‘Commentary’: legitimacy issues, Palestinian resistance and U.S. opportunities are rotting Israel’s purpose

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Here is an interesting/twisted piece that reaffirms my belief that Israel is not about the actual safety of Jews– guess what, we’re back in Berlin and we’re doing fine all over the U.S.– it is a symbol for a certain kind of Jewish identity, and increasingly a militant and isolated one.

Daniel Gordis in Commentary says that the “existential threat” posed by Iran is not actually to destroy Israel, but to destroy the soul of the Jewish people, by returning them to their eternal European condition in the Warsaw Ghetto– helpless at the hands of the goyim.

Gordis argues that what Israel did was to transform the Jewish condition in history from the powerless victims of the last 1000 years to the masters of their own destiny. No one can f– with us! This was a joyous project for Jews, he says, and it gave Israel resolution, in essence, to beat up Arabs who got in the way. That is, until recently, when Gordis concedes that even Israelis are wearying of the military bargain.

[T]he cafés are filled with people socializing and leading what looks like the good European life. Yet beneath this veneer, Israel is bone-weary. On its campuses, increasing numbers of faculty members espouse the notion that Zionism is colonialism. Draft evasion is at an all-time high. The international delegitimization of Israel haunts day-to-day life.

Perhaps most important, today’s Israeli parents are the first generation to send their children to war unable to console themselves with the notion that theirs will be the last generation of children that will have to fight. Few Israelis believe that anymore. Palestinian recalcitrance is much more deeply rooted than many Israelis had hoped….

One can sustain a commitment to this sort of existence only with the certainty that it makes an enormous difference. Until now, it has, and Israelis have known that. But after Iran has a nuclear capability that rests in the hands of evil men who believe that the Jewish state is a disease in its midst and that Judaism itself is a foul doctrine—in what way will the existential Jewish condition be all that different from what it was in Central Europe in the early 1930s?

To be sure, Israel boasts a flourishing Jewish culture, a renewed Hebrew language, and an impressive array of Jewish accomplishments that could not have happened without the state. But all that, impressive as it is, is insufficient. For the first commitment of Zionism has been to provide safety to Jews. So far, it has more or less succeeded. But the minute that Iran possesses its long-sought nuclear weapon, Zion becomes not a haven for the Jews but a potential deathtrap. … And if that happens, Israel will have lost its purpose.

Without purpose, Israelis will not remain in Israel. The allures of Boston and Silicon Valley, where intellectual and financial opportunity await without the burdens of war and the shadow of extinction, will be too difficult to resist. Those who now stay in Israel do so, in large measure, because they sense they are part of a historic transformation of the Jewish condition. Absent that awareness, however, the most mobile of Israel’s citizens—who also happen to be those whom the state most desperately needs—will be the ones who abandon it.

In this way, Iran could end the Jewish state without ever pressing the button.

There are at least two spiritual/intellectual contradictions in this piece that show how hollow Gordis’s Zionist prescription is. 

First of all, he notes that Israel has established a European lifestyle, 500 miles east of Istanbul. So the whole enterprise is about overcoming European history, on a Middle East canvas. Isn’t that absurd? How fair to the Palestinians is that? Their rights don’t even feature in American-born Gordis’s conception of history. But is there any doubt that an indigenous population would resent this imposed burden of others’ history and continue to resist?

Second, and more important, Zionist Gordis sees the great historical transformation of Jews as taking place in Israel, with guns. But I regard the great historical transformation as taking place in the U.S. principally. And Gordis knows I’m right, when he says that if Israel gets too unpleasant, Israelis can freely move to the U.S. So if Israel is the protector of the Jews, then how is it that the most powerful nation in the world is a haven for Jews to make productive, safe lives? And if they are able to make their lives there, then why should the U.S. then go to war for Israel, as Gordis suggests, for the historical symbol that Israel represents to ethnocentric Jews? Is that really worth blood and treasure? 

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