Will the Jewish state disappear not through war but incrementally, by its own hand, ridding itself one by one of every tie to Judaism and the Jewish people? That is the question posed by Yoram Hazony's fine book The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul published by Basic Books/New Republic Books and essential reading for anyone concerned for the fate of Israel and Zionism. Hazony makes a supremely important point: the state is above all an idea, and once allegiance to that idea is gone, it becomes a hollow shell, subject to disappearance at no more than a forceful breath. As Israel's leaders extol the state's military and economic strength, the loss of the Zionist ideal underscores just how empty these boasts are. The Jewish state is being destroyed, says Hazony, in the mind of the Jewish people. "It is the return to exile. It is a retreat into the void."
Eliminate the Hatikva as Israel's national anthem -- the Arabs cannot identify with it. Add a crescent to the star of David on the national flag. Abolish the Law of Return -- it is racist to give Jews a right to citizenship denied Arabs. Strip the public school of Jewish values and history, emphasizing instead universalist values ("the spirit of man," "the culture of mankind"). Make the barest reference to the Holocaust in the curriculum -- it has the unfortunate effect of making young people believe Jews need political power to preserve themselves. Present Israel's War of Independence and subsequent Arab-Israeli wars in "neutral" fashion, giving the Arab perspective as much (or more) than the Jewish one. The first three still have the status of "proposals" in today's Israel; the last three have already been implemented.
In the first three chapters (Part I of the book) Hazony describes in painful detail the ways in which Israel's "culture-makers" conspire to destroy the moral basis for Israel's existence and the extent to which Israel's political elite, in the wake of Oslo, have given them a free hand in shaping major institutions, from the educational system to the army.
There are the new historians who deny every aspect of the traditional Jewish and Zionist narrative. The Jews are not a people with a common identity but a large number of unconnected religious communities, and the story of a tormented Jewish people returning to its ancestral home was simply manufactured to provide legitimacy for a sordid effort to evict Palestine's rightful Arab inhabitants. Zionism is a "totalitarian" idea and Israel, in the words of Tel Aviv University philosophy department professor Adi Ophir (whose bitterly anti-Zionist journal Theory and Criticism is published with financial support from the Education Ministry) is "the garbage heap of Europe" and "a regime that produces and distributes evil systematically." Equally disturbing, Hazony points out that those in the academy who conceive themselves as defenders of Zionism concede most of the arguments of the so-called "post-Zionists" who attack the idea of the Jewish state.
Then there are the writers and artists. Time and again, in their books, the sympathetic characters are Arabs oppressed by the Zionist state and the theme is the virtue of Jewish powerlessness. Hazony quotes novelist Moshe Shamir, rare in that he is a nationalist writer who broke with the Left, who has noted that the adulation of powerlessness among Israeli writers has become so extreme that Israeli literature as a whole had effectively rejected the Jewish state as the Jewish homeland: "The Holocaust," Shamir concluded bitingly, "is becoming the common homeland of the Jews, their promised land." As for the artists, Boris Schatz, who created the Bezalel Academy to fulfil his dream of a Jewish national art, has been replaced by successors promoting "homelessness" as a Jewish principle. Hazony provides
Israel's secular schools have been stripped of Jewish values.
Hazony describes the "cultural revolution" that disseminated post-Zionist ideas throughout Israel's institutions following the Labor Party's return to power in 1992. It is not only the secular schools (the religious school system maintains its own curriculum) that are stripped of Jewish values and history. The courts have become permeated with the same attitudes, pursuing universal rights at the expense of values and goals that protect the Jewish aspect of the state. Hazony points out that the Basic Laws passed by the Knesset in 1992 have made it easier for the Supreme Court to pursue its own universalistic agenda, creating "for the first time...a significant constitutional foothold for the claim that Israel cannot constitutionally be considered a Jewish state." Even the army has not escaped. The task of creating a behavioral code for the Israel Defense Forces was turned over to post-Zionist ethics professor Asa Kasher, who devised a code which nowhere refers to the Jewish state, the Jewish people or the land of Israel, "or anything else to hint at the Jewish national identity and purpose of the Israeli military."
Foreign policy has been shaped by Shimon Peres and a small coterie on the bizarre assumption that the Middle East as a whole is prepared to relegate nationalism to the past, substituting a new, non-national
[(Continued on p.4)]
May 2000 - 3 - Outpost