In marmur

“The State of Israel against the Jews” is the provocative title of an article in Friday’s Ha’aretz Magazine by Eva Illuz, professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of many important books and articles on current affairs.

She bases her contention on the highly publicized encounters between Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and current political leaders of countries like the United States, Hungary and Poland to the great embarrassment and worse of local Jewish communities. Hence the title of her article.

Unlike Netanyahu who is the closest to a card-carrying United States Republican an Israeli can be, most American Jews are Democrats and many are opposed to Trump’s presidency. The Jews in Hungary are said to be confused over the leader of the Jewish state hobnobbing with their anti-Semitic prime minister. Jews in Poland, and virtually the entire community of Holocaust scholars worldwide, strongly oppose the version of the Holocaust promulgated by the current government in Poland. The leader of the Philippines, who has compared himself to Hitler, gets the red carpet treatment in Jerusalem! And what about Netanyahu’s allegedly close ties with Putin?

Illuz doesn’t say anything about the contention that Netanyahu’s alliances, however unpalatable they may be, at least in the short-term seem to benefit Israel. Netanyahu periodically reminds us that Israel’s standing in the world under his watch is better than it has ever been. The question for us to ask is whether the short-term gains don’t anticipate very severe long-term pains.

The pains may be already discernable in the Nationality Law that the Knesset passed recently. The law seems to echo the anti-alien stance of Trump, Urban and the rest of them. Looking ahead, Eva Illuz is wondering what effect Netanyahu’s policies will have on the very nature of the Jewish state. She fears, first and foremost, the alienation of the Diaspora, second, the dismantling of the long-term objectives of the State of Israel, and third, Israel’s standing in the international community.

Politicians may not like to think beyond that which is expedient, but statesmen should. Netanyahu sees himself as a statesman; his opponents tend to view him as a politician with a severe integrity deficiency, even without referring to the various criminal investigations that are now going on.

Netanyahu’s deficiency is manifest, according to Illuz, in his having joined Trump, Putin and others in their effort to destroy the already ailing liberal world order. This, she reminds readers, is very much contrary to the teachings of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the spiritual father of Netanyahu’s Likud party, who was also the celebrated mentor of Netanyahu’s father Benzion (whose influence on his son is said to be considerable), and a role model of Menachem Begin, one of Netanyahu’s predecessors in office.  

Perhaps the most important point that Eva Illuz is making has to do with the disparity between Netanyahu’s claim to speak on behalf of world Jewry and his seemingly deliberate effort to alienate much of it, not only as manifest in the political opposition in Israel but as discernable in the Jewish communities all over the world. The growing distance to Israel and what it stands for, particularly among young Jews, seems to be one of seemingly irreparable consequences.

As expedient as alliances with Trump, Putin, Urban and the others may be, the future of the Jewish state depends on its close links with Jews everywhere. Illuz implies that they’re at risk.

Jerusalem 14.9.18                                                                                                                                            Dow Marmur

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