In response to “The Price of Not Keeping the Peace” by Arthur Hertzberg, originally published by the New York Times on August 27, 2003.
It is tragic that in the war of ideas some of the most nefarious assailants of the Jewish cause are self-hating Jews. Not a new phenomenon in Jewish history, for sure. The Jewish communists were always more zealous in undermining Jewish heritage and culture than their Gentile comrades. And in the Middle Ages some converts were the most despicable of Jew baiters.
Today we have Jews at the forefront of the campaign against Israel and they can often be seen proudly marching arm in arm with those who glorify or rationalize the homicide bombers. They were on prominent display in Durban a few years ago when the new international anti Semitic campaign was launched in the name of so-called human rights. By and large their fanatical self-hatred is so transparent and irrational that their efforts to delegitimize and undermine Israel come across as a cruel joke and their impact is marginal.
Far more damaging are some respectable Jewish liberals, those who portray themselves as humanitarians revolted by the Israeli-Arab bloodshed which they say is primarily the fault of their fanatical kinsmen.
Take for example Arthur Hertzberg, the Bronfman Visiting Professor at New York University and a former World Jewish Congress vice president. Hertzberg is a brilliant academician whose scholarly works are to be found on the shelves of every good Jewish library. His Zionist Idea is still a classic. Hertzberg is also a Conservative Rabbi and his non-polemical books radiate a love for Judaism and the Jewish people.
Yet this same Hertzberg has recently written an article in the New York Times that leaves one appalled at the crassness of its content and timing.
Hertzberg has become obsessive in his criticism of current Israeli policies and it is difficult to explain this passion. Could it be due to frustration that Israelis don’t listen to him? I have heard him in the past expand on how both Golda Meir and Menachem Begin lost marvelous opportunities for peace because they declined to accept his advice.
Yet even this hubris leaves one at a loss to understand his most recent foray. It is utterly out of sync with a man who purports to be a Rabbi, a Zionist and a liberal.
His New York Times article actually advocates the imposition of American pressure on Israel until it succumbs to Washington’s diktat. This, in defiance of the will of the overwhelming majority of Israelis who democratically elected their government. And this mind you, from a man who purports to be a liberal! Imagine for the sake of argument, a call urging the United States to forcibly impose its will on another democratic country, say in South America. Who can doubt that the Arthur Hertzbergs would be amongst the first to vigorously attack their own administration for resorting to colonialist and imperialist oppression.
But Hertzberg goes even further. In what can only be described as bizarre, this Zionist ideologue urges the Bush Administration to bring Israel to heel because, we, its citizens, don’t know what is good for us. And how does he propose the Americans should enforce this? By the use of economic sanctions.
Hertzberg catches himself in the web of his own weaving by resorting to the spurious issue of moral equivalency. Nowhere does he specifically say that those who target and blow up our women and children are on the same level as the IDF defenders. He simply prattles on about “cycles of violence” which to the average American reader, surely amounts to much the same thing.
Alas, he does not stop there. This self-declared Zionist shatters all notions of loyalties and even undermines the very principle of the centrality of Israel in Jewish life by calling on the American government to override the government of the Jewish state by usurping our right to decide what we deem best for our defense.
Having studied Torah, Rabbi Hertzberg should be familiar with the ancient dictum to Jewish scholars: “Be wary of your words”. He has surely also defiled that cardinal principle by semantically bracketing the “dismantling of settlements” with “hounding suicide bombers.” Such juxtaposition is awful. Hertzberg may oppose Jewish settlements but to imply that settlements are as morally reprehensible as the terrorist killers is beyond the pale.
Hertzberg’s reference to “hard liners” who support “Transfer” is equally misleading to American readers. It is true that some Israelis do dream of Transfer if only to enable their women and children to walk safely in the streets. But he is surely aware that the majority of Israelis recognize that Transfer is no solution. Indeed 70-80% are today committed not to rule over Palestinians for a single day longer than security necessitates. That is why Israelis overwhelmingly support a security fence. We wish to separate ourselves from them.
And surely Rabbi Hertzberg knows that over the past decade under Arafat’s reign, from kindergarten onwards, the Palestinians have been indoctrinated with venomous hatred of everything Jewish. Indeed they have become transformed into a society comparable to that of Germany under Hitler; they have been brainwashed by evil. How else to describe a people who sanctify killers, adulate the mothers of killers, and indulge in joyful street celebrations every time they hear of Jews being blown to pieces. And their own polls show that the vast majority still consider Saddam Hussein to be their role model and endorse suicide bombings.
Hertzberg ignores these elements and conveys the impression that the Israeli government is dominated by extremists and that “ultra-nationalists” are dictating hard line policies. Hence the rationale for his call on America to impose economic sanctions, and override the will of the democratically elected government.
To hear this from such a man is truly puzzling. But it is not too late to recant the damage. We are approaching the High Holidays and Rabbi Hertzberg might therefore consider practicing introspection and rethink some of his ideas by reference to what he has learned from Torah. This might encourage him to display a little humility towards his brethren who are engaged in a life and death encounter day by day. Even for one who sits in New York and has the temerity to urge his Government to impose sanctions upon us here in Jerusalem, there is still time for Tshuva (repentance).