Edited version of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, December 12, 2007. The reader should bear in mind that I have also subjected Israel’s religious parties to critical analysis, including the Zionist National Religious Party. What is more, I now oppose religious parties, and that Israel’s religious communities should not be beholden, primarily, to government handouts. Finally, this critique is meant to be constructive, to prompt all pro-Israel organizations to engage in self-criticism with a view to making themselves more effective champions of Israel.
With due respect to all Zionist organizations, those that lack a Torah orientation inherently lack an adequate understanding of the basic causes of Israel’s present malaise. Although what I am about to say will not endear me to these organizations or to their supporters, perhaps it will prompt them to undertake serious self-criticism.
When a doctor examines a sick patient, he tries to relate the symptoms of their illness to some underlying cause. Certain organizations in Israel and the United States have devoted enormous time and energy to making Israel safe and strong. No wonder they have failed to achieved this objective! Surely, they should be aware that despite the decades during which they have been working to make Israel safe and strong, Israel today has never been more insecure.
There are two basic reasons for this failure. First of all, to make Israel safe and strong, one must persuasively and persistently advocate basic changes in its feeble system of government. It should be obvious that any government or cabinet composed of five, or, six or more rival political parties is inherently inept and unstable—the case of Israel. Yet, so far as I am aware, no Zionist organization in Israel or in the United States has taken upon itself the task of subjecting Israel’s political system to critical analysis, showing how this system contributes to Israel’s policy of appeasement toward its Arab enemies, whether in the form of territorial withdrawal or the release of Arab terrorists.
Although some Zionist organizations may be aware of Israel’s defective system of government, they focus entirely on policy flaws rather than institutional flaws—as if Israel’s 30-year policy of “territory for peace” is not causally related to defects in its institutions. Of course, institutional flaws are more intractable than policy flaws—to say nothing of the flawed character of human beings—their lack of wisdom and virtue. But to ignore institutional flaws is to perpetuate a dysfunctional system of governance whose pernicious consequences are unending and potentially lethal.
On the other hand, some Zionist organizations in America may refrain from criticizing Israel’s system of government because they want to avoid the burden or embarrassment of having to respond to Israelis who say, “Look, if you want to reform our system of government, make aliya.” This Israeli response is only a bogeyman. Apart from the Jewish principle that all Jews are responsible for each other, Americans have family members living in Israel and are concerned about their safety. These American have a right to criticize a government whose institutions are undermining the lives of their loved ones.
Even more significant, the Land of Israel belongs to all Jews, including posterity. American Jews have every right to criticize a system of government that betrays the heritage of the Jewish people, that sacrifices the birthright of their children and grandchildren by surrendering any part of this Holy Land.
Moreover, the security of the U.S. itself depends partly on Israel, hence on the effectiveness of Israel’s system of government. This decrepit system, as I have shown, is largely responsible for Israel’s debacle vis-à-vis Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War—and Hezbollah has “sleeper” cells in America. And this is not all.
Annapolis may have been a consequence of the failure of the Olmert government to destroy Hezbollah—Iran’s proxy. Furthermore, that debacle in Lebanon may be responsible for the latest US National Intelligence Estimate, which has taken a U.S. strike against Iran off the table, which means Israel has been abandoned.
So, despite their mission to make Israel safe and strong, Zionist organizations have ignored the demonstrable fact that Israel’s political institutions have made Israel unsafe and feeble. That’s the first failure of these Zionist organizations—a failure also evident in religious Zionist organizations.
A second failure is this: the focus on a safe and strong Israel is misguided! The fundamental problem is to make Israel more Jewish, that is, to cultivate Jewish wisdom and virtue—the foundation of Jewish national pride and purpose! That’s the only serious and enduring way of making Israel safe and strong.
Almost any Tom, Dick, and Harry can address the problem of making Israel safe and strong: Don’t yield territory to terrorists; don’t release and arm terrorists; maintain a qualitative military edge over your enemies. But if you were to say that Israel is lacking Jewish national pride and that this is a basic cause of its weakness—as virtually any Zionist organization will admit—then it’s incumbent on Zionist organizations to foster Jewish national pride by trying, in one way or another, to make Israel more Jewish.
Ah, but there’s the rub. Making Israel safe or strong is not a terribly controversial issue. But making Israel more Jewish—that’s another matter. What do you mean by “more Jewish”? Non-Torah oriented Zionist organizations must obviously stay clear of this Pandora box. So they address relatively superficial issues.
By so doing, however, they divert attention, resources, and intellectual energy away from the core of Israel’s problems—to which extent they perpetuate those problems. Of course, they deserve credit for their many efforts to educate pubic opinion as well as politicians on security matters. But let’s be honest: despite all their well-meaning endeavors, they have had no impact on Israel’s government. Israel is not a smidgen safer or stronger. Its government is now headed by the weakest prime minister in Israel’s history. And mark this well: That prime minister’s party, Kadima, initially gained control of the government without having competed in a national election—thanks to Israel’s pathological political system!!!
As for the influence of American Zionist organizations on US Middle East foreign policy, it was as if these organizations did not exist. Despite all their perceptive criticism of the policy of “land for peace,” despite their revelations about Islam’s genocidal intentions, and despite their pro-Israel lobbying efforts in Washington, what did we see at the Annapolis Conference? We saw the most blatant pro-Palestinian stance ever taken by an American government!
Surely, this should prompt Zionist organizations to undertake a serious reassessment of what they are all about. Perhaps they should begin by examining or re-examining the meaning of “Zion.” Perhaps their conception of Zionism, like that of the Likud Party, is shallow, primarily concerned about territory—hence security—rather than Judaism. Of course, Eretz Israel is a basic ingredient of Judaism, more precisely, Jewish nationalism. But the Jews were expelled from Eretz Israel because they ignored the foundation of Jewish nationalism—the Torah.
Notice how Zionist organizations roll out the red carpet to political Zionists. Let me tell you about a different kind of Zionist, Dr. Isaac Breuer.
Dr. Breuer was an Orthodox rabbi and one of the greatest exponents of Jewish thought in the first half of the twentieth century. Breuer studied philosophy and law at the universities of Berlin and Strasbourg where he received a doctorate in jurisprudence. Although he admired Theodor Herzl, he maintained that only observant Jews can be true nationalists, that political Zionism is not only a distorted form of Jewish nationalism, but by having “turned the Torah into a mere religion, a matter of private conscience,” it has become “the most terrible enemy that has ever risen against the Jewish nation.”
This is not a criticism of the Left—which was never nationalist. Dr. Breuer’s criticism applies to groups identified with the so-called Right! This criticism applies to the Likud and to any projected secular party to the right of the Likud.
Zionist organizations should take Dr. Breuer seriously. The only way to make Israel safe and strong is to make Israel more Jewish, and this requires radical change not only in Israel’s system of education, but also in Israel’s unJewish system of governance.