Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Tammuz 5766 - July 19, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Chareidi Plan for Peace in the Middle East — II

Crucial to understanding the chareidi approach to this and other issues is the distinction between practical issues and ideological issues.

The reality is that many of the positions taken by secular people are driven by ideologies that they subscribe to. If the Left believes in the basic brotherhood of man and the fundamental goodness of human nature, then it will be willing to pursue plans that rest on these fundamental assumptions. It will assume, for example (as the architects of the Oslo Agreements assumed), that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is an unnatural aberration, and that if we reach an agreement at any cost and give it some chance to establish itself and become a new "fact-of-life," we can create a "New Middle East" in which everyone will live together in peace and harmony.

If one believes that at the bottom man is an economic animal, then he will pursue a plan to develop the infrastructure of Arab countries as the path to peace. As Shimon Peres once wrote, "Hotels on borders could be a better guarantee than military bases." In his famous 1993 book, The New Middle East, Peres wrote that the Middle East will now unite to face "a common enemy: poverty" which, he argued, is "the father of fundamentalism." It is worth noting that the current events in Lebanon forcefully belie this approach since Hizbullah attacked Israel at the height of the Lebanese tourist season, when the conflict will cause great damage to Lebanon's recently-recovered industry.

Other approaches are motivated by an ideological — almost a religious or perhaps anti-religious — conviction that we can and must determine our own future.

The fact that the basis of these approaches is at its roots ideological is reflected in the popular names given to them: the Left and the Right. These are clearly terms that are applied to ideologies and not just to practical approaches.

If one casts it at the deep level of abstraction that is common in modern discourse, the statement that the Jewish People is in Golus is tantamount to the assertion that there is a fundamental disconnect today between ideology and reality, and that this will persist until bi'as Go'el tzedek. The ideology is the ideal world presented in the visions of the prophets such as Yeshayohu, when knowledge of Hashem will fill the world. The reality of Golus is not that. As long as this unfortunate state of alienation persists, ideology cannot form the basis of policy. It simply will not work. (This makes the Torah approach to public policy radically different from that of all other major world religions.)

On the other hand, that lack of ideological underpinning does not prevent taking practical steps. On the contrary, the freedom from ideological baggage makes a Torah approach able to draw from all available resources and consider all alternatives without prejudging any particular approach because it promotes or defeats a particular ideology. Even secular and anti-religious leaders are impressed by the clarity and objectivity with which great rabbonim can view the issues of the day when they solicit their views. It has always been the Torah approach to approach the practical problems vigorously and using any and every practical tool available.

However we cannot say which of the known approaches the Torah would favor. It may well be that a serious application of Torah methodology would come up with an alternative that is entirely new. Furthermore, no one is seriously soliciting such an approach since none of the people who control current policy seriously solicits a Torah approach to the problems he faces. In cases where they have been forced by circumstances to take a policy position, rabbonim have emphasized that favoring one side does not mean favoring its ideology. As we have written many times, we are never Right or Left even when we favor one side for one reason or another. Our basis is in our own approach to the world and not in any secular ideology, chas vesholom.

Watching the political scene, with conditions that shift radically in relatively short periods, we see clearly that people's commitment to their ideologies is the strongest part of their approach, even if they thrust forward their practical analysis to convince opponents. The conviction that all men basically want to be brothers, or that economics is the fundamental force in human affairs, or that we must control of our own fate — all these survive severe changes in the facts on the ground. People take pride in being practical, but in fact their fuel is ideology.

The recognition of the true Golus-state of the Jewish people is a radically anti-ideology position, as we have pointed out above. As such we can argue it on practical grounds and do not need to buttress our position with any ideology (which would in any case be self-contradictory).

If we can free our Jewish brethren of all their false ideologies, perhaps they will be more open to hearing the call: Hear the dvar Hashem, the House of Yaakov and all of the families of Beis Yisroel. (Yirmiyohu 2:1, Haftorah of Mattos- Mass'ei)

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