Robert Wilkes is a political columnist who writes from a conservative viewpoint. Robert’s column this week concerns matters of Jewish survival and is not about American politics.
If you think American politics is discordant, Israel’s is a cacophony. Since the beginning of the Zionist movement and continuing after independence, the loci of political philosophies regarding the meaning, mission and destiny of Israel have been farther apart than our parties ever have in America.
Herzl and his political heirs fought a fierce battle over the idea of a Jewish state against factions that, among other visions, wished for nothing more than an intellectual and cultural center for the Jewish people. The debate was eventually won by David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948, when Jews became sovereign over their land once again.
Founding arguments resurfaced in the late 1980s as Israel attempted a rapprochement with Palestinians in their midst after the Six-Day War. The doves came to power under Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Perez with high hopes for peace. Instead, they gave the world Arafat, the debacle of Oslo, and all that followed — including the withdrawal from Gaza and subsequent Hamas totalitarianism.
The Israelis have since learned their bitter lesson and awakened to reality. They are quietly supportive of Benjamin Netanyahu’s wary but realistic policy toward peace negotiations. The American administration, we may hope, is coming to recognize its own limitations after a bad beginning.
When events such as Oslo leave us bewildered, we ask, “What were they thinking?” This is precisely the question answered in Kenneth Levin’s brilliant book, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege. I discovered the book during a talk by George Gilder, author of The Israel Test.
In his speech, Gilder made three interesting observations: Palestinian negotiating strategy can be explained in terms of game theory; Israel’s obsessive pursuit of peace to the point of jeopardizing its own security at Oslo and after can be understood in terms of a psychological delusion; and finally, animosity toward Israel can be understood as envy and resentment of Israel’s success. I leave it to the reader to learn more about game theory and the Israel test from Gilder himself.
Levin, a polymath, scholar, and psychiatrist, elucidates the Oslo delusion this way: Chronically besieged populations subject to bigotry, denigration or assault suffer delusions in which they believe their accusers are right, and believe they must accommodate and change themselves to win acceptance from the society at large. He illustrates his thesis by charting efforts at assimilation (and, in many cases, abandonment of Jewish identity) among German Jews in the century before the Holocaust.
Fast forward to the early 1990s. “Occupation fatigue” and an overwhelming hunger for peace and security created a national delusion during Oslo. Israel brought Arafat and his 7,000 armed gunmen from Tunisia, hoping to make them peace partners. The Peace Now movement promoted its leaders into the government, and Yossi Beilin, a leading dove and deputy foreign minister under Rabin, held secret talks with Palestinian counterparts. Beilin offered everything and anything to the Palestinians, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem — even the Western Wall.
Arafat responded with suicide bomber attacks and continued incitement following his “Plan of Phases,” a deception with the goal of destroying the Jewish State. The ruse was evident to a small number of Israelis monitoring Palestinian media, yet Israeli media, the American Jewish press, and the Israeli government publicly ignored it. Israel continued to educate its schoolchildren to believe in the possibility of a final and enduring peace.
Israelis have awakened with heavy hearts from their delusion. They understand the self-evident reality that they can do nothing by themselves to reach a formal peace with the Palestinians. The Palestinians will not abide it short of annihilation of Israel as a Jewish state.
Those who think differently remain afflicted with the Oslo Syndrome. Many Americans do, and many of them are Jewish. They support pro-Palestinian groups and the BDS movement (boycott, divest and sanction), and seek to delegitimize Israel. They employ tropes such as “apartheid” and “Israeli-Nazi war machine” to create a smokescreen of twisted facts and history giving currency to Lenin’s adage, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
Among them are Seattle blogger Richard Silverstein, Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun, Naim Ateek of Sabeel Institute, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, the International Solidarity Movement — the list goes on. They hyperbolically depict Israel as a Nazi state inflicting a Shoah on the Palestinians. Well meaning? I cannot assume otherwise. Deluded? Without doubt.
Now that we know what they are thinking, the question remains, “Why are they doing that?” Dr. Levin’s keen psychoanalytical paradigm has them pegged. They adhere to far-left ideologies that despise nationalism, especially within powerful, advanced nations such as the U.S. and Israel, whom they judge troublemakers and oppressors. They adopt utopian universalist prescriptions illuminated in Lennon’s dreamy “Imagine there’s no countries” to assuage their particularist Jewishness.
The Oslo Syndrome is a threat to Jewish survival. Clarity on this point can be found in the question, “What does it mean to be a Jew?” For me, there are three pillars of Jewish life: God, Torah and Israel. I am proud of our history and our people, and I find it difficult to imagine Judaism surviving if Israel is defeated. A blow so devastating to Jewish identity must hasten the day Judaism slowly fades away, sharing the fate of cultures and religions over the centuries that have been overcome by raw power. Will a child be called to the Torah (I pray it’s not a Kindle) in 200 years? We don’t know, but as Jews we must do everything we can to preserve the religion and the people that gave the world the one God and the law.
Of 257 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, many newer than Israel, many egregious by any standard, scores of them theocracies, only one finds that it must defend its legitimacy. Only one is a permanent item of concern on the UN Human Rights Council agenda. Only one.
Stand with decency. Lose your delusions. Fight for Israel.