To make this case [that the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza are "morally wrong"], which ignores the question of Israel's moral responsibility to protect its own children and its own existence, Ben-Ami offers textual evidence of stunning vapidity. "Charity [tzedakah], good works [gmilut Chasidim] and repairing the world [tikkun olam] are foundamental elements of Jewish identity, " he asserts, which is true in part, but they are less important than, say, the degree to which Jewish identity is dedicated to the defense and protection of Jews in a world hostile to them. He throws out glib parables like a self-satisfied uncle at a seder--e.g., Hillel said that the Torah can be summarized as "that which is hateful to you, do not unto another," and we would not like to be Gazans, ergo, who should end the blockade.Recently, someone I know who loves partaking of that type of bean stew proclaimed that, if Israel is to survive and hold any meaning for our youth (who--this is me here, not him--are force-fed the universalist mush at home and at school) Jews must--must!--embrace J Street, the New Israel Fund, Israel's "new" historians, and the Palestinians' nakba narrative. To which I would retort that if Israel's future depends on the pseudo-Zionists and post-Zionists on the Left, Israel had better pack it in right now, because it has no future. That there are young Jeremys around like the one who wrote this piece--the anti-Jeremy Ben-Ami, so to speak--gives me hope that, barring the foreseen (an Iranian nuke or some other calamity unleashed on it by its enemies), Israel will be around for a long, long time.
This is not only false logic but also a false account of the Jewish moral and ethical code. A true Jewish ethics straddles Hillel's plaintive questions: "If I am only for myself, what am I?" and "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" It holds aspirations for righteousness and peace and is moved by a universalist compassion, but it understands the need for--indeed, the divine calling to--a particularist nationalism. The conversion of an immensely complex moral, ethical, legal, and religious tradition into easy-to-read bumper stickers is an understandable impulse from a veteran political operator, but one would think that even the most cynical hack would have the modesty not to liquefy three millennia of argumentation into a left-liberal cholent.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
J Street's Unpalatable Potage
University of Chicago student Jeremy Rozansky reviews J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami's book A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation in the October issue of Commentary. Since the review is available online only as an abstract, I quote from my paper copy of the magazine.