To the Editor:
Perhaps the most distasteful thing about Edward Alexander’s crass attack on me in his article “Liberalism and Zionism” [February] is that he has forced me to take up the most unimaginable distortions of my book, The Tragedy of Zionism—I mean for the sake of people who might interpret silence on my part as a kind of concession to the truth. . . .
Mr. Alexander [has found] a new enemy, . . . an American Jew who came to know Israel at first hand, but who blamed the country, not himself, for his “fail[ure] to become an Israeli.” In becoming an enemy, he underwent a virtual “deconversion from Zionism,” a transformation entailing a view of the Jews as “a small people, but a nasty one,” a view of Zionism as “the devil’s own experiment,” and a “visceral loathing” for the Jewish religion. And once a man becomes an enemy of Israel, how will he “slumber [or] sleep”? So a book was written, The Tragedy of Zionism, which not only defames the Jewish state, but condemns American Jews for admiring it. (Actually, the book is a barely disguised effort to “assuage personal disappointment.”)
Now, I confess that writing my book about Zionism has given me a number of sleepless nights. But one does not have to read it with particular sympathy to wonder if Mr. Alexander is not being hysterical on purpose. What I wrote, plainly, was that my wife and I esteemed Israel—its dynamic Hebrew culture and diverse people—much more when we left than when we came. Twice, I had flown there to volunteer in time of war. Leaving was not a matter of “failure,” or as Mr. Alexander mocks, of missing English-language television. We returned to America, rather, because we realized that we loved America more, loved English more than Hebrew, loved each other in English more than in Hebrew.
American Jews may be stirred by “Hatikvah” and the more stirred by Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” If Mr. Alexander thinks there is a contradiction here, he might ask himself if his own feelings about living in Israel are as settled as he would have us believe.
What, then, is the “tragedy” of Zionism? Obviously, my book’s thesis is too much for this letter. But I never meant the word “tragedy” to be taken in its philistine sense, which, for all his Greek, is the only sense Mr. Alexander understands. I meant my title to call attention to the way people and movements never quite anticipate the forces their actions unleash; that their central purposes may be confounded in part by their own creations.
My general point is that a number of the myths and institutions of the Zionist revolution have never been retired, though it is now some 37 years after Israel was founded. Thus, the ideal of hityashvut (that is, of securing the Jewish nation through settlement of Eretz Yisrael), the loans and electoral system of the Jewish Agency, the land regulations of the Jewish National Fund, the legal designation “Jew” connected to the Law of Return—all of these things, which were once so necessary to forge a Hebrew-speaking nation, are now a fetter on the democratic state historical Zionism finally became. One does not have to leave Israel if one accepts this thesis: consider Hillel Halkin’s respectful review of my book in the March issue of Hadassah magazine.
Presumably in response to my book Mr. Alexander accuses me of having a “limited mind.” Of course I do have a limited mind, which is why I did not write the book he would have written, nor, for that matter, the one [The Siege] that Conor Cruise O’Brien actually wrote. It is precisely the limits of minds that make democratic principles so necessary, in Israel as everywhere else. Still, Mr. Alexander’s various pokes do not nearly get at the limits of my argument. Perhaps he might have done better had he quoted a whole sentence from the book here and there, or even several sentences together. I will deal only with the truly interesting distortions, and the shameful ones.
- Am I really “typically” wrong that the Eastern European Jews did not like the feel of emancipation under Napoleon? Mr. Alexander quotes Czar Nicholas’s diary to the effect that, “surprisingly,” Jews were “loyal” to Russia, and explains that their loyalty sprang from a desire to maintain “traditional religious observance”; it is only my loathing for Judaism, apparently, which blinds me to this. In fact, Mr. Alexander’s rush to contradict my every word demeans the yearnings of Eastern Jewry, whose sympathies for the Napoleonic occupation (especially in Poland between 1807 and 1812) were as well known to Czar Nicholas as, eventually, to the historians Dubnow and Graetz. Mr. Alexander quotes from Nicholas’s diary about Jews who had never lived under French occupation, but who defended the czarist regime during Napoleon’s drive on Moscow in 1812.
One such Jew, the founder of Habad Hasidism, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, said of Napoleon’s attack: if he wins, the better for the Jews, if he loses the better for Judaism. Obviously, Mr. Alexander thinks much of this touching simplification. The point, however, is that Shneur Zalman’s style of thinking never left much room for the Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment, without which Zionism (let alone COMMENTARY would have been inconceivable. Cultural Zionists such as Ahad Ha-Am believed, rather, that the relation of halakhah, Jewish religious law, to national emancipation was subtle and dialectical. True, Zionists needed Orthodox Judaism to get Hebrew, classical texts, midrashic literature, and so forth; the Rabbis were a foil against which they defined themselves. However, to say, as Mr. Alexander does, that Ahad Ha-Am’s disciple Chaim Weizmann was thus “essentially a religious Jew” (worse, to infer from this that, like Mr. Alexander, Weizmann would have acquiesced in the rule of halakhah) is really a travesty. It was his rejection of halakhah that made Weizmann a Zionist and, as a Zionist, he strongly believed that the Jewish state should be a secular democracy. (Weizmann wrote: “There must not be one law for the Jews and another for the Arabs. . . .”)
As for me, Mr. Alexander is right that I would have been rooting for Napoleon. If this amounts to a loathing for Jewish religion, I am pleased how it is kept under control when I attend weekly minyan; and relieved that the Solomon Schechter Day School is teaching my children to hate Judaism as much as I do.
- I did not allude to the Feisal-Weizmann Agreement to “ascrib[e] moderation to Israel’s enemies.” I referred to the agreement and other diplomatic initiatives (e.g., to Weizmann’s acceptance of British proposals for a Legislative Council in the 1920’s) to show the great lengths to which the Zionists were prepared to go to accommodate the Arab side.
- Though Mr. Alexander no doubt considers it an embarrassment to associate Zionist aims with Marxist principles, I’m afraid Ben-Gurion did not. Still, I certainly did not depict the Histadrut simply as a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” I explained at some length that the founding of the Histadrut in 1920 was part of Ben-Gurion’s and Katznelson’s effort to preempt those radical elements of the Third “Ascent” or Aliyah who wanted to import the Soviet model wholesale. Mapai, it is true, eventually came to rely on a style of leadership resembling “democratic centralism.” This was necessary for Zionism’s victory in the War of Independence, though—and this is another aspect of Zionism’s tragedy—leaders of the Histadrut continued to protect the power of their syndicalist corporations in highhanded ways once the war was won. It was Histadrut’s patronage that disillusioned many of the mainly Sephardi newcomers. (By the way, I did not write that Oriental Jews came to Israel with a “vivid understanding of the modern world’s tribal and dark side.” I wrote this of European Jews who had survived the Nazis.)
- I did not say that the Western democracies closed their doors to Jews only because of the economic depression. I took pains to show that the Fourth “Ascent” or Aliyah, mainly from Poland, was prompted by restrictive American immigration laws in the early 20’s.
- I did not say that Labor Zionists hoped the Evian Conference would fail. I noted that Golda Myerson (Meir) reproached herself for being silent, that Zionists were not much better than anybody else in anticipating such things as death camps, and that, at times, the Mapai leadership understandably confused rescuing Jews with its own national and socialist aims.
- I did not say that Jewish forces were not heroic in the War of Independence. The sentence Mr. Alexander partially quotes (“Jewish forces outnumbered the combined strength of the Arab forces and Palestinian irregulars by 2-1—a fact which should dispel misty notions about how courage alone vanquished the Arab Goliath”) was part of a large discussion of the guile with which Ben-Gurion organized the IDF between the summer and fall of 1948. As to my figure, two Jewish fighters for every Arab soldier, Ben-Gurion had some 90,000 Jews under arms by October. The Arabs, by Mr. Alexander’s own admission, never committed more than 40,000 troops. If Mr. Alexander needs a source for something so well known, he might consult Howard Sachar’s A History of Israel, p. 339.
- I made no defense of Yasir Arafat in my book. I called him a “thug” who proved incapable of taking up the historic opportunity laid at his feet. I have myself lost members of my immediate family to Palestinian terrorists.
My point about Arafat is that he was not an important leader in 1968, and that Moshe Dayan greatly erred in not encouraging the evolution of an independent West Bank leadership when he had the chance. Shimon Peres is trying this today and it may be too late. Moreover, to think King Hussein and Arafat the same kind of adversary is absurd. Peres has met with Hussein to coordinate strategy. Hussein has accepted, and has tried hard to get Arafat to accept, UN Resolution 242, the one which calls for exchanging “land for peace.”
Of course, it is Mr. Alexander who does not accept this principle. The specter of monolithic Arab enmity provides a convenient cover.
- In no place in The Tragedy of Zionism do I depict (or favor ably cite Israeli writers who depict) Israelis as Nazis.
Finally, Mr. Alexander charges that I inhabit a “mental world” with Meir Kahane. Like Kahane, he says, I think that the opposition of democracy and Zionism is “inevitable and Manichean.” In endorsing the right of a Jew to marry a non-Jew, I am “obsessed” with “forbidden fruit.”
A moment’s thought, however, and another question suggests itself. Given Mr. Alexander’s view that halakhic Judaism is permanent to the makeup of the state, his commitment to annexing “Judea and Samaria,” his view of Israeli diplomacy as nothing but a response to “siege,” his view of all Arabs as intractable enemies, his enthusiasm for historic Jews who, given the choice, “preferred their traditional religious observance under a tyrant to emancipation under the aegis of French Enlightenment”—given all these attitudes, just why does he consider Kahane such bad company?
Of course, his comparison is contrived. Zionism, in my view, prompts a sense of history: it implies the career of noble ideas which endeavored to cope with difficult times; many ideas, which competed to create a unified movement, which finally brought off a successful revolution—whose legacy, tragically, is now a weight on the state it engendered. For Kahane, in contrast, but also for Mr. Alexander, “Zionism” is something ahistorical and sacred: an extreme and messianic nationalism which would bend the Jewish state out of any shape Weizmann would have recognized.
In telling us to reject Weizmann’s liberalism, Mr. Alexander nevertheless calls for a “Judaism freely and variously interpreted.” But how to reject the former and attain the latter? More importantly, can Israeli Jews refuse to examine Jewish texts or laws in light of liberal perceptions—values for which, Mr. Alexander forgets, good people also “live and, if need be, die”—and still come up with an idea of what a just state looks like? Of course not. Which is why some scholars at the law school of Tel Aviv University (Mr. Alexander’s own) are now working on a new draft constitution. Which is why the Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation, which Mr. Alexander slurs, publishes its unsettling studies of attitudes among Israeli youth, even at the risk (and, no doubt, there is one) of complicating the work of Israel’s defenders in Washington.
Ahad Ha-Am found Herzl patronizing in the way he defined Zionism merely as a response to anti-Semitism; the scholars at Van Leer seem to find it patronizing to be told that Israel’s current difficulties are to be viewed merely in terms of siege. It matters, after all, not only what Gentiles (or Palestinians) think, but what Jews do. So American Jews, indeed all Americans, ought to understand that Israel is a state, not a revolutionary movement. And this means, among others things, that it is no longer possible to be, simply, a supporter “of Israel.” Now, there is support for Israelis such as those at the Van Leer Foundation, or support for Israelis such as Edward Alexander—not a hard choice, really, but one that has to be made.
To the Editor:
Loud and sustained applause for Edward Alexander’s excellent “Liberalism and Zionism,” which bluntly and plainly exposes Bernard Avishai’s The Tragedy of Zionism for the nonsense that it is. Though it is hard to find anything to criticize in the article, I wish Mr. Alexander had been more explicit on one point. One of the central problems in the West’s view of the Arab world is that to be considered moderate, an Arab leader or state need not actually behave with moderation, but must simply be able to point to other Arabs who are more extreme.
As a result, we hear references to “moderate” Arab states—invariably including Saudi Arabia, whose leaders publicly vow to “cleanse Jerusalem of the Jews”—and, worse, to “moderate” factions of the PLO, usually including the same Al Fatah that was responsible for the Maalot and Munich massacres, although the latter under cover of a more “extreme” front. . . .
New Haven, Connecticut
Edward Alexander writes:
As a believer in the humanistic ideal of self-correction, I welcome Bernard Avishai’s attempt, halting though it be, to surmount the ordinary self that he displayed in The Tragedy of Zionism in favor of some better self toward which he seems to aspire in his letter of apologia; and I am even grateful for the slight modulation in tone from the supercilious style of the book to the lachrymose style of parts of the letter. Still, having written a book that advocates the “retirement” of Zionism in favor of democracy, a book whose pivotal chapter is called “Democracy or Zionism?,” a book insisting that “Zionism is tragically obsolete,” a book full of bizarre lucubrations about the inherently undemocratic nature of the Hebrew language, it is a little awkward for Mr. Avishai now to claim that he wanted only to retire “a number of the myths and institutions of the Zionist revolution.” This is as if a man were to write a book advocating the “retirement” of democracy in favor of monarchy and then to claim, retrospectively, that all he had in mind was the scrapping of outdated schemes of plural voting and proportional representation.
I am too conscious of the difficulties of aliyah to underestimate them, and I should be the very last person to cast aspersions on people (of whom there have been many thousands in this century) who fail in this effort—unless they blame that failure on Israel and, instead of leaving quietly, smugly interpret weaknesses to which we are all susceptible as signs of their own superior virtue. Jonathan Swift said of his satire that he always “spared a hump, or crooked nose,/Whose owners set not up for beaux.” How is it possible for Mr. Avishai to treat Zionists as “personifications of their ideologies,” to dismiss political Zionists like Herzl as people who “had tried to assimilate and . . . failed,” and yet to be shocked when readers remark on the ironically revealing relation between his refusal to admit that any “American Jews have failed Zionism” and his announcement, in the very next sentence, that the time has now arrived to bury Zionism?
I will not presume to speak for Hillel Halkin, whose “respectful review” of his book Mr. Avishai invokes in order to establish for himself a kind of innocence by association. But I will note that this “respectful review” says that Mr. Avishai’s insistence on the antithesis between democracy and any variety of Zionism as well as his other criticisms of Israel “serve . . . to justify his failure to live there today.”
The longest segment of Mr. Avishai’s letter attempts to explain his erroneous statement that Czar Nicholas I “had been dismayed by Jewish sympathies for Napoleon’s occupation.” I noted that in his diary Nicholas wrote that the Jews of (White) Russia had in 1812 been “very loyal to us and assisted us in every possible way even at the risk of their own lives.” By way of ironing out this little discrepancy, Mr. Avishai now hints that the Jews by whom Nicholas was “dismayed” were not Russian but Polish, and that their dismaying Napoleonic sympathies were “well known” to Nicholas from 1807 (when he was all of eleven years old). Unfortunately for this thesis, as Dubnow notes, the single instance of Nicholas’s interest in the Jews prior to his accession in 1825 is the 1816 diary entry from which I quoted.
Mr. Avishai seeks further to extenuate his error by claiming, first, that if there were indeed many Russian Jews who preferred czarist to Napoleonic rule (and that is all I asserted), they were wrong to do so because Bernard Avishai would never have been guilty of such “touching simplification”; second, that I referred to Chaim Weizmann as “essentially a religious Jew”; and third, that Mr. Avishai sends his children to the Solomon Schechter Day School. All these desperate stratagems exemplify Thomas Hobbes’s saying that when reason is against a man, a man will be against reason. Despite his ardent devotion to “history” rather than to the “ahistorical and sacred,” Mr. Avishai does not hesitate, when it suits him, to substitute what he takes to be super-historical truth for historical fact. Since he “would have been rooting for Napoleon,” hasidic Jews ought not, in 1812, to have been “rooting” for the other side, and I ought never to have mentioned that they were.
Although the central principle of Mr. Avishai’s epistemology is that “the subjective feelings of the people who came to call themselves Palestinians” should determine Israeli domestic and foreign policy, the “subjective feelings” of religious Jews are to be deemed of no account whatever. Besides, who can feel imaginative sympathy with people so unenlightened as not to have foreseen the blessings that would rain down upon the Jews from the legacy of Napoleon? Hannah Arendt, describing the unrelenting antipathy of 19th-century French leftist movements to Jews, wrote: “The representatives of the Age of Enlightenment who prepared the French Revolution despised the Jews as a matter of course. . . . The only articulate friends of the Jews in France were conservative writers who denounced anti-Jewish attitudes as ‘one of the favorite theses of the 18th century.’” Is this why Mr. Avishai wants Israeli children to spend their days and nights studying the Enlightenment rather than what he calls “the tribes of Israel”? I applaud him for sending his children to the Solomon Schechter Day School, but if he had reported the fact in his book I should have asked why he thinks his children should be nourished by the rich fruit of the Hebrew Bible and Maimonides while the children of Israel are to be fed with stale crusts from Voltaire and Marx and the Marquis de Sade.
Did I say that Weizmann was “essentially a religious Jew”? The text of my article I have in front of me says that “[Conor Cruise] O’Brien . . . insists that Jewish nationalism drew its ultimate strength from the Jewish religion and that even Ben-Gurion and Weizmann were . . . essentially religious Jews.” Did I advocate a state ruled according to halakhah? It would surely come as a welcome surprise to my religious-nationalist friends to learn that I have at last come around on this point, but no such statement is to be found in my article.
The problem here is not just that Mr. Avishai is not overly scrupulous in his ascriptions, or that he is incapable of understanding O’Brien’s subtle demonstration of how there are innumerable sacrednesses in what appears to be secularity, or Irving Howe’s argument that for Jews at the end of the last century, “faith abandoned could still be a far more imperious presence than new creeds adopted.” What really prompts Mr. Avishai to impute extreme positions to his opponents is the belated desire to cover the nakedness of his own extremism. His book’s quarrel is not merely with halakhah but with Jewishness in Israel. “Revolutionary Zionist obligations, like old halakhic norms,” he writes, “repressed individual life.” His relentless basilisk eye searches out the Jewish taint even in the “brilliant” Shulamith Aloni and Lova Eliav, who despite being “radical libertarians” have failed to call into question their Jewish assumptions: “a Jewish majority, the eminence of Hebrew culture, aliyah,” In her review of Mr. Avishai’s book, Marie Syrkin correctly pointed out that it was expressive of “the pathology that gags only at Jewish nationalism.” Will Mr. Avishai soon reveal that Marie Syrkin too “acquiesces in the rule of halakhah”?
I did not accuse Mr. Avishai of failing to mention the 1924 change in American immigration policy, as he does in a single sentence, but of incorrectly identifying the motive for North American refusal to accept Jewish immigrants: “Non-Zionist Jews,” he wrote, “had been impelled to consider emigrating to Palestine only after the United States and Canada, in the depths of economic depression, were closed to them.” I grant that he does not exactly say Labor Zionists hoped the Evian Conference would fail, only that “the Mapai leadership . . . were apprehensive that the conference might succeed” well enough to weaken Lord Peel’s case for settling Jews in Palestine, that the new Jewish polity “did not do itself much credit at Evian,” and that Ben-Gurion preferred to save half the Jewish children of Europe by settlement in Palestine than all of them by settlement in Britain.
Mr. Avishai has not yet awakened to the indecency of discussing the yishuv’s struggle for survival in 1948 in strictly numerical terms (“2-1”), an indecency aggravated, not lessened, by his reference to members of his own family who have fallen. If that epithet “misty” is not meant to convey contempt for Israelis’ pride in their or their fathers’ courage, then it is a remarkable failure of literary tact, especially for a professor of writing, as is the subsequent statement that “examples of outstanding defense against high odds . . . were few and far between.”
As for the numbers themselves, and without regard to how many of those “numbers” were newly arrived immigrants bearing psychological and physical burdens slightly heavier than that of having to decide what language to make love in, the standard military history is that of Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy, (Elusive Victory, 1978), who gives the following summary: “In early 1948 the combined total of Arab forces about to be committed to ‘liberate’ Palestine . . . was at most 40,000 men. . . . At this time, the Jews . . . numbered about 30,000 men under arms, another 10,000 (admittedly short of modern small arms . . .) ready for immediate mobilization in local defense, and behind them about 25,000 more trained men in a home guard. . . . Serious, however, was the Jews’ almost complete lack of heavy weapons, armor, and combat aircraft.”
Mr. Avishai boldly asserts that “In no place in The Tragedy of Zionism do I depict (or favorably cite Israeli writers who depict) Israelis as Nazis.” In no place in my essay did I allege that Mr. Avishai himself depicted Israelis as Nazis. What I did say was that he showed an inordinate fondness for Israeli writers who do this. Two examples should suffice to show how great a lapse of memory Mr. Avishai has suffered. Amos Elon is for Mr. Avishai one of the “moral voices” of Israel; he quotes Elon frequently and always with approval. On p. 313 he favorably cites Elon’s equation of the Israelis of the 1980’s with the Germans of the 1930’s, who “became accustomed to recognizing only force and violence.” And is it possible that Mr. Avishai has already forgotten Elon’s infamous outburst (quoted in the Jerusalem Post, May 2, 1982) regarding the alleged censorship of books by the Israeli military government? “It’s all part of the preparations for a fascist regime! Soon we’ll have it all, concentration camps as well as the burning of the books.”
The claim that he never favorably cites Israeli writers who depict Israelis as Nazis will come as a considerable surprise to those who recall Mr. Avishai’s fulsome praise of the playwright Chanoch Levin for “openly defying the government’s pieties,” especially in what Mr. Avishai gingerly refers to as “Levin’s bitterly comic play The Patriot,” which he disingenuously describes as if it were an Israeli version of All My Sons. In fact, The Patriot became the first Israeli play ever to have been banned in its entirety by the Film and Theater Censorship Board—not, as Mr. Avishai alleges, because it accused Israeli adults of profiteering from their children’s wars, and not even because of such slight indelicacies as depicting Sabbath candles as instruments for burning Arabs, but because of a scene in which the Patriot must kick an Arab shoeshine boy to maintain the “standards” of Jewish settlers, a scene which ends with the boy cowering before the Patriot’s gun, in a clear reference, recognized by nearly every reviewer, to the famous picture of a Jewish boy in Europe cowering before the Nazis. This is why Ha’aretz, though it opposed censorship, concluded that this “comic” play “seriously harms the basic values of the nation, the state, and Judaism.” The “limited mind” of which Mr. Avishai boasts cannot encompass the idea that any healthy polity, especially a democratic one, needs principles of permanence as well as principles of progression.
From my lack of sympathy for his desire to repartition Palestine, Mr. Avishai’s febrile imagination derives my opposition to Resolution 242, my belief in “monolithic Arab enmity,” a “commitment to annexing ‘Judea and Samaria,’” and the view that Israeli diplomacy should be only a response to siege. If Mr. Avishai would read 242 with more care than he gives to other documents, he would find that it does not entail exchanging a little bit of territory for a little bit of peace and does not oblige Israel to make any territorial concessions until there is a firm commitment for peace. Eugene Rostow, who helped to draft 242, has written that it can be satisfied by any one of a number of solutions, except the one toward which Mr. Avishai’s arguments lead: “The Resolution,” says Rostow, “rejects the notion of a third Palestinian State within the Palestinian mandate territory.” Since Mr. Avishai has either forgotten or does not know that the Jewish right of settlement in Judea and Samaria created by the Mandate belongs to the Jewish people, not the state of Israel, he concludes that anyone who affirms this right believes in annexation.
Neither I nor Conor Cruise O’Brien anywhere suggests that awareness of the fact of siege should be the sole determinant of Israeli diplomacy. What O’Brien says, and what I say, is that Panglossian professors who believe that Israel can dissolve the enmity of its Arab neighbors by adopting Enlightenment principles in place of Jewish ones are hallucinating moderation in Israel’s enemies. They are descendants of the Chelm rabbi of I.L. Peretz’s story (“The Shabbes-Goy”) who, after his intellectual ingenuity is exhausted in trying to explain why the shabbes-goy keeps on beating an inoffensive Jew named Yankele, decides to appease the criminal by buying him off with a larger portion of the Sabbath loaf and two drinks of brandy instead of one: “Perhaps then he’ll have compassion!”
Joel Rosenberg’s shrewd letter offers a more incisive analysis than can I of Mr. Avishai’s reverence for Hussein’s ability to create the impression of concessiveness without ever conceding anything: “To be considered a moderate, an Arab leader or state need not actually behave with moderation, but must simply be able to point to other Arabs who are more extreme.” Yes, it is important to recognize that Jordan’s constitution, unlike the PLO’s, does not make destruction of Israel its raison d’être; but it is equally important to recognize that someone who has consistently refused to negotiate with Israel, who has rejected the Allon Plan for eighteen years, and who has in the past enjoined his subjects to “kill Jews wherever you find them, with your hands, with your nails and teeth” may be suspected, even if he doesn’t belong to the PLO, of a certain lack of charity in the Jewish direction.
I did not write that Mr. Avishai left Israel because of “missing American television.” His own utterance on this subject is grotesque enough without exaggeration by me, and I gladly repeat it: “We became increasingly convinced that we were living among foreigners. . . . I remember watching American and British programs in the kibbutz lounge, feeling panic, like one in exile: my home, alas, seemed more with the dissolving images on the screen than with the comrades . . . next to me.” I don’t see the relevance to his decision to leave of Mr. Avishai’s touching tale of three loves threatened by Zion, unless, patriotic American that he is, he has really taken to heart that sentence in the Declaration of Independence that endows him with an inalienable right to “the pursuit of happiness.”
If, at the time of the concluding Neilah prayer on the day of judgment, he is asked what he did, in his professional capacity, to sustain the people Israel and their collective representative the state of Israel, Mr. Avishai has to reply, “I wrote articles supporting the Van Leer Foundation,” I wish him good luck.