Sunday, January 31, 2010
Imagine a state in Palestine to which the Jews of the world are gathered, but in which they have individual rights no greater than its Arab inhabitants. Imagine a country with no privileged religion: everyone goes to his or her house of prayer in freedom and peace. Imagine a state in which individual human rights are paramount; a state that is full of different languages, reflecting the cultural richness of its many immigrants. Imagine that such a state would have no army, but would depend for its peace and order on the Western powers. Imagine that this state called itself merely the "new society." A hydroelectric canal would join the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean.
Imagine that, in such a society, an Arab citizen could say something like this: "Would you call a man or a robber who takes nothing from you but brings you something instead? The Jews have enriched us, why should we be angry with them? They dwell among us like brothers, why should we not love them? Our houses of worship stand side by side...our prayers, when they rise, mingle somewhere up above, and then continue on their way together until they appeared before our Father."
Imagine a Jew adding: "Nothing on earth is perfect, not even our new society. But we are merely a society of citizens seeking to enjoy life through work and culture."
A leftist fantasy? Bound to undermine Israel? Actually, this is more or less exactly the vision of the Jewish state set out in Theodore Herzl's novel Old-New Land. (The dialogue is taken from the book verbatim; Herzl also wanted "athletic and rifle clubs" for once "pale, weak and timid" Jewish children.) Old-New Land's famous epigraph, "Im tirzu, ein zu agaddah," "If you will it, it is no dream," almost immediately entered Zionist lore, though few Zionists at the time were so liberal and cosmopolitan that they were prepared for a vision in which Hebrew had been effaced. Nevertheless, when people invoke the phrase "Im tirzu, etc.," this is the dream Herzl supposed Jewish will would attach to.
I AM THINKING about the origin of that phrase today because of a surreal ad recently taken out in the Jerusalem Post by an organization called Im Tirzu, which gives the will's triumph a rather different cast. The ad attacks the New Israel Fund, and its current president, former Member of Knesset (and dear friend) Naomi Chazan, for supporting various human rights organizations whose meticulous data and reporting contributed to the Goldstone Report.
Now that Alan Dershowitz has exposed that report as tantamount to reissuing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, presumably all contributions to it, like the stringently liberal principles animating them, must be thought "anti-Zionist." (This morning, on Israeli radio, there was another attack on the New Israel Fund for supporting an organization, "Breaking The Silence," which documented over 70 anonymous reports by soldiers of harassment of Palestinians at checkpoints.)
Anyone with a sense of history knows where this is going. Israel can't have an increasingly repressive and brazen occupation without eventually getting around to repressing Israeli voices who oppose it. Anyway, if he were alive, and were solicited by the New Israel Fund and Im Tirzu, who would the witness to the Dreyfus case write his check to?
Posted by Bernard Avishai at 6:15 AM