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Middle East Quandary – The Traditional View
Once again the death toll mounts in the Holy Land.
Once again Zionist “doves” and “hawks” lock horns as to the proper response.
Is there any real alternative to the seeming never ending spiral of death and killing?
These are the questions which Jews of various persuasions are asking themselves today. Few and far between are those who believe that salvation lies in the camp of Brak or that of Sharon. A sense of being check mated has enveloped Zionism and with it those unfortunate souls who have allied themselves to it over the years.
In the paragraphs to follow we ask the reader to thoughtfully re-examine some of the current fashionable assumptions concerning the state of Israel and the Zionist movement.
We have cast our viewpoint in question and answer format in the dialogue between an enquiring mind (EM) and a traditional Torah sage (TTS).
EM -- Why is now, in particular, the time for a rethinking of old assumptions?
TTS – Frankly everyone is exhausted. The Israeli state has not delivered its promised goods. It is far from a safe haven for Jews. On the contrary it is in a perpetual situation of war and terror. Neither fighting nor peace negotiations seem to succeed. “Orthodox” pronouncements of devotion to further war no longer inspire.
EM – But isn’t that because . . .
TTS – Yes, yes, I know. Not enough real fighting and war or not enough real concessions for peace. Listen, I said we would be going beyond the old clich?s not wallowing in them.
EM -- OK. What’s your angle?
TTS – First mistake. It’s not my angle.
EM – Whose is it?
TTS – It is the “angle” of the Jewish people since our exile began, namely, that we are homeless due to our sins and that only repentance and G-d’s miraculous mercy can end exile. Not tanks and bombs. It seems that this is fairly clear today, don’t you think?
EM – So, you’re one of those ultra-Orthodox fanatics against the state of Israel?
TTS – Always beware of media stereotyping. When Zionism began it was opposed by the overwhelming majority of Torah leaders and rank and file observant Jews. It is only since 1948 that the strange hybrid of quasi - Zionism best exemplified by the Agudath Israel movement came into being. This position wanted all the results of Zionism, a state with wars and sovereignty but refused to participate in the killing and dying necessary. It demanded money and protection from a state it refused to defend. Zionists have justifiable despised this position.
EM – But that’s the Charedi position? The ultra- Orthodox, isn’t it?
TTS – Again, don’t let the ill informed media think for you It is the Agudah position. Take the money and run. It is not the traditional view at all. The traditional view opposed Zionism. It regarded as vastly secondary who were the Zionists or how they ran their state. This traditional point of view is consistent and coherent. It refuses and has always refused state money and sees the real problem as the existence of the state itself
EM – But the state protects them doesn’t it?
TTS – Quite the contrary. The ancestors of those who adopt this view lived in large numbers in the Holy land long before Zionists arrived and provoked the native Muslim population. They lived at peace with their non - Jewish neighbors. It was after the immigration began, which sought political rule, that animosity started. So, Zionism has protected no one. At first it endangered the old Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land. Then it endangered the millions who lived there. Finally, it has plunged into danger Jewry world wide and many others, including Americans anywhere around the world.
EM – The state is a reality. You can’t wish it away. Today there is no alternative. It is protecting millions.
TTS – For 52 years, actually for 100 years, we have heard how, first we’ll have to fight a bit, then Israel will be a safe haven for Jews. It hasn’t happened. How many wars are needed? How many deaths till we say that too many people have died, until we are willing to admit that it was a lie, a horrible lie? A false guarantee that delivered the reverse of what it promised?
EM – So, what do you propose now?
TTS – First, let’s get it clear that you are proposing nothing. You have no solution. All your solutions have been tried. Both war and peace have been attempted. For decades you have mocked our constant references to Talmudic statements which predict endless bloodshed as a punishment for seeking to prematurely end the exile. For a moment, just a moment pause and consider that everything we foretold has come true. Nothing you envisioned has. Maybe our Talmudic sages were right, after all?
EM – Again what is your plan?
TTS – Well, first we have to cleanse our minds and hearts of Zionist understandings of history. 1) We cannot shoot our way out of Divine punishment. 2) It is a grave sin to kill or be killed in order to establish pre-Messianic Jewish rule over the Holy Land. 3) The Israeli state in no way represents Jewry or Judaism. 4) Its “keeping” or “giving away” land has nothing to do with Jewry or Judaism. 5) Zionism – the arrogant usurpation of Divine Providence, must always fail, as foretold in Bible and Talmud and by Torah leaders over the centuries. 6) Jewish aggression against non –Jews is antithetical to our Torah mission.
EM – Your plan?
TTS – Our short term plan is to lesson somewhat the anti-Jewish sentiment which Zionism has created around the world and particularly in Islamic countries. We seek to inform the nations of the world that the dispossession of the Palestinians which exploded in 1948 but which had really been taking place since the turn of the century was wrong. And, that Torah Jewry had no part in this evil action. In general, we want to present an alternative to, so called, organized Jewry which forever wanders the globe seeking, in the true spirit of Zionism, to sew the seeds of hate against the nations.
EM – And long term?
TTS – We pray for a peaceful dismantling of the state.
EM – Is this realistic?
TTS – Is the current slavish devotion to Zionism realistic? Has it achieved anything except an endless body count and exacerbated anti-Semitism? The Almighty governs the affairs of men. Would all Jews see the evils of Zionism and then approach the Palestinian people in a spirit of reconciliation, with a sincere desire to relinquish control of the Holy Land the results would be surprisingly pleasant. In the meantime , though, our task is to disassociate ourselves from the heresy of Zionism and the evils it has perpetrated. By so doing we will sanctify the Creator’s Name and restore the Torah dignity of the Jewish people.
EM – In the meantime it seems that not many are interested in your message?
TTS – First. Many have continued the original Torah true anti-Zionist belief system over the last century. They number in the hundreds of thousands. As far as the others are concerned there is a sense of total exhaustion. Half hearted efforts at peace accomplish nothing. The moral burden of the refugee question is overwhelming. The right offers only further war and terror and death in “defense” of the Holy Sites. Behind all the clich?s is the ever growing sense that Zionism is dead. It has failed utterly. With G-d’s help this sense will harden into a clear realization. May this brief conversation serve as a signpost on that path back to truth. And may the Creator’s mercies extend to all our people.
EM – I’ve got some serious thinking to do.
TTS – Indeed.