May/June 2000

Wanted: A Jewish Churchill

By Jonathan Rosenblum

(May 18) "Israel today has weapons and money, the Arabs have will. . . Israel has high capabilities and low morale; the Arabs have low capabilities and high morale. Again and again, the record of history shows, victory goes not to the side with greater firepower, but to the side with greater determination."

So concludes Daniel Pipes's "Israel's Moment of Truth," in the February edition of Commentary.

Evidence of that low morale is all around us: in the glum responses Israelis give when asked about the future, in the declining allure of elite army units, and in our youth's increasing retreat into forms of Eastern religion and music stressing passivity and detachment.

According to a World Health Organization study, Israeli teenagers are the world's least happy, though they live with economic affluence undreamed of by their parents' generation and have never known a major war.

Israel is today the first country in history to systematically educate its youth not to identify with their country or their people. Imagine, for comparison, that the dispossession of the Indians was the main subject taught to American students in American history classes.

Jews have the longest recorded history of any people. Yet Israeli world history texts now start with the Greeks. A common law and language allowed Jews to conduct complex financial transactions with one another around the world. Yet the new textbooks stress not the forces binding Jewish communities over time and space, but rather the influences of the surrounding gentile society.

Even the Holocaust has become only a subsection of World War II, as if the Nazis' fiendish desire to exterminate the entire Jewish people, using all means of modern technology did not exist in a realm completely apart from the military history of the war.

David Rubinger's photograph of the bareheaded paratrooper staring up at the Kotel in 1967 has been purged from the new history books. Our students are, in any event, too removed from their past to even comprehend the sources of that awe.

Having cut ourselves off from the past, we seem increasingly incapable of thinking about the future. We live only in the immediate present. Long-range planning - in such fields as the environment, transportation, water resources, and land usage, for example - is beyond us.

NOWHERE has this short-term thinking had more profound consequences than in the realm of security. Only now, on the eve of withdrawing from Lebanon, are we waking up to the fact that the result may well be a bloodbath far worse than anything we have endured in recent years.

In negotiating with the Palestinians, we increasingly resemble a man fleeing from a lion, who keeps dropping hamburger meat in the lion's path to delay it. We forget, however, that there is only so much meat.

Having lost our love of the Land, we cannot conceive that another people has not. Having lost our sense of ourselves as a people, we cannot comprehend that another people has not. The cry "Slaughter the Jews," heard recently at Haifa University, thus comes as a complete shock.

Desiring only to be left alone to enjoy our new toys in peace, we convince ourselves that the Arabs seek the same, and that if we only keep the atmospherics favorable with enough presents, all will work out.

We refuse to confront the existence of enemies who still think in terms of victory, not reconciliation. Hilal Khashan's poll of Arab students at Beirut University, drawn from a cross-section of our neighbors, reveals that 69% do not want peace with Israel, 79% reject business contacts with Israelis even after a total peace, and 87% support attacks by Islamic groups against Israel.

The emblem of the Palestinian Authority shows all of Israel as Palestine, and the PA continues to educate students in their duty to retake all the land. The Khashan poll and studies of Palestinian textbooks would destroy our illusions, and so they are ignored by the Israeli media.

The Arabs, by contrast, see the future as theirs. The dramatically escalating Israeli Arab irredentism reflects the belief that the goals of Palestinian nationalism are no longer beyond reach. Whatever we may pretend to ourselves, warns the incoming deputy chief of General Staff, Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, the Arabs view the retreat from Lebanon as proof that Israel cannot absorb casualties and that force works. The current Palestinian rioting, carefully orchestrated by Arafat, proves the truth of his words.

In our moment of truth, Israel desperately needs a leader who recognizes the crucial role of the spirit in human affairs. We need a leader who can restore a sense of pride in our country, our people; a leader who can communicate a vision of the future that calls upon the abundant idealism of the Jewish people still waiting to be tapped.

Our challenge is one of the spirit, not of tactics. We cannot afford a technocrat whose perpetual smug, Cheshire-cat smile fairly screams, "I'm so smart." We need a leader who can stir our souls, not a prime minister who huddles with a few cronies and insists that we trust him.

We must believe again that our leaders are animated by some vision beyond their own retention of power. Recent evidence is not encouraging.

Unfortunately, we also need a leader capable of preparing us for war. Failure to do so will only make war more likely by encouraging our enemies to believe that victory will be theirs - if not today, then tomorrow.

In short, we need a Jewish Churchill. Based on the evidence so far, we have only a watchmaker.

© 2000 - The Jerusalem Post

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