Monday, October 31, 2005

Weiss vs. Wieseltier

Don't know how I missed it, but Rabbi Avi Weiss, and Leon Wieseltier recently exchanged insults on TNRs letter page regarding Leon's legendary Gaza article. Here's a snippet:

Without naming me, Leon Wieseltier quotes my assertion— published in The Forward—that it is natural and proper to feel a sense of mourning over the loss of Gaza (“The Fall,” September 5).“The disengagement from Gaza,”Wieseltier writes, “is not our loss.” For his part,Wieseltier “will not squander” his “powers of sorrow” on those places or feel “tribal” empathy for the suffering of those people who, at their government’s behest, settled the sand dunes and have now lost everything.

Wieseltier’s “powers of sorrow” may be more precious than those of the rest of us and therefore worthy of being meted out more judiciously. But we—who, admittedly, cannot quite shake off our unenlightened “tribal” empathies—continue to feel it is natural and proper to share the sense of mourning with those who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their sense of community— whether it be by an act of God (a hurricane or a tsunami, for example) or a political decision.

At their government’s behest? Rabbi Weiss must be kidding.The settlers were not dragged kicking and screaming into the territories.They had uses for various governments and various governments had uses for them. Now the old tricks are not working, and they wish to be called victims.They are not victims, they are losers. It is not the same thing.

One cannot feel equally for everybody. This is an elemental fact of ethical life.The soldiers who lost their lives and their limbs in the defense of the settlers, and the families of those soldiers, have more of a claim on my sympathy than the settlers who lost their “sense of community.” Why should I wear sackcloth for the settlements if I believe that they injure Israel strategically and spiritually?