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Friday, October 16, 2009

You don't 'get over' 3,000 years of Jewish history

In Friday's New York Times, Roger Cohen (yes, him again) makes many of the same arguments that were made by Haaretz's Gideon Levy three weeks ago in a piece criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu's references to the Holocaust at the United Nations. Levy had argued that Netanyahu had 'cheapened' the Holocaust by proving that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial is false. Cohen believes that we should forget about the Holocaust altogether (Hat Tip: Dafoh).

I dealt with Levy's arguments here, and to the extent that Cohen's argument is that we should forget the Holocaust, I respond in the same way I responded to Levy. But Cohen makes other specious arguments that cannot go unchallenged.

Cohen has a misconception as to the nature of the State of Israel and why it exists. Not surprisingly, it's a misconception shared by Barack Obama. Here's what Cohen writes:
More than 60 years after the creation of the modern state, Israel has no established borders, no constitution, no peace. Born from exceptional horror, the Holocaust, it has found normality elusive.
He then goes on to argue that our belief in our own exceptionalism is unrealistic and that we should just accept that we're like everyone else and live like a 'normal' country.

Sixteen years ago, Israel took a huge (and in my view excessive) risk for the sake of trying to live as a 'normal country.' It was called the Oslo Accords. Those who foisted the Oslo Accords and the 'process' that went with them upon us kept telling us that if we did what was asked - gave up our claims to our biblical heartland and heritage, accepted the existence of a second state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and reached some accommodation on sharing our capital city and compensating 'Palestinian refugees,' we too would be allowed to live as a normal country without having to send our children to war (or something close to it) an average of once every six years. The conception was dead wrong.

After seven years that saw more Israelis murdered by terror attacks than any previous period in our history (going back to the pre-State era), Ehud Barak went to Camp David and offered Yasser Arafat the deal of his life: All of Gaza; more than 90% of Judea and Samaria; land within the 1949 armistice lines to compensate for the rest of Judea and Samaria (to avoid having to pay for 'relocating' hundreds of thousands of Jews); a shared governance of Jerusalem - including the Temple Mount; and the admission of a limited number of 'refugees' into what was left of Israel with compensation for the rest. Arafat turned down the deal and then unleashed four more years of even worse terror, which only came to a halt when the IDF was redeployed into 'Palestinian' cities.

Lest any of us be mistaken that anything has changed since the Arafat era, the Washington Post reported in May that Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas an even better deal than what Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat - and Abbas turned it down. The lesson for Israelis ought to be clear: We are not and never will be a 'normal country.'

One reason for that is that, contrary to Cohen's (and Obama's) conception, we were not born out of the Holocaust and the motivating factor for the establishment of the Jewish state was not the Holocaust. The original Zionist idea was that the reason that Jews were persecuted worldwide - and that's been a fact of our lives in some place just about constantly since our First Temple was destroyed some 2,600 years ago - was because we were homeless. The concept was that by giving Jews a place that we could call home, the persecutions would stop. That's why the Zionist movement predates the Holocaust by more than 50 years. The Zionist movement chose to establish its state here in Israel rather than in Uganda or elsewhere, because of our historical connection to this land. Yes, we Jews have a thing about history.

With all of its accomplishments, the Zionist movement has failed to end anti-Semitism. (In fact, it may be argued that the Zionist movement has caused much of the Jewish people to congregate in one place so that we may all be wiped out together, God forbid). There's a reason for that too. God said it would be that way. Read the 26th Chapter of Leviticus (VaYikra) and the 28th Chapter of Deuteronomy (Dvarim) and it's all there in black and white.

But God also promised us something else: The Jewish people will never be destroyed. While the ancient civilizations - the original Egyptians, Greeks, Romans etc. - have all disappeared, Jews and Judaism remain and God has promised that we will remain.

I believe that makes us exceptional.


At 1:34 PM, Blogger jlp said...

Hey Carl. I know this comment doesn't belong here, but I thought you might want to read this piece on Secret Service Agents and former Presidents.



Carter is portrayed as a phony according to the agents interviewed by Kessler. Carter would put on a show for the public to convey himself as a common man, but it was never anymore than an act. For instance, we are told that when Carter would make a point of carrying his own luggage in front of the press, he was really carrying empty bags. He expected others to carry his real luggage. Unfriendly, Carter “didn’t want the police officers and agents looking at him or speaking to him when he went to the [Oval] office,” explained an assistant White House usher. “The only time I saw a smile on Carter’s face was when the cameras were going,” one former agent told Kessler.

After his presidency, Kessler reports that when Carter would stay at a townhouse maintained for former presidents in D.C., he would take down pictures of other presidents and put up more pictures of himself! “The Carters were the biggest liars in the world,” one agent told Kessler of the Carter era.

Carter, not surprisingly, denied to Kessler through a lawyer many of the allegations in the book.
Vice President Al Gore was exceedingly obnoxious to his agents according to Kessler. When scolding his son for not doing well in school, Gore chastised him by warning that “if you don’t straighten up, you won’t get into the right schools, and if you don’t get into the right schools you could end up like these guys.” The “guys” Gore was referring to were his secret service agents!

President George W. Bush is painted as an affable character behind the scenes. “He does not look comfortable in front of a microphone,” one agent explained to Kessler. “With us, he doesn’t talk like that, doesn’t sound like that. He’s funny as hell.” Bush 43 was also depicted as “down to earth” and “caring.”

While many conservatives may bristle at the domestic and foreign policies of current President Barack Obama, judged by the way he treats his secret service agents it is fair to conclude that Obama is personally a decent man. One agent who protected Obama on the campaign trail says that Obama twice invited agents to dinner at his home.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back on topic:

What's bothering Rashi in the very firt Rashi in the Torah? Moshe Feiglin explains in the section titled "G-d's Country" in this week's Manhigut Yehudit update.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Myackie said...

A teacher I knew summed it up best by saying "Israel was not created BECAUSE of the Holocaust, but IN SPITE of the Holocaust."

At 5:41 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Jewish history is a miracle. No one knows why Judah avoided the fate of the ten northern tribes and just disappear into history. G-d for his own reasons decided the kingdom that inherited Jerusalem after the disastrous split of Israel was to be His own people. And the rest became what today is history. No, its not fortuitous accidence or blind luck. There's a Hidden Hand in history that guides us all and reveals our fate. And if one doesn't believe in miracles, one isn't a Jew.


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