I was impressed by what Thane Rosenbaum wrote in his August 9th article in the Wall street Journal
: “Red State Jews” (posted in its entirety below the introduction); for many reasons.
Each one of us who found themselves in a “blue state”, so to speak, joined for one or more reason. It was not, for the most part, to renounce our Jewishness, or to tear apart the Israeli institution or Zionism per se (as suggested by followers of Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky, or the Neturei Karta).
As a bloc, we saw the precept of “do unto others” as a prime motivator in guiding us to challenge, to question and not to simply accept. We saw fairness as applying equally whether to Jews or Palestinians alike. We did not wish to stand for the cliché that “two wrongs will make a right”, as the “red state” will have us believe.
We wanted to believe in the Utopia of Peace in The Middle East and what it can bring to the area and its inhabitants who so direly need it, to a man, woman and child.
While I enjoyed reading and related to the author soul searching, and his internal debate, I find myself in total disagreement with some of his observations and especially his final conclusions. The Jewish left is not in shambles, and we were never at any point in time naïve about our pursuits.
While I also agree with the author, that the current events in Lebanon and Gaza, coupled with the pernicious global anti-Semitism have fused the right and the left into his so called cynical “red state”, I see that as only a temporary and not a permanent condition; simply because suing for Peace is a strategic goal for the Middle East, that stands alone without any “viable” competing alternatives.
We, of the “blue state”, cannot just abandon our cause at the first sign of trouble; and seek refuge with the “red state”. Where would Gandhi and India be today when it came to the “non violence” movement after every punishing clash with the British Raj? Where would Mandela and South Africa be today if the extended jail terms doled out and the unrelenting abuse, had derailed the ANC movement from its peaceful goals?
What the left needs right now is a new Peace Manifesto; geared specifically towards the image of naiveté and gullibility that plagued our mission and has been exploited by the other side to the detriment of all. What is needed is a “tough love” strategy that dispels any notion about “Peace at any cost” or “Peace devoid of any expectations”.
I remember reading about a journalist once asking Mahatma Gandhi, if the “non violence” approach would have worked had it been against the Nazis instead of the British; and Gandhi’s reply that “you needed to know your enemy”.
The Peace movement needs to specifically articulate the objectives of Peace for all sides to know, what the basic expectations are; because it is about Peace and not National “self immolation”; and we know who our enemy in this context is.
Israel’s neighbors need to know and realize the extent of the anger felt by the Jewish left:
When the Oslo accord was signed; only to experience the Intifada II uprising, a stab in the back of the peace movement.
When Ehud Barak government was elected and mandated to sue for Peace again; only to experience the “Intifada II” uprising, with its civilian casualties and general mayhem.
When we pressured the Sharon government to vacate Gaza; only to have you vote for Hamas as your government representative.
When we gave you the opportunity to create your own state; only to have you continue lobbing your Qassam rockets at Israeli civilians and towns, and to distribute sweets with every Jewish death in celebration.
And now violence has flared in Lebanon.
Our anger is real, and the choices made so far by you, as Israel’s neighbors, are unacceptable to us; and our ranks on the left will continue to shrink with every war that Israel fights for her survival.
If peace is not your objective, as Israel’s neighbors, and if peace is not what you wish for your well being and that of your children and their future, than you will continue to reap what you have sown, with no ones to blame but yourselves and the choices you made.Israel Bonan
The Wall Street Journal
August 9, 2006 Red State Jews
By THANE ROSENBAUM August 9, 2006; Page A10
This is a soul-searching moment for the Jewish left. Actually, for many Jewish liberals, navigating the gloomy politics of the Middle East is like walking with two left feet.
I would know. For six years I was the literary editor of Tikkun magazine, a leading voice for progressive Jewish politics that never avoided subjecting Israel to moral scrutiny. I also teach human rights at a Jesuit university, imparting the lessons of reciprocal grievances and the moral necessity to regard all people with dignity and mutual respect. And I am deeply sensitive to Palestinian pain, and mortified when innocent civilians are used as human shields and then cynically martyred as casualties of war.
Yet, since 9/11 and the second intifada, where suicide bombings and beheadings have become the calling cards of Arab diplomacy, and with Hamas and Hezbollah emerging as elected entities that, paradoxically, reject the first principles of liberal democracy, I feel a great deal of moral anguish. Perhaps I have been naïve all along.
And I am not alone. Many Jews are in my position -- the children and grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, pacifists, humanitarians, antiwar protestors -- instinctively leaning left, rejecting war, unwilling to demonize, and insisting that violence only breeds more violence. Most of all we share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and the infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.
However, the world as we know it today -- post-Holocaust, post-9/11, post-sanity -- is not cooperating. Given the realities of the new Middle East, perhaps it is time for a reality check. For this reason, many Jewish liberals are surrendering to the mindset that there are no solutions other than to allow Israel to defend itself -- with whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, the inevitability of Israel coincides with the inevitability of anti-Semitism.
This is what more politically conservative Jews and hardcore Zionists maintained from the outset. And it was this nightmare that the Jewish left always refused to imagine. So we lay awake at night, afraid to sleep. Surely the Arabs were tired, too. Surely they would want to improve their societies and educate their children rather than strap bombs on to them.
If the Palestinians didn't want that for themselves, if building a nation was not their priority, then peace in exchange for territories was nothing but a pipe dream. It was all wish-fulfillment, morally and practically necessary, yet ultimately motivated by a weary Israeli society -- the harsh reality of Arab animus, the spiritual toll that the occupation had taken on a Jewish state battered by negative world opinion.
Despite the deep cynicism, however, Israel knew that it must try. It would have to set aside nearly 60 years of hard-won experience, starting from the very first days of its independence, and believe that the Arab world had softened, would become more welcoming neighbors, and would stop chanting: "Not in our backyard -- the Middle East is for Arabs only."
It is true that Israel has entered into peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have brought some measure of historic stability to the region. But with Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now, why are their soldiers being kidnapped if the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah, stand for something other than the total destruction of Israel? And if Palestinians and the Lebanese are electing terrorists and giving them the portfolio of statesmen, then what message is being sent to moderate voices, what incentives are there to negotiate, and how can any of this sobering news be recast in a more favorable light?
The Jewish left is now in shambles. Peace Now advocates have ost their momentum, and, in some sense, their moral clarity. Opinion polls in Israel are showing near unanimous support for stronger incursions into Lebanon. And until kidnapped soldiers are returned and acts of terror curtailed, any further conversations about the future of the West Bank have been set aside.
Not unlike the deep divisions between the values of red- and blue-state America, world Jewry is being forced to reconsider all of its underlying assumptions about peace in the Middle East. The recent disastrous events in Lebanon and Gaza have inadvertently created a newly united Jewish consciousness -- bringing right and left together into one deeply cynical red state.
Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor at Fordham Law School, is author, most recently, of "The Myth of Moral Justice" (HarperCollins, 2004).
Introduction copyright by Israel Bonan, 2006. Original article © by Thane Rosenbaum and the Wall Street Journal.
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Replies: 5 Comments
Since you are the second reader to misinterpret my statement applying Ghandi's comment to this situation; I will state it more clearly for the record:
Hamas and Hezbollah are the proverbial Nazis, in the scenario I described ... and we cannot deal with them as much as Ghandi would not apply his Peaceful means when it came to the Nazis...
I hope, I once and for all put this question to bed.
Israel Bonan, Wednesday, August 16th
"Gandhi?s reply that 'you needed to know your enemy'."
Although emotionally I'm with you, I see that Gandhi's answer does not support yours. He was implying that his tactics would work with the British, but not with everyone. And his roundabout answer seems a way to avoid explicitely acknowledging the limitations of his tactics.
What would he have said about Hamas and Hezbollah? He probably would have answered "you need to know your enemy."
Joanne, Wednesday, August 16th
I would urge both of you and any other person who stands unquestioningly behind Israel to take a moment and examine not the strategy in "dealing" with Arab resistance but why it exists in the first place. Please have a memory of longer than two months and a scope beyond Israel's borders (the Palestinian territories). Please don't pretend like Israel extended its hand in peace and was shunned...You talk about the election of Hamas? you talk about concessions of ISRAEL????
Model of Israeli comittment to its side of the deal: Israli withdrawl from Gaza last year..explain to me why Palestinian water and airspace remained occupied, why Israeli roads and buffer zones criscrossed the "liberated" territories? Why you couldn't drive ten minuites without reaching a checkpoint? why the only way out of the city and country was at the mercy of Israeli "security". Give me a break...
safa, Monday, August 14th
Unfortunately Richard it is either that my writing was unclear to you, or your own blinders are keeping you from understanding the basic premise.
We have no business with Hamas and/or Hezbollah and neither do we ever think they will change.
A Peace movement that does not look for simply engaging the people involved (not the terrorist proxies), to encourage and empower them to think for themselves and bootstarp their way, with our help, out of their misery and self inflicted servitude to their sanguine masters, is not a Peace movement.
We want Israel's neighbors to grow up, and understand their obligations. We offer them no free rides .. or I thought I already wrote that!!
I encourage you to remove your own blinders, and ask yourself what other alternatives either side have, if not Peace!!
Israel Bonan, Friday, August 11th
To Israel Bonan;
The world is NOT divided by "Redstates" and Bluestates". It IS divided by individuals who make decisions based on their idealogical construct, and those who make their decisions based on actual events. The world is further divided into "Unchangable Idealogues", and those who LEARN from actual events. UIs cling to their utopian view of the world despite ovewhelming evidence to the contrary; while those who learn from events modify their behaviors that don't get results.
Perhaps your idealogical blinders kept you from "hearing" or "seeing" what the Palestinians, Hezbollah, etc. have been SAYING and DOING for the last 50 years.
Perhaps you believe; "And now violence has FLARED in Lebanon". Perhaps you believe; "If peace is not your objective.... (and the rest of your summary paragraph).
If you don't KNOW that "peace" (at least as YOU understand "peace") is NOT the objective of the freely-elected government in Gaza, and CERTAINLY not the objective of Hezbollah (and its owners in Syria and Iran), you fit neatly into a century-old mold of "useful Idiot".
What is it about the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah Charters that you can't understand? What is it about the public (Arabic) speeches, TV, Radio, Newspapers over the last 50 years that you don't understand? What is it about the ACTIONS of PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah during the last generation that you don't understand?
Insanity has been defined as "adding 2 and 2 over and over, and each time being disappointed when they DON'T equal 5.
Your expectations that Hamas, Hezbollah, etc will "react to Israel's Peace overtures" with peaceful actions of their own is proof of your ideological insanity.
That you quoted Ghandi on Hitler, but couldn't connect the dots between Hitler and Hamas, Hezbollah, etc is proof of -------"
Richard Senturia, Friday, August 11th
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