The Israel Report

March 2001

1948 - by Reuven Rubin

The Struggle for Israel's Soul

By Isi Leibler

(March 11) - The nightmare we collectively endured these past five months was not exclusively a consequence of the incompetence of the Barak government, or simply the seduction of a profoundly war-weary nation by the tantalizing lure of an illusionary peace.

It also derived from the systematic erosion of Jewish and national values reflected in the arts, the academic establishment, and above all, the school educational curriculum.

The media denigration of Zionism is exemplified by Ha'aretz, the flagship of the intelligentsia, the bulk of whose opinion columns are tilted towards post-Zionism, rather than the mainstream, and which seem to identify more with the suffering of our enemies than that of Israelis.

The political extension is exemplified by former justice minister Yossi Beilin's repeated assertion that his grandfather should have supported Uganda as a Jewish homeland rather than Eretz Yisrael. This explains why some of the promoters of the Oslo Accords seem to regard the peace process as a negotiation over real estate rather than the painful realization of the need to concede historic Jewish territory for the sake of peace, and because of the inability to rule over another people.

Post-Zionism is usually promoted under the mantle of "normalization" and mainly directed toward Israelis ignorant of or indifferent to their Jewish heritage. They are invited to choose between living in an enlightened Western democracy or reverting to the Middle Ages and renewing the wars of the Crusades. They are asked in simplistic terms whether it is justified to sacrifice Israeli lives for wars over monuments, graves, or religious symbols.

The systematic promotion of this approach explains why some Israelis simply shrugged their shoulders at the thought of handing over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.

Ultimately, it was Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat who undermined the post-Zionist dream by exposing the illusion of the "irreversible peace process."

A remnant of Peace Now radicals continues to defend and support Arafat against its own people. Their behavior is reminiscent of the Jewish communists in the 1930s and postwar era who were so besotted with Stalinism and the Soviet Union that they rejected the indisputable evidence of Stalin's inhumanity and antisemitism. Today, their counterparts also share a messianic quasi-religious belief in Arafat as a peace partner despite damning evidence to the contrary.

After the collapse of the illusion, many Israelis are revisiting their national identity. This may provide a window of opportunity for rectifying some of the damage, as well as setting up structures to protect us from future disasters when the post-Zionists and defeatists regroup for a further round - as they surely will.

We must not be intimidated by the post-Zionists. Despite their successes, they remain restricted to a small, albeit influential, minority in Israeli society. In fact, there are encouraging signs that a growing number of Israelis, including many who previously endorsed the Oslo Accords, as well as supporters of Labor Zionism, are awakening to the dangers and making their voices heard.

It is noteworthy that, when the post-Zionist infiltration into the educational system was exposed, the Knesset Education Committee, in an unprecedented bipartisan response, demanded the recall of an offending textbook.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was elected by a record majority, with a primary mandate to overcome the physical threat to our well-being and security. But, in the long term, history will also judge his government by its contribution to the struggle for the soul of Israel. Hopefully the new government will lay the foundations for ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state, consistent with the vision of its Zionist founders.

To achieve this, the government will be obliged to radically reform the current fragmented education system. Without disputing the need for separate schools for haredim and Arabs, the government should still require a minimum standard of secular studies that will provide a basis for gainful employment. In addition, compulsory courses in civics and societal obligations should be introduced to all schoolchildren - as is the case in most civilized countries.

However, the greatest challenge for the new minister of education will be to review the curriculum in the mainstream secular school system and create new courses designed to generate love and pride in the Land of Israel and the Jewish heritage.

We face a critical turning point. The road ahead will be difficult and fraught with obstacles which cannot be overcome by quick-fix solutions. But, without minimizing our current problems and pain, we should complain less and remind ourselves that we still represent the luckiest generation in 2,000 years of Jewish history. Contrary to the prophets of doom, time is on our side, if only we can sustain our morale and minimize the internecine conflicts within our society.

(The writer is chairman of the governing board of the World Jewish Congress.)

©2001 - Jerusalem Post
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