Op-Ed: Israel Must Stop Fighting For Survival
Here we go again. Another "batch" of 26 convicted killers set to go free in a futile "goodwill gesture" to those who seek our lives; another campaign by the bereaved families of their victims completely ignored by the powers-that-be. Another betrayal of justice. More tears, more heartbreak. It is so exhausting.
The will of the people in all this is, of course, completely ignored. Support for such "gestures" exists only among Arab nationalists and the fringes of the far-left, and Israeli national consensus is staunchly and vocally opposed. Yet there seems to be little the silent majority can do other than shake our heads in dismay, powerless to stop the impending, heart-wrenching abandonment of all sense, justice and compassion. As we watch the tears roll down the faces of bereaved mothers, siblings, sons and daughters, we witness the eternal truth of the Jewish saying that "he who is merciful to the cruel will ultimately be cruel to the merciful".
The question on everyone's lips is: Why? Or rather, how? Because we know the "why": American pressure. The real question is how a supposedly "nationalist", "right-wing" government has caved in to that pressure again and again, to the extent that it will betray its own citizens and knowingly fan the flames of terrorism - tearing open old wounds and guaranteeing new ones as the appetite for Jewish blood is once again whetted. It just seems so bizarre, so unfathomable, such a betrayal.
The answer is actually very simple, and exposes the fundamental ideological flaw within the current Israeli establishment. For the Israeli political establishment - left- and right-wing alike - are united by a single, debilitating ideological underpinning which places the pursuit of justice as at best second place to something else entirely: survival.
Yes, the Jewish people knows well how to survive. Foreign conquests, exile, pogroms, inquisitions, expulsions, forced conversions, holocausts - none of them could snuff out the soul of the eternal, if weary, people of Israel. Any yet, the experience of exile did achieve one thing: like the poor man who loses the ability to look beyond the search for his next crust of bread, the Jewish people became obsessed with survival. Everything else was a distraction, narishkeit.
This was out of necessity, of course. Indeed our ancestors are worthy of much praise and admiration for surviving in the face of the most unbelievable adversity. Their experiences bear testament to their iron will, their deep faith and their unstinting dedication to us, their children.
But then came Zionism. The Hebrew liberation movement reignited the flame of redemption, handing to their children, to us, the responsibility to hope for more than mere survival - but for freedom, justice and independence, after nearly two millenia of unjust slavery in foreign lands.
While the dream to return to Zion is as old as the Jewish people itself, modern political Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish nation, rose up from the ashes of vanquished ancient Jewish revolts like a mythical phoenix, beckoning us to ride its wings to freedom.
And so we did. The founding of the State of Israel was a thrilling moment of liberation the Jewish people had not felt for thousands of years, achieved through the blood, sweat and tears of pioneers, and more importantly through the Grace of God. But even as our legs walked us to freedom "we were as dreamers"; Zionism was hijacked by small-minded people, and turned into merely another mode of survival - albeit a far more effective one than the ghetto walls.
So today, the first stop for any visiting dignitary is not the Temple Mount - for we would not want to provoke anyone by being seen to stake a claim to the very root of our history here - but to Yad Vashem, so that our leaders, Left and Right, can desperately remind the nations of the world: "Look at why we need Israel - we would be so weak and defenseless without it! Pity us, and therefore judge us favorably!" And all the while even our best friends smile awkwardly and shift their feet - for they know that if the Holocaust is the primary justification for the State of Israel on land which another people claims is "stolen" then it is a pathetically weak one at best.
The phoenix's wing were clipped, the blood of martyrs betrayed.
Instead of decisively stamping out terrorism - for that could provoke the nations of the world, and surely that would be the end of us - the authorities look to "manage" the situation, while pacifying the masses by "explaining" to us that what we are seeing is just a "terror wave" and not "a third intifada" - leaving the pundits to make thoughtful faces and carefully, inanely, pointlessly try to distinguish between two sides of the same coin.
Instead of being given the means to fight back, those living in front-line communities are made fully aware that if they are ever stupid enough to defend themselves against Arab violence they will face the wrath of the legal system. To make up for it, we are pacified by a new government grant to help us reinforce our car windows against the forecasted shower of rocks from our partners for peace. (We should, of course, be grateful for such generous grants, but we must also recognize that within the context of the government's overall policy, it is merely another coping mechanism to help us survive another day of directionless leadership.)
Instead of clearly and unashamedly insisting on our claims to this land, we speak in terms of "security" and what is feasible to give up from a strategic perspective (never mind that, ironically, the plans currently on the table appear to contradict the most basic military logic). A few token utterances about Jewish history in the Land of Israel may escape the lips of our more "right-wing" leaders, but their knowledge of what is just and right is drowned out by the palpitations of their own hearts. They know what is just, but survival comes first. So Bibi hunkers down and digs in for one more year of survival against the Obama administration. Nothing more.
And so when in the meantime the American overlords demand we satisfy the liberal fantasies of their current commander in chief - who staggers drunk from a bitter cocktail of foreign policy failures and his own vain and desperate quest, in spite of it all, to forge a "legacy" for himself - our leaders rush to do his bidding. With "heavy hearts", of course (and we will be urged to feel sorry for those heavy hearts in the next few days), but they do so because in their minds we cannot survive without the US, and therefore we do not have the luxury of standing up for what is right. Instead, we buy more time with the blood of our dead.
But America is not to blame. Those who seek to deflect their fury onto the Obama administration would do well to note how our government is equally eager to abandon justice through sacrificing the blood of terror victims to the Chinese dragon.
So yes, the problem is very real and very clear. But so too is the solution: in a democracy, the people must shoulder responsibility for those they elect.
We, the people, have the power to steer the ship away from the looming precipice. We must send a loud, clear message to the leaders of this country that they are accountable to us. That we will not mindlessly vote based on some vague ideological preference but that those who cast a vote in favor of something as abhorrent as this will lose thousands of our votes along with their coveted positions. That we will not simply leave it to the families of the victims or a few especially angry youths to demonstrate but will turn out in our hundreds of thousands.
We cannot simply fume at Bibi, or Kerry, when well over half a million Israelis turned out to respect one man who died of natural causes, but only a handful can find the time or effort to defend the memories of thousands of innocent victims, whose honor is being handed over to the brutal enemy which took their lives in the first place.
We must face up to the question: why did we come here? Why did we sacrifice so much for this tiny land? Was it to build a hi-tech ghetto - a banana-republic whose anthem speaks of the yearning of a "free people", but whose leaders act as "heavy-hearted" slaves? Or did we come here for freedom, for justice?
We, the people, need to make up our minds - because we only get the leaders, and the decisions, we deserve.