Israel Palestine Infos
October 15, 2011
The Second Herzl
ON YOM KIPPUR eve last week, when real Jews were praying for their lives, I sat on the seashore of Tel Aviv, thinking.
It was my first Yom Kippur without Rachel, and the dark water reflected my mood.
I was thinking about our
state, the State of
Will it endure? Will it be here in another 100 years? Or is it a passing episode, a historic fluke?
When asked for his assessment of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai famously replied: “It’s too early to tell.”
The Zionist Revolution – and that’s what it was – started more than a hundred years after the French one. It is certainly much too early to tell.
ONCE, IN a more cheerful
mood, I told my friends: “Perhaps we are all wrong. Perhaps
Herzl 2 will start by asking: where did Herzl 1 go wrong?
Herzl 1 visited Palestine
only once, and that only for the express purpose of meeting the German emperor,
whom he wanted to enlist for his enterprise. The Kaiser insisted on seeing him
at the gate of
He meant the Jews he knew
– the members of a world-wide religious-ethnic community. Herzl intended to turn
these into a modern-style nation, like the other modern nations of
Herzl was not a profound
thinker, he was a journalist and dramatist. He – and his successors – saw the
necessary transformation as basically a question of logistics. Get the Jews to
BUT THE Jews of his day were neither a people nor a nation. They were something rather different.
Whilst anomalous in 19th
Nations in the modern
territorial sense were then inconceivable. A Jew in
No problem, he thought,
once I get them to
BUT AN ethnic-religious community, living for millennia as a persecuted minority in a hostile environment, acquires a mentality of its own. It fears the “Goyish” government, the source of unending evil edicts. It sees everyone outside the community as a potential enemy, unless proven otherwise (and even then). It develops an intense sense of solidarity with members of its own community, even a thousand miles away, supporting them through thick and thin, whatever they do. In their helpless situation, the persecuted dream of a day of revenge, when they can do unto others as others have done unto them.
All this pervades their world-view, their religion and their traditions, transmitted from generation to generation. Jews have prayed to God for centuries, year after year, on Pesach eve: “Pour your wrath upon the Goyim…”
When the Zionists started to arrive and founded the new community, called the “Yishuv” (settlement), it seemed that Herzl had been right. They started to behave like the embryo of a real nation. They discarded religion and despised the Diaspora. To be called “exile Jew” was the worst possible insult. They saw themselves as “Hebrew”, rather then Jewish. They started to build a new society and a new culture.
And then the awful thing happened: the Holocaust.
It brought all the old Jewish convictions back with a vengeance. Not only the Germans were the guilty, but all the nations who looked on and did not lift a finger to save the victims. So all the old beliefs were true after all: the whole world is against the Jews, we must defend ourselves whatever it takes, we can only rely on ourselves. The attitude of the Yishuv towards Jewishness and the Diaspora was a terrible mistake, we must repent and embrace everything we despised only yesterday: Jewish religion, Jewish traditions, the Jewish Shtetl.
The late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, maintained that the Jewish religion had died 200 years ago, and that the one thing that linked the Jews all over the world was the Holocaust.
Right from its founding,
the State of
The old existential fears, mistrusts, suspicions, hatreds, prejudices, stereotypes, sense of victimhood, dreams of revenge, that were born in the Diaspora, have superimposed themselves on the state, creating a very dangerous mixture of power and victimhood, brutality and masochism, militarism and the conviction that the whole world is against us. A ghetto with nuclear weapons.
CAN SUCH a state survive and flourish in the modern world?
European nation-states have fought many wars. But they never forgot that after a war comes peace, that today’s enemy may well be tomorrow’s ally. Nation-states remain, but they are becoming more and more interdependent, joining regional structures, giving up huge chunks of their sovereignty.
Almost all Israeli
parties, including the main opposition, insist that
I HAVE never labored
under any illusions about the magnitude of the task my friends and I set
ourselves decades ago. It is not to change this or that aspect of
It is far more than a matter of politics, to substitute one party for another. It is even far more than making peace with the Palestinian people, ending the occupation, evacuating the settlements. It is to effect a basic change of [or “in”] the national consciousness, the consciousness of every Israeli man and woman.
It has been said that “you can get the Jews out of the ghetto, but you can’t get the ghetto out of the Jews.” But that is exactly what needs to be done.
Can it be done? I think so. I certainly hope so.
Perhaps we need a shock –
either a positive or a negative one. The
appearance here of Anwar Sadat in 1977 can serve as an example of a
positive shock: by coming to
A Second Herzl could, perhaps, effect such a miracle, against the odds. In the words of the first Herzl: “If you want it, It is not a fairy tale.”