GIVING MORAL GROUND

By Boris Shusteff

It is almost unbearable to watch the events going on in Israel. Every day brings more sorrow. The Jewish State--the dream of a hundred generations--keeps moving along the road to self-destruction. Every day Israel gives more moral ground in addition to the physical territory that she has already transferred to the PLO.

After Likud overstepped the ideological borders of not voluntarily giving up any part of Eretz Israel, it lost the kernel of the Zionist truth. Instead of organizing protests and explaining to the population the intrinsic danger of the Oslo process, the leaders of Likud try to tailor the Zionist ideology to the ongoing events. No one should be surprised that this does not work. Zionism and the Oslo process are incompatible. It is impossible simultaneously to build the Jewish State and to dismantle it.

You can often replace material losses, and they are much easier to remedy than the moral ones. The tragedy of the situation is that the process of the moral decline is like an avalanche. It leads to more and more concessions. It is not that the concessions are unnoticeable. The problem is that they are not perceived properly. In comparison to big concessions, the small ones are viewed as nuisances that may be disregarded. Alas, taken together these small retreats add up to a big irreversible loss that eventually brings the collapse of the entire moral structure.

Three recent events only serve to support my observation. These are the removal of the monument to Yehuda Levy in Gush Katif, the lowering of the Israeli flags in Hebron and the official Israeli apology for the shameful deed of an Israeli woman. In every one of these three cases, Israel suffered an irreparable moral defeat.

After the monument dedicated to the memory of Yehuda Levy was erected in Gush Katif, no excuses could have been allowed to substantiate its removal. Yehuda Levy gave his life defending his state, his homeland. It is his state's sacred responsibility to be faithful to his memory. The September riots, that brought with them the death of 17 Israeli soldiers, should have been punished by confiscating a certain amount of territory from the PLO for every killed Israeli. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Israel did not behave like a sovereign self-confident state. On the contrary, the Jewish State betrayed the memory of its son by desecrating his memorial through removing it. As Yaffa Levy, his mother, said, "We are shocked, absolutely shocked that the monument was moved. We were not told anything, it was done in the middle of the night."

Therefore Yehuda Levy was killed twice. First, by the PLO sharpshooter in September, 1996, and then through protests of the Arabs that forced the removal of his monument at the Gush Katif junction, in July, 1997. Maybe I should not react so bitterly. When the military establishment ties the hands of living soldiers in Hebron, transforming them into targets for the Arab stone and pipe-bomb, what can be expected in regards to a dead soldier?

As for the second event, the order to lower Israeli flags at all military bases and posts in Hebron; it is a betrayal from the same category. Instead of raising additional flags for every stone or pipe-bomb thrown at an Israeli soldier, the Israeli Army lowers them for "political reasons." The only message that this act sends to the Arabs is that Israel is ready to capitulate. At all times the flag is a proud symbol of sovereignty, a symbol of statehood. Every Israeli flag lowered or removed indicates another victory for the Arabs. In every battle, a raised flag is always the first indication of a victory, and the flag is the last thing to fall when you are defeated. This is why, as the Israeli media reports, "soldiers serving in Hebron reacted in anger to the order, and the Jewish Community in Hebron issued a statement asking when Israeli flags will be ordered removed from Jerusalem."

The third event, the one that led me to write this article, is of a different nature, but the consequences are the same--another moral defeat. Several days ago, an Israeli woman committed the shameful act of distributing provocative anti-Islamic posters in Hebron. The Israeli police arrested the woman, and it is now the responsibility of the Israeli judicial system to determine her fate. I do not intend to discuss "freedom of speech" arguments or any other related issues. In the current tense situation in Hebron, the woman's action was simply stupid. Due to its stupidity and naiveté (this kind of caricature does not go above the elementary school level) it did not deserve more than a couple of lines in the news section. The tremendous attention that this action had attracted, only proves its rarity and uniqueness.

The deed of this Israeli woman completely fades on the background of the unending offenses directed towards the Jews by the Arab press in all Arab countries, where, as Israeli radio Arutz 7 mentions, "viciously anti-Semitic cartoons are an integral part of the daily Arab press and the depiction of Jews as base animals which must be exterminated and expressions of support for the Nazi campaign to liquidate world Jewry are amongst the cartoons found in government-operated Arab newspapers."

The Arab rulers do not feel any guilt or necessity to apologize. The Egyptian leaders do not apologize for the distribution of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The Jordanian government does not apologize for the sign in English, displayed at a prominent Amman store that says, "No dogs or Jews allowed." The Palestinian leaders never apologize for constant insults against the Jews and Judaism. This list can go on and on. However, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli President Ezer Weizman rushed to apologize to the Muslim world for the leaflet distribution.

The damage that Israel will suffer because of these apologies will be much greater than the damage from the leaflets themselves. It is as if the Jewish State had returned back to the ghetto time, when an inexplicable guilt syndrome flourished among the Jews. There are no proud Hebrews anymore, there remain only the downtrodden Jews of the Galut.

In this case my task is very easy. I do not have to explain why these apologies are so harmful. This was brilliantly done by Zeev Zhabotinsky in 1911 in the article "Instead of Excessive Apology." I want to conclude by citing the main points of his article (my translation from Russian). " We constantly and very loudly apologize... Instead of turning our backs to the accusers, as there is nothing to apologize for, and nobody to apologize to, we swear again and again that it is not our fault... Isn't it long overdue to respond to all these and all future accusations, reproaches, suspicions, slanders and denunciations by simply folding our arms and loudly, clearly, coldly and calmly answer with the only argument that is understandable and accessible to this public: 'Go to Hell!'?

Who are we, to make excuses to them; who are they to interrogate us? What is the purpose of this mock trial over the entire people where the sentence is known in advance? Our habit of constantly and zealously answering to any rabble has already done us a lot of harm and will do much more. ... The situation that has been created as a result, tragically confirms a well known saying: "Qui s'excuse s'accuse." We ourselves have acquainted our neighbors with the thought that for every embezzling Jew it is possible to drag the entire ancient people to answer, a people that was already legislating at the time when the neighbors had not even invented a bast shoe. Every accusation causes among us such a commotion that people unwittingly think, 'why are they so afraid of everything?' Apparently their conscience is not clear.' Exactly because we are ready at every minute to stand at attention, there develops among the people an inescapable view about us, as of some specific thievish tribe. We think that our constant readiness to undergo a search without hesitation and to turn out our pockets, will eventually convince mankind of our nobility; look what gentlemen we are--we do not have anything to hide! This is a terrible mistake. The real gentlemen are the people that will not allow anyone for any reason to search their apartment, their pockets or their soul. Only a person under surveillance is ready for a search at every moment.... This is the only one inevitable conclusion from our maniac reaction to every reproach--to accept responsibility as a people for every action of a Jew, and to make excuses in front of everybody including hell knows who. I consider this system to be false to its very root. We are hated not because we are blamed for everything, but we are blamed for everything because we are not loved...

We may apologize only in rare, unique and extremely important moments when we are completely confident that the Areopagus in front of us really has just intentions and proper competence. We do not have to apologize for anything. We are a people as all other peoples; we do not have any intentions to be better than the rest. As one of the first conditions for equality we demand the right to have our own villains, exactly as other people have them. Yes, we do have provocateurs and draft dodgers, and it is even strange that we have so few of them under current conditions. Other people have also these kind of "good," and, in addition, they have embezzlers, and pogrom-makers, and torturers--so what-- the neighbors live and are not ashamed.... Do our neighbors blush for the Christians in Kishinyov who hammered nails into Jewish babies' eyes?" Not in the least,-- they walk with head raised high and look everybody in the face; they are absolutely right, and this is how it must be, as the persona of a people is royal, and not responsible and is not obliged to apologize..."

We do not have to account to anybody, we are not to sit for anybody's examination and nobody is old enough to call on us to answer. We came before them and will leave after them. We are what we are, we are good for ourselves, we will not change and we do not want to."

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Boris Shusteff is a Russian immigrant and member of the Freeman Center.


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