Israel’s very existence is, historically-speaking, an improbability.
To say that Israel exists still feels, seventy years after its declaration of independence, like the modern resurfacing of some long-submerged ancient mythical realm, Atlantis say.
It is the rebirth of a dream based upon the Land itself, a dream so impossibly old and which has endured and survived so much ordeal that its very soul, soil and history had been transmuted by sheer rabbinical faith and not a little uncanny scholastic alechemy into prayers, customs, rituals, texts which, despite implacable odds. kept the hope of Return to Israel alive.
By the 19th Century though, dreams were not enough. Theodore Herzl, the esteemed Paris correspondent and feuilletonist of Vienna’s Neu Frei Press—the NY Times of Europe—personally witnessed the public shaming and banishment to Devil’s Island of an innocent French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, and for Herzl, this was a breaking point.
Suddenly, he saw, with a clammor of French voices in his ears screaming “Death to the Jews!” that Gentiles will never fully accept Jews, that the Jew will always be a target of opportunity, born into exile with a bullseye on his or her back.
In a fever of revelation Herzl rushed home to compose his seminal pamphlet, The Jewish State, and took up the helm of a newly formed Zionist movement calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland on what had always been, in our prayers and stories, The Land of Israel.
We Jews have always called her Israel, since time immemorial, despite Ancient Rome’s callous renaming of her as “Palestine” in an effort to snuff out her centrality to Jewish life. And some fifty years after its publication, Herzl’s visionary pamphlet had grown into a Jewish nation-state with a government and army of her own.
En route to this, horrifying pogroms broke out in Russia and Poland in which hundreds of thousands of Jews perished in agony while later came the European Holocaust in which — with the participation of most European nations and their constabularies, foreign offices, citizenry and civil services– Nazi Germany and its allies successfully rounded up and mass murdered six million Jewish men, women and children.
Yet even these were not enough to pursuade the United Nations to give the Jews a state of our own. They only voted for partition of British-occupied “Palestine” into a Jewish State and an Arab State when the bombing of Britain’s military headquarters by Menachem Begin’s audacious Irgun so drove Britain to its kneesocks that they packed up and left. With their departure, the UN partition plan was born.
Of course, the Jews accepted the plan at once. But not the Arabs. Instead, they waged war, which they lost, decisively. And though they have been losing ever since, still, whether within Israel’s borders or without, the Arabs have repeatedly attacked the Jews with the sole object to demoralize and murder.
This they have failed to do. So much so that in the last decades we’ve seen Jordan and Egypt sign peace treaties with Israel and now Saudi Arabia, worried over Iran, has voiced a wish to cooexist with Israel.
Yet, in the main, the Arab war against the Jews continues, waged by intrasigent and brutally violent hold-outs, whether in the West Bank or Gaza, Lebanon, Syria or the Persian Islamic fundamentalist terror state of Iran.
Refusing to accept the existence of the Jewish State, sworn to its annihilation, through war waged by gun and internet, politics and media manipulation, they envision a renamed Israel as something else, part of a Caliphate or a “Palestinian” State or “Greater Syria” and for the eight million Jews there to vanish or die.
When American Jews working with BDS or J-STREET oppose the State of Israel, it is with the Arab campaign of Jewish destruction that, knowingly or not, they allign with.
For saying so I will no doubt be called by some as “antidemocratic” in the same way that American teens calling for gun laws are damned as anti-constitutional radicals whose totalitarian aim is to revoke the second amendment and thus destroy America’s Constitutional Freedom.
But American teenagers only want not to be slaughtered. They want to live, have barely emerged alive from classrooms in which their classmates and friends lay with heads blown off. How dare anyone accuse them of wanting anything other than to survive, to live? To quibble with them about this or that legal finepoint is nothing short of obscene, surreal.
Likewise for Israel. How dare anyone accuse Israel of wanting anything other than to live, to survive, no less than America’s beseiged teenagers desire life? And as with American teens, bottomline Israeli morality is quite simple and no less powerful.
Whatever enables Israel to survive is Good and therefore moral. Whatever threatens her existence is Evil.
As America’s teens have learned, as Israel has long known, the prospect of being senselessly murdered by crazies has a wonderful way of sharpening the mind and of simplifying and clarifying matters –beyond the political-into this equation: Live or die? Protect yourself or let them kill you.
For in that instant when the suicide-vested terrorist boards your Israeli bus or the trenchcoat-wearing shotgun-bearing teen enters your American suburban high school classroom, all the debate is just so much noise. Now you are truly alone. And there is absolutely no one who can or will help you but yourself, if you are so lucky.
Alan Kaufman, an American-Israeli writer, is the author of Jew Boy, a 2nd Generation Holocaust memoir (Cornell University Press) and Matches, a novel based on his experiences as an Israeli soldier (Little, Brown UK).
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