Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fein Not Fine

Daniel Gordis, an acquaintance of mine with whom I had the privilege to work on a Wexler Family Foundation tour some years ago, has moved over to the Shalem Center. He hasn't changed his politics but Leonard Fein doesn't think him a "finer mensch" now:-

The reaction that I find most perplexing, even disturbing, comes from Daniel Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center of Jerusalem. Gordis has developed over the last few years a niche market: He is a master at the manipulation of sentiment. In a longish essay, written in the immediate aftermath of the killings, he begins his seduction with a recap of Chaim Nachman Bialik's magnum opus, "In the City of Slaughter," a poem of more than 300 lines written after the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, a poem that indicts the Jews for their passivity.
Then he moves on to cite Natan Alterman's "Silver Salver," a poem once taught to Israeli schoolchildren lauding the brave young men and women who birthed the Jewish state. Both Bialik and Alterman perceived religion as the source of the shameful Jewish passivity, and it is that which distresses Gordis. Without religious conviction, without continuing religious discourse, he tells us, we will not know why there needs to be a Jewish state, what purposes it serves.

That's a provocative view, worthy of serious discussion. But that is not where Gordis takes the reader. Absent a clear sense of purpose, he writes, you want desperately to be "normal," and so you close your eyes to the continuing attacks, assaults, insults. "You get so used to [them] that you don't see that Jews sitting like ducks, simply waiting to be hit by homemade missiles while the region's most powerful army sits on the side and polishes its boots, is a bastardization of what Zionism was supposed to be."

His indictment, as harsh in its own way as Bialik's, goes on, step by critical step, until finally it finds its home base: "So we sit. And civilians keep getting targeted, and keep dying. And soldiers die. And Israeli towns become ghost towns…

"But George Bush most supports us, so we feel better. And the charade with Abu Mazen permits us to continue hallucinating about the possibility of peace, to pretend that the Palestinians aren't simply an utterly failed people that will never make peace in our lifetimes or those of our children, so we feel even better."

Another time, we can argue about "what Zionism was supposed to be." Just now, let us take note of what Zionism was not supposed to be: Two days after the yeshiva attack, Israel announced renewed construction of hundreds of homes in the West Bank town of Givat Ze'ev and authorized hundreds more in East Jerusalem. So much for the Road Map; so much for Israel's explicit commitments at the Annapolis conference last fall.

Zionism, then, as an act of spite; Zionism to keep a fractious coalition together; Zionism to satisfy those in the religious camp who are as far from "shameful Jewish passivity" as can be. Take your pick: a Zionism that polishes its boots, or a Zionism that spits in the face of the Other and on its own moral tradition. Either way, you lose.

Actually, Leonard, Zionism is about rebuilding the Land of Israel despite Arab terror, American pressure and unsympathtietic antagonism by Jews, even by a weak and vacillating government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo to Leanard Fein for taking on that self-anointed apologist for hysterical Zionism (both religious and secular), Danial Gordis