying the prophetic vision when it comes to Israel. But who set the standard for these morals and where did they come from? Its not as though there was an international conference of Jews mandated to establish standards of morality. Liberal progressive Jews seek their guidance from the prophetic vision of the Hebrew Bible as their standard. Yet those prophets claim to have derived their calling and message from the very same God who was intolerant of any Jew not adhering to His mitzvoth; the very same God who was a God of vengeance insisting on the extermination of Amalek down to the women and children. It was the same God who viewed homosexual behavior as an abomination, a cause célèbre of the liberal progressive Jewish community. The very same God who insisted on the banishment of witches:  a God who didn’t allow for tolerance and diversity, cardinal principals of the liberal progressives. If we are to adhere with any consistency to Torah than we must be less tolerant as are the haredi community. To do less would suggest that God’s law and the prophetic visions are selectively chosen. It would appear then that the moral high ground that the liberal Jewish community has established for Israel is baseless, inconsistent with the mitzvoth, creating a double standard putting us in a black hole.

The moral standard that we ought to seek for ourselves is not one that can be gleamed from our Biblical tradition but rather ought to be derived from our shared historical narrative laced by persistent persecution. That historical narrative at its core is the victimization of the Jewish people not only by others, but also by our own inability and lack of leadership to reclaim what was ours soon after the exile. In a sense we contributed to our own victimhood and powerlessness. The sages and leaders of the Jewish community transitioning into the Diaspora created a portable Judaism that could be exported from the Land with the intent of preserving a sense of peoplehood. The effect was a double edge sword. It guaranteed us peoplehood but also rendered us impotent. We lost our desire to fight and physically return to the Land becoming comfortable in the Diaspora as was unfortunately encouraged by Jewish leadership and the prophets. Victimhood grew out of our own powerlessness but regaining power doesn’t dispel the psychological impact and trauma of victimhood.

Those who believe that victimhood is corrupting our ability to govern ourselves morally have got it wrong. The liberal progressive Jewish community believes that Israel has allowed victimhood to shape its domestic and foreign policy; that a siege mentality grips Israel sixty seven years after World War II. American liberal progressive Jews are in fact powerless. They may think that they have acquired power in the halls of government through political power brokering, lobbying congress and the president through agencies like AIPAC, but it’s an illusion.  Jews will be influential in the halls of congress for as long as it suits and is in sync with American policy. This we have already learned from the capricious behavior of President Obama vis a vis the unbalanced pressure he has applied to Israel.

Israel is a powerful country and is so because it understands history, its past and its future through the lens of victimhood. It understands that nothing is given away, including land: peace and its rewards must be earned. Governments respect power and successful negotiations are achieved by the perception of power.  We have learned the lesson of victimhood and I don’t think that we are willing to go down that road again.

About the Author
Shael was educated in the United States and Israel, served in the IDF and is an observer and commentator on the Jewish ethical, social and religious landscape in the United States and Israel. The posting of essays, musings and short stories are some of the ways he has chosen to articulate his search for Jewish values. You can visit his website at or his Facebook page Tishma.