The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

05-Aug-2009

From Martin Buber to Michael Oren

What does Martin Buber have in common with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States?

In response to the Obama administration’s objection to settlements, Mr. Oren is reported to have said: “Settlements are not the issue.” “The issue is the recognition of the mutual legitimacy of these two peoples, the legitimate claim to these two states [the Jewish state and the projected Arab state].”

Underlying the words I have emphasized is a mode of thought that has long influenced the mentality of Israel’s political and intellectual elites: historical or cultural relativism. I discuss the pernicious influence of relativism in my book Israel and the Malaise of Democracy, written shortly after the Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993. Here are some key passages:

“Because it cannot transcend [cultural relativism], the government [of Israel] is psychologically incapable of asserting the preeminence of Jewish [over Arab] rights to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Note the subtle influence of relativism [and subjectivism] in this statement of Dr. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, [once] Likud chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs committee: ‘In our eyes we have a right to this land’ (The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 1992, p. 5a, emphasis added).

“We see in Ben-Elissar the shallowness of the Likud’s political Zionism…. (more…)