Until recently, Jewish communities in Christian or Muslim principalities existed on the sufferance of kings and princes. If the ruler was not theologically hostile to Jews and/or if he found their presence useful, then they were able to live relatively unmolested lives; although in most cases there were restrictions placed on them, ranging from the prohibition against a Jew riding a horse in Muslim lands, to the exclusion of Jews from various trades in Europe.
But if the prince had a problem with Judaism, or even owed big debts to local Jewish moneylenders, then things could turn ugly. Rulers could turn a blind eye to pogroms — or even incite them — and total expulsion of Jews from a nation was possible, as happened in England in 1290, France in 1306 and Spain in 1492.
Zionism was in part supposed to be a solution to Jewish powerlessness and dependency. In a sovereign Jewish state, it would no longer be necessary to cater to, bribe and flatter non-Jewish authorities in order to exist.
Well, the joke seems to be on us. Although there is a sovereign Jewish state, Israel, it is “the Jew among nations,” trying to stay in the favor of the powerful nobles of the world (including the most powerful, the President of the US).
Of course there is a difference: the Jews of the diaspora were physically powerless, while Israel has the IDF. But what good is an army if someone else has veto power over its use?
The present situation, in which savage antisemites have launched (as it were) a pogrom against the Jews of Israel, is precisely the right time to use the power of the Jewish state, to do what the Jews of Kishinev could not do in 1903: stop the pogrom and destroy the ability of the antisemites to hurt them in the future.
This can be done with Hamas and the other terrorist factions in Gaza, but it requires an incursion into the densely populated cores of the cities where Hamas’ command facilities are located. A partial military solution, such as was accomplished by operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, only provides time for the terrorists to rearm and prepare for the next round, incorporating lessons learned.
It cannot be accomplished by negotiations. Diplomacy succeeds when it can provide benefits for both sides, but when one side’s very reason for being is to destroy the other, there isn’t a mutually beneficial solution.
But Israel’s arm is restrained by the patron to which it is most beholden, the USA, as well as the lesser potentates of the E.U. and the U.N. Israel’s PM seems to have agreed — or been forced to agree — to wait a few days to see if an acceptable Egypt-brokered agreement can come about. Meanwhile, tanks and reserve soldiers sit idle near the Gaza border.
The international princes are ostensibly horrified by the potential for harm to civilians (this from the folks that burned Dresden and Tokyo!), but it’s hard to credit this when 30,000 mostly-civilians have been killed in Syria’s civil war, not to mention the millions of black Africans who have died in that continent’s unending conflicts, with little or no response beyond talk.
Whatever the reason, they don’t want to see Hamas crushed.
Israel’s leaders know that there isn’t a diplomatic solution. But what can they do? Over the years, Israel has become so dependent on the U.S. — for advanced weapons, spare parts, etc. — that it is almost impossible to say no to US demands. Possibly some of the attitudes that we developed in the Middle Ages remain with us, as well.
I don’t have a quick fix to suggest. Maybe a tiny nation like the Jewish people must always be dependent to some extent. But it should be a national goal to reduce this dependence as much as possible, to be able to survive even when the occupants of the royal palaces of the world are unfriendly.