The great Gideon Levy revises an ur-text of anti-Semitism, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, to say that Israel’s leaders, the merchants of Jerusalem, have never declared what their territorial goals are and Israelis have gone along with this mystification.
A few days ago, journalists broached the question of a construction freeze in Jerusalem to a few ministers. Almost all of them refused to give a response. Why should they? …
The blame, as usual in these instances, is shared by us all. Through the years we have implicitly agreed that our leaders would guide us on the basis of fraud, or at the very least distortion. The mantra of there’s-no-need-to-say-it-aloud has become a matter of consensus, almost an axiom.
The conventional thinking whereby striving for peace is likened to market bartering and late-night horse-trading, as if it were verboten to clearly specify a final price, has become official policy….
Is the prime minister of Israel ready to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria? Yes or no? Don’t we deserve to know? Which parts of the West Bank, if any, is he ready to evacuate? And what, for heaven’s sake, does our defense minister want? What are his policy goals? Does anybody know? And why is it that if we were to know the answer, this would weaken our position and not strengthen it? Is vagueness tantamount to strength? Is trickery a modus operandi?
I don’t know that Levy is right when he says that we know what Palestinians want (hasn’t there been mystification on both sides? and aren’t the Palestinians now divided after 20 years of "peace process" about the idea of two states?), but the piece is exciting because creative thinkers on these issues must appropriate all the mental material they can to explain the problem, and Levy crosses a traditional line by invoking the Shakespeare, even obliquely. This is in itself a sign to me of Jewish power and agency; the Shakespeare is historical, and to cite it is not to play into the hands of the czar and Father Coughlin, it is to be a thinker on the internet, struggling with the inheritance of Jewish exceptionalism.