By Louis Rene Beres

"All people, Jews or gentiles, who dare not defend themselves when they know they are in the right, who submit to punishment not because of what they have done but because of who they are, are already dead by their own decision; and whether or not they survive physically depends on chance. If circumstances are not favorable, they end up in gas chambers."


Bettelheim, like the Greek poet Homer, understands that the force that does not kill - that does not kill just yet - can turn a human being into stone, into a thing, while it is still alive. Merely hanging ominously over the head of the vulnerable creature it can choose to kill at any moment, poised portentuously to destroy breath in what it has allowed, if only for a few more moments, to breathe, this force makes a mockery of the fragile life it intends to consume. The human being that stands helplessly before this force has effectively become a corpse before any lethal assault is even launched.

Israel, still grinning foolishly before the potent force of Islamic hatred, is now this human being writ large. Throwing itself upon the mercy of its "Palestinian partners," the so-called Jewish State lies diminished even before the inevitable battle. Almost alone among the nations, the suppliant state neither quivers nor trembles. It has lost the right to do so.

When Priam enters the tent of Achilles, stops, clasps Achilles' knees, and kisses his hands, he has already reduced himself to a hapless and unworthy victim, one to be disposed of without ceremony and in very short order. Realizing this, a gracious Achilles takes the old man's arm, pushing him away. As long as he was clasping Achilles' knees, Priam was an inert object. Only by lifting him up off his kness could Achilles restore him to a position of self-respect and to a living manhood.

Here Israel and Priam part company. Israel's many enemies, animated by Jihad, will not act in the honorable manner of Achilles. Their aim is not the gracious revitalization of a pathetic and despised adversary, but rather the annihilation of that inert object by means of genocide and war. It follows that the Illiad offers certain important lessons for Jerusalem, but that these lessons must be based upon a brutally realistic appraisal of Israel's foes.

For whatever reasons, Israel has come to accept a view of itself that was spawned not in Jerusalem, Hebron or Tel-Aviv, but in Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Teheran, Jericho and Gaza. Degraded and debased, this is the view not of a strong and powerful people, determined to remain alive, but of a conspicuous corpse-in-waiting, ingathered from exile only to make its relentless fate easier to inflict. It goes without saying that no self- respecting Israeli would concede such a view, but it is the operative national image nonetheless.

What has gone wrong? In one very insightful analysis, the answer lies in Israel's "psyche of the abused." Here, Dr. Kenneth Levin, a prominent psychiatrist, likens Israeli behavior to that of an abused child. Distorting its past to conform with enemy views of Jewish original sin, Israel largely believes - especially in its persisting acceptance of Oslo - that it is responsible for Arab terrorism and Islamic holy war. Such belief, paralleling the beliefs of the abused child, will bring it to utopia. What is forgotten here is that utopia, as Thomas More instructed, means "nowhere."

The Israeli novelist Aharon Megged notes: "We have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history; an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel's intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation." This identification has created a Jewish body politic that is disarming itself, ensuring the onset of existential harms even while it pursues the charade of military preparedness. There is a way out of this humiliating and fateful dilemma, but it must go far beyond the usual superficial suggestions of policy and personality changes. It is a way that requires, more than anything else, an upright posture for the nation, a posture that precludes clasping the enemy's knees and kissing his hands. It is a way of dignity, not supplication. It is a way of staying alive, of avoiding not only death, but also the shameless death-in-life that now cripples and immobilizes Israel before it is fully born.


LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. He is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security.

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