By P. David Hornik

Can morality be laid aside in the name of pragmatism?

And../... if you hearken diligently unto my commandments../... I will give the rain for your land in its season../... that you may gather in your grain, and your wine, and your oil. ../..../..Deuteronomy 11:13-14

Whether or not one accepts the notion of God's involvement in human affairs, there is a concept in those lines to which Israel in 1997 should hearken. The concept is that there is a link between morality and well-being. Moral principles are not just grand abstractions; to an extent, morality and practicality are the same thing.

For the architects and prime movers of Oslo - Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin - the gap between morality and practicality was wide. In other words, te end justified the means: Oslo was the path to peace, therefore moral principles could be tossed by the wayside. To be sure, the relationship is not a simple one. Sometimes, especially in the political domain, morality has to be bent, or even abandoned in pursuit of larger goals. The most dramatic example in this century was Roosevelt's and Churchill's forging of an alliance with a monster, Stalin, against a more menacing monster, Hitler. Few would deny that it was justified. Still, a heavy price had to be paid: the Soviet Union emerged from the war militarily and territorially strengthened.

The result was over four decades of Cold War - and, down to this day, a potentially aggressive, nuclear-armed Russia. In the name of the Oslo peace process, Yasser Arafat and his PLO cronies were given a blanket amnesty for decades of terrorism and thousands of murders.Some of us didn't understand where Rabin and Peres got the moral and legal authority to grant this amnesty; but there was nothing we could do about it.

The Israeli electorate was bamboozled. Labor had won the 1992 elections by showcasing Rabin as a centrist hawk; its platform promised no talks with the PLO, no retreat from the Golan, a united Jerusalem. Lies and cynicism. People with a record of cruelty and corruption were imported from Tunisia and elsewhere and imposed on a civilian population as its government.

Israelis were allowed to be murdered. The killers fled to a safe haven. They were not pursued, and those in charge of the haven were not held accountable. Israel's democratic process was raped. Oslo 2 - an agreement that profoundly affects the future of Israel and the Jewish people - was opposed by a majority of Zionist MKs, but squeaked through the Knesset on the strength of the votes of the anti-Zionist Arab parties and the two turncoats from Tsomet, Gonen Segev and Alex Goldfarb.

Murderers were released en masse from prisons. First we were assured that it was only those with Arab, not Jewish, blood on their hands. Then the criteria were stretched a little../... and some with Jewish blood on their hands were released, too - but only if they were women. (The PC folks never raised a peep of protest at any of this.)

But it was all justified, in the name of peace. WERE Beilin, Peres, and Rabin right? Can peace be bought at the price of deception, corruption and murder? Not surprisingly, they were wrong. Israel in 1997 is not a country gladly anticipating the onset of peace. The war in southern Lebanon keeps intensifying. The "entity" taking shape in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza does not look like a peaceful neighbor, but more like a cruel dictatorship that amasses weapons, harbors terror organizations, and preaches hate.

Prime Minister Netanyahu claims he has no choice but to continue the slide to moral chaos. So he has allowed more Israelis to be murdered, and released murderesses from prison. Perhaps he's right. Perhaps the political, diplomatic, and economic momentum the previous government built up around the Oslo process really is irresistible. If so, one could look at it another way: that having stood so many moral principles on their heads in the pursuit of a warped pragmatism, it is very hard to dig ourselves back out of the hole.

Not only Judaism but other ancient traditions too lay great emphasis on the warning: Break the laws, offend the gods, and the earth turns barren, the world darkens, the heavens close. Let's hope it's not too late.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1997


P. David Hornik is a writer and translator living in Jerusalem.

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