Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rejecting God’s Choice (again)

Perhaps the most valuable experience I had while I was teaching in Israel came when someone (I can no longer remember whom) recommended that I read the essays of Ahad Ha’am. Fortunately, the first such piece I read turned out to be his interpretation of the concept of a “chosen people.” His thesis was that the Jews had not been chosen to receive the bounties of the land of Canaan. Rather, as I have previously put it, “they were chosen to be role models for all those other cultures that had rejected their One God.” If there is any validity to American support of Israel as a country, it would be through the past examples that country has set through its embrace of democratic principles moderated through the rule of law.

On the basis of a story filed on BBC News about an hour ago, that past validity has now been thoroughly undermined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Is that too extreme a statement? Draw your own conclusions after reading the opening text:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the construction of 300 new homes at the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. 
The announcement came hours after Israel's parliament rejected a bill to legalise settlement outposts. 
Mr Netanyahu, who opposed the bill, said he would honour a Supreme Court order to demolish homes on private Palestinian land at the Ulpana outpost. 
The issue has been a source of tension between settlers and the government. 
All settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The settler outposts are also illegal under Israeli law and the government agreed to remove them under the 2003 Road Map peace plan.
In other words, while Arab Spring protestors try to keep up the good fight against authoritarian rulers that reject their parliaments as duly elected representatives of their citizens, Netanyahu has embraced precisely the sort of authoritarianism that the protestors insist on rejecting. Needless to say, the United States has not been much better at setting a proper example lately. Perhaps that is why our country continues to persist in its right-or-wrong allegiance to Israel (or, perhaps more accurately, to the lobbying power of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which seems to have no room for reflection over their endorsement of Netanyahu).

Ahad Ha’am must be turning in his grave; it is time for Jews around the world to recognize that the philosophical foundations of Judaism count for far more than the political machinations of the state of Israel.

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