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By every tangible military and economic standard, Israel is more powerful than its Palestinian foes. Nonetheless, from time to time, there are stark and compelling reminders in world politics that the powerful can sometimes be weak, and that the weak can sometimes be powerful. For example, despite its evident superiority in arms, Israel is periodically at the mercy of Palestinian rockets fired into civilian areas from Gaza.
We Jews are already accustomed to irony, but - only rarely - does the subject in question rise to the daunting level of human survival. Here, however, is one of those rare subjects. Considering it carefully, we can begin to appreciate the obligation to look at our world with genuinely larger questions in mind. In other words, we should quickly begin to recognize a distinct imperative to look behind the news.
It will seem strange to see a column of mine in The Jewish Press about Woodrow Wilson, but there was very considerable "Jewish wisdom" in this Presbyterian former American president. Wilson first came to my attention in 1967, when I entered Princeton as a graduate student. He had been, after all, a Princeton Professor of Politics, and also a Princeton President before entering the White House.
On its face, it would surely be foolish to blame Daimler-Chrysler's extraordinary woes on the very dark history of Daimler-Benz. On its face, the combined company's deep decline is manifestly a function of bad economic judgments. After all, from the very start, the 1998 decision by Germany's Daimler-Benz to merge with Chrysler simply made no financial sense.
Human interdependence and generalized compassion, integral to a universalized Judaism, are indispensable to species survival. In this respect, President Barack Obama seemingly understands something very Jewish: The state of our now-tormented American union is intimately intertwined with the state of our whole world.
The George W. Bush years are now behind us. But Barack Obama, while still waging an American war on terror, will almost certainly remain committed to a so-called "Two-State Solution" in the Middle East.
For a Palestinian state to be born, only a gravedigger could wield the forceps. Yet in one form or another, a new state of "Palestine" will likely be carved out of the still-living body of Israel. Supported by both outgoing President Bush and President-elect Obama, this 23rd Arab state would quickly seek extension, in judicious increments, beyond the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and into the "green line" boundaries of Israel proper. This is hardly a controversial expectation, as even the official Palestinian Authority (PA) map of "moderate" Fatah now shows all of Israel as part of Palestine.
It is always difficult to believe that any thinking friend of Israel, let alone a prominent Israeli academic strategist, could find something positive in Israeli territorial surrenders and associated capitulations.
Smugly and shamelessly, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert gives freedom to terrorists in exchange for slain Jews.
Every four years America looks to a new president as a source of real hope. And every four years the code word of each yelling aspirant is "change."
Horace was born in 65 BCE, and died in 8 BCE. His ode (I, 14) on the "Ship of State" pertains to ancient Rome, but it might just as well refer to Israel after "Palestine".
My readers in The Jewish Press are accustomed to reading my articles on timely strategic and jurisprudential issues. For the most part, these columns have explored various dangers of terrorism, war and genocide. But sometimes we are imperiled by a very different sort of terror. There is, of course, the "usual" threat of terror violence (the terror "outside"), but there is also a serious specter of interior terror that arises from our willful abandonment of individuality (the terror "within").
For Jews, free will must always be oriented toward life, to the blessing, not to the curse. Our binding charge is to strive in this obligatory direction of individual and collective self-preservation by using our intelligence and by exercising our essentially disciplined acts of will. In circumstances where such striving is consciously rejected, the outcome - however catastrophic - can never rise to the dignified level of tragedy.
True life, it seems, can never be brought purposefully before the judgment seat of Reason. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, absurd narratives now best mirror the deteriorating situation of life on earth. Still living an elaborate pantomime of right and wrong, justice and punishment, we humans desperately want the unfolding world-drama to develop with both fairness and sensibility. Generally, we witness something quite different.
Since Netanyahu, whose own slick administration disingenuously strengthened the hand of Palestinian terrorists, most Israelis have insistently kept up a hollow refrain for Palestinian "autonomy." But the Palestinians know full well the difference between autonomy and sovereignty, and they will have nothing of the former.
Now that the Annapolis "Peace Summit" has concluded, it is likely - that in time - a new terror state will be declared in the region. Strangely, Israel's Prime Minister Olmert is convinced that the creation of "Palestine" is essential to his country'ssurvival. Of course, this position might make a great deal of sense if the planned Palestinian state were to be led by Buddhist monks, but the intrinsic and endemic violence of both Fatah and Hamas make such a leadership rather implausible.
From the Oslo Accords' very beginnings, on September 1, 1993, Yasir Arafat reaffirmed that any "peace" agreements must be an intrinsic part of the PLO's 1974 phased plan for Israel's destruction: "The agreement will be a basis for an independent Palestinian state in accordance with the Palestinian National Council resolution issued in 1974.... The PNC resolution issued in 1974 calls for the establishment of a national authority on any part of Palestinian soil from which Israel withdraws or which is liberated..." Later, on May 29, 1994, Rashid Abu Shbak, a senior PA security official, remarked: "The light which has shone over Gaza and Jericho will also reach the Negev and the Galilee."
Certain Arab/Islamic critics of Israel often speak of some deeply sinister Jewish migrations to "Palestine" after World War I, neglecting to mention that (1) there has been a large and continuous Jewish presence in the land for over 3,000 years; and (2) there has been a continuing Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
Back in August 2007, the Palestinian Authority (PA), Prime Minister Olmert's "partner in peace," named a soccer tournament after Ziyad Da'as, a Fatah-Tanzim terrorist who had been eliminated by Israel exactly five years earlier. The Palestinian Da'as was responsible for the heroic January 2002 attack in which gunmen opened fire with an M-16 at a Bat Mitzvah in Hadera, murdering six and seriously wounding thirty. With equal courage, he had also planned the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli civilians in Tulkarem in 2001.
One must wonder: Is current U.S. policy on the "Road Map" merely the result of a foolish consistency, or is something much more sinister going on? After all, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice remain determined to birth a viable Palestinian state, one that would be part of an altogether mythical "two-state solution."
First published here almost one year ago, Professor Beres' column about Prime Minister Olmert's devastating policy errors was a warning unheeded. Written even before the 2006 Lebanon War fiasco, it takes on new and especially urgent meanings following the scathing report by Israel's Winograd Commission.
Religious Extremism And International Legal Norms Perfidy, Irrationality And Preemption (Conclusion)
Another term that appears in the title of my remarks is "irrationality." I have noted before − per Rene Girard − that violence need not necessarily be irrational.
Religious Extremism And International Legal Norms Perfidy, Irrationality And Preemption (Second Of Three...
By itself, violence is not necessarily irrational. In the words of Rene Girard, whose book Violence And The Sacred should be the underlying text of all that we do here today, it sometimes "does have its reasons."