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Saturday, December 20, 2008

What future for Israel?

Today's International Herald Tribune features a story by Ethan Bronner about Avraham Burg, "How a Zionist in Israel went from leader to scourge." The occasion is Burg's book critical of the Jewish state, just recently translated into English, "The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes." Burg is an Israeli who realized that the Zionist dream is over and that Israel's very survival depends on accepting new realities it. A few extracts from the Trib article:

Widely known by his nickname Avrum, Burg, a happily married father of six and the son of one of Israel's most admired and longest-serving government ministers, was talked about as a candidate for prime minister. Long before his 50th birthday, he had headed the World Zionist Organization and served as speaker of the country's Parliament.

But four years ago Burg not only walked away from politics. He pretty much walked away from Zionism. In a book that came out last year, and has just been translated and released in the United States, he said Israel should not be a Jewish state, that its law of return granting citizenship to any Jew should be radically altered, that Israeli Arabs were like German Jews during the Second Reich and that, in fact, the entire society felt eerily like Germany just before the rise of Hitler.

Pretty strong stuff, although the Israelis are much more used to, and tolerant of, such views that Americans, Jews or non-Jews.

What are Burg's prescriptions? He wants a new Jewish identity focused not on the particular but on the universal, asserting that "if we do not establish modern Israeli identity on foundations of optimism, faith in humans and full trust in the family of nations, we have no chance of existing." He wants Israel to dismantle the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and replace it with the headquarters for the International Criminal Court, making this the epicenter of international prevention of genocide.

One can only hope that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now that she no longer depends on Jewish votes nor needs to pander to them, will take advantage of the soul-searching now going on in Israel and help negotiate a just peace between that nation and the Palestinians.

Photo: Avrum Burg

3 comments:

Anne Gilbert said...

Unlike Avram Burg, I don't think Israel should dismantle their Holocaust memorial. The Holocaust was too important a horror to be forgotten after the last Holocaust survivor dies. However, I think its meaning should shift to memorializing and reminding people everywhere, about the kind of thinking that leads to this result, regardless of who are the perpetrators and who are the victims. After all, there is still at least the potential for this kind of stuff to be going on. But Burg is right about something else, and that is, that Israel needs to become a nation like other nations, and if they really want to promote Jewish ideals, instead of a "Jewish state", they need to become the state of everyone living there! This would actually be more in line with the Jewish prophetic tradition, in a way. But I'm not sure that Israel, in its present incarnation, is capable of doing this.
Anne G

terryt said...

It does give one reason for optimism. I agree with Anne, there's no need to "dismantle the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem". "The Holocaust was too important a horror to be forgotten after the last Holocaust survivor dies". But I like his idea of having "the headquarters for the International Criminal Court, making this the epicenter of international prevention of genocide".

I think that ultimately Jerusalem should be the capital for all "People of the Book". It is all those peoples' holy city. Not mine I might add.

Anne Gilbert said...

Some years ago, there was a proposal that Jerusalem should be the dual capital of both Israel and the future Palestinian state. Unfortunately, many people in Israel didn't like that idea. But I like terryt's idea that it should be the "international capital of all the peoples of the Book". Good idea. Really.
Anne G