Now that our eyes are opened
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Jerusalem Post International Edition
November 3, 2000
The psychodrama being played out in Israel today parallels in interesting ways the convulsions that shook the Jewish world over 300 years ago with the rise and subsequent apostasy of Shabbatei Tzvi.
Since its inception, the Oslo process has been tinged by secular messianism. Despair generates messianic movements. The Sabbatean fervor followed closely after the Chelminicki massacres, and Oslo developed in the aftermath of the first intifada.
Yossi Beilin’s explanation of his commitment to the Oslo process -- ``I cannot live in a world in which peace is impossible" – is ultimately a statement of religious belief, not the product of factual analysis. ``What’s the alternative?" is not a proof, as many have assumed, that the Oslo process is an alternative.
Messianic movements by definition posit a period of post-history in which previous rules of human behavior no longer apply, and their followers convince themselves that the moment has arrived. Thus Oslo was predicated on the assumption that the murderer of 38 schoolchildren at Ma’a lot had changed his spots.
All evidence that contradicts the messianic world view is suppressed. For seven years, we have simply not wanted to know about Arafat’s speeches in Arabic describing the Oslo process as the first step towards reconquest of Palestine, or of the ongoing incitement against Israel and Jews in the Palestinian media and schools, or of the paramilitary summer camps for thousands of Palestinian youngsters.
The only shocking thing about the Israeli public’s shock at the recent broadcast of a Gazan iman calling for the slaughter of the Jews was the shock itself. Palestinian Media Watch and the Middle East Media Research Institute have been publishing reams of such material for years. Israel’s media for the past seven years has preferred spending weeks on Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s views on the transmigration of souls – a subject of no practical consequence to a single Israeli – to presenting the evidence that Arafat has done nothing to prepare the Palestinian street or the next generation for peace with Israel.
At some point, however, the evidence becomes too overwhelming to ignore for most people. Shabbatei Tzvi eventually bowed down to the Turkish caliph and accepted Islam, and most of those who had been swept up in messianic fervor went about reconstructing their lives in the wake of their disappointment.
The Israeli public today has undergone a similar trauma in recent weeks. History has rendered one of its rare definitive judgments on the question that has so bitterly divided Israeli society in recent years: Do the Palestinians continue to seek the destruction of Israel or have they made a historical decision to live in peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state?
Among the followers of Shabbatei Tzvi, however, there remained a significant group that developed elaborate theological doctrines to prove that his apostasy did not contradict his messianic mission. Those Sabbateans continued to disrupt Jewish life for more than a century.
And it would appear that there are still many in Israel today – including the architects of the Oslo process, Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres – whose identities are too entwined with the Oslo to give up their illusions.
For them, the ``peace process" is a disembodied end in itself. Once they spoke of terrorist victims as ``sacrifices for peace", as if the process were an angry Moloch that needed to be appeased.
And today, they criticize Prime Minister Barak for declaring a ``time-out" on the grounds that we should not act unilaterally to kill the peace process. ``Sir," one wants to shout, ``they are shooting at us, as they did in September 1996 and this past spring. Don’t acts of war terminate the peace process?"
While most supporters of the Oslo process claim today that their eyes have been opened, that reaction may be only temporary. As the current conflict drags on for months and months, the same despair that generated Oslo in the first place will inevitably set in. People will go back to asking, ``What’s the alternative?" and force themselves to forget everything learned about Palestinian aspirations since Camp David.
Related Topics: Israeli Society
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free jewish media resources mailing list