All things move in the midst of death, even nations and civilizations. From 1948 to the present day, certain of Israel’s prime ministers, facing war, terrorism, or even genocide, have been deeply reluctant to admit core national vulnerabilities. Indeed, rather than acknowledge the plainly exterminatory intent and (increasingly) the corollary destructive capacity of determined enemies, these leaders have sometimes opted for (1) so-called terrorist exchanges; 2) utterly inexcusable deals of land for nothing; and (3) endlessly assorted surrenders of power.
Yet let us be fair. This assuredly is not the whole story. As we all know, during its very short post-Holocaust life, Israel has accomplished extraordinary feats in science, medicine, agriculture, education, and industry. Its remarkable military institutions, far exceeding all reasonable expectations, have fought, interminably and heroically, to prevent any new forms of post-Holocaust annihilation.
It goes without saying that every Jew on earth, and many millions of others, must be unequivocally grateful.
It is a record possibly without equal in human history.
Nonetheless, almost from the beginning the indispensable Israeli fight for survival has not been premised on appropriately optimal foundations. This fight should have been erected upon a central fact of the reconstituted Jewish commonwealth. This fact concerns land.
From the critical standpoint of legal provenance, all of the disputed land still controlled by Israel has incontestable Israeli title. It follows that protracted diplomatic negotiations between Israel and its “partners for peace” continue to rest upon basically misconceived or erroneous jurisprudential premises.
History remains a violent preceptor. Had Israel determinedly sustained its own birthright narrative of Jewish sovereignty, and without submitting to periodic and enervating forfeitures of both land and dignity, the national future, though still problematic, would likely have been meaningfully tragic. But by choosing instead to fight in ways that ultimately transformed its stunning victories on the battlefield to incremental capitulations at the conference table, this future may ultimately have to be written as farce.
Sometimes, truth is counterintuitive. In true life, as well as in literature and poetry, the tragic hero is always an object of admiration, not a pitiable creature, or one of humiliation. From Aristotle to Shakespeare to Camus, tragedy always reveals the very best in human understanding, perseverance, and purposeful action. Once aware that entire nations, like the individual human beings who comprise them, are never quite forever, the tragic hero nevertheless does everything possible merely to stay alive.
For Israel, and, in principle, for every other imperiled nation on earth, the only real alternative to tragic heroism is humiliation, or pathos. By their incessant unwillingness to decline any semblance of a Palestinian state as intolerable (because, as I have written so often in The Jewish Press, an acceptance of “Palestine” in any form would be unendurable), Israel’s current leaders have nurtured a genuinely schizophrenic Jewish reality in the “new” Middle East. This reality is a Jewish state that is, at one and the same time, unimaginably successful and incomparably fragile. Over time, the result of this ironic combination may be a palpable sense of national madness.
More than any other region on earth, the Islamic Middle East and North Africa is “governed” by unreason. Oddly, this observation has been reinforced rather than contradicted by the grotesquely twisting patterns of “democratic revolution” across the area. Earlier, while the pundits, politicos, and journalists had optimistically expected the fall of area-tyrants to be an unreservedly good thing, actual events have moved in substantially different directions.
To be sure, both Libya and Syria may yet fall to industrious jihadist elements. Already, post-Mubarak Egypt is run by a figure drawn conspicuously from the Muslim Brotherhood. In non-Arab Iran, which will soon become a hostile nuclear power, because neither Israel nor the United States had effectively stood in its way, preparations are underway to further assist Sunni Hamas allies in Gaza, and to gainfully energize Shiite Hizbullah surrogates in Lebanon. In both unstable venues, the enemy objective is an Islamic victory against “the Jews.”
In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia put an end to the Thirty Years War, the last of the great European religious wars sparked by the Reformation. In the Middle East and North Africa, however, we may only be at the start of the next great religious wars. If they are fought with biological and/or even nuclear weapons, such conflicts could rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and until all things human are leveled in a vast chaos.