Thursday, May 08, 2008

Is Israel a failure?

Israel was created as a haven for the Jewish people, a place where we would be safe from pogroms and the like. But is this what happened? From the April Atlantic:

...I had been struck by what to me was an inescapable truth: if [a young soldier who was killed in his tank during the last war] had been born to Jews in America, rather than to Jews in Israel, in 2006 he most likely would have been a student at Harvard or Michigan or Stanford, rather than a commander in the Armored Corps of the Israel Defense Forces. The underlying premise of the creation of the state of Israel—its main mission—was to provide a refuge for the Jewish people in their historic homeland. One of the many contradictions Israel faces in its seventh decade of independence is this: it is a country that is safe for Judaism, but not for Jews.

As a young Zionist in the late 1980s, I was drawn to the idea that Israel represented the most sublime and encompassing expression of Jewishness, so I moved there and joined its army. This decision was unfathomable to many of my new Israeli comrades. One of my commanders asked me, “Why would a person leave America to die in Israel?” Then he asked if we could switch places—he would move to New York and marry a doctor’s daughter, and I would die chasing Palestinians through the casbah of Nablus. I was dreaming Leon Uris dreams, but he was having visions out of Goodbye, Columbus.

I didn’t die, obviously, but his argument bothered me, and still does.

Ask the question this way: Where in the world is a Jew most likely to be killed because he is Jewish? Where is a Jew least physically safe? Israel, of course. So by what measure has the state succeeded is it's original mission has been subverted by the states very existence? A Jew in the diaspora, the American diaspora especially, is in no physical danger. The same can not be said for an Israeli Jew, who faces bombings, and missiles, and the dangers of Army service.

By this calculus, the state has failed.

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