I empathize with Brad Burston. I feel his pain. The current rightist government is driving him to despair as a liberal Zionist. It is destroying his dream of an Israel that is good and moral and at peace with itself and its neighbors. I think I have long since lost some of the hopes and dreams Burston had (though my pain at times is no less than Burston’s). I still consider myself a Zionist, but I would guess that our conceptions of it would be different.
Which is the reason why Burston’s dilemma compels me. He’s still in territory I left some time ago. But the very fact that he occupies ground that many Israelis do occupy means he is a bellweather of sorts for the liberal-left Zionist. If Burston is facing a crisis of conscience, that is an important indication of a chink in the armor of the latter-day Zionism and its liberal supporters.
Avrum Burg went through such a crisis several years ago, abandoned liberal Zionism and Zionism in general, and emigrated from Israel to France and as a result opted out, to an extent, of this political debate. It will be interesting to see whether, like Burg, Burston will have the courage of his conviction, and whether he will move to a more radical position or remain in his liberal Zionist mode.
Since he’s such a powerful writer when his passion is engaged, I enjoy quoting him at length. Before I do though, I’m troubled by his juxtaposition of the supposed far-left anti-Zionist position with his own. There are anti-Zionist who truly hate Israel, but there are anti-Zionists who do not and they’re not treated fairly by Burston’s formulation. With that caveat, read on:
At times like these, I envy the people who passionately, frankly, with all their hearts, despise Israel.
Hate Israel enough, and the Jewish state’s failings and blunders, its self-satisfied blindness and its resultant self-destructive policies, cause not pain, but delight.
Hate Israel enough, and you’re spared all inclination to try to fix what’s wrong, to work to set it right. On the contrary, hate Israel enough, and you may come to believe not only that the country deserves to be punished to the point of replacement by a different state – Israel may well do the job all by itself.
This is one of those times.
I have made my peace with the fact that this is not the same country I moved to, so long ago. I learned when I first came, that Israel was not the country I’d thought I was moving to.
But this is different. This time is a test for every Israeli, and so far, we are failing.
There was once a time when Israel longed to be a member in good standing of the community of nations. There was a time when one of its fondest goals was to end its status as a nation in quarantine, boycotted, unrecognized, unwanted, kept firmly at arm’s length.
No longer. Without asking its people, without a second thought, Israel, at its highest level, has taken an executive decision. Unable to beat the forces who want to see Israel as one of the world’s primary pariah states, it has resolved to join them.
Determined to take our fate into its own hands. Israel, at its highest level, has decided that the job of delegitimizing the Jewish state must not be left to foreigners and amateurs. Showing itself desperate to be a pariah state, Israel will now get it done on its own.
What the far-left from Britain to Berkeley has been unable to bring off – a sense among Israel’s allies that Israel has become a heartless, morally heedless aggressor state worthy of sanction and shunning – the far-right in Israel’s own government, and in particular, its Foreign Ministry, seems determined to inculcate to the full.
We should have known that something like the Dubai assassination debacle was going to happen. The process of de-legitimizing Israel from within was going too slowly.
It was not enough choose a pathetic side issue, a Turkish television show with anti-Israel scenes, as grounds to humiliate with infantile malice the highly respected ambassador of Turkey – a nation whose relationship with Israel, though troubled, remains crucial from every strategic and diplomatic standpoint…
Referring to the bellicose, confessed and convicted disgrace who is his foreign minister and superior, Ayalon told Channel Two, “His policy is proving to be effective. We will not allow a situation where every country will kick us. If there will be an attack [even if verbal or cultural] on Israel, we will leave all options open, including the expulsion of ambassadors.”
It wasn’t enough to threaten our relations with the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Austria and the whole of the European Union, as well as the emirates and other moderate Muslim states, by apparently violating the basic conventions of all civilized states in the Dubai murder.
It was necessary to stage a quick follow-up, for the sake of balance, perhaps, in going after our relations with Israel’s indispensable ally. In a gratuitous move breathtaking in its haughtiness, its ignorance of and disrespect for the United States and the American Jewish community, the Foreign Ministry – spearhead of Israel’s campaign against boycotts abroad – elected this week to boycott a meeting with five U.S. Congressmen visiting Israel.
Why? The representatives were visiting under the auspices of J Street. J Street, in the ministry’s eyes, is guilty of the crime of explicitly calling itself pro-Israel, while not agreeing wholeheartedly with everything the government of Israel says and does.
I have come to envy the people who hate Israel. They’ve got every reason to smile.
…No one can defend this anymore. There’s too much that looks bad, and much too much of it is true.
Like so many of Israel’s recent actions, the motives for the Dubai assassination are debatable. The negative impact is inarguable.
…My wife, who cares about this country as deeply as anyone, was singing this morning, but with a smile I have come to recognize as a sign of pain. ” … And they call the state Pariah.”
All those years of isolation, of quarantine, are coming home to haunt us. Now it turns out that the contempt for the rest of the world that it bred in Israeli Jews, extended to contempt for immigrant Jews as well.
The response of many Israelis to what appears to be officially sanctioned theft, exploitation, and ruin of the identities of immigrants to Israel, was terrifying in its good humor, with morning talk-show hosts making fun of their Hebrew, even as they made light of their plight.
…This is what I have learned about the government of this place, and many of the voters who put it there. Intelligent people who are too smart to be able to see themselves clearly, render themselves stupid.
And countries which cannot bear to look, even if they have good reasons, render themselves dangerous – first of all, to themselves.
This is not the country I first came to. But I still care about it, even if I know it may care much less than I would like, about me.
I have come to envy the people who hate Israel, because they cannot feel the tragedy in the phenomenal possibility, the depth and breadth of humanity that is going to waste here…
There is so much right about this analysis and it is so heartfelt and powerful that it is hard to find fault with it. If I would criticize Burston’s position at all, he places the blame for his disillusion almost wholly on the current Likudist government. He’ll find no disagreement from me on that. However, by implication he seems to be saying that a different Israeli government with a different set of parties in power might do better or differently. I find this highly doubtful. With the current set of parties and leaders, none have the capacity to lead Israel out of the wasteland in which it finds itself.
This nation is hopelessly lost in the wilderness like the Israelites led by Moses who wandered for forty years till they entered the land of Israel. Latter-day Israel too has wandered for more than 40 years in the wilderness of Occupation. They have no leader of the quality of Moses to lead them out of oblivion. There is no Israeli de Klerk (or Palestinian Mandela for that matter). That is why I have come to despair of the ability of Israel unaided to correct its errors and put itself on the right track. If this conflict is ever to be resolved it will only come from the forceful intervention of outside forces like the U.S., EU, UN and/or NATO.
I wish Brad Burston well and hope he will follow the logic of his own despair to some other place than the Sinai of liberal Zionism. It will be a hard, painful journey.