[Freemanlist2] Gil Troy - VIEWPOINT: ZIONISM REVISITED
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May this year bring Israel security and prosperity. May haShem inspire his People to bring an end to the to the tyranny and appeasement of Ehud Olmert.
VIEWPOINT: ZIONISM REVISITED
By Gil Troy
JERUSALEM REPORT, FEBRUARY 5, 2007
In 1993, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that America's crime epidemic desensitized Americans to violence. His title "Defining Deviancy Down" became a catch-all, describing Americans� weary acceptance of post-1960s social pathologies, from divorce to drugs. Seeing just how disengaged so many Israelis seem from the Qassams haunting Sderot and the suffering of the three kidnapped soldiers' families, it is fair to wonder: After six years of renewed violence are Israelis accepting the abhorrent as inevitable?
The bitterness of Sderot's citizens is palpable and justified. They compare the hysteria when rockets fall on Ashkelon, just a few kilometers father away, to the ho-hum response when their children are terrorized. Over the summer, they noted Israel's rapid reaction when Hizballah violated the northern border, versus the hundreds of attacks their little town endured before even a feeble military response began. One sign in the town square proclaimed: "Sharon Wake up... Olmert's in a coma!"
The general apathy toward the Sderot situation is particularly unconscionable. Sderot's predicament should unite left and right in this oft-divided country. Mostly immigrants, many of them poor, Sderot's citizens live within Israel's 1948 borders, the Green Line. Their being targeted proves that Hamas and other Palestinians reject the state�s very existence.
The Sderot somnolence is tragically paralleled by equal quiet on the hostage front. The three victims are Israeli Everymen, familiar types: Gilad Shalit, a 19-year-old with a shy smile, was kidnapped by Hamas near Gaza; Ehud Goldwasser, a 31-year-old engineer, and Eldad Regev, a 26-year-old pre-law student, were kidnapped by Hizballah. Considering that the government launched a war to free them in July, the lack of interest in their plight barely six months later is disturbing. It is hard to illustrate a negative, but many Israelis do not seem to have embraced the hostages' cause. Three families are living a nightmarish purgatory, crisscrossing the globe, pleading for help. For most everyone else, it is business as usual.
Presiding over this increasingly sorry state of affairs, Ehud Olmert seems to be auditioning daily to be Israel's Jimmy Carter. Like Carter, Olmert proves that being smart does not guarantee political success. Just as in the 1970s Carter faced a demoralized America questioning its ideals, Olmert is failing to lead a country that risks losing its confidence and its soul. The passing of the torch from the Yizhak Rabin-Ariel Sharon generation of 1948 fighters to the next generation has been rough. It is occurring amid epidemics of Zionist revisionism and social self-criticism that mistake searing cynicism for self-awareness, mocking believers in the not-so-old ideals that helped establish Israel.
A pinch of self-doubt is good for a democracy's collective soul: An overdose curdles, becoming self-destructive. Israelis need to reconcile the modern miracles of contemporary life with some enduring ideas. Olmert's callow call for Israel to become a "happy" place doesn't cut it. America already serves as the world's greatest amusement park for Jews and non-Jews. Israel needs to remember that it is a meaningful place, seeking Jewish and Zionist fulfillment, not just a shopper's paradise.
The burst of national pride and the renewed ein breira -- no alternative -- ethos Israelis experienced at the start of the war against Hizballah in July demonstrated that the old Zionist brew remains potent. An effective leader would pour it into a new bottle, with refreshed packaging. It was only on February 22, 1918, nearly 142 years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence, that senator Warren Harding coined the phrase "the founding fathers," inviting Americans during the Great European War to "to meet and drink" at the founders' "fountains of wisdom."
As Israel's 60th anniversary approaches, it is time to revive faith in Israel's founding fathers, the Zionist thinkers. Israelis need to study Labor Zionists such as A.D. Gordon to begin tempering the effects of modern capitalism with Zionist collectivism and altruism. Israelis need to remember the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the pre-state Ashkenazi chief rabbi, to bridge the gap between religious and secular approaches. Israelis need to remember Theodor Herzl's commitment to building a beautiful utopia in the face of perennial anti-Semitism. And Israelis should reconnect with Ahad Ha'am's cultural Zionism to reaffirm their role in strengthening the Jewish people's headquarters.
A Zionist revival would not solve all the state's problems. But renewed idealism would ensure that the good citizens of Sderot would not feel abandoned, that the suffering hostage families - and the families still grieving from the losss of loved ones in last summer's war - would feel embraced. Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures. Jews in particular have long championed big ideas and visionary ideals. While waiting for the right leader to trigger this Zionist renewal, every Israeli citizen should do what citizens in a healthy democracy do - take personal responsibility.
Everyone needs to improve the country by making the desirable possible, rather than accepting the abhorrent as inevitable.
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of "Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today."
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