The following article was written by Professor Louis Rene Beres only a month after the first Oslo Agreement in 1993. Its persistent truth after almost ten years of enlarged Jewish suffering now speaks for itself.
ISRAEL AND THE VULTURE
By Louis Rene Beres
Professor of International Law
Department of Political Science
E MAIL BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU
Re-released June 12, 2003
A vulture was hacking at my feet. It had already torn my boots and stockings to shreds, now it was hacking at the feet themselves. Again and again it struck at them, then circled several times restlessly round me, then returned to continue its work. A gentleman passed by, looked on for a while, then asked me why I suffered the vulture. "I'm helpless," I said. "When it came and began to attack me, I of course tried to drive it away, even to strangle it, but these animals are very strong, it was about to spring at my face, but I preferred to sacrifice my feet. Now they are almost torn to bits."
"Fancy letting yourself be tortured like this!" said the gentleman. "One shot and that's the end of the vulture." "Really?" I said. "And would you do that?" "With pleasure," said the gentleman, "I've only got to go home and get my gun. Could you wait another half hour?" "I'm not sure about that," said I, and stood for a moment rigid with pain. Then I said: "Do try it in any case, please." "Very well," said the gentleman, "I'll be as quick as I can."
During this conversation the vulture had been calmly listening, letting its eye rove between me and the gentleman. Now I realized that it had understood everything; it took wing, leaned far back to gain impetus, and then, like a javelin thrower, thrust its beak through my mouth, deep into me. Falling back, I was relieved to feel him drowning irretrievably in my blood, which was filling every depth, flooding every shore.
Franz Kafka, THE VULTURE
Even by the standards of Kafka's uncannily prophetic insights, the parable of the Vulture is remarkable. Examined as a lesson for Israel in its protracted struggle for survival in the Middle East, especially after its recently concluded agreement with Yasir Arafat, this cautionary tale is right on the mark. Indeed, it reads as if it were written originally with no other struggle in mind.
Consider the scenario. A man is being destroyed, slowly and painfully, by a fierce and predatory bird. Repeatedly, the bird hacks at its victim, immobilizing him systematically and purposefully, piece by piece. The man, of course, has not allowed this process of sequential dismemberment to proceed without defensive reaction. Fearing, above all, for his face, for his very being, he has preferred to "sacrifice my feet." Rather than confront his enemy head on, frontally, with some hope of emerging victorious, he has calculated instead, quite rationally he maintains, the cost-effectiveness of appeasement. In the end, his rational calculations prove altogether erroneous. It is true that our victim does draw some satisfaction from the final mutuality of death - the vulture drowns "irretrievably" in the man's own blood - but it is a satisfaction that is necessarily short-lived.
There is more. Before the dreadful demise of both victim and victimizer, a "gentleman" promises aid to the former. The gentleman needs only to return with his "gun;" the man needs only to "wait another half hour." All the while, the vulture, not merely a beast animated by instinct, "understands" the plan against it, and decides, again after "calm" and careful calculation, to launch decisive thrusts. So what if they turn out to be more carnivorous frenzies. It is now too late to stop the hacking.
Events have achieved an unstoppable momentum of their own. What must be done must be done.
The "gentleman," of course, never returns. Like the vacant American President Clinton, who now urges Israel onward with a delusionary "peace process," he has other, more urgent, preoccupations. The problem with his promises is not that he is necessarily deceitful or meanspirited (he is, after all, a "gentleman"), but that he is interested only in himself.
For too many years, the "vulture" has been hacking away at Israel. From its fragile beginnings, Israel has been heeding one "gentleman" or another. Although the United States has hardly urged the Jewish State to deal with its painfully progressive decomposition by explicitly recognizing the advantages of firing "one shot," the implicit promise is always present: "Negotiate, compromise, yield, beg; there is really no risk involved. There is always the last resort of overwhelming military power." This promise, whether it refers to American or to Israeli forces, or to both, is of little or no value. Taken too seriously, it will likely lead Israel toward one form or another of the "Samson Option." While enemies of the Jewish State will "drown irretrievably" in the full fury of Israel's most terrible weapons - in the unspeakable lifeblood of a victim that has waited for too long to ensure its survival - this fate will occasion no celebrations in what is left of Jewish Jerusalem. Faced with the end of the Third Temple Commonwealth, Israel's leaders will curse their enemies and their "gentleman," but it will be an indecipherable curse, a curse heard by no one.
It will emerge, of course, that this Oslo "peace process" is an oxymoron, a paradoxical conjunction of terms that could seal the fate of an imperilled ministate - one smaller than some counties in California. For Israel, a long-suffering and increasingly directionless victim, the process may lead to complete and irreversible helplessness. Sacrificing more and more essential security in the hope that predators will be satisfied, it will learn too late - unless Kafka's revealing parable is understood by the endangered People of Israel - that the lure of carrion only inflames the vulture. In an unspeakable irony genuinely savored by the insatiable vulture, Israel could even become the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. Prof. Beres is the academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.