Dagens Nyheter op-ed, Jan 26th 2007

What Are Jews Allowed to Say About Israel?


THE EDITOR-in-chief of Judisk Krönika (Jewish Chronicle, a monthly magazine) has in two subsequent issues maintained that I “deep down” wish for “the destruction of Israel” and dream about “a Middle East without a Jewish State”. To accuse a person for “deep down” having other views than the views he openly holds, is a fine old tradition dating back to the Inquisition. It is a method that was successfully implemented in Poland, the former home of the editor-in-chief, when its Communist regime at the time maintained that the remaining Jews of the country “deep down” wished for something else than what they openly stood for.
Indications that I deep down should wish for the destruction of Israel are said to be the fact that I through the years have written more about Israel’s responsibility for the conflict with the Palestinians than about the responsibility of the Palestinians, more about Israeli occupation and colonization than about Palestinian suicide bombers, more about Jewish-Israel extremism than about Islamist anti-Semitism.
I do not refute the indications but I do believe that they constitute a neck-breaking widening of the criteria for wishing the destruction of Israel. Particularly so since my openly and publicly stated reason for writing as I do has been my concern for the survival of Israel.
To be accused of “deep down” wishing for the destruction of Israel in a major Jewish publication is no small thing. Someone suspected of “deep down” wishing for such a thing, is in fact perceived as “deep down” wishing for another Shoah, and has subsequently (and rightfully so) no voice in any Jewish community. I fear that the purpose of these articles has been to put a poison stamp on the views of Israel and the conditions for its survival that I have come to represent in the public debate, and thereby further narrow the limits of what Jews should be allowed to say about Israel.
In that case the articles in Judisk Krönika are ill-boding.

ESPECIALLY SO since the position of Israel has seriously deteriorated in the last years. Politically it has become more isolated, morally more questioned and militarily more vulnerable. It is thus more warranted today than yesterday to fear for the long-term survival of Israel. It is also more warranted today than yesterday to fear that the territorial conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine might widen and deepen into an ethnic-religious conflict between Jews and Muslims world-wide.
One can of course argue, as Israel systematically does, that the responsibility for this development squarely lies with the Palestinians (or with other enemies), that Israel never has had a partner for peace, that the military occupation (forty years this summer), the settlements (ever growing), the separation barrier (ever expanding), the road blocks (doubled since 2005) and the economic blockade (a humanitarian disaster), have all been necessary for the security of Israel in face of an enemy that will never accept Israel and that will always hate the Jews.
This policy is thus said to be a necessary defense also for the Jews of the world – in last instance by fortifying and safeguarding an ethnic-religious fortress inside which they at anytime have the unconditional right to seek refuge from anti-Semitic persecution and destruction.
The notion of the Jews being potential victims of eternal enemies certainly strikes a deep chord in Jewish tradition and experience. It is therefore not hard to understand why this Israeli view of things has received a strong hearing among the Jews of the world, and therefore not hard to understand why so many of them have been ready to make the policies of Israel their own.
This however does not mean that this Israeli view of things necessarily is correct. I might very well be that the main responsibility for the disastrous development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies with Israel, and that the policies of Israel in this respect are doing more harm than good to the Jews of the world.
This is in any case my view of the situation. It is also my view that I as a Jew have more responsibility for what the state of Israel claims to do in the name of all Jews, than for what ever so extreme individuals or movements claim to do in the name of all Palestinians or Muslims.

THIS IS the reason why through the years I have written more about Israeli occupation and Jewish colonization than about Palestinian fanaticism and terrorism. And particularly so after Israel with the election of Ariel Sharon openly rejected the idea of a mutually negotiated settlement with the Palestinians and instead embarked on what the Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling has called a process of politicide, i.e “a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity” (Kimmerling: Politicide. Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians, Verso 2003).
A policy based on the notion that Israel’s only option for survival is as an ethnic-religious fortress in perpetual control of its Palestinian inhabitants and neighbors, is in my view a policy for disaster. Not only for the Palestinians but also for the Jews. It is a policy that increasingly forces upon the Jews of the Diaspora a choice between irreconcilable moral and political principles about the basis of a “good” society; are they to embrace the idea of a society based on all its citizens irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation – or are they to embrace the idea of a society based on citizens of a particular ethnic and religious affiliation? The former is a social ideal which most Jews for apparent reasons always have embraced and defended. The latter is a social ideal which today is represented by the present rulers of Israel – and which in today’s Europe is mainly propagated by those parties and movements that once wished to do away with the Jews, and now wish to do away with the Muslims (and for that purpose are shamelessly wooing Jewish constituents and hailing the policies of Israel).
” Jews around the world should join the debate about Israel, not just defend whatever it does”, the British weekly The Economist recently suggested (”Diaspora Blues”, 13.1.07).
I can only wish that the editor of Judisk Krönika “deep down” is of the same opinion.