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The Old New Jew

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It’s an old Jewish joke:The gentile drew a circle on the ground, stood the Jew inside and triumphantly declared, “If you leave the circle, you’re a dead man!” He then proceeded to rob the Jew’s wife and went on his way.

 

When the danger had passed, the wife angrily said to her husband, “Why didn’t you help me? Don’t you have any self-respect?”

 

“Didn’t you see?” the husband retorted. “While the non-Jew was robbing you, I put my foot out of the circle.”

 

There is no need to explain what this joke reminded me of. Somebody in Israel’s Foreign Ministry dared step out of the circle. But in today’s reality, the joke continues. The non-Jew, after he has robbed the Jew’s wife, notices that her husband stepped out of the circle and demands an apology. Then the Jew boasts to his wife that he didn’t apologize exactly the way the non-Jew demanded.

 

Astute observers of the joke, called Israel’s foreign relations, could easily guess how the diplomatic crisis between Israel’s deputy foreign minister and the Turkish ambassador would turn out: The Jew apologized once again, in the language dictated by the non-Jew.

 

Israel’s relations with Turkey epitomize the sad story of Zionism. We wanted to be a normal nation so badly. “On the day that the Jewish state is established, anti-Semitism will disappear,” Herzl promised. Well, at least the first part of his dream was fulfilled. The second part smolders deep within our being, giving us no rest. The desire to be normal – to be part of the “family of nations,” to be rid of the Diaspora hunch on our backs, to purge ourselves of our Jewish destiny – is actually the inner, founding ethos of the State of Israel. It is also the open secret of its infirmity and its Achilles heel.

 

In the whole world, there is not a leader more dismal than Mahmoud Abbas. He is a scarecrow set up in Ramallah by Israel, surviving there only with the help of the IDF. But this scarecrow stands Prime Minister Netanyahu in a circle and makes conditions for his very willingness to speak with him. From where does Abbas get his chutzpah? From where do the Bedouins and Israel’s Arabs get theirs? How is it that the spy, former Knesset member Azmi Bishara, was allowed to escape to Jordan and continue to receive a hefty Knesset pension? How has Israel been transformed from a local superpower to a doormat for the whole world?

 

We are experiencing a closing of the circle. First, there was the Jew from the joke. After that came the proud Zionists who created the new Jew, the Jew who knew how to fight back hard.

 

Our new Jew establishes a state that is not Jewish. It is Zionist. Together with the curse of the exile and the spinelessness that was rightfully shed, the new state also sheds its Jewish destiny and disengages from the long chain of Jewish heritage – from our forefathers, from the ethos of the Exodus from Egypt, from King David, from the Holy Temple, from the Diaspora, from the biblical and Talmudic epic. From everything.

 

But the values that Zionism pretended to establish in place of Judaism have evaporated. All that is left is reality TV, grotesque celebrity figures, and a president who hates history. The only real remnant of Zionism is the aspiration that never fades: to be like everyone else, to be accepted, to stop being different.

 

And that means that we absolutely cannot have Turkey recalling its ambassador, because that would return us to the starting point that we tried to escape. And we absolutely cannot arrest Bishara, because in the high profile trial that would ensue, it would become clear that there is no such thing as an “Israeli Arab.” It would be obvious that Israel must be a strictly Jewish state.

 

           We have come full circle. As soon as the non-Jews in Israel and the rest of the world understood that we needed them to fulfill our fantasy of the “new Jew,” we became doormats; the strongest doormats in the world, replete with nuclear weapons and advanced technology, doormats that look and act more non-Jewish than the non-Jews. We have glittering American types like Netanyahu; tough, proud Russians like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; and a deputy foreign minister who married a Christian evangelist.

 

            The Zionist dialectic has turned us into first-rate non-Jews. We have come full circle. The entire world looks at us and sees the Jew from the joke. It turns out that the new Jew is really the new, old Jew. With just one difference: He has sold not only his honor but also his ancient culture – down the river.

 

For information about Manhigut Yehudit’s Shushan Purim (March 1) dinner at Yankee Stadium, visit www.jewishisrael.org.

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