The ‘Never Again Contract’ was Violated

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On a stone in the Treblinka concentration camp memorial site there’s a two-word sentence in 7 languages. The stone reads “Never Again”. Allegedly, the first time the sentence appeared in Holocaust remembrance was right after the American liberation of Buchenwald in 1945. There, prisoners held hand-made signs reading “never again” in the languages they spoke.

Since then, the slogan became the foundational justification for Israel’s existence. Zionism was specifically created because of that. Not because of the Holocaust, of course, but because of Jewish defenselessness. In other words, Zionism was created to make Jews “a nation like any other”. Israel, therefore, exists so that the Jews will be “a nation like any other”. By being “like any other” the Jews decided on an idea of a collective ability to prevent horrors, like pogroms and the Holocaust, from ever occurring again. Meaning, that Jews would never be defenseless again. To make thinks simple – Jewish national “normalcy” is negation of Jewish defenselessness. Jewish defenselessness was, throughout history, termed the “Jewish Question”.

Different Jewish movements sought to solve the Jewish Question through different means. The Bund sought to create Jewish autonomy through an Austro-Marxist conceptualization. Territorialists through Jewish independence anywhere. Assimilationists (as Herzl originally was) through the complete absorption of Jews into gentile society. Zionists aimed at Jewish independence in Palestine. After the Holocaust, a majority of the Jews remaining chose Zionism. Therefore, Zionism’s answer to the Jewish Question was “Never Again”.

This is the modern Social Contract on which Israel was founded.  On this basic construct, other constitutional and social structures were positioned, such as the Jewish and Democratic formulation; the ideas of the Startup nation; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and any peaceful or violent resolution of it. These all were built on top of the preordained commandment of “Never Again”.

One of the first articulators of the Social Contract was the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. However, a more relevant thinker would be Hobbes’ contemporary, John Locke. In his “Second Treatise on Government” he writes that the State exists solely because of the Social Contract. The Contract is the agreement of all citizens to live under a shared rule. That rule, a government, is restricted as it must protect the basic rights of its citizens. These rights are the rights to life, liberty, and property. If the government violated its duty to protect these rights, the citizenry has a “right to revolution”. By that, the citizens re-create their original authority to form a new Social Contract and a new form of government.

In Israel, that basic Social Contract, the fundamental reason for the existence of government, is the single commandment “Never Again”. On October 7th, the government of Israel, and in a large part Zionism itself, has violated that commandment. In that, it’s hard to speak of a legitimate Israeli institution. This doesn’t mean, as UCLA protesters claim, that Israel is an illegitimate state. This also doesn’t mean that Hamas should get away scot-free. It means, however, that the institutions constructed to manifest the “Never Again” commandment have completely and utterly failed. The Jewish Question remains unanswered.

This failure must prompt us to re-evaluate how we wish to manifest “Never Again” once more. It must push us to re-examine what we think is a proper way to achieve Jewish defense once more, rather than to entrench Jewish defenselessness. We must rethink of our core notions of government, its function, its institutions, and the system which it perpetuates. We must re-explore what it means to be us, and how we can make it safer and happier to be us.

We must, also, not take this issue lightly. Israel is at a crossroads. Any path it takes would either be a start of another calamity, or the beginning of a brighter future. We don’t know. But what we can absolutely know is that if we will do nothing, and stay in a perpetual status quo, within that crossroads, we would surely be massacred once more.

This piece is written when there are 132 of our brethren still kept hostage by Hamas monsters. One of them, Shlomo Mansour, is a survivor of the Farhud. The Farhud was a Nazi-inspired and funded pogrom against the Jews of Iraq that took place in 1941. The Farhud is recognized as an integral part of the Holocaust. Surviving the Holocaust, and then again finding himself as a victimized Jew, Shlomo represents the gargantuan violation of the Social Contract by all Israeli institutions.

“Never Again” is the blood of countless generations of Jews who were massacred for being Jews, shouting at us from the earth. “Never Again” is the 1,200 Israeli civilians murdered in a single day, and the 132 hostages still held by Hamas. “Never Again” is now – and our government has failed to upheld it.

About the Author
Law student and social commentator with research background in international law, jurisprudence, and political theory. Maj. (res.) in the IDF. Born in Homesh, lives in Haifa.
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