Dissent, Spring, 2011
NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.
In the world I was born into, Israel was an emotion wrapped in an idea. Simply by existing, the Jewish state was a portal to deliverance, and since I had been carried through that portal at birth, so to speak, a sense of deliverance was my default emotion. I was a war baby, which is to say, born at a moment when the Jews of Europe (including many relatives, though none close) were being slaughtered, and from then on, back to the earliest time when I can remember any awareness of a larger world, raised in the knowledge that I belonged to a people devastated “in the war,” as my grandmother used to say, the horrors not yet having been designated with that wrongly sacralized one-word name “Holocaust.” But, as in the ancient redemptions, the founding of storybook Israel was the lyrical restart moment; the happiest possible ending (or beginning of an ending) to the grimmest possible story.
Today, the state of Israel feels to me like a personal trauma, a huge, heartbreaking disappointment, a world-historical opportunity forgone, a danger to the Jews, a burden—and also a nation to which, like it or not, I am fastened, where people I love and admire carry on an immensely, grievously difficult struggle for decency against tall odds.
Now, truly it is peculiar, even perverse, to speak of being disappointed, or traumatized, by a state. States are social contrivances.
However motivated by ideas, they are not those ideas in themselves, because ideas are incarnated in action, and action is tragic. Certainly states are not paradises, not centers of brotherly and sisterly love. They are systems of power, which means that there are winners and losers. They operate within what social scientists are pleased to call constraints: they are not free. They are institutional; that is, human; that is, fallible. It seems hopelessly romantic, a category error, to feel disappointment in a state or grief and outrage about what it has come to. You’d have to be mightily illusioned in the first place to feel disillusioned. A hard-headed realist would say that any preexisting condition of innocence is begging to be smashed.
And yet, the state of Israel was produced by hearts as well as minds and sustained by both, in particular the hearts of Jews like myself, whose Russian-born grandfather volunteered for the British Army’s Jewish Legion against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. (I cherish a photo of him, taken God knows where, posing in short sleeves and short pants, with two buddies, against a backdrop depicting some generic sort of wilderness.) The portrait of Chaim Weizmann that hung in his living room was a fixture in my mental iconography, too, with Weizmann cast as a liberator and Zionism, his cause, a taken-for-granted, unproblematic good. When I sang “Ha-Tikvah” during my four years in Hebrew school, lumbering among imperfectly memorized and not-much-understood words, the national anthem swept me to devotion, longing, and relief. “Ha-Tikvah” was, to me, far more vivid and rapturous than “The StarSpangled Banner.”
BROWN SHIRTS IN ZION: JABOTINSKY -- THE JEWISH HITLER
by Robert Gessner
February 19, 1935
The New Masses
The Zionist movement is a Jewish Nationalist movement aiming at the establishment of a "Jewish National Home in Palestine." It dates back to the eighties when as a result of a wave of pogroms in old Russia a movement known as the "Lovers of Zion" was established. Political Zionism, however, as it is represented by the present World Zionist Organization, dates back to 1897 when the first Zionist World congress took place in Basle, Switzerland, dominated and led by Dr. Theodore Herzl, a noted Austrian journalist. Dr. Herzl and his followers as late as 1914 were still striving to obtain a "charter" for Palestine from the Turkish Sultan. For this purpose Dr. Herzl sought the aid of the ambassadors and cabinet members of the various rulers of pre-war Europe, the Czar, the Kaiser, etc. A Jewish National Bank was established in order to "buy" Palestine from the Turkish Sultan.
Zionist diplomacy went on the rocks with the birth of the Young Turkey movement in 1908 and with the overthrow of the Sultan in 1910. It was only during the World War, when the British government issued the Balfour proclamation proclaiming Palestine a Jewish National Home in order to win the Jewish masses to the Allies' side that the Zionist movement obtained a new lease on life. The British government, however, generously promised Palestine to the Arabs as well. As a means of drawing in the Arab masses in its war against Turkey, England assured the Arabs that Palestine would be part of a United Arabistan.
This double dealing has had its consequences in a number of racial outbreaks in Palestine. The British government, which still holds the League of Nations mandate over Palestine, is seeking to retain the balance of power and to appear as the "protector" now of the Arabs, now of the Jews. It has been claimed by the Zionists that the outbreaks of August, 1929, when numerous Jews and Arabs were killed, were to a great extent fomented by British agents. The League of Nations recently made a blunt declaration that Palestine will never become a Jewish National Home under the mandate.
A section of the Zionist movement -- the Revisionists -- led by Vladimir Jabotinsky has been accusing the parent Zionist body of playing England's game in Palestine instead of realizing the Herzl objective: the establishment of a Jewish State. The Revisionists have been urging defiance of Great Britain. They aim to secure this Jewish State by force, through organizing the Jewish youth into fascist bands. Jabotinsky recently arrived in the United States in order to gain a favorable hearing for the Revisionist program.
The Jewish members of the revolutionary movement have always fought Zionism as detrimental to the interests of the Jewish masses. A number of their reasons may be formulated as follows:
Zionism is a tool of British imperialism which needs Palestine for its own purposes;
Zionism is dispossessing the Arab peasants and is conducting a colonization by conquest with the aid of British bayonets;
No nation can solve its problems by emigrating to another country, even if Palestine were not so small and so thickly populated;
Zionism draws away the attention of the Jewish masses from the problems of the countries where they live;
Zionism separates them from the masses of other nationalities;
As a chauvinist movement it is a breeding ground for fascism. -- THE EDITORS.
HE WAS an ordinary Brown Shirter. Sitting in a cafe in Berlin I asked him, "Why don't you allow the Jews to participate in this reconstruction of the Fatherland?" His ordinary face showed a slight disgust at the naivete of my question. "Jews," he said, "are not Germans. Let them build up their own fatherland."
This is what 300,000 of them are attempting to do today in Palestine. Zionism is the nationalist movement of the Jews. A few have gone to await the second coming of Moses; they may be called Religious Zionists. Many have gone to make money at orange-growing or apartment-house-building; they are Capitalist Zionists. Others have gone to live communally on farms; they are Socialist Zionists, and since these are the Socialist Nationalists of the Zionist Movement they may be partially described as Pink Nazis. The Nationalist Socialists on the other hand are the Revisionists, or the Brown Nazis of Palestine. They believe in the Jewish State 100 percent, with their own Jewish army and even, I might add, a Jewish navy on the Dead Sea! The Fuehrer of the Brown Nazis in Palestine is Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Jabotinsky was born in Eastern Europe, where, it is said, "we have always for the past fifty years thought in terms of nationalism." The Zionist movement had its first following among Eastern European Jews, and today they remain the strongest adherents to the nationalist creed of Zionism. Jabotinsky was a member of Allenby's Jewish Legions that marched into Jerusalem after the departure of the Turks. Today the young, stern-faced legionnaires of Jabotinsky march through the streets and wear shirts, like their nordic brothers in Germany. In Poland I had seen them marching through the streets (side streets in the ghettoes) singing "Poland for Pilsudski, Germany for Hitler. Palestine for Jews --"
From the halo that his young legionnaires had painted about his head I had imagined Jabotinsky to be tall, angular, a Russian giant. From his oratorical reputation I had expected long, expressive hands. Upon returning to America after seven months of observing Jews in Europe, Asia and Africa I heard that Jabotinsky was on board the liner, en route to America for a lecture tour. I climbed to the first class for an interview.
Jabotinsky is no Kerensky. He is a short, squatty, unattractive man. He has large, dark eyes, a snub nose, enormous lips with the lower one protruding and a jaw that acts like the lower lip. His face slants outward, like the Neanderthal Man's.
He announced he would speak frankly, so that Revisionism would be made clear. The skin under his eyes contracted, his lower lip went out, the jaw stiffened. "Revisionism," he began, "is naive, brutal and primitive. It is savage. You go out into the street and pick any man -- a Chinaman -- and ask him what he wants and he will say 100 percent everything. That's us. We want a Jewish Empire. Just like there is the Italian or French Empires on the Mediterranean, we want a Jewish Empire."
When I inquired into the method of securing this Jewish Empire his voice became hard and determined. "We will take no no for an answer. In your universities in America you teach that a gentleman accepts no for an answer. Well, we don't."
Jabotinsky's idea is to keep asking the English to allow him to have a Jewish Empire until the English are so groggy from saying no that in a semi-conscious condition they will feebly nod their heads in consent. This logic is based upon the belief that English diplomacy is flighty, that is, saying no to everything and then coming around to yes when they have admitted their error.
"After you've gotten the Jewish Empire," I continued, "what is it to be?"
"Palestine is to be the homeland for ten or twelve million Jews."
Palestine is, incidentally, a two-by-four country, two hours wide and four hours long by auto. The 900,000 Arabs have been long complaining, and official England is agreeing, that the 300,000 Jews are making life an unbearable sardine box. Land values have skyrocketed overnight. Dunams, which are about one-fourth of an acre, have already sold for as high as $5,000. Into this sardine box Jabotinsky means to stuff ten or twelve millions Jews. I asked what about the sixteen million in all the world. He answered that in the remaining four million he was frankly not interested! A Jewish Empire of ten or twelve million suited him.
Jabotinsky's empire, like all other empires, has territorial desires. Jabotinsky's opposition to the Jewish Agency, which is the administrative office of the World Zionist Organization, crystalized into the founding of the Revisionist Party over the question of Transjordania. Following the Arab riots of 1920 and 1921 against Jewish colonization, Winston Churchill, then Secretary for the Colonies, wrote one of those famous White papers. To appease the Arabs he divorced Transjordania from Palestine and set it up as a mandatory territory by itself with its own parliament and ruler. The Jewish Agency acquiesced to this bill of divorcement. Jabotinsky, at that time an executive member in good standing in the Agency, refused to stomach this "betrayal" of his compatriots, and consequently launched himself against Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Ben Gurion and the other Agency Judases.
Revisionism is not the proper title for his party, the Fuehrer believes. He explained that the question of a name came up at the hurried last session of his first world congress, when it was decided the last minute to call themselves revisionists because they were for a revision. But personally he believes the title should have been the Jewish State Party. I suggested Fundamental Zionists.
"Yes, we are the pure Zionists," he answered. "We go back to the first Zionists. Herzl was a Revisionist. He believed in the Jewish State."
The German Fuehrer, to establish ancestral purity for his party, called Christ a nordic!
The Jewish Fuehrer believes that since the the time of Herzl, the nineteenth-century inventor of Zionism and the First Revisionist, there have been compromises, with the result that the goal has not been attained. "But I will make no compromises," he said. "I believe in the upbuilding of the Jewish State at any cost. If we must invest three or four generations in this upbuilding then that must be done."
"But in the capitalist economy, which as you know is the basic and ruling economy of Palestine," I asked, "which class of this three or four generations is going to be sacrificed in the upbuilding of a bourgeois society?"
"It will be the workers," he admitted. "But if the Jews accept going to Palestine in the first place, then they must expect to starve, be ready to starve for the sake of the Jewish State. There must be no strikes, because strikes are monkey-wrenches thrown into the machinery reconstructing the Jewish State."
Having heard Jabotinsky's plan to control labor, I asked about the sacrifices of capital for the sake of the fatherland.
"Oh," he said, "capital and labor must suffer alike." He said this so glibly.
On this point the Jewish Fuehrer agrees with the Italian Fuehrer. This cardinal point of Jabotinsky's Corporate Jewish State was recently accepted by the Jewish Labor Party. Those "Pink Nazis," known as the Histadrut or the Jewish Federation of Labor, signed an agreement with Jabotinsky. Histadrut, which has a monopoly of control over 80 percent of all Jewish workers in Palestine, is run by its majority party, the MAPEI or Socialist Zionist Party, which is affiliated with the Second International. The Revisionists are not members of the Jewish Federation of Labor, which numbers 60,000 workers; the Revisionists have about 1,000, who are in great demand by employers, having been forbidden to strike by their Fuehrer. The Revisionists break up strikes inaugurated by Histadrut workers; there is no love lost or found between the factions. The Revisionist youth learn their strike-breaking tactics in semi-military camps, often located beside a Histadrut agricultural commune.
"I do not know why Ben Gurion [leader of MAPEI] signed the agreement," Jabotinsky answered my question. "But to me it was a great advantage, because we are weak and a minority. The Labor Party by warfare could limit us, refuse us entry certificates for our immigrants [The Palestine Government controls Jewish labor immigration by issuing limited entry certificates to the Jewish Agency for distribution]. But the Labor Party has agreed to our principle of obligatory arbitration in questions of pending strikes."
Many of the young workers in Histadrut are disgruntled with this Ben Gurion peace treaty, claiming that he sold out just when they had the Revisionists licked. Undoubtedly the Brown Nazis have been given a new lease on life by the Socialist-Zionists, just as they were given a new lease time and again by the Social Democrats in Germany. It must be remembered that MAPEI is affiliated with the Second International.
Is Jabotinsky grateful for his reprieve? "But," added the Fuehrer, "there can be no coordination between us."
Jabotinsky believes the socialist ideology unacceptable for Palestine. The "communist" colonies are "interesting but too expensive," and are "too small and scattered to have any consequence on the economic structure of Palestine." He pointed out that of the 60 odd million pounds that have been invested in Palestine only eight million have been National Fund money. Private factories, not agricultural "communist" colonies, will allow more workmen to enter and find employment. Consequently, he believes in the system already in action, namely, capitalism.
While in Tel Aviv I called on Jabotinsky's first lieutenant, Ben Horin, for an explanation of the tenets of Revisionism, since his Fuehrer was at that time not allowed to reside in the embryo Jewish State by the dictators of the more mature Empire of Britain. Ben Horin, who runs a news agency and who may be described as the Goebbels of the movement, was even more outspoken than his Fuehrer on capitalism for Palestine. "The capitalist is always in the right," he said, "because he creates jobs for Jews."
The divine right of kings had nothing on the divine right of capitalists in Palestine, because they are, ipso facto, ordained by Moses to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of the Messiah!
"The exploitation of labor," said Ben Horin, "is approved by the principle that it is aiding the establishment of the Jewish State. It is not a question of the standard of living of the Jews in the Jewish State, but of the number of Jews in the State."
The anti-labor ideology of the Revisionists stems from their common hatred of Communism. Most of them left Russia for Palestine during the years of and immediately following the Civil War.
In answer to my question of how he planned to assist the establishment of capitalism in Palestine Jabotinsky outlined his plan. First, to demand of the British tariffs to protect industry. [Palestine is a mandated country free of tariffs although certain duties of a 12 percent level have been levied.] Secondly, to demand a geological survey of waste lands to see what minerals are there for exploitation. Thirdly, to have the Palestine Government control all land settlement, instead of the Zionist Agency.
Of the practical economic future the Fuehrer was frankly stumped. "If the robot comes to Palestine we are finished. The robot will make the proletarians an obsolete class."
"The robot?" I repeated, getting very concerned about this liquidation of the proletariat. "What do you mean?"
"Technocracy, the American brand," he replied.
"Oh," I sighed, relieved. The Palestine proletariat were still safe.
"If technocracy comes to Palestine we are finished, but I do not mention any of that when I make propaganda in my speeches. I am concerned only with the Jewish State."
The American audiences of Jabotinsky will be spared a discussion on technocracy, but will not be barred from hearing the fascist refrain, the magic cure-all: the Jewish State.
"Where do 900,000 Arabs fit into the Jewish State?" I asked.
"In the colonization of any country," the Fuehrer said sadly, "the native has always suffered. There can be no Arab state if there is to be a Jewish State. In the Jewish State we would guarantee them the same rights Jews are guaranteed in other states."
A novel idea. The Arabs under the Jewish State are to be held hostages for all the remaining Jews in the Diaspora, the four million that Jabotinsky is frankly not interested in!
The Fuehrer believes there can be no compromises on the Arab question. "The dickering of Dr. Weizmann and Ben Horin is futile," he said. "You can't buy off the Arab with backshish [an Arab word meaning a tip.] The Arab can understand reason only when we have enough armed Jewish youths to lick him."
After disposing of the Arabs as so many American Indians Jabotinsky attacked the English as idiotic. Inasmuch as they are too dumb to protect the Jews Jabotinsky proposes to do it himself. "If Palestine can be settled peacefully -- all right," he said, "but I say let there be Jewish legions in the British Army in Palestine. I will supply the men and arms."
Jabotinsky was quick to add that he was not anti-British. In all the years previous Jabotinsky has been notorious for his belligerent, uncompromising attack on England. Now he talks like any other diplomat. "We have the same point of view as Britain, even if she doesn't know it. It is best for her to have a highly organized, cultural society, obligated to her because of having received its national opportunity from her, residing on the borders of the Suez Canal."
I reminded the Fuehrer that Palestine does not border the Suez Canal, but that the Canal is in an Arab national territory, Egypt. The Fuehrer made a gesture which was meant to sweep away boundary lines. Having disposed of the south I asked him next how would the expansion of a Jewish State in the north not come into conflict with England's oil pipeline.
"Ah, Haifa," the Fuehrer began, "will be the largest port on the Mediterranean. There will be a new breakwater from Haifa to Acre -- it will make a harbor as large as the Solent." In his enthusiasm he pictured a new Jewish harbor destined to make shadows of Alexandria, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Genoa, Trieste, Venice, Naples and even Constantinople.
Jabotinsky considers his Jewish State the sole protector of Britain's highway to her imperial interests in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. England has no land on the Mediterranean, he speculates, except Gibraltar, which will recede to the Spanish; and the island of Cyprus, which he claims England offered to give back to the Greeks after the war but they won't take it. In his new role of diplomat Jabotinsky forgets that there was a revolt in Cyprus to return to Greece, which the British suppressed; and he also forgets the existence of the naval station at Malta, and that the British have soldiers and airplanes already stationed along the oil line, and in Egypt are quartered 11,000 Tommies, almost as many as the whole Egyptian army. Under the pretense of being England's Mediterranean watchdog Jabotinsky dreams of a Jewish Empire expanding into Egypt to take over the Suez Canal and expanding into Iraq in order to protect the highly valuable oil line.
Jabotinsky's underhand ideology for achieving his goal is no recent tactic. His hatred of the Bolsheviki drove him in 1921 to sign a pact of military co-operation with the White Guard, Ukrainian Nationalist and notorious pogrom-maker, Petlura. Jabotinsky told me that he "would be as proud today as I was then to sign such an agreement."
The Fuehrer of the Jewish Brown Shirt Legions explained his signature as follows:
Petlura had in 1921 15,000 soldiers in a Polish camp waiting for French support in order to attack Soviet Ukraine. Slavinsky, Petlura's foreign minister, called on Jabotinsky who was in Prague at that time. "No more proclamations," Jabotinsky told him. "I or no one else will believe them. There must be some action, not words." To protect the Ukrainian Jews Jabotinsky proposed to organize and arm a Jewish gendarmerie to follow in the rear of Petlura's army and after a Jewish town has been captured protect its population from pogroms.
I pointed out that it had been Petlura himself who had conducted the bloody pogroms on all of his expeditions into the Ukraine. "No," the Fuehrer disagreed, "I don't believe Petlura himself was anti-semitic. He came from a healthy, peasant stock. It was his soldiers who got out of control."
Jabotinsky was and is today proud of having signed a co-operative pact with a general who he admitted had no control over his own pogrom-rioters, while on the other hand the Jewish villages, that he purported to be the protector of, were at that time under the Bolsheviki who had already guaranteed and protected Jewish lives and property. At that time the Bolsheviki had been victorious on all the invaded fronts and had even signed a peace treaty with England. Stability was recognized when France in the same year withdrew her support of Petlura. Why then didn't Jabotinsky in his desire to safeguard the Jews support the Bolshevik Government at a time when it stood in the least possibility of being overthrown? Instead he signed a co-operative pact with a non-existing government, the Ukrainian Nationalists, the leader of which was in Poland, not in the Ukraine. Jabotinsky obviously was more interested in overthrowing the Bolsheviki than in protecting Jews. In fact his plan meant the sacrifice of Jews. Can anyone imagine a Jewish gendarmerie following in the rear and not being drawn into battle, or not being forced to do so by Petlura's uncontrolled bandits? Or can anyone imagine Petlura's pogrom-seasoned brigands being refused their prey by a handful of inexperienced Jewish youths, who had been placidly observing them while they drove off the defenders of the village?
Jabotinsky, because he said he would sign a similar pact today and be proud of it, is more interested in overthrowing the Soviet Government than in protecting Jews. In answer to my question he said he was not interested in whether anti-semitism has been abolished in the Soviet Union. Nor was he interested in the Jewish colonies in Russia. He counts out -- for the present -- the two million Russian Jews [I corrected him in that they are really three million but he insisted on the two] because he doubts if the government is economically sound.
The Fuehrer of the Brown Shirted Legions of Judaism is in America because "Revisionism is the genuinest proletarian movement in the world in that it is the poorest." In America about one percent of the Jews are Zionists. What fraction of another one percent will donate money to the Jewish Hitler?
Now, I read the Israeli news every day, oh boy, and most of it tears me apart. Since my most recent visit last October, I read it obsessively. I subscribe to newsletters that bring, almost every day, bad tidings. The government propaganda insults me. I am supposed to think that Israel is a worthy nation because it is superior to apartheid South Africa and that, because it has murderous enemies, it is deserving. As I sit down to write this melancholy reflection, I come upon this Reuters report based on WikiLeaks diplomatic cables just published in a Norwegian newspaper. Reuters cites an American diplomatic cable from November 3, 2008: “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to [U.S. embassy economic officers] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” Israel wanted Gaza’s economy “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, in January of that year, even as he delivered an empty promise not to keep out food for children, medicine, and fuel for essential institutions. And then he said this: “But there is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards” into southern Israel.
There is no justification for demanding we allow…normal lives… This is the reasoning of terrorists. I cannot read the words without reflecting on the normal-looking Jerusalem streets I saw in October, filled with normal-looking women pushing normal-looking children in strollers, and normal-looking teenagers waiting for normal-looking buses at normal bus stops—while a few minutes away was occupied East Jerusalem, with all the dispossessions and incursions done by Israeli forces at the expense of residents who are very much not permitted to live normal lives. But, says the leadership of the Jewish state, not everybody is entitled to live normal lives.
I take it personally, being a Jew start to finish, which has meant different things for me at different points in my life, but always one or another kind of complicity. During the Six-Day War, in 1967, a new friend, the writer Richard M. Elman, wrote me that he was heading for Israel to volunteer as a soldier. I was mystified and wrote back to say so. What I said to him was that my passion, as an American radical, was to oppose the awful war for which my country was responsible. We were going to build Jerusalem in America’s not-so-green and not-altogether-pleasant land. It didn’t work out that way…certainly not in every respect. But I never doubted, during my youth in the New Left, that it was as a whole human being that I had signed up, very much including my Jewish soul.
Dick Elman felt something I didn’t feel at twenty-four: that an American Jew was obliged to the state of Israel. Love it, loathe it, feel proud of it or disgraced by it, join settlements or peacenik organizations, an American Jew qua Jew carries the weight of it. I came to that sense in my own way and time. In 1973, news that Egyptian forces had crossed the Suez Canal sent me in tears to a San Francisco shul I had never set foot in before, knowing acutely, desperately, that if the state of Israel was going to be destroyed, I wanted to receive the news among Jews. In 1975, driving in San Francisco, when I heard on the radio about the UN General Assembly passing the infamous “Zionism = racism” resolution, written in Orwellian duckspeak, I swore out loud my revulsion that in a world of nations, all of which are founded on mythic ideas with various downsides, one in particular should have been singled out for condemnation. I puffed myself up to declare that Israel wasn’t going to be destroyed: Over my dead body.
Well, the same applies today and for the foreseeable future. Friends don’t let friends destroy themselves if there’s the slightest thing they can do about it.
What should the relationship of American Jews be to the actually existing state of Israel? Doubly serious, doubly sober, doubly burdened, doubly insulted, doubly obliged. We are entangled in two states of emergency. The state of Israel is not the imagined promised land where the Jews are led by Paul Newman or where secure, rugged boys and girls plant trees purchased in the names of boys and girls like me, safely ensconced in the Bronx. It is America’s crazed doppelgänger, careering stupidly into a future that risks both countries and scourges both peoples. We shore it up, subsidize it, apologize for it, care wisely and unwisely about its fate, suffer for it and with it. No one can think that the self-destruction that the state of Israel courts in its myopia, clumsiness, and paranoia—and yes, paranoids have real enemies—takes place outside us.
I was struck by a talk Dissent’s founding editor Irving Howe gave in 1989, arguing that American Jews, their Judaism unserious, were going to wake up one day to discover that their sense of being Jewish was so wrapped up with a connection to Israel that as Israel became less supportable, so would their sense of being Jewish. I fear that the passage of two decades proves him more right than wrong.
It is as an American and a Jew, and an American Jew, that I rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Todd Gitlin has recently published The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election (with Liel Leibovitz) and the novel Undying. He teaches at Columbia University.