To the Editor:
As Norman Podhoretz suggests in “The State of World Jewry” [December 1983], world Jewry may have survived the test for now by supporting Israel in its war against the Palestinians in Lebanon. But it is not so clear that world Jewry will be able to continue supporting Israel much longer, given two increasingly serious problems. One is the continuing divisions within Israel over the nature and form of the state. . . . Involved in these divisions . . . are the following:
- The cancerous doubt felt by many Israelis over the validity of their victories of 1948 and 1967 and their resultant power over the local Arabs (a.k.a. “Palestinians”).
- The wrenching question about the nature of the “state,” i.e., should it be a secular democracy with a precarious majority, or a Jewish state functioning under Jewish law and principle?
- What is perceived by many as the economic dependence and political subservience of Israeli policy to U.S. political demands.
These fundamental issues go to the heart of Jewish nationalism and Israeli sovereignty and, until they are resolved, . . . support by world Jewry will be crippled and limited to little more than support for the right of survival of the Jewish state, a position which ought to be taken for granted.
World Jewry cannot defend Israel unless the Jews of Israel know what their state is about. In other words, unless Israel decides to advocate not only the Tightness of its existence . . . but also the Tightness of its conquests, external challenges to its legitimacy will continue, and divisions within world Jewry will be exacerbated.
The existence of a state and the land it conquers cannot be separated. If the conquest of land was illegal even in part (i.e., the territories are considered “occupied”), then all of the land conquered by the state is open to challenge. This is the meaning of Israel’s failure to annex the territories of Judea and Samaria. . . .
The second problem which stands in the way of continuing support for Israel by world Jewry is the civil war between the anti- and pseudo-Zionists of the Left and the Reform movement and the generally supportive and nationalistic Jewish body politic. The “antis” are well-equipped to attack Israeli and Jewish nationalism, given their massive assimilation of Western liberal values and acceptance into both Gentile society and the organizations of the Jewish establishment. Being of both worlds, they often end up as spokesmen for Jewry. However, many are counterfeit, since they not only do not believe or practice Jewish values, they may not even be Jewish. So many have intermarried that we now have the category of “Jew by choice.” This is not the traditional convert but one member of a mixed marriage who chooses to call himself “Jewish.” In fact, these people and their children are Gentile yet can speak as “Jews.” Such people, along with those Jews who proclaim their Jewishness only to gain credibility in attacking Israel and Judaism, will split support for Israel among American Jews. . . .
If world Jewry is to continue to support Israel, it must understand that Jewish nationalism depends on Jews who have accepted the obligations of being Jewish, that is, putting Jewish rights and interests first before all others on the political agenda, remaining unassimilated, and maintaining a self-respect which does not need to justify its existence to others. Only then will Jewish survival become possible, and Israel, as a Jewish state, continue.
Macomb Community College
Norman Podhoretz writes:
I think Michael Drissman is right in saying that support for Israel by world Jewry is made more difficult by the divisions within Israel itself over the nature and form of the state. But I think he goes too far too fast. Israel’s right to exist certainly ought to be taken for granted, but it just as certainly is not yet taken for granted by a great many people. Therefore the establishment of this right must for the time being remain the central objective of world Jewry. The issue of “conquests”—that is to say, the fixing of the boundaries of the state—is a prudential political question to be settled by negotiation with Israel’s Arab neighbors if and when they ever decide to negotiate. At that point, the divisions of which Mr. Drissman speaks might well become critical. But in some respects for better, and in other (more important) ones for worse, we still seem to be amazingly far from any such situation.
To the Editor:
In my article, “Memories of the Moscow Trials” [March], I said that Corliss Lamont refused to contribute to the defense of the American followers of Leon Trotsky who were indicted under the Smith Act in 1941. Having now discovered that Lamont contributed $100 to the fund set up for the defense of the American Trotskyists, I am writing to correct the error, and to set the record straight.