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September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
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Cowardice And Desecration: The Deeper Jewish Meanings Of ‘Disengagement’


All people, Jews or Gentiles, who dare not defend themselves when they know they are in the right, who submit to punishment not because of what they have done but because of who they are, are already dead by their own decision; and whether or not they survive physically depends on chance. If circumstances are not favorable, they end up in gas chambers.

Bruno Bettelheim
Freud’s Vienna And Other Essays

Bettelheim, like the Greek poet Homer, understands that the force that does not kill – that does not kill just yet – can turn a human being into stone, into a thing, while it is still alive. Merely hanging ominously over the head of the vulnerable creature it can choose to kill at any moment, poised lasciviously to destroy breath in what it has “graciously” allowed, if only for a few more moments, to breathe, this force mocks the fragile life it intends to consume. The pitiable human being who stands helplessly before this force has effectively become a corpse before any deadly assault is even launched.

Israel, this pitiable human being in macrocosm – skillfully manipulated and assaulted by a carefully orchestrated pattern of Palestinian terror – is now in the final process of becoming this “thing.” Called upon again and again by our “civilized” world to negotiate with ritualistic killers and child murderers, the Jewish state under Prime Minister Sharon has cravenly agreed to annihilate not only its collective future, but also the entire sacredness of its past. Refusing to affirm its immutable post-Holocaust obligation to endure – to sanctify and recall its Torah obligation to “choose life” – the Prime Minister is prepared to carve an explicitly genocidal Palestinian state out of Israel’s own still-living national body. With his advancing policy of “disengagement,” Mr. Sharon shamelessly pushes Israel toward a ludicrously squalid death, an inexcusable national surrender which lacks even a residual shred of meaning or dignity.

But won’t the Arab world be grateful to Sharon for agreeing to Israel’s suicide? Surely this world must be pleased that no official words from Jerusalem now dare to curse the Palestinian Authority’s unceasing villainy. Surely its inhabitants must have been deeply impressed by the Prime Minister’s latest “good-will gesture” of terrorist prisoner releases. After all, having been left unopposed in the systematic integration of slaughterers into its “security services,” the Palestinian Authority should now feel at least a tiny debt of gratitude toward Israel’s leadership.

But the Arab world does not easily play the part of the gentleman. Nor does this world’s most public meanings seethe with any apparent allusions or equivocations. Not at all. It is, in this respect (let us be fair), a brutally honest world. Even today, even after Oslo and the “Road Map,” the official Palestinian Authority map of “Palestine” is boldly undisguised. Here, Palestine includes ALL of Israel. There are no two states on the PA maps; only one. There is no plan for coexistence with Israel; only for a continuation of the unreconstructed Arab/Islamic “phased plan” for Israel’s “liquidation.”

An irremediable desolation…. This is still the sole Arab design for Jews in a Jewish land that is half the size of Lake Michigan. There is NO Arab state on this bleeding planet that accepts a Jewish State in the Dar al Islam, in the “World of Islam.” Not one.

Israel is in “Road Map” negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. But what sort of peace can Israel negotiate with a “partner” whose only real hope is for it to become a mangled corpse? How shall Israel navigate peace in a region where the more traditional forms of anti-Semitism are now being reinvigorated by altogether unambiguous calls for Jew killing – open calls for the maiming and mutilation of Jewish children with nary a hint of any “civilized” condemnation?

Shall Israel complain? No problem, it can always seek authoritative comfort in the United Nations and its International Court of “Justice.” Shall it be allowed to erect a fence to protect its children from being torn apart and burned alive? Certainly not, since the lives of Israel’s Jewish children are loudly declared to be less valuable than the olive trees of inconvenienced Palestinian farmers. So it is written in the ICJ’s July 9, 2004 advisory opinion on Israel’s security fence. So it shall be done.

One might expect that Israel, after all the horror it has suffered at the hands of Arab terrorists, would betray itself no longer. When Priam enters the tent of Achilles, stops, clasps Achilles’ knees, and kisses his hands, he has already reduced himself to a hapless and unworthy victim, one to be disposed of without ceremony and in very short order. Realizing this, a gracious Achilles takes the old man’s arm, pushing him away. As long as he is clasping Achilles’ knees, Priam is an inert object. Only by lifting him up off his knees can Achilles restore him to a position of self-respect and to a living manhood.

Here Israel and Priam part company. Israel’s frenzied enemies, twisted by Jihad, will never act in the manner of Achilles. Their aim is not the high-minded revitalization of a respected adversary, but rather the “liquidation” (actual term) of an inert object by genocide and war. The Illiad reveals certain important lessons for Jerusalem; perhaps it should be read even more carefully than The New York Times.

Israel has now come to accept a deformed view of itself that was spawned not in Jerusalem or Hebron, but in Cairo, London, Damascus, Paris, Baghdad, Washington, Teheran, Hamburg, Jericho and Gaza. Degraded and debased, this is the view not of a strong and powerful Jewish people, determined to remain alive in its own land, but of a conspicuous corpse-in-waiting, brought home from a 2,000-year exile only to make its present-day erasure easier to inflict. Large majorities of courageous Israelis have always fought bitterly against such an intolerable view – against the delusionary visions of terrorist releases and “disengagements” – but this defiling view is now the official one nonetheless.

After Auschwitz, after Belsen, after Warsaw, after Lodz, there can’t be any more intolerable expression of Jewish self-deception than an Israel that has learned to “live with terror” and even to support the creation of another terror state by its own desecration. To suggest anything else, after every blown-up bus or school or restaurant, that life in Israel must return to “normal,” is not normal. It is unspeakable.

The relentless moral cowardice of so many Jewish “intellectuals” consecrates Israel’s relentless enemies. Writing several years ago about Israel’s Oslo Agreements, the Israeli novelist Aharon Megged noted: “We have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history; an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation.” This identification has taken poisonous root in a succession of Israeli governments. Where is the way out?

There is an exit from this humiliating and lethal condition. Replacing Sharon will not be enough. Israel requires a way that demands, more than anything else, an upright posture for the nation, an appropriately heroic posture that precludes clasping the enemy’s knees and kissing his hands. It is a way of dignity, not of supplication. It is a way of open and full and unapologetic warfare against evil, of standing firm for Jewish lands, of keeping terrorist murderers locked up in Israeli jails, of choosing faithfully to stay alive, of avoiding not only death at the hands of despicable enemies, but also a distinctly un-Jewish death-in-life.

Copyright (c) The Jewish Press. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University and Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS. Dr. Beres is also the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, war and Israeli security matters, and Chair of “Project Daniel.”

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.

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