Dr. Ronald A. Brauner
The year 1998 truly is a remarkable one for Jews throughout the world and for Gentiles who know that the Jewish people prove miracles still happen. Who would have thought that out of the duplicitous and lethal statesmanship of the British Empire, out of an America whose first four decades of the 20th century were corrupted with often energetic antisemitism and that out of the ashes and despair of the Shoah, the Jewish State would be reborn? Who would have thought, despite all the badmouthing of American liberal Judaism in those days (and, sadly, ours) that two Reform rabbis, Stephen S. Wise and Abba Hillel Silver would play the most determinative role in gaining United States' support for the establishment of Medinat Yisrael? Who would have thought that a newly-declared state would be voted into existence by the United Nations and who would have thought that thirty years later Zionism would be equated with racism by that same body? Who would have thought that as soon as the UN would announce Israel's birth, seven hostile Arab neighbors would seek to perform a post partum abortion on the Jewish state? Who would have thought that when the British evacuated their Palestinian Mandate, they would not leave so much as a slingshot for the Jewish community (the yishuv) to defend itself and who would have thought that Czechoslovakia would be a major surreptitious supplier of arms when no one else would help? Who would have thought that a bit more than a half million Jews would prevail over all those bent on Israel's destruction? Who would have thought that from the time it came into being until this very minute, Israel, against its will, has been at war? Who would have thought that a world which once applauded Israel's tenacity and survival would become a harsh critic, aided by the perverse, corrupt journalism of Reuter's, Peter Jennings and CNN?
But nobody would have guessed that Israel's fiftieth birthday would see an increasing barrage of harsh Jewish public condemnations of Israel? Nobody would have guessed that Jews would provide more ammunition for the delegitimization of the State than its sworn enemies! Nobody would have guessed that our noble prophetic tradition (we are all sons and daughters of the prophets) for self-criticism would be used by our detractors as evidence against our own unworthiness. Perhaps they didn't read what Catholic scholar Rosemary Ruether wrote in Faith and Fratricide when she indicted two millennia of Christian antisemitism for misappropriating the internal, self-critical teachings of Isaiah and Jeremiah and turning them into a case validating the church's persecution and demonization of Jews and Judaism.
To be sure, modern day Israel has many defects and, to be sure, the work of building a Jewish and just state (they are synonymous) is still quite incomplete. Much remains on the agenda: alleviation of social injustice, expansion of effective social services, developing a just and peaceful modus vivendi with Arab Palestinians, developing a pluralistic religious life. . . . But, they way we contend with Israeli politics and practices makes all the difference; we may never wash our dirty linen in public, only to have such linen turned into burial shrouds for Jews the world would rather not put up with. The world watches and listens. Who would have believed that some Jews would commit suicide with their mouths?
1998, Foundation for Jewish Studies, Inc.