Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now officially on record in favor of creating a Palestinian state (a position that he had long opposed), but only if the new Arab state is “demilitarized.“Naturally, any such notion of demilitarization will be anathema to the Palestinians and their supporters, and has – in fact – already been rejected by all of them.
So, my dear readers here in The Jewish Press, let’s now go back to the beginning and recall Mr. Netanyahu’s underlying objections to “Palestine,” which, ironically, remain more valid and well founded than ever.
There is still no place on earth called Palestine. When a reborn Israel was authoritatively created by international treaties and international law in 1948, it did not replace Palestine, nor did it prevent Palestinian statehood. Nonetheless, most of the world, including U.S. President Barack Obama, prefers to think otherwise. This altogether basic misunderstanding and misrepresentation is now also as common in great universities as it is in very ordinary politics. Indeed, wherever one looks for informed commentary about the Middle East, a symmetrical condition is widely presumed to exist between two fully sovereign and hence equal states. To wit, much of this commentary speaks routinely of a protracted conflict between Israel and “Palestine.”
Perhaps if this were the only pertinent falsehood here, Israel and its few real allies could still deal effectively with the attendant problems. However, certain “moderate” Palestinian factions still pretend to favor a “Two State Solution,” and Jerusalem – endlessly pressured by Washington – still goes along with the deception and charade. It follows that an authentic state of Palestine may actually come to fruition, and this 23rd Arab country will quickly bring about a de jure as well as de facto equivalence.
Such a state should be prevented at all costs. Palestinian statehood would be inherently unstable. Above all else, it would lead, in short order, to major new assaults upon Israel. Cumulatively, these assaults could even have existential outcomes.
Genre can illuminate. Israel, after the creation of Palestine, would await a tragic fate. Yet, because of the fact that the Jewish State will have been more or less actively complicit in such creation all along, a different dramatic image would then more accurately reflect Israel’s geopolitical reality. Like the minimalist poetics of Samuel Beckett, this entire “play,” however blatantly tragic, would also be preposterous. The great Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco had labeled some of his own work a “tragic farce,” and this particularly odd juxtaposition would likely be the most suitable description of Israel and “Palestine.”
More about genre. Both Israel and the Palestinians have long been engaged in an elaborate pantomime. Somehow, both have managed, by immense clamor, by vast rhythmic repetition, by ceaseless reliance upon platitudes, to make genuine thinking impossible. Now there is great danger that a continuously elaborated fiction of Palestinian statehood – a concoction governed by an inscrutably perverse and destructive logic – will soon become historical fact.
Let us go back in time, to a much earlier era and a different (but still nearby) venue. The early Greeks, of course, did not share the monotheistic Jewish understanding of One G-d. But both the Greeks and the Jews did subscribe to the perfectly reasonable idea that all human beings and societies are obligated to ward off disaster as best they can. HaRav Saadia Gaon included freedom of will among the central teachings of Judaism, and Maimonides affirmed that we humans stand alone in the world, “…to know what is good and what is evil, with none to prevent him from either doing good or evil.”
Free will, we Jews understand, must always be oriented to life, to the blessing, and never to the curse. For Hellenes and Hebrews alike, the binding charge was to strive in this mandated direction of self-preservation through intelligence, and also through disciplined acts of decision. In circumstances where such striving was consciously rejected, the outcomes, no matter how catastrophic, could never truly rise to the manifestly dignified level of tragedy.
Genre elucidates. The ancient vision of “High Tragedy,” as it has evolved from 5th century BCE Athens, is always clear on one crucial point: The victim, says Aristotle, is one whom “the gods kill for their sport, as wanton boys do flies.” It is this wantonness, this caprice that makes tragedy unendurable to human reason and sensibility.
“Human reason and sensibility.” In seeking peace in the contemporary Middle East? Let us be candid. With the creation of “Palestine,” Israel’s unavoidable lamentations would be largely self-inflicted. The preposterous drama, as it is now still unfolding, is thus at best a disturbing page from Beckett or Ionesco, from the recognizable genre of the absurd. There is certainly no hint of any cathartic element drawn from Aristotle, Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides. At worst, Israel’s tragic fate is being torn directly from the pages of irony and farce, a demeaning form of comedy that relies principally on contrivances of plot, and on inherently low levels of credibility.
In a farce, matters often end badly except for a last-minute rescue via so-called deus ex machina. No such rescue could possibly await the increasingly imperiled State of Israel. Understood in explicitly Jewish terms, we should recall here the words of Rabi Yanai: “A man should never put himself in a place of danger and say that a miracle will save him, lest there be no miracle….” (Talmud) Perhaps Israel’s current prime minister does not expect a miracle, but then upon what precise manner of calculation does he now construct his farcical policy of “two states living peacefully side-by-side”?
(To be continued)
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security issues and international law. Born in Switzerland, he is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.