Jewish Journal

Giving up on Israel—‘The Apostate’

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 31, 2007 | 10:17 am

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, doesn’t hit the beat often these days. But the stories he’s written in recent years have been memorable—a probing profile of the wandering politician, former President Clinton, an analysis of what it meant when Hamas seized the Palestinian Authority parliament. Like someone who speaks infrequently, Remnick’s occasional byline demands a careful reading.

In this week’s New Yorker, Remnick, the New Jersey son of secular Jews, visits Zion and reports on the repercussions of the loss of faith by a fervent believer in the dream of a Jewish state. (That was Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of Knesset, last month saying that Israel is “dead. We haven’t received the news yet, but we are dead.”)

“For the so-called head of the Zionist movement to say all this—to say, ‘Get another passport for your kids,’ ” Avishai Margalit said to me. “It’s like the Pope giving sex tips.”

Remnick visits Burg at his home in the village of Nataf, and gets an earful about how Israeli politicians talk too much about the Holocaust (a sentiment he shares with Europeans).

“The most optimistic years in the state of Israel were 1945 to 1948,” he said to me. “The farther we got from the camps and the gas chambers, the more pessimistic we became and the more untrusting we became toward the world. It was a shock to me. Didn’t we, the politicians, feed the public? Didn’t we cheapen the sanctity of the Holocaust by using it about everything? Some people say, ‘Occupation? You call this occupation? This is nothing compared to the absolute evil of the Holocaust!’ And if it is nothing compared to the Holocaust then you can continue. And since nothing, thank God, is comparable to the ultimate trauma it legitimatizes many things.” Burg said that contemporary Israelis “are not at the stage to be sensitive enough to what happens to others and in many ways are too indifferent to the suffering of others. We confiscated, we monopolized, world suffering. We did not allow anybody else to call whatever suffering they have ‘holocaust’ or ‘genocide,’ be it Armenians, be it Kosovo, be it Darfur.”

Remnick concludes the story by making this case: The future of Israel depends not on the dream of Zionism but on the sanctity of the Israeli economy.

“Will the young people take the job offer in London from Goldman Sachs or will they stay here and wait for the missiles to fall?” (Harvard Business Review contributing editor Bernard) Avishai said. “The question is, is this a good enough place to come back to when they are married and have children? Finally, the Israeli government has to confront its own crazies and create a national consensus on democratic ideals, enact a secular constitution, and really confront the settlers. So far, the government is only willing to say that it is making ‘painful’ moves. We are told that we have to grieve with the settlers, think about making deals, but quietly let on that we actually think these are the real Israeli pioneers. Bulls—-. Avrum Burg might not express the need to change in the most effective way, but at least he has the courage to insist on it.”

Overall, the piece—not just Burg’s comments—offer little hope for Israel’s future. But do you think such fatalism is correct?

(Photo: Telegraph and New Yorker)

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