The greatest threat
by Jonathan Rosenblum
May 27, 2005
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby recently addressed the issue of why reporting from Israel is so frequently distorted against Israel. The final factor that he mentioned was the Israeli press itself. (I would have placed it far higher on the list.)
The Western press feels little need to check itself when reporting from Israel because no matter what charges it makes it can always point to identical or more serious charges made by the Israeli media itself. At international conferences to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Israeli "representatives" – usually someone like Gideon Levy or Amira Hass from Haaretz – consistently outdo their Palestinian counterparts in their condemnations of Israel.
A May 6 opinion piece by Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken provides a case study of the phenomenon described by Jacoby. Schocken’s topic was the proposal to extend for another year a law that denies the right to reside in Israel to residents of the Palestinian Authority who marry Israelis. Were the law extended (it was), wrote Schocken, Israel would become an "apartheid" society and have given clear proof that it does not seek peace with the Palestinians.
Jews are banned by law from living in most countries neighboring Israel, and no identifiable Jew would survive for more than a few minutes within PA-controlled territory. So, according to Schocken’s logic, the Palestinian Authority and the surrounding Arab countries have not only established themselves as apartheid regimes, they have also made clear that they have no intention of making peace with Israel.
Needless to say, Schocken does not follow his own logic to attribute any blame to the Arabs for the lack of peace.
Schocken seems to be living in some utopian fairyland totally removed from the modern Middle East. Thus he dreams of tens of thousands of Arabs from across the Middle East studying in Israeli universities, and an equal number of Israelis studying in Arab universities, oblivious to the fact that not one existing Arab university is capable of attracting more than a handful of students from anywhere in the world.
He is no more in touch with reality when it comes to those whom he would willy-nilly grant permanent residency in Israel. However greatly Israel desires peace with the Palestinian Authority, the fact remains that we do not currently live in peace with the Palestinians.
Every Palestinian of marriageable age has been raised to view the very creation of the State of Israel as "the Catastrophe." For more than a decade, the primary educational message of the society in which they were raised has been that there is no greater glory than giving one’s life to kill Jews. The broadcasts they watched and heard and the textbooks from which they learned were filled with the most vile descriptions of Jews and Israelis.
No country grants residency to enemy nationals, and Israel is hardly so invulnerable to terrorism that it should become the first. Again, Schocken makes no mention of this.
Schocken does, however, mention that two European nations – Denmark and Holland – have imposed far more draconian restrictions than Israel on residency by foreign spouses of Dutch or Danish citizens. They limit permanent residency to those who can show that they are steeped in Dutch or Danish culture. Read: Muslims keep out.
Yet the democratic bona fides of these nations could not be more exemplary in Schocken’s estimation. While Holland and Denmark do face long-term cultural suicide from the influx of Muslim immigrants and their offspring, they face nothing like the immediate security threats posed to Israel by an increasingly irredentist Arab population or that would be posed by an influx of Arabs from the territories.
Yet only Israel is accused of being an apartheid society.
Schocken explains the difference: Israel (unlike Denmark and Holland?) has a mission to make peace with its neighbors. That is insane. Peace is a desideratum for Israel, as it should be for all nations, but it is not Israel’s purpose. Even in secular Zionist terms, the purpose of Israel is the creation of a Jewish homeland.
And a Jewish homeland, in turn, presupposes that there is some purpose to Jewish national existence, some mission for the collective Jewish people. That Schocken would deny. He can conceive no such purpose to Jewish national existence. That is why the demographic threat to Israel of an influx of more Arabs from the Palestinian Authority concerns him not a whit.
Incidentally, Schocken’s obliviousness to the precariousness of Israel’s Jewish majority undermines the seriousness of one of the most frequently advanced arguments for the Gaza withdrawal: The Gaza withdrawal is necessary so that Israel can remain a democratic and Jewish State. But for Schocken and other proponents of the notion of Israel as a "state of all its citizens," the Jewish element is explicitly irrelevant.
A leader of Reform Judaism in Germany once claimed that Hitler would never have risen to power if every German family had included at least one Jew through intermarriage. Schocken is true to his roots in German Reform in his indifference to intermarriage. He not only anticipates intermarriage between Jews and Arabs, he celebrates it.
"What greater peace can there be," he asks, than "marriages between young Israelis ... and young people from neighboring countries and from Palestine?"
That celebration of intermarriage is a reflection of Schocken’s disdain for Jewish national existence. Since he can conceive of no purpose to such existence, he can conceive of no reason to preserve Jewish national identity through endogamy.
Articles like Schocken’s characterizing Israel as an apartheid state, and many more like it produced by his stable of writers, do Israel untold damage in the court of international public opinion.
But even more frightening is what his words reflect about the state of elite opinion in Israel today. For whatever one thinks of Haaretz, there can be little doubt that its editorial page reflects the opinion of a large swath of what High Court President Aharon Barak is pleased to call "the enlightened public."
And if that public finds no purpose in Jewish national existence they will ultimately find no reason to remain in Israel either. Rather they will head for places where peace is a fact of life and where they will be better remunerated for their skills.
A recent edition of the Weekly Standard contains a fascinating essay by David Gelernter on America’s biblical roots.
From the very beginning, Americans saw themselves as a "chosen people." They were sure that settlement on the North American continent would prove providential.
"Wee are entered into Covenant with Him for this worke," said John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, "Wee shall finde that the G-d of Israell is among us." Abraham Lincoln referred to Americans as "G-d’s almost chosen people."
Indeed Americans’ identification with Biblical Israel and their sense of themselves as a unique people has always been one of the important points linking tens of millions of Americans to the Jews of Israel. The tragedy today is that the sense of being G-d’s chosen is stronger in America, and more fundamental to American greatness, than it is among G-d’s true chosen people.
And this is the greatest threat to Israel’s existence.
Related Topics: Israeli Society
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