Sunday, May 18, 2008

We Want More of Dror

Of Yehezkel Dror, the founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, is a professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a recipient of the Israel Prize who also served as a member of the Winograd commission of inquiry into Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, who wrote this:-

...in a world where the long-term existence of the Jewish state is far from certain, the imperative to exist inevitably gives rise to difficult questions, foremost among them this: When the survival of the Jewish people conflicts with the morals of the Jewish people, is existence worthwhile, or even possible?

Physical existence, I would argue, must come first. No matter how moral a society aspires to be, physical existence must take precedent.

Clear external and internal dangers threaten the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. It is very likely that the collapse of Israel or the loss of its Jewish nature would undermine the existence of the Jewish people as a whole. And even given the existence of a Jewish state, less clear but no less fateful dangers threaten the long-term sustainable existence of the Diaspora.

...the Jewish people ought not be captivated by political correctness and other thinking-repressing fashions. When it comes to China, for example, efforts to strengthen the rising superpower’s ties to the Jewish people should trump moral-minded campaigns to alter Beijing’s domestic policies and handling of Tibet. The same goes for Turkey: Given its crucial peacemaking role in the Middle East, discussion of whether the Ottomans committed genocide against the Armenians ought to be left to historians, preferably non-Jewish ones.

That is not necessarily to condone China’s policies, or to deny Armenian history. Rather, it is to recognize that however just such moral stances may or may not be, the Jewish people must give primacy to existence.

...In short, the imperatives of existence should be given priority over other concerns — however important they may be — including liberal and humanitarian values, support for human rights and democratization.

This tragic but compelling conclusion is not easy to swallow, but it is essential for the future of the Jewish people. Once our existence is assured, including basic security for Israel, much can and should be sacrificed for tikkun olam. But given present and foreseeable realities, assuring existence must come first.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I agree with the idea that pragmatic considerations have to be a huge factor in any decision making. But! First, there are red lines, which go almost unmentioned in this piece: morality of your actions should take precedence. Genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass-murder, for example, can never be contemplated; if achieving your aims requires those, your aim can never be just and you need to start re-thinking it. Israeli psychosis of imminent danger of violent extinction, while having no basis in reality, has created a situation where people at times secretly and at times even openly consider transfers or carpet bombings as solutions to their problems, which is a real tragedy, since it reduces the Jews – the people who pride themselves for being the “conscience of the world” – to a bunch of paranoid and racist maniacs, as in the story I told you here.

Second, morally but also pragmatically, there is no better option for Israel than to start once and for all defining its borders and creating a viable Palestinian state, dismantling most of the settlements or making some remain under the Palestinian control and making sure the new Palestinian state has all the needed ingredients for a rapid economic development. This will have to include large infusions of money from a lot of sources, the Israeli taxpayer and the wealthy American Jews included. We owe them the Palestinian state morally, we owe us the Palestinian state pragmatically.

You will ask: what if this Palestinian state turns into a terror-state? Well, first, remote possibilities are no excuse for making 3 million people suffer the most protracted occupation in the modern history. There is just no other way about it, especially since everybody in their right mind knows that this is only an excuse and that the real reason for Israel holding on to the territories is the territories themselves. Also, I much prefer fighting a just war with another state from a high moral ground than being an occupier. Occupation inevitably leads to degradation of moral norms, loss of morale and disintegration of democratic society, while mobilization for what is perceived a just war can do marvels for the spirit of the people and for the outcome of such war, not to mention that an army is trained to fight such wars and not to be a policeman.

Lastly, what’s good for a goose is good for a gander: if Israel starts making all its decision with pragmatic considerations trumping basic morality, then it should not be surprised when the same is done by other nations and start whining if, for example, America decides that the military, diplomatic and financial support it lend Israel is no longer in America’s pragmatic interest (which it currently isn’t) and starts withdrawing it. A world where all the decisions by all the powers are done only based on pragmatics might turn out a sad place indeed.

P.S. I don’t know if you’re reading Mondoweiss. Maybe you should start, since it may give you an idea to where the public discourse in the US is shifting. Basically, what was 10 years ago is no more. Israel Lobby is a fair play, Naqba is mentioned together with the 60th anniversary of Israel by more and more publications and the public opinion is aggressively turning against Israel and neo-con influence, with a real danger of crossing into a grassroots anti-Semitic campaign. So, even purely pragmatically, if Israel doesn’t wake up soon and controls the damage, we better fasten our seat belts…