By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It seems to me that the main argument of the Israeli Left is that international law and Jewish values offer the best protection for the country. Opposing this stance, the Israeli Right argues that military security and the survival of the Jewish people must be the primary guides of the policies of the government.
Reactions in Israel to the forthcoming vote in the UN Security Council that would de facto recognize a Palestinian state (as a number of European countries have done of late) urging Israel to withdraw from the West Bank within two years can perhaps best be understood in the context of this Right-Left division.
Thus several Israeli patriots and internationally best know writes such as Amos Oz and David Grossman have encouraged Europeans – in particular French legislators – to recognize the Palestinian state. And a front-page ad in Tuesday’s Ha’aretz on behalf of Meretz that describes itself as “the Left of Israel” states that “support for a Palestinian state in the United Nations is in the interest of Israel.”
By contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu says repeatedly that the creation of a Palestinian state would bring ISIS to Israel’s borders and seriously threaten the survival of the more than six million Jews who now live there.
Gaza is often cited as evidence. Israel withdrew and removed its settlements from there. Look what happened: Hamas, a stooge of Iran and the spiritual home of many anti-Jewish extremists, took over. If Israel withdrew from the West Ban, so the argument goes, Tel Aviv would become as vulnerable as Sderot is now.
Though it’s tempting to concur with the defense argument rather than the morality and justice case, there’re loyal Israelis who don’t. This doesn’t mean that the majority will necessarily vote for Meretz or other parties of that ilk, but it does suggest that more may vote for moderates who’re prepared to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians, and shun those on the Right who openly oppose a two-state solution.
Diaspora Jews should take note. The move to the Right in Jewish communities around the world in the guise of loyalty to the Government of Israel whether Right or Left is obvious. Support for the Right is easier when linked with the memory of the Holocaust, as it’s often done, and the fear that another six million Jews may face extinction. The logic of the rhetoric may be faulty but the sentiments it evokes are real.
Jews who know their tradition and are committed to it have reason to dissent from the Right-wing stance. While Hanukkah is about to be celebrated alluding to the prowess of the Maccabees some 2200 years ago, normative Judaism has put the words of the prophet Zechariah as part of the Haftarah for Shabbat Hanukkah: “Not by might, nor by power, but My spirit – said the Lord of Hosts.” The prophet is neither Left nor Right but he does reflect much of normative Judaism.
The Maccabees have long gone – and by the time they disappeared, their commitment to the Lord of Hosts was very questionable – but those who opted for the spirit of God and not for the power of humans are still here to tell the tale. This isn’t a sermon but perhaps a practical formula for the future of Israel, ironically promulgated by many who describe themselves as secular Leftists, and vehemently opposed by those who claim to be the authentic custodians of God’s will.