Judaism's Encounter with European Culture and Totalitarianism
The roots of the totalitarian elements in Israeli
politics and culture lie not only in a historical genealogy that is
familiar to every member of the Israeli radical Left, but also in modern
Western culture. Thinkers and scholars have addressed in one way or
another the existence of a totalitarian potential in Western thought. Some
of them propound an alternative of embracing the Christian tradition,
viewing the dissociation from this tradition, and the struggle waged
against it by the followers of the different totalitarian trends, as the
source of Western totalitarianism.
This outlook is also manifested in classical
conservatism and in the neoconservative ideology of today, and though it
certainly has strong positive features, a Christian alternative will not
withstand the test. When Christianity and totalitarianism are compared,
not in terms of their explicit ideas but in terms of their modes of
thought, it emerges that the roots of totalitarianism lie precisely in
Christianity itself. On the other hand, it is precisely in authentic
Jewish modes of thought that there lies a real alternative to Western
totalitarianism. Therefore, the definition of Western civilization as
"Judeo-Christian" is fundamentally erroneous.
However, how can the well-known fact of the
disproportionate participation of assimilated Jews in the totalitarian
experiments be explained? The article tries to prove that this
resulted from the phenomenon of the Jews' flight from their Jewishness,
in the course of which the fleeing Jews bring about the realization of the
latent totalitarian potential in Western culture.
It should be noted that the very intellectual codes
that, in their authentic form, constitute a Jewish alternative to Western
totalitarianism, become in themselves a destructive factor that brings out
the totalitarian potential once they are entered into a foreign cultural
context¾that is, the context of a
Western culture that is based on Christian tenets. Thus, the Jews' flight
from their Jewishness becomes a threat both to Jewry itself and to the
non-Jewish world. And perhaps, here, an inverse conclusion may be drawn:
namely, that it is precisely the Jews' return to themselves that
can free both the Jews and the non-Jews of the totalitarian threat.
Nevertheless, providing a Jewish answer to
totalitarianism is not a simple matter. Such an answer is rooted in
Judaism as it was for generations, but the problematic aspect involves
the Jewish encounter with Western culture. There have been, of course,
encounters between Judaism and a foreign cultural environment in every
period of the thousands of years of the Jewish people's existence,
fluctuating between high and low points. To be sure, in the modern era the
encounter engendered not a few positive results. But we are also forbidden
to ignore the tragic encounter that was manifested in the Holocaust
and in the spiritual apostatization of Communism. Although the factual
results have perhaps been well learned, we are still evading the difficult
and painful question of the Jews' participation. We need to cope with it
and begin to rebuild the encounter, from a standpoint of awareness
of the risks entailed, together with full consciousness of
the Jews' responsibility.
It is commonly believed among us that the
conservative ideology, like the liberal ideology as well as the
intellectual underpinnings of the Israeli judicial system, can be sought
only outside of the Jewish framework, and in this regard "left-wingers"
and "right-wingers" are no different from each other. Indeed, how many are
even capable of conceiving that it is precisely in our "primitive" Judaism
that a real and perhaps sole alternative to totalitarianism can be found?
- Then and Now
The peace movement phenomenon has stalked the
twentieth century like a macabre specter, typically emerging to call for
concessions to aggressors, tyrants, terrorists and mass murderers. The
phenomenon was particularly catastrophic before and during the Second
World War. Today's peace movement manifestations in Israel had their
counterpart predecessors in that era. Then too mothers' anti-war groups
were active, as was a group specifically called "The Peace Now Movement"
(in the USA). The groups active in Britain, France, and the United States
believed that it was possible and desirable to make peace with Hitler.
Government officials, journalists, intellectuals ("right" and "left"),
politicians ("right" and "left"), and peace movement leaders claimed that
complying with Hitler's territorial demands would bring peace, at least
for their own countries (although the slogan "territory for peace" was not
yet in vogue). Thinking along these lines and corresponding policies
helped lead to the Munich Pact (1938) which called for giving Hitler
strategically vital parts of Czechoslovakia inhabited mainly by ethnic
Germans. Thus the self-determination slogan came into play too.
At the time and since, the Munich concession has been
widely recognized as an essential step in Hitler's preparations for making
WWII a year later. Hence, the pre-war "peace movements" defeated their own
ostensible goal. In France, many pre-war advocates of peace through
concessions to Nazi Germany became officials of the pro-Nazi Vichy
government and its supporting parties and militias. In America, groups
favoring peace with Nazi Germany (including Communists from 1939 to 1941)
were active before and after US entry into the war, when information about
Nazi mass murders had already received some publicity in the US.
How Israel Destroyed the Cedars of Lebanon:
A Personal Memoir of a Frozen Policy
Prior to the Israeli
withdrawal from south Lebanon and the abandonment of the SLA, Hebrew
University lecturer Mordechai Nisan engaged in intensive and extensive
efforts in proposing the consolidation of the Israeli-Lebanese
relationship, the strengthening of the South Lebanese Army, and the goal
of a Free Lebanon as an Israeli strategic goal. In this personal account,
he relates his involvement with a number of Lebanese personalities,
especially Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz), and the various activities undertaken
over a period of three years (1997-2000). His reckoning records the
response or lack thereof to this private and public campaign, mentioning
former Prime Minister Netanyahu, the positive attitude expressed by David
Bar-Ilan and Uri Elitzur in the PM's Office, the views of members of
Knesset like Uzi Landau, Ephraim Sneh, and Gidon Ezra, and that of Israeli
Coordinator for Lebanese Activities, Uri Lubrani. Nisan discloses the
contacts he initiated and the contents of some meetings he attended,
including one with Minister Amnon-Shahak, until the shameful and tragic
betrayal of the SLA in May. This is a document of historical value that
exposes Israeli policy tainted by political paralysis and moral deafness.
of Bamboozling, Days of Reckoning
The failure of the Camp David talks at the end of
August 2000 may have been convenient for the heads of the negotiating
teams of both of the "local" parties, namely, Prime Minister Barak and
Chairman (or "President") Arafat. In any case, in the wake of this
failure, on September 28, bloody clashes erupted on both sides of the
"Green Line", which brought a sort of "wake-up call" in Israel along with
chain reactions in all the states of the Arab League. Thus the Oslo
agreements apparently collapsed, and indeed, perhaps, the entire "peace
This development as a whole, Aharon Amir maintains,
cannot be properly understood without returning to the events of late May
2000 in southern Lebanon, when the IDF suddenly, unilaterally abandoned
Israel's northern security zone at the behest of Prime Minister and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In a unilateral, clandestine, and startling
manner, Israel then caused the collapse of the South Lebanese Army (SLA),
a force that since the late 1970s had been an integral part of the defense
system for the settlements of northern Israel and had paid for this with
the lives of hundreds of its soldiers: Christians, Druze, and Shi'ite
To substantiate this claim, the author provides
segments of recorded testimony - heavy with disappointment and bitterness,
marked by harsh personal experiences - from some of these Lebanese, who
now live as refugees in Israel. These testimonies, which certainly do not
reflect honorably on Israel's present leadership, are only a portion of an
extensive assortment that will be included in a "black book" initiated and
edited by Aharon Amir.
Chemical and Biological Weapons in Syria
For about two decades, Syria has had a consistent
policy of chemical and biological arms acquisition that is systematic and
determined – and that has never been actually denied by Syria. More than
any other country, Syria has a policy of seeking strategic parity with
Israel which, in military terms, means getting biological and chemical
weapons, given that nuclear weapons are not attainable for now. This
pattern was seen by the chemical weapons procured by Syria from Egypt in
their joint preparations for the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, and even
today, Assad, Mubarak and other Arab leaders coordinate positions on
refusing to adhere to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.
Moreover, Syria possibly cooperates with Egypt in
biological and chemical arms acquisition today, and it certainly does with
Iran and probably with Libya. It has been aided – though not necessarily
through institutionalized channels – by Russia, China and North Korea, in
efforts to enlarge its longer-range surface-to-surface missiles that carry
operational chemical and biological warheads, among them the Scud-C, the
M-9 and the No-Dhong. Assistance in upgrading and scaling up its
chemical-biological capabilities is given also by other formerly soviet
countries, India and, still, European firms. Several facilities located in
different sites in Syria are involved in these efforts and are in part
disguised as civilian buyers.
During recent years, Syria has switched from
above-ground missiles and non-conventional weapons facilities to
underground storage and production, thereby significantly limiting
Israel's ability to monitor and destroy those strategic facilities.
The first and by far only Syrian employment of a
chemical warfare agent took place in 1982 – it was the lethal cyanide gas
used by the Syrian regime in the slaughter of some 18,000 Sunni residents
of the city of Hama, in Syria itself.
Ever since then, Syria has made a very significant
progress in the area of chemical and biological weapons, which has various
implications of major importance. It built up an elaborate, large arsenal
of sarin and VX nerve agents containing aerial bombs and missiles
warheads, and formed a delivery realignment that is capable of instantly
launching those deadly weapons at a variety of targets and objects in
Israel, both strategic and tactical. Biological warfare agents – anthrax,
botulinum and others – have recently been added to the Syrian inventory.
Jewish Property in Egypt
Following the establishment of the State of Israel,
hundreds of Jewish owned businesses in Egypt were seized by the
government. But the seizure came to its peak after the Sinai War, when a
property valued today at 3-4 billion dollars was officially frozen and
The first step was the freezing of British and French
property in Egypt in November 1956, and the freezing of Jewish property –
regardless of its owner's citizenship – followed suit a few days later.
Far worse, the Jews were ordered to leave Egypt within a few days, and
were only permitted to take with them personal belongings and very small
sums in cash. More than 20,000 of Egypt's 70,000 Jews left their homeland
within 6 months. In 1961 all of the big enterprises in Egypt were
nationalized, and the remaining economic roots of the Jews were destroyed.
The community became smaller and smaller during the
following years, and has only 100 members today. Most of the communal
property is in terrible shape, as the community cannot afford its
restoration. The private property, either sold – under-value – in the
1950s due to the official policy which made wealthy Jews leave Egypt,
frozen after the Sinai War or nationalized in the 1960s, is still owned by
the government or by those who took advantage of the Jewish distress and
bought it at bargain prices.
Delusion and Denial: A Reexamination of the “Arab Conflict
with Jews and the State of Israel”
The "Arab conflict with Jews and the State of
Israel" stems from a powerful delusional anti-Semitic ideology beholden
to the majority of Palestinian Arabs and general Arab society.
Arab eliminationist anti-Semitism, which is a
sub-set of delusional anti-Semitic ideology, is the causal agent driving
Arab thought and action in this "conflict".
This "conflict" is not a consequence of some
objective disagreement with Jews and is not a response to any objective
evaluation of Jewish action.
The Palestinian Arabs and general Arab society have
cast their deep-seated hatreds of Jewish people in the prevailing terms
of this era by incorporating aspects of realistic disputes into their
antisemitic litany; thus to view the disputes as cause for this
"conflict" or see in the Jews' own actions any relevant cause for the
disputes is to confuse symptom with cause.
Since the 1920s and 1930s, most diplomats and
officials continue to deny that this delusional anti-Semitic ideology is
the causal agent of the "Arab conflict with Jews", just as they deny
that delusional anti-Semitic ideology was the causal agent of the
"German conflict with Jews"—the Holocaust.
The denial of diplomats and officials that Arabs
are (and Germans were) beholden to a delusional Anti-Semitic ideology
stems from diplomats' and intellectuals' inability to deal with the grim
enormous task of confronting an entire society possessing massive
delusional beliefs and unfounded hate.
Therefore, diplomats and officials disregard
evidence that the disputes and tragic events are symptomatic of
delusional anti-Semitic ideology, and instead embrace the false notion
that the disputes are reasons for the tragic events, which is to confuse
symptom with cause.
Consequently, diplomats and officials furthermore
adhere to another false notion that "negotiation" and "compromise" can
resolve the disputes and therefore the "conflict" itself.
This denial and acceptance of these false notions
is seriously compounded by the widely accepted belief within democracies
that "negotiation" and "compromise" are axioms for "conflict resolution"
and achieving "peace".
"Negotiation" and "compromise" are ineffective
tools for bringing about the diminution and abandonment of delusional
anti-Semitic ideology. Therefore they have had no impact and will
continue to have no impact on the resolution of this "conflict". The
proper measures to protect Jewish lives must be taken to avoid tragedy
without precariously waiting for Arab delusional anti-Semitic ideology
Alternative to the Oslo Agreement: Open “Mosaic” Sovereignty
"Nobody has an alternative", is a very common saying
usually plastered against any criticism of the Oslo Agreement. This
article's goal is to present an alternative aimed at two targets: Internal
– to lay a basis for the re-creation of a new consensus between the Left
and Right wings within the Zionist Movement, and External – to grant
independence and sovereignty to the Palestinians on one hand, while
hindering their recurring attempts against the existence of Israel, on the
other. The following alternative is based on Arab – Islamic legitimation
as well as on the international law.
According to the 1858
Ottoman Land Law which is still valid (with minor justifications) in Judea
and Samaria, the land is divided into Private Domain (48%), State Domain
(40%), Deserted Land (10%), and Jewish Private Land previous to 1948 (2%).
Due to various reasons, "all the Arab towns and villages are built on
Private Domain, while all the Jewish settlements – towns, and villages,
are built on State Domain only". This division is total. Except for a
few settlements built on private Jewish land, "there are no Jewish
settlements on Private Domain, nor an Arab town or village on State Domain".
This situation, based on Ottoman legitimation
accepted and obeyed both by Arabs and Jews, enables us to form the
proposed "Mosaic Sovereignty" in the Territories, in which both Jews and
Arabs may fulfill their own independence in their own premises. The road
and air-space will remain open to all. That proposal is the only one by
which no village will be destroyed, no house is to be deserted and no
people will be dominated or subdued by the other.
Since Jordan renounced their sovereignty over the
West Bank on July 31, 1988, a jurisdictional – political vacuum exists in
this territory, and Israel has the international legitimation to present
the "Mosaic Sovereignty" proposal. It has also every possible
justification to reject any Arab demand to establish the State of
Palestine in the West Bank and absorb millions of Palestinian refugees on
It is proposed that Israel will present the Mosaic
Sovereignty solution to the Palestinians. If accepted – the ancient,
historic conflict is over. If rejected – Israel may assume that solution
unilaterally. By all means a well-based unilateral arrangement is
preferable to a shaky, crumbling bilateral agreement which is doomed to
collapse because of the partner's caprices.
Bosnia to Kosovo - Re-Islamization of the Balkans - (II)
The Bosnia and then the Kosovo Wars, which
were conceived in much of the world only in terms of Serbian nationalism
under Milosevic, have yet another dark side to them that is not widely
discussed, and that is the rise of Islam in the Balkans.
During the Ottoman domination of the
Balkans, many of the region's inhabitants: Bulgars, Serbs, Albanians,
Montenegrins and Croats embraced Islam as a way to elevate their status in
the eyes of the occupying Muslim Power. But when those peoples attained
independence through bitter wars of liberation, Muslim populations
remained in their localities, for the most part as minorities in the
countries where they belonged.
Yugoslavia, which was constituted of a
federation of six states and two autonomous territories (both belonging to
Serbia), elevated Bosnia-Herzegovina to the status of an "ethnic" state,
like all others, by making Islam as an identity, parallel to the
identities of the the Serbs, Croatians, etc. So, when Yugoslavia
disintegrated, Bosnia had to assert its Muslim identity because it had
none other, in spite of the fact that the majority of its population was
either Serb or Croat.
In Bosnia it was the revivalist Islamic
ideology of Ilia Izetbegovic which was the engine of this new Bosnian
Nationalism, which was aided by Iran and other Muslim countries, happy to
see Islamic politics back in Central Europe. Then came the Albanian
uprising in Kosovo, which duplicated the same situation, and driving the
re-Islamization of that land under the support of the West.
The result is that while the Muslims have
established a continuity which drives a wedge within Christian Central
Europe, the West is looking with indifference to that evolving situation
which they hope would create a docile Turkish-like Islam. But in view of
the trouble Turkey itself is suffering from Muslim fundamentalists, it is
doubtful whether these hopes would be fulfilled.
There is No
Other Culture for a Jew
The importance of the article by Dr. Zeev Magen, "On
John Lennon and Love", which appears in No. 8 of the journal Tchelet
(end of 1999), lies in its concentration of arguments that in our
period must serve as a point of departure for any discussion of Hebrew
culture. At the same time, despite the fact that this article purports to
be a great innovation, actually there are no great innovations in it. The
notion of "preferential distinguishing love" has already been discussed by
Erich Fromm and others before him and after him, and today it is even
discussed in marital guidebooks for ultra-Orthodox Jews. On the danger
that love poses according to Christian doctrine we have already heard from
A. A. Kabak in his book The Narrow Path. The dilemma of equality
and pluralism has already been discussed in a midrash on Adam that
points out that while several coins can be minted in one mint, not all
will come out the same. All of us were created in the form of the first
man, Adam and yet, no person is similar to the other (Sanhedrin 38).
On these and similar issues I can accept Dr. Magen's
ideas, but not his statement concerning the possible existence of two
truths. In an article by Dr. Amnon Shapira, "There Is More than One Truth"
(HaZofeh, May 19, 2000), this concept is similarly founded on a
logical defect. Truth is congruence between a statement and a fact, and it
is impossible that on the same plane and on the same issue two
contradictory statements can conform with one established fact. The human
inability to identify the one, sole truth with certainty cannot serve as
evidence for the existence of two truths on the same plane and on the same
No doubt Dr. Magen's point that a Jew can live as a
Jew only in his original, national culture is well taken, and it is
unfortunate that his arguments are not persuasive. Different languages can
be learned thoroughly, but the culture that is behind them cannot easily
be absorbed by someone who already has a culture of his own. A culture is
created only by a collective of a tribe or a people, is a manifestation of
their inner nature, and thus is suited to act only upon the tribe or the
people who possess this same nature. Culture is also influenced by
geographical, historical, religious, and other environmental factors,
which in fact are absorbed during the time of childhood. Later on, an
individual can absorb only a language and some outer layer of a culture,
but not its inner nature. It is the pretense that a culture acquired later
is an organic culture that leads to Levantinism. This is well emphasized
in the story by B. Tammuz, "A Confined Baby", which discusses an actor who
speaks perfect English like an Englishman and perfect French like a
Frenchman, but is regarded by cultured English and French people as a
prostitute of culture. Because the learning of a language still does not
indicate full conversance with the culture, which cannot be attained by
will, there is no comparability between the cultures that a person becomes
familiar with and the national culture, which always has a preferential
exclusivity. It is unfortunate that Dr. Magen did not relate to these
points, and did not provide us with persuasive arguments.
It is also a pity that Dr. Magen belittles the reader
in attempting to sell him concepts that contradict each other, and to
expose him to the style of an American subculture that he introduces into
Israeli public discourse, despite claiming that his whole purpose is to
defend Hebrew culture. The article should have been improved and made more
congruent with the declared aims of the journal Tchelet in which it