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1 Kislev 5760 - November 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Secular Jew's View of the Jewish People

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

Part II

In the first part, Rabbi Grossman quoted extensively from a recent book written by Dr. Yossi Beilin, currently the Justice Minister, about his vision of the nature and future of world Jewry. Though Dr. Beilin represents only a small (though powerful) minority in Israel, his views are similar to those of much of Jewry in the U.S. and some in Europe.

Dr. Beilin considers Jewry nothing more than a social club that he happens to have been born into. He believes it is worth preserving, but largely defines it only negatively when he is pushed into comparing himself to one of the other "religious clubs" such as Islam or Christianity. He suspects that if we were not surrounded by enthusiastic members of other religious clubs, we would not bother to develop our own culture.

Beilin believes that we can solve all the problems facing the survival of our little club by merely lowering its conditions of membership. Marriage would involve nothing more than signing a marriage registry and divorce just canceling that registration. "Near Jews" could join the Jewish nation merely on the recommendation of two full Jews. It is, in his opinion, as simple as that.

But the truth is that to understand the psychological and ideological background of Dr. Beilin, it is worthwhile to glance at additional segments of his book. In these segments we can sense his (and that of his compatriots who devotedly believe in Zionism) silent sobbing when they realize how the prophecy of Herzl and Max Nordau (a German Zionist leader and author, 1849-1923) did not endure the test of time.

The entire objective of Zionism centered in offering a secure shelter for the oppressed Jewish Nation. Dr. Beilin writes that Herzl's only basis for establishing a Jewish country was negative. Everything, for him, starts and ends in antisemitism: On one hand he was condescending to other Jews and internalized antisemitic elements, but on the other hand he was simply terrified of antisemitism.

"Someone who reads Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) first published on February 14, 1896, can easily understand that the Zionist ideal of the Zionist Movement's leader had only one rationale guiding it: the antisemitic threat. He was extremely pragmatic, very cynical. He was not moved by Jewish history, and it is difficult to say that he exchanged the German nationalism he encountered in university with Jewish nationalism. He confronted antisemitism and decided not only to describe the problem as a newspaper reporter, not only to cry about it as a Jew, but also to solve it as a leader of a nation which currently has no leader."

Beilin points out that throughout, Herzl acted because of his fear of antisemitism. In his books, the Zionist "prophet" who advocated founding a Jewish state writes: "Perhaps we would succeed in completely assimilating among the nations around us, if they would allow us at least two generations. But they will not let us . . . only the [existing] pressure attaches us to Hashem, only the environment's hatred towards us again makes us foreigners."

Beilin's conclusion is that Herzl envisioned the Jewish State as being the only possibility that could succeed. As far as he was concerned, Uganda or Argentina were equally satisfactory. "[The necessity to found a Jewish state] is a result of the Jew's failure to integrate in the world, and not because of the Jew's desire, for more than two thousand years, to return to their home with singing and joy."

Antisemitism is the only motivation for the Zionist Movement and one it found sufficient: "Indeed no special need was required to inflame the movement," writes Herzl in Der Judenstaat. "Antisemitism has already taken care of that. All they need to do is to act as they have done until now and the craving for mass immigration will be aroused where it does not exist and will escalate where it already exists . . .."

But in the long run, the solution that Herzl and his colleagues of the Zionist Movement suggested did not help at all. Antisemitism has remained as it was before, and in the State of Israel too, many Jews have died as victims of the new Middle East form of hatred for Jews.

Beilin indicates that Zionism was terribly mistaken in incorrectly diagnosing the Arab problem. He writes that at the time of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 it seemed that the world powers were ready to allow the Jewish State to be founded, and the only question left was how to establish an economical basis in Eretz Yisroel for mass immigration from Europe. However, by 1936 it was clear that the main problem was the conflict between Jews and Arabs and the British were afraid of the Arabs' demands.

Then in 1947, two years after the Holocaust, the Zionist Movement wanted to believe that the world would award her the desired country. However, it soon became obvious that to acquire this country they could expect a war with Arab countries, and it was difficult to predict if Israel would emerge victorious or not. "The two assumptions, that the Jewish Nation arrived in an almost empty land, and that the small Arab population would be pleased with the economic improvements and assimilate among the Jewish immigrants, were proven to be naive at best and mistaken at worst. The Holocaust survivors who arrived in the land to receive arms and to fall within a few days at Kastel battles, was only one picture of many showing how mistaken the idealistic thought of a haven of rest in the Altneuland (Old-new land) was. The War of Independence in 1948, the Sinai Campaign in 1956, Lebanon in 1982, and the Gulf War in 1991 in which Israel participated as being only a victim [also showed this clearly].

"The direct price was loss of human life. Some twenty thousand soldiers were killed in Israel's wars. Thirty percent of them were killed in the War of Independence which was the worst of them all. This was an extremely large group in the generation of 5708 (1948) and their loss was very significant in the dawn of the State.

"If we add to this the tens of thousands who became invalids for life because of the wars and acts of hostility, it is obvious that there is almost no family in Israel without a direct connection to bereavement or injury. This was the most terrible Israeli ordeal. It was not part of the plan. Even during their worst nightmares Zionist leaders did not imagine this. Who knows if they would have clung to their Zionist prophecy had they known that Israel of the 21st century is the only place in the world where Jewish lives are endangered only because they are Jews. Did they dream that in Tel Aviv, the capital of the `home front,' dozens of missiles will fall and destroy homes of peaceful citizens? That citizens will stand on line for gas masks fifty years after Jews of the previous generation were destroyed in gas ovens?

"Israel has failed -- until now -- to win legitimacy and exist within the Moslem World. Consequently it is the only country in the world of which political heads of other states, such as the Iranian leaders, talk about its being destroyed. In a period in which atomic, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction serve in regional disputes, the danger of Israel's inability to survive becomes even greater. The massive security achievements of Israel, such as building the most efficient army in the Middle East or conquering territories, becomes secondary when compared with the increased threats of annihilation.

"Since the dream of the collapse of the U.S.S.R. materialized and East Europe became a democratic area under the influence of NATO, it seems the world is not bipolar. Israel does not any more occupy a central position as an ally to the U.S.A. in the Middle East, and the supervision of weapons of mass destruction is almost impossible. It is an extremely difficult world for Israel.

"Israeli leaders constantly reiterate that Israel intends to prevent a second Holocaust and the walking of Jews to their death as sheep to the slaughter. In the world of weapons of mass destruction invented after World War II, this maxim becomes more and more pretentious. The Scuds that fell on Tel Aviv during the Gulf War were only the smallest reminder that in such a small world it is very difficult to ensure immunity. There never was so great a concentration of Jews in such a small space [and this is a big problem] when we realize the existence of advanced means of destruction."

Beilin summarizes in short but piercing sentences: "We cannot deny that precisely in the twenty-first century it is more dangerous to be a Jew in Israel than in any other place in the world. As long as this condition does not change, this is the paradox of Zionism and its worst failure."

A Jew who believes in Hashem, who sees in all that happens in the creation -- and especially what happens to Am Yisroel -- a decree from Heaven, knows that such a miserable failure demands reaching conclusions in the spiritual sphere. Someone who lives the parshios of "If you harken diligently" (Devorim 11:13) and "If you walk in My statutes" (Vayikra 22:3) knows that the material existence of the Jewish Nation is dependant on their spiritual condition, their clinging to Torah and emunah.

The Torah-true were therefore never tempted into seeking earthly solutions intended to prevent hatred of Jews through external means. The attempts to assimilate among the nations, Emancipation, Enlightenment, and Zionism, did not stop the hatred of Jews that caused millions of Jewish deaths. Someone who lives with a tangible belief in the Torah and the nevi'im sees in this the fulfillment of the terrible rebuke: "That which comes into your mind shall never come about, that you say, `We will be like the nations, like the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.' As I live says Hashem Elokim surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with anger poured out, will I be king over you" (Yechezkel 20:32-33).

Beilin and his colleagues refuse to internalize the historical lessons taught to Jews, and are like people who bang their heads against the wall and continue in their failed ways. They live in self-deception, thinking that all their previous failures were because they were not enough like non-Jews, and they must therefore invent a more creative and progressive way of being like non-Jews.

At the end of his book, in a chapter bearing the title, "What Should Be Done?" Beilin writes that as far as he is concerned the desirable solution for the Jew's oppression, the distressing security condition, and the assimilation in the Diaspora, is in two main areas on which we must focus: a political solution to the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, and annulling the religious matrimonial laws. "These two changes, completing the peace process with the Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese; and religious pluralism together with rescinding our coercion by religious matrimonial laws, must be Israel's contribution to the new image of the Jewish Nation in the twenty-first century."

Beilin writes that he is aware that these two matters will be difficult to execute. But, in his opinion, "The campaign for these two changes cannot wait another fifty years. We cannot allow this to happen to us, and we cannot continue alienating such a great part of the Jewish Nation. This double campaign will need the full aid of the enlightened powers in the Jewish World. They cannot stand idle and satisfy themselves with encouraging us, and surely not by judging neutrally. This is clearly their battle too. Israel is becoming more Orthodox, more closed, is denounced by the whole world, and is a nightmare for the Jewish Nation."

It is astounding to see how Beilin, who does not try to hide the failure of the Zionist Movement, continues to cling to this delusive heresy that wants to sever am Yisroel from its Torah and emunah. This reminds us of what the Malbim writes on the posuk: "As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Yisroel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets, saying to a stock of wood, `You are my father'; and to a stone, `You have brought me forth,' for they have turned their back on Me, and not their face; but in the time of their trouble they will say, `Arise and save us.' " (Yirmiyahu 2:26-27).

The robber who is caught, writes the Malbim, is not ashamed of the immoral act that he has committed. What bothers him is that he was caught, that his plan was nullified and his wickedness uncovered. "And if Yisroel would worship avoda zorah only because of the benefit and value they hoped to attain from it according to their delusions, they would later regret what they had done when they saw how much they suffered from it. However, since their sin was based in their own will and not accidental, they were like the `thief is ashamed' whose embarrassment was not because of the theft itself but only because he was caught and punished. Since his sin was done intentionally and not accidentally, it was only like `the thief is ashamed,' he who is not ashamed of his wicked way but only about the retribution it brings. `So is the house of Yisroel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes' -- they all are not ashamed of their evil way but because of the punishment they received because of it."

This leftist leader sees clearly the Zionist failure but continues to cling to heresy and tries as much as he can to uproot the Torah and the halocho. He raises the banner of abandoning the ways of our fathers as being an ideology -- it is not done accidentally, and therefore even if they have had numerous failures along the way they only regret the disappointing results, "as the thief is ashamed when he is found," but that is not enough for them to change their approach.

Beilin and his colleagues continue to delude themselves into believing they can find a solution to the security hardship and jeopardy to the Jewish Nation's continued existence. Their "solutions" however are liable to cause great dangers, may Hashem guard us. If he would open Megillas Eichah perhaps he would find the true explanation why Jews are hated. "How does the city sit solitary" (Eichah 1:1). "Rovo said in the name of R' Yochonon: HaKodosh Boruch Hu said I said, `Yisroel then shall dwell in safety alone, the fountain of Yaakov' (Devorim 33:28) -- but now they will dwell alone" (Sanhedrin 104a).

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu wants Yisroel to be alone and not to mix with the nations of the world. Now that they do not act properly, have changed their character, and mix among the non-Jews, they have become `alone' in another way -- that the nations separate from them, and that is `How does the city sit solitary'" (Ha'ameik Dovor, Devorim 33:28)."

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