08 October 2008

Some Thoughts on Uri Avnery's "Manifest Destiny"


Copyright © 2008, R. Kossover
First published at Desicritics.org

7 October, 2008

I first read Uri Avnery's work, Israel Without Zionism: A Plan for Peace in the Middle East in 1971 or 1972, not long after it was published. At the time, Avnery was the publisher of the Hebrew newspaper העולם הזה ha'olám hazé - This World. The title of the publication was not without irony. Jews pray for Redemption and to be deserving enough to live in the World of Truth, the world after the messiah's arrival, and regard this world as "the World of Lies", העולם השקר ha'olám hashéker. Avnery's publication was very much concerned with "this world", a world of scandals, sex crimes and politics. His publication set the standard for the preesent day surviving Hebrew dailies, מעריב ma'arív and ידיעות אחרונות yediót aHronót, which scream headlines in huge sized font, but are as all forgettable as the paper one uses to wrap fish in. Only הארץ ha'áretz has retained its reputation as a real newspaper that writes in literate Hebrew.

Avnery's politics were "pro-peace" and revolutionary for his day, in that he envisaged Israelis as adopting a "Canaanite" identity whereby they rid themselves of the essential tenets of the "ingathering of the exiles" and worked at integrating themselves into the Middle East as Hebrew-speakers in a world of Arabs. He proposed withdrawing from what was then the barely settled Judea and Samaria and the Heights of Golan, and renouncing the special law that grants citizenship to any Jew coming home within ninety days. He believed then, and still does, that an Israel without its Zionist ideological underpinnings would be accepted by the Arabs in the region. In all truth, I no longer have this book, and forgot what he proposed to do about Jerusalem, but at the time, religious belief seemed on the decline all over the world and I suppose that he imagined that both Judaism and Islam would be consigned to museums in some dusty corner somewhere while folks enjoyed life, eating shwarma, drinking Turkish coffee and dancing the debka.

Thirty-seven years ago, any philosophy that proposed to strip Israel of its Zionist underpinnings seemed heretical and ridiculous to most Jews and to most Israelis. But a number of Israelis did read his book and it planted the seed of what became known as "post-Zionism", a deconstruction of Israeli history that paints Jews (and Zionists in particular) as imperialist agents from the west with no real right to live in the Middle East. The white and blue kóva tembél of the kibbutznik was doffed and the black hat of the evil robber tying the Arab woman to the train tracks while robbing her of her home was donned. Ths is the predominant view today of most of the teaching staff at the various universities in the country, of much of the rich Ashkenazi business elite, many commanders in the IDF, as well as that of the publishers of the Hebrew dailies in Israel. For a time following the signing of the Oslo Accords, many work-a-day Israelis tried to persuade themselves of this idea as well, as difficult as it was to swallow, however the bloodlust of the Arabs in their terror attacks awoke most of them from the delusions of peace. But I get ahead of myself here.

Avnery espouses views which I tend to view as traitorous, but one cannot just label someone like Avnery as a traitor without first acknowledging that he fought for the independence of this country from the British, first with the Etz"el, the city-based Revisionist Zionist military force of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and later MenaHem Begin, and then with the IDF in the Sinai campaign. After the war of independence, he watched, as did most Israelis in the 1950's, as the Algerians fought against the French and he drew his ideas from the fact that his sympathies were with the FLN, the force fighting an imperial power, and from the possibilities that he felt that he saw rise from the existence of the FLN (Front Libération National) and other nationalistic Arab organizations.

Avnery seeks peace. One cannot condemn a man for following the mitzvá (commandment) of seeking peace. But, it is necessary to look with whom he seeks to deal. Is it realistic? Loving a woman who spurns you continually is seeking love, but it is not practical. The Arabs, in most parts of the Arab world, reject peace with Jews and with Israel. Thirty-eight years ago it was on nationalistic grounds - today it is on religious grounds. But either way "the Arab woman" is spurning "the Jewish man" courting her love. Avnery pursues this course anyway, despite 58 years of experience that tells him the contrary. That he does so is insanity. After nearly six decades, he should have figured out that his overtures will be spurned and that he is nothing but a useful idiot. But unfortunately, it also endangers the lives of his fellow Jews. Nevertheless, I still get ahead of myself here.

In April 2008, Avnery wrote a piece published at Global Research called "Manifest Destiny?" dealing with what he believed to be the problem facing the Israeli establishment in dealing with what he views as their Arab peace partners. For all my disagreements with the venerable Mr. Avnery, he makes a fundamental point in this essay that needs to be emphasised and re-emphasised to anyone looking at the issues that face Jews in this part of the world.

Avnery sifts through the positions ot various Israeli leaders and comes up with what he views to be the the common thread that creates the problem: their refusal to agree to a fixed border. This is what he criticizes the late and unlamented Moshe Dayan of expressing in a speech to kibbutzniks years ago, this is what he criticizes David ben-Gurion of when fighting for the independence of the country sixty years ago, this is what he criticizes even George W. Bush of in that Bush appears to "buy" the stance of the present "power-holders" in Israel. Let's look at Avnery's words:

That is the reason for David Ben-Gurion's refusal to include in the Declaration of Independence of the new State of Israel any mention of borders. He did not intend for a minute to be satisfied with the borders fixed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947. All his successors had the same approach. Even the Oslo agreements delineated "zones" but did not fix a border. President Bush accepted this approach when he proposed a "Palestinian state with provisional borders" - a novelty in international law.

In this respect, too, Israel resembles the United States, which was founded along the Eastern seaboard and did not rest until it had reached the Western shores on the other side of the continent. The incessant stream of mass immigration from Europe flowed on westwards, breaching all borders and violating all agreements, exterminating the Native Americans, starting a war against Mexico, conquering Texas, invading Central America and Cuba. The slogan that drove them on and justified all their actions was coined in 1845 by John O'Sullivan: "Manifest Destiny".

This then, is the "secret" agenda against what Avnery views as "peace". In his final paragraphs of his essay he states
Dayan, who was well versed in the ancient texts, probably had in mind the phrase in the Chapter of the Fathers (a part of the Mishnah, which was finished 1,800 years ago and formed the basis of the Talmud): "It is not up to you to finish the work, and you are not free to stop doing it."

That is the hidden agenda. We must haul it up from the depths of our unconscious minds to the realm of consciousness in order to face it, to reveal the terrible danger inherent in it, the danger of an eternal war which may in the fullness of time lead this state to disaster.

Approaching the 60th anniversary of the state, we must draw a line under this chapter of our history, exorcise the dybbuk and say clearly: yes, we have ended the chapter of expansion and settlement.

This will enable us to change the course of the river. To put an end to the occupation. To dismantle the settlements. To make peace. To effect a reconciliation with the neighboring people. To turn Israel into a peaceful, democratic, secular and liberal state, that can devote all its resources to the creation of a flourishing, modern society.

And first of all: to agree on a border.

Avnery is not wrong in all that he says here. We Jews, in dealing with the outside world, must honestly face our past. We must honestly face our heritage and stop trying to weave around it like garden snakes sneaking into a patch of greenery. At bottom in Avnery's essay is a call for honesty. And just a day or two before Yom Kippur, when we Jews ask G-d for forgiveness of our sins against Him, honesty is a very good policy. Our biggest problem is not the Arabs, nor the Americans, nor the Russians. It is our fear to face ourselves honestly in the mirror and be honest - brutally so. That is what G-d demands of a people who would call themselves "chosen"; a people who would view themselves as high priests to the peoples of the world.

But Avnery has provided a border, or rather he has quoted one from Yisrael Eldad, a member of the Stern Group, the smallest military group that fought the British in the days of the Mandate. Let's have one more look at Avnery's essay.

Israel Eldad, one of the Stern Group leaders, distributed for many years a map of the Israeli Empire that reached from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and included all of Jordan and Lebanon, with great chunks of Syria and Egypt thrown in. His son, the extreme right-wing Member of the Knesset Arieh Eldad, has not given up this map.

I have not given up that map either - for it is drawn from our holy books. The exact lines are less important than the concept - that in the World of Truth, Israel will control all of the Holy Land, both banks of the Jordan River, a good hunk of Lebanon and a good hunk of Syria extending all the way to the Euphrates.

In the World of Truth העולם האמת ha'olám ha'emét, we will live in peace with our neighbors and the foreign nations that stir war between the Children of Abraham will no longer have a voice here. The occupation - the Arab occupation of our land - will end, and the Children of Nevayot and Kedar will sacrifice at a rebuilt Temple on our Temple Mount just a few kilometers south of here in Jerusalem [Isaiah 60:7]. Jewish and Arab children will play together near the mountains of Moav as their parents pray together in the afternoon sun.

It is time to recognize at long last that there is no such thing as "Palestine". It is time to recognize at long last that seeking "peace" with the terrorists who now control the Arab population in the Land of Israel is nothing less than insanity. It is time to be honest and forthright with our Arabs neighbors and tell them that the Prophet David will be ruler here. They will listen, and they will understand - they too respect Sheikh Da'úd el-Nebi.

If we are honest and forthright with ourselves, we will be able to be honest with our Arab neighbors, who deserve to live in peace, prosperity and security, just as we do.

And all of us, all of us Children of Abraham, will be able to look to our Creator and seek forgiveness for our transgressions and hope for a lenient judgment from He Who sits on the Throne of Mercy - rather than stern condemnation from His Seat of Judgment.

Finally, as a Jew who has had a very difficult year, I must ask forgiveness of those of you whom I have hurt. I apologize for the hurtful actions that I may have done, or the hurtful words I may have uttered, in the past thirteen Hebrew months.

g'már Hatimá tová May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life for goodness.

These comments were made to this article at Desicritics. The person who commented, Vinod Joseph, is a British lawyer of Indian extraction who visited this country recently. I replied to Vinod.

Vinod Joseph
October 8, 2008
05:32 AM

Ruvy, I hope you had a Happy Rosh Hashanah (belated Leshana tova tikateiv v'techateim). I'm sure you will have a meaningful Yom Kippur. Gmar Hatima Tova to you.

For a variety of reasons, Arabs will not easily accept the state of Israel. The reasons (in my opinion) vary from the Arab psyche to the fact that Palestine has been under Arab control for most of the last 1000 years. Making Israel a truly secular state will however make it easier for the majority of Arabs to reconcile themselves to the existence of Israel. This is especially true of Israeli Arabs.

I do not agree with the example you have used - that of the Jewish groom wooing the Arab bride. I would rather look at the presence of Jews in Palestine as that of a long lost son returning home after his father's death. His brothers don't want him back. They don't want to give him a share of the land. But the brother is strong and tough. He has undergone many hardships which have made him tough. And he has a few friends who are even tougher and stronger and ruthless. So he takes over a portion of the land (mostly barren and unused land) and builds his home there. When will his brothers accept his presence? Maybe after many years they will. What if the returning brother were to take over, instead of a barren and unused land, the most fertile piece of land and settle down there after throwing out his brothers who occupy that land? You can be sure that his brothers will never let him live in peace. What if the brother (who has acquired so many foreign customs in the course of his wanderings) were to occupy most of the land and insist that his customs and practices are supreme? What if he were to treat his brothers with contempt? Well, you can be sure that his brothers will never accept him. What if the returning brother decided that his customs are no longer suitable to his new home and decides to live as his brothers do? You know the answer to this.

Ruvy, the world is split between people who believe in God and those who don't. Many fall in between. For a religious person like you, everything done in furtherance of the Word is correct, irrespective of the collateral damage. For an atheist like Avnery or an agnostic like me, the scriptures are a damn nuisance and should be hidden in a small dark room and the keys thrown away. Since it is not possible to do that, we would like to interpret the scriptures in the most convenient way. I don't think there will ever be any reconciliation between these two camps.

Many of us out here on DC don't agree with much of what you say, but if you were to stop writing on DesiCritics, it will be a loss for us all. SO, do keep writing! May the new year bring you peace and prosperity!

October 8, 2008
07:08 AM


First of all, thank you for your kind wishes. Secondly, thank you for your kind words of encouragement in writing here.

I'm not going to directly disagree with you; rather point up the fact that many Arabs are very religious, even if they do not necessarily seem to show it.

Like most religious people, they appreciate it when one of a different faith approaches them on their own terms, rather than lecturing them on what they should or should not think.

A friend of mine lives in the "mixed" Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Abu Tor in J-lem. It was he who mentioned to an Arab in his neighborhood that he believed that Sheikh Daúd el-Nebi (the messiah, a descendant of David - or David the Prophet) would be ruling here soon. The Arab did not argue at all. He asked, "when?", with an air of anticipation.

The secular nationalists of FataH and the religious nationalists of Hamas are both disliked by many Arabs because they have brought death and violence in their wake, and Arabs, like most people, crave peace. From my contacts among Arabs, they want to see the back of them just as much as we do - because, among other things, they view both of them as having been foisted upon them by the Israeli authorities.

From the Jewish side, there is no negotiating with these terrorists or their ilk that will gain anything more than a time out from a war to murder us off.

Secular Jews who come seeking peace, from Peres to Barak to Olmert, are held in contempt by the terrorists, simply because they seek peace, have no self-respect, and are willing to give up what should be sacred to them; they are not respected by religious Arabs simply because they are hypocrites - the very hypocrites the Qur'an refers to in referring to Jews as pigs and monkeys.

Thus, unfortunately, Jews like Avnery - and other former soldiers especially - are viewed as useful idiots who have forgotten what they were fighting for. The pencil-pushing profs who condemn their fellow Jews, from Ilan Pappe to the know-it-alls at "J-Street", are regarded with even greater contempt.

The unspoken message of how Arab men view someone like Livni is found in the modest dress of the Arab women who crowd the streets of Jerusalem. They cover their hair and wear modest clothing. By comparison, Livni, a married woman who is certainly not a prostitute (at least in the sexual sense), dresses like a prostitute. The Arab princes refused to shake hands with her in Washington last November. Would you shake hands with a prostitute if you were a prince? Olmert, who does not care about kashrut or the Sabbath or the holiness of his holy city Jerusalem, was treated in the same way by the Arab princes in Wahsington. Would you shake hands with a pig - or a monkey if you were a prince?

Think about that, and forget what I might think of these people for a moment.

As Jews, our own unwillingness to be honest with ourselves (not to mention others) as to what we really want, gives us an air of unreality and hypocrisy to those from whom we must seek it (as well as others, like you and many other readers here). Here Avnery is right. But this is where he is wrong. We are the long lost cousins come back to claim our rightful inheritance, finding squatters on the land. If some of the inheritors (like Avnery) throw cold water on their own claim, why should anyone respect it?

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07 October 2008

Good News from the Holy Land - Jews for Jesus Ad Gets Kicked off the Air!


Copyright © 2008, R. Kossover
First published at Blogcritics Magazine

7 October, 2008

Amidst reports of the Israeli government handing over part of the Russian Compound in Jerusalem to the Russian government and "crime minister" Olmert talking about shrinking Israel to its pre-1967 size, some good news came out of the Holy Land recently. Several news source reported Sunday and Monday that a "Jews for Jesus" ad was kicked off Kol Rega Radio (Voice of the Moment) in northern Israel Thursday upon the demands of thousands of enraged Israelis. Reports are found in the Jerusalem Post, Arutz Sheva and Israel Insider. Even the neo-Nazi Stormfront saw fit to comment on the event, quoting the Post story with one commenter complaining that, "they allow gay parades but not ads for the Prince of Peace?"

A more accurate description of the "Jews for Jesus" can be found from Israel National Radio host and Rabbi, Tuvia Singer, founder of a leading anti-missionary group Outreach Judaism. He said, according to the Arutz Sheva report, "Jews for Jesus' is trying to do to the Jews spiritually what Hamas is trying to do physically." Singer added, “In their spiritual assault on Jewish communities in the US, Israel and Europe, 'Jews for Jesus' deliberately blurs the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity in order to lure Jews who would otherwise resist a straightforward Christian message."

According to Yaakov Ariel, in his work "Counterculture and Mission: Jews for Jesus and the Vietnam Era Missionary Campaigns, 1970-1975 The Jews for Jesus", "Jews for Jesus" was the informal name of an older organization, "The American Board of Missions to the Jews". Apparently they broke away from the original organization, but retained always the Protestant orientation they started with. They have struggled manfully to create a movement of Christians called "messianic Jews". The truth of the matter is that any Jew awaiting the messiah is a messianic Jew, but the Jews for Jesus and groups like them sought to steal the title for themselves.

These days, Christian missionaries can be found all over Israel trying to steal Jewish souls with their deceptive literature in Hebrew, taking advantage of the ignorance of many secular Israelis of their own faith. This writer has seen a number of samples of this literature, including pamphlets given to him by a religious Jew who did not really much about Christianity and who was fooled by much of what he saw till corrected and told the source of the data. But, as this incident in the Galíl last week illustrated, the missionaries are not accepted quietly.

According to the Post story,
Yoel Ben-David, a Jews for Jesus activist, said Orthodox Jews from different streams have threatened him and his peers, pushed them and, in Kiryat Shmona, removed the air from a car tire.

Kiryat Shmona Chief Rabbi Tzfania Drori said he had heard rumors about the car tire. "That is probably one of the mildest reactions imaginable in response to aggressive missionary activity pursued by these Jews for Yeshu," he said.

"I believe we have a right to prevent these people from entering our town and promulgating New Testaments and missionary literature; it is tantamount to a woman performing a striptease in the middle of a public place," Drori, who also heads a yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona, said.

He said a group of his students had followed the Jews for Jesus group around the town, heckling them and preventing them distributing their literature.

Rabbi Drori's comments are mild, considering the persecution Christians practiced against Jews for seventeen centuries since getting a central position of favor in the Roman Empire under the Emperor Constantine. And Christian persecution of Jews has not stopped. A Jewish soldier in the United States was beaten up recently after complaining of anti-Jewish treatment. The US Armed Forces has been a hotbed of Christian missionary activity, often aimed specifically at Jews. The American military has long had a history of anti-Jewish sentiment. The South African Defence Forces, under the apartheid regime, had a policy of refusing Jews any advancement into officers ranks, even though they happily did business with Israel, buying arms from them. This, of course pales with the violent attacks on Jews in Russia, Byelorus, the Ukraine and Lithuania, all lands where millions of Jews died at the hands of the Nazis - with the hearty approval of the local population, whose own hands were often bloodied with pogroms against Jews in previous decades.

So, every now and then, in an atmosphere where Jews and Israel are like the tail of an animal being dragged in the ground, threatened on all sides with death and humiliation, it is kind of nice to see a bit of good news from the Holy Land - the spiritual murderers of our people getting a good kick in the gut.

It is richly deserved.