POLITICS SEPTEMBER 18, 1976
In those distant days, when General de Gaulle drank a toast to "the state of Israel, our friend and ally," a right wing antisemitic weekly in Paris, which fiercely upheld the idea of "Algerie Franfaise," published a long article under the title "Is it possible to be a friend of Israel and an anti-Semite at the same time?" The author thought that it was. He argued that Israel was a nation of peasants and soldiers, while "the Rothschilds were neither farmers nor warriors." One cannot help being reminded of that fine distinction when hearing nowadays PLO spokesmen swearing that they are fighting racist Zionism, but have nothing against Judaism as a religion, and Jews passionately insisting that the former was only another formula for the latter.
In the pre-Holocaust period and before the Jewish state came into existence the distinction was tenable. There were then gentile anti-Zionists who by no stretch of the imagination could be called anti-Semites. Their reservations against Zionism stemmed from a variety of motives: the Zionist endeavor was a threat to the Arabs; it was Utopian romanticism, and it was sure to create more problems than it would solve; the paraphernalia of statehood, with power politics and the fundamental immorality attending it could not be reconciled with the spiritual vocation of Judaism.
It has become impossible to maintain the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism since Auschwitz and since 1948, and the honest and thoughtful non-anti-Semitic anti-Zionists in the Western world realize it. I can recall a revealing conversation in a Cambridge (England) college in the late 1950s. My host, an eminent historian and devout Christian, summed up his feelings about Zionism by saying that it had become plain to all that the Zionist idea was a grievous error, and the British involvement with it a disastrous mistake. But—he went on with deep feeling and intense sincerity that were characteristic of the man—"the Jewish state has already come into being and it is there, and it is just unthinkable for the Christian world to let it go under." I believe it was the latter sentiment that made practically all Western nations recoil almost instinctively from the motion in the UN condemning Zionism as racism, and thereby undermining the very legitimacy, not to speak of the moral case, of the State of Israel. The word "Holocaust" does not signify only the physical fate of six million Jews, of a third of the Jewish people as they existed in 1939. It drives home the stark fact of the irretrievable and irreversible end of a vital and rich Jewish civilization spun over nearly 15 centuries throughout the lands of Central and Eastern Europe by closely knit, populous communities, with their peculiar ancient religion, culture, language, art, folkways, social-economic structures, self-governing institutions, values, aspirations and dreams. In comparison with that rich, dense and compact fabric of Jewish life, the contemporary Jewish settlements in the West present, with all their well-being, power, influence, freedom, great opportunities and cultural and social achievements, a picture of atomization and disintegration, of a paucity of authentically Jewish features and of growing assimilation. The sole heir and repository of the destroyed Jewish civilization is Israel.
Out of ignorance or out of propagandist zeal Arab spokesmen shrug all this off by wearisome repetition that the Jews are only a religious sect, descendants of an ethnic group or adherents of a philosophical system. An Israeli who since the Six Day War consistently opposed annexation of territories densely populated by Arabs and has fought tendencies in his own camp to refuse recognition to the Palestinian Arabs as an entity entitled to corporate self-expression free from alien rule, may claim the moral right to ask Arab writers to exercise a measure of intellectual integrity in this matter. If they justly resent others telling them that they are or are not a nation, they have no business to decide for others whether they are a nation or a religion. They cannot portray the Palestinian Arabs as a nation deserving the right of national self-determination, though historically they had never identified themselves as such nor ever possessed the attributes of distinct nationhood; and at the same time deny the same right to bearers of one of the oldest traditions of mankind in their ancestral home. The Jews were aroused in the last century to political nationalism under the stress of unparalleled persecution and in tune with the spirit of the modern age, which has been stirring nation after nation, tribe after tribe to the most remote confines of the earth to demand a place under the sun as a self-governing community.
Not only the Jews wherever they be, but the Christian world as a whole, with its awareness of the peculiarity of the Jewish phenomenon, its sense of obligation, duty and guilt toward the Jews, is acutely conscious of the fact that the destruction of the State of Israel would drive a knife into the very heart of Judaism not only by decimating, and—who knows—wiping out perhaps another three million Jews so soon after the Holocaust, but also by annihilating the last remnant of the integral historic Jewish civilization. The blow to world Jewry, its pride, faith in itself and in its future would prove too heavy for it to survive as an entity, just—as I hasten to add—a disaster befalling US Jewry would sound the doom of Israel. The fortunes of Israel and the diaspora are so linked that no wedge can be driven to separate them. The asymmetry between Israelis and Palestinians is in that respect so obvious that one hardly needs to argue that Arab civilization in the 22 independent states from the Atlantic to Iran, would not in any appreciable manner be damaged or adversely affected, even if not a single Arab were left on the West Bank of the Jordan (which no one advocates). Much criticism may be leveled against the past policies of the Israeli government—its muddle-headed, self-centered and self-righteous obtuseness to Arab susceptibilities, its obsession with security. But there never existed an unambiguous, firm resolve to keep all the territories, forever. The government of Israel lacked the conviction, the will and the courage to decide to annex the latter, but neither did it have the strength to make up its mind and declare itself outright against any annexation. There was the doctrinal and emotional commitment to the historic Jewish right to the whole of Eretz Israel. Settlement on the land was always held as being of the essence of Zionism. The names of ancient historic places exercised a magic fascination. Above all, there were the implacable Arab hostility, the fear of indefensible borders, and the reluctance to offer ammunition to the right-wingers. There were no particular pressures from outside, and an erroneous evaluation of Arab capacity and of the winds of change in the world at large had won wide acceptance. All these combined to foster the policies of immobilism, to encourage activists in and outside the establishment to take partisan action to create settlements, and to inhibit the authorities from resolutely setting their face against it. In giving in to pressure to establish settlements across the 1967 border in strategic points or on historic sites, the government allowed the image of "the creeping conquest" to strike roots in the Arab minds and to spread everywhere. Encouragement was thereby offered to extremists at home to demand a national decision in favor of the principle of total annexation.
There is no doubt that had the Arabs given the slightest token of a readiness to accept the existence of the State of Israel, the vast majority of Israelis, including those who harbor deep suspicions about Arab intentions as well as those who were finding it most difficult to "renounce" the Jewish rights to Hebron and Nablus, would have opted with enthusiasm or out of a resigned sober assessment of the data of the situation—for withdrawal from most of the occupied territories. There are also just too many thoughtful Israelis, with memories of oppression, an anguished desire to safeguard Jewish identity and authenticity and with liberal convictions and temper to envisage with equanimity the specter of a Jewish master race forcing itself upon an alien, hostile, subject people constituting some 40 percent of the population, in an age of passionate, obsessive nationalism, and in the era of decolonization. I dare say no sophisticated Arab propagandist would expect that the slogan of a single, democratic, secular Palestinian state of Moslems, Christians and Jews would be taken seriously by world opinion, in the light of what has happened in Lebanon, and the fate of the Kurds and Assyrians.
Even if one discounts the bitter lessons of worldwide tensions and conflict between ethnic groups with different traditions, cultural background and social development living together, the panacea offered by the leaders of the PLO would still be totally at variance with what even the minimalists among Jews and the international community as a whole had envisaged Jewish settlement in the national home to be about: a refuge from persecution and a home for the Jewish genius to express itself in an integral manner.
I remember a conversation I had a year or two after the Six Day War with a highly cultivated Arab notable, who had a very colorful past. The man had taken the trouble to study Jewish history, the Zionist classics and even Hebrew, and he had become convinced that the feelings about their distinct collective identity were so deep in both communities that the only way of solving the conflict, healing the wounds and preventing endless misery in the future was to sever them. It is anguishing that a liberal historian of national movements feels, after 30 years of studying them, that it's necessary to endorse the view that in a world of nationalist obsession and egalitarian passion, separation was the most practical remedy for ethnic strife. Nor should the Arabs forget that an apocalyptic Day of Judgment would in all certainty mark not the doom of one side only, but that the other one would also be engulfed.
Men of good will on both sides should, bearing this in mind, try not to succumb, nor let others grow neurotic, under the shadow of a demonologized image of the adversary. They should also try as far as possible to spare the susceptibilities of the other side. While insisting on Arab recognition of Israel's existence, a good many Israelis would be ready not to press for an explicitness that may weigh too heavily on obsessively held principles in Arab nationalist philosophy. They would not for instance resent or begrudge to the Arabs the revised vision of their political theology, which puts its trust in time, internal difficulties, the growing indifference of the world and of the Jews across the ocean, to bring within half a century or so the demise of that nonviable, alien little state in the heart of the Arab continent. And the Jews should do all they can not to let this happen.
Jews all over the world were incensed and deeply affronted by the condemnation of Zionism as racism. There was something horribly mean and spiteful in spokesmen of what is, in their language, always named "the noble Arab race" bamboozling representatives of states, born yesterday, without even a word in their native tongues to describe the Jew, without the vaguest knowledge or understanding of the peculiar and distant roots and the worldwide aspects of the Jewish problem and the Middle East conflict, without any authentic information on what is going on in present-day Israel. No less repulsive was the plotting with Machiavellian regimes, whose cynical opportunism knows no bounds, to brand as racists the most tragic victims of racism, for whom actually the very word had been coined, and upon whom it has been practiced most thoroughly.
After all, not so long ago the words anti-Semitism and racism were almost synonymous. In the European countries the Jews were almost the only representatives of an alien race. There were no Negroes, Chinese or Arabs there. The race theory gained its mass appeal only because those to whom it was being sold could apply it there and then to Jews. It is enough to try to define racism and to sort out its data to bring home how utterly alien it is to Zionist ideology and Jewish mentality, and indeed interests.
What is racism about? It signifies biological determinism. There was the primary ineffable and unfathomable datum of blood, which unalterably predetermined character, inclinations, reactions, ideas, beliefs, conduct to the most refined intellectual and artistic activity. "Pure" blood endowed its possessors—the race—with an unerring instinct, unreflecting self-assurance, a distinct style, and there was no more heinous thing than the mixing of different kinds of blood, especially of an inferior with a superior brand. It resulted in mongrelization, debility and degeneration. There was a Darwinian rivalry and struggle between the races for a portion of the cosmic life-force, for survival, self-assertion and power. In this eternal confrontation combative vitality was the supreme instrument, and its cultivation the highest task; and not the training of an abstract, universal intellect in order to discover objective universal truths, not moral education designed to foster a sense of justice and fairness to all. Preoccupation with allegedly universal, human, objective values had a debilitating effect on the prowess of the race, since it diluted its firm resolve and compact simplicity, and undermined its fighting self-concentration. The Jews were simultaneously insiders and outsiders, an anti-race with no roots in the soil, given wholly to abstract speculation. They were propagators of internationalism, of the idea of the equality of races, of liberalism, democracy and pacifism. They were the begetters of international systems such as capitalism and finance, and at the same time the prophets of cosmopolitan revolutionary ideologies such as socialism and of individualistic theories like psychoanalysis. They were therefore a most dangerous solvent and were a poisonous destroyer of race certainties and vigor. They fomented class cleavages, exploitation and struggles. They had always exploited the host race, and at the same time had from Moses to Lenin—in the language of Hitler—been inciting the mobs of inferior races against the national elites of the superior breeds, all that as part of an international plot to dominate and exploit the stultified and benumbed Nordic nations.
The insidious, eternal well-poisoner had to be severely segregated and eventually extirpated so that his blood and ideas no longer infected the superior breeds. What has all this got to do with Zionist theory or Israeli practice? Has any one seen in Israel notices of separate public lavatories or separate seats in public conveyances for Jews and Arabs? Are Arabs not admitted to schools and universities in Israel? Are mixed marriages forbidden there?
What does the much publicized absence of civil marriage, which incidentally irks all liberal Jews, really purport? It is a concession to the religious minority, for whom, like for members of most religious denominations, adherence to the rite of immemorial antiquity is a matter of conscience. But at a deeper level, the reluctant consent of the secular parties to the religious rules on civic status stems from the anguished, post-Auschwitz fear that as a result of the destruction of the cohesion of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, the atomized, rapidly assimilating secularized Jewish communities, in which mixed marriages threaten to disrupt all that is left of the fabric of Jewish life, are left with the synagogue as the sole focus of group identity. The people of Israel, so desperately anxious for Jewish survival and unity, must not set a bad example by lowering the barriers and facilitating mixed marriages; so say the defenders of the status quo. Mixed marriages are not forbidden in Israel. It's just that no facilities are provided for them. But there are ways to have them solemnized. They are then legally recognized. The Law of Return is, again, motivated by an anxious desire to bring Jews in, and not by a resolve to keep others out.
Far be it from me to describe the Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel as an idyll. How could it be, in face of the terrible clash of rights, decades of war, traumatic memories, mutual fear and suspicion? The policies and attitudes of Israel, however, will stand any comparison with the treatment of Poles by the Second Reich, of the Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians in inter-war Poland, the attitude of the kingdom of Hungary toward its Slav and Romanian subjects, the fate of the Irish under British rule, not to speak of the situation of Jews in the countries of Eastern Europe—all cases of a dominant race set upon strengthening its hold, by methods which include settling members of its ethnic group in border areas inhabited by national minorities. Why has no one formally asked a UN commission to investigate the policies of the USSR in the Baltic countries designed to swamp those minorities with multitudes of Great Russians and members of other races, and to transfer large numbers of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians into remote areas of Russia?
As to the right of Arab refugees to return, surely not many cases, indeed hardly any, could be cited of return of refugees whom an international or revolutionary cataclysm has sent flying. Where should we look for them? On the Indian sub-continent? In Central and Eastern Europe? In the vast expanse of Africa? The whole delicate and intricate fabric of life, into which nearly a million Jewish refugees from the Arab countries had been absorbed, would be destroyed by the come-back of the whole mass of Arab refugees.
The heart-searching and the malaise weighing upon many Israelis and voiced by them publicly on the Palestinian tragedy has no parallel whatsoever in the broodings or public statements of Arabs on the fate of the Jews and the causes that have led them to establish themselves in the Jewish National Home. It is a travesty of the truth to depict the Zionists as a band of imperialists who sat down to hatch a plot to conquer and dispossess an Arab nation, for the sheer love of power and spoils, out of unprovoked hatred for Arabs.
Zionism was motivated by a determination to escape the fate of being an eternal anvil to the blows of turbulent history, by a desire to find a safe refuge where the Jews could be themselves, free to express their particularity, away from the grave international, nationalist, social and revolutionary complications in which they had invariably been caught in modern times. They seem now to have landed in the very heart of the universal vortex, and to be compelled to act, to some extent at least, as instruments of grave dislocation to another people.
For 2000 years they were as a "Cain race" exposed to the never ending barrage of opprobrium and hostility of Christianity. No sooner had Auschwitz and the common interest in warding off the dangers of neopaganism begun to grant some relief, than Judaism found itself under a ferocious assault by Islam, with the uncomprehending unfriendliness of races and creeds of the Third World, which lacked any of the background and experiences to make them understand, let alone sympathize, with the Zionist endeavor. Judaism was beset finally with the resentment of members of historically deprived ethnic groups, who envied the rapid Jewish success in the New World.
For generations it was axiomatically believed by Jews that there was no enemy on the left—the natural defender of all the oppressed and the persecuted. Being part of a marginal, hard-pressed minority, inheriting the prophetic and the Messianic traditions together with the social and mental restlessness of town dwellers and migrants, turned many Jews into prophets, pioneers, leaders and practitioners of evolution. In the same almost Oedipal manner as happened at the time of the scission between the mother religion (Judaism) and the daughter religion (nascent Christianity) nearly 2000 years ago, the church of the religion of revolution has now risen against the people who were the begetters of their creed. The old myth of a Judeo-Marxist international plot has been substituted by the myth of an international Zionist-American-Imperialist conspiracy. It has come in response to the compulsive need to see the world divided into a camp of imperialists and a camp of peoples striving for national liberation.
In its terrible isolation, the state of Israel has become the old Jewish outlaw: the outcast, the collective Jew of the nations. A pariah people have, as it were, created a pariah state. The would-be imperialist has been reduced to beggary. It is now the barefoot nomads of the tents of Kedar who sit upon mountains of gold, hold the world to ransom through the possession of a treasure, one that fell into their lap without them having to hoe or spin, and for the life blood of the nations they are exacting a tribute, in comparison with which the old usury of the Jews appears a miserable pittance. Indeed, they seem determined to follow a set plan to dominate the heights of world economy.
At the opening session of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, the counsel for the defense. Dr. Servatius, asked the eminent Judaic scholar who was presenting the historical background of the Holocaust, what was the reason for the permanence and universality of the phenomenon of anti-Semitism? Surely, there must be something in the Jews that provoked such a reaction? Jews tend to become very angry when such a question is put, and a few years ago a British scholar, certainly no anti-Semite, got into trouble when he ventured to raise the point in a review of a book on anti-Semitism in the French Enlightenment.
I all started long, long ago. Hellenism and Rome succeeded in divesting all the conquered peoples, at least their urban elites, of their native languages and cultures. The Jews were the exception, because of their overpowering consciousness of being the sole trustees of a terrifying truth—the existence of a one, omnipotent, wholly transcendental, invisible god. In the Latinized or Hellenized Roman Empire the recalcitrant Jews came to stand out as a strange, queer, incomprehensible, and uncannily frightening breed. The facelessness of their god suggested that they had much to hide, their refusal to mix was proof of misanthropy, and their resistance to Caesar-worship manifested perverse rebelliousness. The Christianized gentiles were thus already disposed to view the crucifixion, the rejection of Christ by the obnoxious people, in a predetermined way. The fact that all Apostles were Jews was almost ignored, but Judas Iscariot was remembered as the Jew par excellence. To the barbari tribes that later overran the Roman Empire and established themselves upon its ruins, the Jews appeared as uncanny aliens, bearers of a much older and higher civilization, burdened with the murder of the Savior.
As highly problematic aliens, with no strong ties and no reputation to lose, the Jews chose or were driven by restrictive legislation into the less reputable occupations or into new ventures which the old established conservative populations were unequipped or reluctant to take up because of their novelty, their hazardous nature and their lack of that respectability which comes from sheer duration. Trade and then money-lending became almost exclusive Jewish occupations. The image of the usurer Shylock stuck to them. The Jews fulfilled a necessary and pioneering role in the urban life of the early Middle Ages. When they became expendable, and the host nations had overcome their early inhibitions and were ready and eager to take up the till then despised pursuits, the Jews were expelled from most of Western Europe. They established themselves in the Eastern underdeveloped part of the European continent as the nearly sole and at first welcome middle class, and in such countries as the wide flung Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Hungary as the major part of the urban population.
The emancipation of the Jews by victorious liberalism, the onset of secularization and capitalist industrialization came almost at the same time to the European continent. Together they released immense, bottled-up, volcanic forces of a purposeful race, which had for ages been compelled to practice an exceptionally severe economy of energy in the very restricted fields of religious observance, study of the law and moneymaking. The Jews seized the new opportunities with ferocious abandon. In some countries they made their leap at a strategically crucial moment, as modernization was put on the agenda, and the gentile population, gentry and peasantry, were not yet ready to join in the race. Bewildered, powerfully affected, often inconvenienced, in many cases deprived of old status and privileges, and even harmed and ruined by the flood of change, the gentile neighbors came to identify the whole process with the Jews, and to hold them responsible for it, since the newcomers seemed to be the greatest beneficiaries thereof. They felt offended by yesterday's pariah who had overnight grown so mighty, and too big for his boots. To the impoverished nobles and dispossessed peasants flocking to towns, the
Jews, whom they found there, looked like invaders who had forestalled them. There ensued a tension and conflict that came to a climax in the Nazi campaign to drive the Jewish invaders back, and ended in Auschwitz. The same pattern may be detected in the fortunes of the Jews under the Communist regimes. After centuries of Tsarist oppression and humiliation the Russian Jews had every reason to flock into the
an ranks of Revolutionaries. They played an enormous part in all the Socialist parties, being before 1917 actually more numerous in the Social Revolutionary and Menshevik factions than in the Bolshevik camp. When Lenin and his followers seized power, most Jews hesitated at first to join them, having like most Russians, grave doubts about their survival. The non-Jewish intelligentsia was unwilling to collaborate with the Bolshevik authorities. Jewish hesitations were soon swept away by the terrible pogroms which broke out in the areas held by the counterrevolutionary generals and the Ukrainian nationalists. So the Jews were again placed in the role of pioneers. At first, this was held to be irrelevant, since the proletarian revolution was supposed to recognize no distinction between Jew, Greek and Gentile. When, however, the Soviet-bred cadres of non-Jewish intelligentsia came up ready and eager to play their parts, and the great patriotic war revived Russian nationalism, the Jews began to appear too conspicuous and too ubiquitous in high places.
Similarly, at the end of World War II the Polish Jews had every reason to welcome the new regime. Pre-war Poland had been a hotbed of anti-Semitism. The Red Army had saved the remnants of Polish Jewry. A social revolution was altogether overdue in Eastern Europe. So while the majority of Poles resented Russian rule most bitterly, the Jews could be trusted by the Soviets and their Polish satellites. Twenty-odd years later a racist campaign was launched by the Polish Communist party, under the official slogan coined by a party theoretician that no self-respecting nation could tolerate such a disproportionate influence by a racially alien group. And this in a regime drawing its inspiration from such "foreigners" asMarx and Lenin.
Throughout the ages the Christian-Jewish relationship has been beset by a profound neurosis. The peculiar, indeed unique concatenation of historical circumstances never ceased to feed the conflict of feelings in the Christian psyche toward the Jew: awe, sense of obligation, resentful hatred, contempt, guilt. The gentiles were thus conditioned to react to the stimuli that the Jew projected with an intensity out of all proportion. It was not, in the final analysis, the nature of the stimulus; it was the neurotic disposition that somehow made the behavior and acts of the Jew appear as a caricature. Hence the utterly contradictory accusations with which Jews have been charged: they were clannish, and then they became too obtrusive; they were cringing and soon too arrogant; they were blamed for being superstitious and obscurantists, and then for being profaners of all ancient traditions and promoters of shoddy vanguardism. They stood condemned as capitalists, and at the same time were feared as revolutionaries. No doubt, the highly ambiguous situation of the Jews, their being always exposed to some kind of blame, their existence, rights and character never being quite taken for granted as natural, obvious, the eternal fear of discrimination and persecution—all these shaped a nervous, neurotic, restless, furtive or self-assertive, at all events, an intense, exaggerated and shrill manner of responding.
Not so long ago an article in the London Times spoke of the paranoia of American Jews. The allegedly excessive touchiness of Jews has more than once evoked the reaction that the Jews were claiming exemptions from criticism, as if a single word of criticism was an expression of heinous anti-Semitism, and therefore inadmissible.
The Jews may exaggerate, but the reflex is far from being unjustified. Experience has shown again and again that not only was there something infectious in anti-Semitism, but that it belonged to that sort of emotion which makes one lose control, one's sense of proportion, which escalates, drags one down, unleashes uncontrollable dormant instincts: "the rush of blood." I was reminded of that, when I recently read a revealing passage by an attractive and humane British historian on his experiences in World War I. "Most men, I suppose, have a paleolithic savage somewhere in them. . . . I have, anyway . . .that's the beastliest thing in war, the damnable frivolity. One's like a merry mischievous ape tearing up the image of god." What else could one say about the queer passion for destroying graves in Jewish cemeteries, or about the coarse, savage venom and spite, and the urge to sneer, insult and hurt displayed in anti-Semitic literature? At the end of the road is Auschwitz. In the Jewish reflex to criticism, and in the insistence to be spared it, there is therefore something of that which moves say the blacks and other traditionally underprivileged races in the US to claim compensating allowances for past deprivation, on top of formally equal opportunity in the present.
For generations, the Jewish question was haunting the world. The term has become "irrelevant" on the morrow of the Holocaust. Those to whom it had applied had ceased to exist. Instead, the State of Israel, which was meant to solve it, has become the problem child of the world. After displaying dazzling military valour which dumbfounded all those who had for ages been mocking Jewish cowardice, the people of Israel have found themselves in the situation of a ghetto of victors, a besieged city, an outcast nation.
Israel is caught between contradictory sentiments and commitments. It is yearning for peace. But it is confronted with an implacable enemy threatening total destruction; it is weighed down by the traumas of Munich and Auschwitz and fearful of the terrible risks involved in whatever alternative it finds the courage or is forced to choose. In a painful self-questioning mood, it is being challenged, goaded, prodded to hurry, to take the plunge into the unknown, to consent to the setting up at its doorstep of a garrison state headed by a terrorist leadership flushed with success, driven by a feeling of being on the crest of the wave and on the way to total victory. In recent weeks, the Israel-Arab conflict has been powerfully affected by two sets of events of an utterly contradictory nature, and it is impossible to leave them out without any comment: the drama of Entebbe and the ghastly, to the outside world totally incomprehensible, happenings in the Lebanon.
The former—a tale of valor which caught the imagination of the world and will be celebrated for a long time in ballad, legend and film—has acted as a tonic to Israeli morale. But it is the Israeli doves who have special reasons to rejoice. Their orientation was all along based on two props: the assumption that the Arabs were deeply convinced of Israeli invincibility and the hope that, as a consequence, Israeli moderation and magnanimity may instill some realism into Arab thinking and a readiness to make a deal. The Yom Kippur war, the grave internal problems of Israel and the courting of the Arab states by the community of nations had created among the Arabs the conviction that Israel was on the run, disintegrating, disoriented and abandoned by all. That extraordinary feat of courage, ingenuity and organization is bound to make many Arabs pause and think, especially in the light of the butchery that is going on in the Lebanon, the incredible inter-Arab diplomatic somersaults, the sorry plight of the Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese camps, send the impasse and the defeats which threaten the PLO with strangulation from the hands of its patrons of yesterday.
The Arab leadership in the occupied territories may one of these days pick up courage to emancipate itself from the PLO and other outside agencies and organize itself to treat with the Israeli government, which on its part will then be duty bound to respond, with or without the concurrence of Jordan. In the meantime, Israel will still be scolded for its dithering behavior, for interfering directly or through its desperately anxious brethren in the diaspora, with the policies of the great powers, for endangering their interests, meddling in their internal party politics—an unheard of thing in the United States. It is threatened with the spectre of a new wave of anti-Semitism, bullied with hints about dual loyalty, when all it wants is, after all, just to stay alive, afloat and tolerably safe, free to contribute in its own way to the wonderfully knit tapestry of world civilization and humanity's quest for a just society.
Even when all allowances are made for the part which irresolute and misguided behavior, unwise and rash pronouncements by Israeli politicians may have played in alienating sympathy, there still remains the fundamental truth that somehow the Jewish right to live and to exist on a basis of genuine equality, as a right, and not on sufferance or in return for some special excellence, is not yet taken for granted as natural and obvious by the world.
This article originally ran in the September 18, 1976 issue of the magazine.