The fear of peace: the danger to Israel
By Rabbi Dow Marmur
JERUSALEM–Anti-Semitism is almost as old as Jewish history. The Holocaust threatened to bring Judaism to an end. Those who sensed what was coming ahead of time came to shape modern Zionism. Thanks to their work, the State of Israel was established and Sho’a survivors had somewhere to go, even if they, like other Jews, stayed in the Diaspora. Judaism had again a collective focus and purpose beyond personal piety.
Recognizing that Israel has made Jewish survival possible but not eradicated Jew-hatred, Irwin Cotler, Canadian parliamentarian, academic and human rights champion, reminds us – perhaps in unduly dramatic form, yet making a point – that now it’s the Jewish state that’s the new pariah among the nations, just as Jews had once been the pariahs among the Gentiles. Jews and Judaism may therefore still be in mortal danger.
The intention of our enemies to end the old anti-Semitism was to seek to destroy all Jews, which is what the Nazis set out to do. The only way to rid the world of the new anti-Semitism, so the argument continues, is to eradicate the Jewish state. That’s how, for example, Ahmadinejad is seen by some as the incarnation of Hitler.
The Jews survived through the ages by huddling together in ghettos, the walls of which were as often built from the inside as they were from the outside. Similarly, to continue the analogy, Israel is in danger of becoming something of a ghetto. Is this forced upon us, as the Jewish right suggests, or are we doing it to ourselves?
We’re doing it to ourselves, writes Bradley Burston in two recent provocative articles (www.haaretz.com). He asserts that the right “wants to wall off Israel as the world’s last remaining legally mandated ghetto’” because “the right is terrified of peace.” His frightening conclusion is that “in the end, the right’s fear of peace will be the death of Israel.” It’s painful to read these harsh words by a committed Israeli insider.
Burston cites many instances, the most significant of which is the refusal by the government of Israel to cooperate with the Goldstone Report and even now, to refuse to set up an independent commission that would examine the findings and determine what’s true and what’s not, in place of the blanket condemnations that are now the order of the day here and echoed in Jewish communities elsewhere.
Instead of addressing the message and examine content and context, the right prefers to scapegoat the messengers as “self-hating Jews.” Chief among them is, of course, Judge Goldstone himself. Others include legitimate Israeli (!) human rights organizations that have challenged the ghetto mentality and kept Israel more open and democratic than its self-proclaimed, and often pious, “patriots” can tolerate. Of late, as is now known all over the world, even the New Israel Fund that has given money to several of these organizations as well as the Fund’s president Naomi Chazan have been vilified.
Burston accepts that making peace is dangerous, presumably because the Arab world isn’t homogenous and Muslim extremism (like Jewish extremism: the right only more so) is on the rise and a potential danger to the West as a whole. But he writes that not making peace is much more dangerous. In choosing the lesser of the two dangers, those responsible for governing Israel will also choose that which is ethically right, true to Jewish teachings at their best, and an assurance of Jewish survival.
Who will save Israel from the fanatics and Jews and Judaism from destruction?
Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He divides his year between Canada and Israel