No Moral Identity."
— Philip Roth
Roth does not explain. He sees the hostile sea of Arabs on the tossing surface of which Israel is but a frail bark, and he recognizes that survival in such a sea is not to be counted on indefinitely. He mentions the possibility of nuclear annihilation.
My own view is that if nuclear annihilation were Israel's only threat, then Israel could survive indefinitely. For all threats of external attack, Israel is adequately prepared. However, it is prepared only to fight the last war, or some variant of it — that is, a war of external aggression, of weaponry, of hardware.
But the next war, the war that the Arabs will win, is not a nuclear war and not a war of hardware, it is a war of demographics. Israel is badly outnumbered as it is, and the Muslim's birth rate is higher than is that of Israeli Jews. For the moment, Israel has been given a shot in the arm and is riding high from the influx of one million Slavs, but that flow is slowing and will stop, and then what? Then back to Israel's greatest threat — emigration and brain drain. Yes, in exactly the same way that Israel has been bleeding Russia and Ukraine, so it itself has been bled and will be bled again. Israel's problem is that its citizens leave, and on top of that, the ones who leave are the best and the brightest. Remaining behind are ones least fit to build a strong nation — the bunglers who put on a show trial, only to have it fall through for lack of evidence; the incompetents who assassinate a waiter in Lillehammer, Norway in the mistaken belief that he is a terrorist, and then are all apprehended by the Norwegian police; the miscalculators who imagine that giving free reign to fabulists — such as Jerzy Kosinski and Simon Wiesenthal and Elie Wiesel and Morley Safer — will strengthen their nation; the fanatics worshipping a God who they imagine gives them another people's land in gratitude for their devotion. Israel too is suffering from a competence gap, and as its brain gain dries up and its brain drain continues, the gap will become a canyon.
The clock of Israel's demise will begin to tick when its population levels off and begins to shrink. Once this shrinkage is perceived, there will be a rush for the exits, the best fleeing first, leaving the management of the state to the increasingly unfit. Israel will end not by nuclear annihilation, but by voluntary evacuation. Once the State has become too small to defend itself, marauders will appear to take their revenge, but these will be symptomatic of the State's demise and not causative. The final problem for the United States will be how to gain control of Israel's nuclear stockpile at a time when that stockpile is managed by individuals increasingly irrational and increasingly harried.
Although the Slavic influx has raised Israel's population, the simultaneous and unceasing brain drain from Israel can still be seen to be working its destructive effects. Coverage of Israel's 50th anniversary celebrations focuses on the increasing growth of religious fanaticism, and the increasing rejection of that fanaticism by the shrinking secular segment of the society. Extrapolating these trends, we predict that the inheritors of the state of Israel will have characteristics such as the following:
They genuinely and sincerely believe there is no place in our [Israeli] culture for Darwin, Freud, Einstein. They want to uproot Chagall, Beethoven, and Hemingway from our culture. They are afraid of Shakespeare, the Beatles, jeans and cable TV. They consider themselves God's messengers and, like all fanatics, will never stop. They will take bite after bite from our view of the world. Their list is long and everybody is in it. They won't rest in their mission as long as Kafka, Michelangelo, Alterman and Mick Jagger exist in our culture. We are at war, but only one side is fighting.
An Israeli "popular daily" in Akiva Orr, Israel: Politics, Myths and Identity Crises, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994, p. 45.
Israel's end is nigh, and that end is signalled not by the massing of Arab tanks at Israel's borders, but by Israel's increasing abandonment of secularism:
A[n] ... immediately noticeable change is the sharp shift towards religion. In 1964 it was rare to see people wearing skullcaps. Some believers would take their skullcap off when entering their place of work. Very few wore them in the army. Nowadays there are a lot of skullcaps around, even among soldiers, bank clerks, teachers, doctors, etc.
Akiva Orr, Israel: Politics, Myths and Identity Crises, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994, p. 54.
Were the only symptom of abandonment of secularism an increased wearing of skullcaps, there would not be much occasion for comment — wearing skullcaps might be no more than an expression of group solidarity and not of fanaticism or xenophobia. However, we see also such less-ambiguous symptoms of encroaching fanaticism as that a Jewish Reform wedding is not recognized in Israeli law, such that an Israeli couple married in a Reform service had to fly to Cyprus for a civil ceremony to legitimize their marriage (Sunday Star-Ledger, New Jersey, 26Apr98, p. 1). This is a remarkable retrogression for a nation that fifty years ago was founded on secularism, and that remarkable retrogression was achieved in part through selective migration of less-fanatical people out and more-fanatical people in, with the result so far that "Reform and Conservative Jews ... represent 80 percent of the American community but only a tiny minority in Israel...." (Sunday Star-Ledger, New Jersey, 26Apr98, p. 13). Israel's end will be at hand if this trend progresses to the point that the United States can no longer deny that a cult has taken over the State of Israel along with its nuclear weapons.
Views expressed in Philip Roth's novel are that Israel is criminal, incongruous with Jewish tradition and values, and on the brink of being subjected to a second Jewish Holocaust. The proposed solution is "Diasporism, a program that seeks to resettle all Israeli Jews of European origin back in those countries where they or their families were residents before the outbreak of the Second World War and thereby to avert 'a second Holocaust' " (p. 104).
One of Roth's gifts is the rare one of being able to gaze far enough into the future that he sees not merely a short extrapolation of present trends, but sees also the radical transformations that lie beyond that and that typically catch everybody by surprise. Another of Roth's gifts is to be able to see the solution to the difficulties that the future brings, and however strange or bizarre that solution may seem, to realize that it must be implemented because there is no alternative. I view the political portions of Roth's writing, then, as not only visionary and prophetic, but also prescriptive and curative. He is a Noah who foresees the flood, though not through divine communication but through astute observation; and he is a Noah who offers us blueprints for an ark.
If Roth is correct in his views that Israel is an immoral state founded on violence, and correct in fearing that Israel does not have a long life expectancy, then this has several implications for the world in general and for Ukraine in particular.
(1) As Israel exercises influence over Ukraine, both directly and through the United States, it is important for Ukrainians to understand the prognosis for Israel, and to understand the ideology of its people. The servant must study his master, and be able to predict his master's thoughts and actions.
(2) If the demise of Israel is imminent and inescapable, then the vast amount of money being poured into it by the United States might be wasted, and might better be spent on viable projects, of which Ukraine may be one. Each day of continued support for Israel might be a day of throwing good money after bad, and where that good money should be triaged in the direction of that which is not condemned to perish.
(3) Israel may not be a desirable destination for Ukrainian scientists and engineers — they will not thrive during their sojourn there, nor will the brevity of the state allow them to put down roots.
(4) There arises the question of what to do with all those Israelis — close to six million of them at the moment — who will need to be relocated upon the dissolution of their state. With Roth's solution of Diasporism, I see two principal difficulties:
Suppose that Ukraine were simply to agree to take in approximately as many Jews as had left, or to include the growth in their numbers, somewhat more. At first glance, this seems like a satisfactory solution both from the point of view of evacuating Jews from Israel, and from the point of view of returning to Ukraine some of the brains and talent that it had recently lost.
However, underneath this appearance that Ukraine would just be restoring the status quo ante is an underlying reality that would be destructive for Ukraine. The underlying reality is that in this exchange, Ukraine would not be getting back the same Jews who had left, nor an equivalent set. Rather, the best of the Jews who had left — the brightest, the most enterprising — would be the ones who succeeded in finding homes in the wealthy West. The ones who would consider returning to Ukraine would be the ones who had no choice, the ones who had failed to find a niche in the Western world, the less adaptable ones, the less productive ones. Any such return of the Jews, then, would be a second bad trade for Ukraine on top of the first. It was bad to in the first place have lost a group of people who on the whole were above average. But then to have culled from this exodus the best and the brightest so that the remainder were now below average, and then have this below-average remainder returned to Ukraine would be to add a second destructive blow after the first. The success of a nation depends upon the quality of its people, and lowering this quality in repeated waves of migration will bring any nation to its knees.
One might expect, for example, that among the Israeli returnees would be a disproportionate number of orthodox Jews and Hasidic Jews whose main accomplishments lay in religious study, a disproportionate number of whom were used to being on welfare in Israel, and had become used to being granted special privileges in Israel, and whose exclusiveness and xenophobia would make them unready to integrate into Ukrainian society. Ukraine was crippled by the emigration of Jews because these were superior; it would be doubly crippled by the immigration of Jews because these would be inferior. Ukraine must fight to keep its Jews, but once they have gone, it should also oppose any wholesale return. This has nothing to do with Jews, it has to do only with recognizing that certain migratory events advance a country's interests, and others retard it. Regardless of religion or ethnicity, Ukraine is hurt by the exodus of its intelligentsia, and is hurt further by any influx of an underclass. The only reason that Jews are mentioned in the discussion of helpful and harmful migratory patterns is because it is Jews who have disproportionately been leaving Ukraine in recent years, and because it is Jews who might eventually be returning in a flood.
The sojourn of Ukrainian Jews in Israel will have been lengthy enough that they will have learned pernicious attitudes and habits. Among these would be a predisposition to view the masses of people around them as sub-human, and a predilection to employ violence in controlling them, and the expectation of immunity from prosecution for having applied such violence. The immigration into Ukraine of a population which had acquired such bad attitudes and habits would be a prescription for disaster. The truth is that the kind of people that Israelis have become makes them unfit to live among anyone. What their stay in the Holy Land has taught them is to be oppressors, and to practice their oppression unselfconsciously and self-righteously. Upon their arrival in Ukraine, they would view Ukrainians through the same eyes as they had learned to view Palestinians — as peons whom God had placed within their reach to be exploited. A Ukrainian Jew is one thing — let him live in peace in the land of his fathers and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Any Jew who has become an Israeli, though, is quite another thing. Let him find a place in the world where he will be welcome, if he can. It is not for Ukrainians to sacrifice themselves by welcoming him to Ukraine. To invite masses of Israelis to Ukraine would be to invite a recreation of the oppression being practiced today in the Middle East. To invite masses of Israelis to Ukraine would be to invite a recreation of the oppression that led to the Khmelnytsky rebellion of 1648.
History threatens to repeat itself. The events of the past threaten to return as if they were carved into a rotating wheel. Prior to the Khmelnytsky rebellion, Ukraine experienced a sudden burgeoning of its Jewish population; and in the not-too-distant future, an exodus of Jews out of Israel could produce the same burgeoning of Ukraine's Jewish population. Let us not make the mistake of imagining that what happened yesterday is the dead past, and that what will happen tomorrow is a future born without parents and without ancestry. No, the future is the child of the past, it inherits the past, and it exhibits throwbacks to the past. The European Holocaust may be repeated in the Holy Land. The oppression of Khmelnytsky's day may be repeated four hundred years later on the same Ukrainian soil, as may be the Khmelnytsky rebellion. By allowing our thoughts to be shackled by taboos, we may bind ourselves inescapably to the spinning wheel. But perhaps by allowing our reasoning to wander to forbidden thoughts, we may free ourselves from the wheel of repetition.
|The Problem: ISRAEL|
|"I am Israel's enemy," he interrupted again, "if you wish to put it that sensationally, only because I am for the Jews and Israel is no longer in the Jewish interest. Israel has become the gravest threat to Jewish survival since the end of World War Two." (p. 41)|
|"Once again the Jewish people are at a terrible crossroad. Because of Israel. Because of Israel and the way that Israel endangers us all. ... The majority of Jews don't choose Israel. ... I repeat: Israel only endangers everyone. ... [Convicted in the U.S. Israeli spy Jonathan] Pollard is just another Jewish victim of the existence of Israel — because Pollard enacted no more, really, than the Israelis demand of Diaspora Jews all the time. I don't hold Pollard responsible, I hold Israel responsible — Israel, which with its all-embracing Jewish totalism has replaced the goyim as the greatest intimidator of Jews in the world; Israel, which today, with its hunger for Jews, is, in many, many terrible ways, deforming and disfiguring Jews as only our anti-Semitic enemies once had the power to do." (p. 81)|
|"This is the Bible all over again. God prepares a catastrophe for these Jews without souls. If ever there will be a new chapter in the Bible you will read how God sent a hundred million Arabs to destroy the people of Israel for their sins." (pp. 109-110)|
|"This is arrogance. Jews who make military brutes of their sons — and how superior they feel to Jews who know nothing of guns! Jews who use clubs to break the hands of Arab children — and how superior they feel to you Jews incapable of such violence! Jews without tolerance, Jews for whom it is always black and white ... these are the Jews who are superior to the Jews in the Diaspora? Superior to the people who know in their bones the meaning of give-and-take?" (pp. 124-125)|
|"The arrogance, Philip, it is insufferable! What they teach their children in the schools is to look with disgust on the Diaspora Jew, to see the English-speaking Jew and the Spanish-speaking Jew and the Russian-speaking Jew as a freak, as a worm, as a terrified neurotic. As if this Jew who now speaks Hebrew isn't just another kind of Jew — as if speaking Hebrew is the culmination of human achievement!" (p. 125)|
|"But then to the entire world they are oblivious. For the entire world they have one word: goy! 'I live here and I speak Hebrew and all I know and see are other Jews like me and isn't that wonderful!' Oh, what an impoverished Jew this arrogant Israeli is! Yes, they are the authentic ones, the Yehoshuas and the Ozes, and tell me, I ask them, what are Saul Alinsky and David Riesman and Meyer Schapiro and Leonard Bernstein and Bella Abzug and Paul Goodman and Allen Ginsberg, and on and on and on and on? Who do they think they are, these provincial nobodies! Jailers! This is their great Jewish achievement — to make Jews into jailers and jet-bomber pilots! And just suppose they were to succeed, suppose they were to win and have their way and every Arab in Nablus and every Arab in Hebron and every Arab in Galilee and in Gaza, suppose every Arab in the world, were to disappear courtesy of the Jewish nuclear bomb, what would they have here fifty years from now? A noisy little state of no importance whatsoever. That's what the persecution and the destruction of the Palestinians will have been for — the creation of a Jewish Belgium, without even a Brussels to show for it. That's what these 'authentic' Jews will have contributed to civilization — a country lacking every quality that gave the Jews their great distinction! They may be able to instill in other Arabs who live under their evil occupation fear and respect for their 'superiority,' but I grew up with you people, I was educated with you people, by you people, I lived with real Jews, at Harvard, at Chicago, with truly superior people, whom I admired, whom I loved, to whom I did indeed feel inferior and rightly so — the vitality in them, the irony in them, the human sympathy, the human tolerance, the goodness of heart that was simply instinctive in them, people with the Jewish sense of survival that was all human, elastic, adaptable, humorous, creative, and all this they have replaced here with a stick! The Golden Calf was more Jewish than Ariel Sharon, God of Samaria and Judea and the Holy Gaza Strip! The worst of the ghetto Jew combined with the worst of the bellicose, belligerent goy, and that is what these people call 'authentic'! Jews have a reputation for being intelligent, and they are intelligent. The only place I have ever been where all the Jews are stupid is Israel. I spit on them! I spit on them!" (pp. 125-126)|
|The charge against his friend's brother was of throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers, a charge "unsupported by a single shred of evidence, unsubstantiated, another filthy lie." The boy had been picked up at a demonstration and then "interrogated." Interrogation consisted of covering his head with a hood, soaking him alternately with hot and cold showers, then making him stand outside, whatever the weather, the hood still over his head, enshrouding his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth — hooded like that for forty-five days and forty-five nights until the boy "confessed." (p. 127)|
|"It is precisely here, with a Jewish military state gloating and triumphant, that it becomes official Jewish policy to remind the world, minute by minute, hour by hour, day in and day out, that the Jews were victims before they were conquerors and that they are conquerors only because they are victims. This is the public-relations campaign cunningly devised by the terrorist Begin: to establish Israeli military expansionism as historically just by joining it to the memory of Jewish victimization; to rationalize — as historical justice, as just retribution, as nothing more than self-defense — the gobbling up of the Occupied Territories and the driving of the Palestinians off their land once again. What justifies seizing every opportunity to extend Israel's boundaries? Auschwitz. What justifies bombing Beirut civilians? Auschwitz. What justifies smashing the bones of Palestinian children and blowing off the limbs of Arab mayors? Auschwitz. Dachau. Buchenwald. Belsen. Treblinka. Sobibor. Belsec. "Such falseness, Philip, such brutal, cynical insincerity! To keep the territories has for them one meaning and only one meaning: it is to display the physical prowess that made the conquest possible! To rule the territories is to exercise a prerogative hitherto denied — the experience now of ruling others. Power-mad Jews is what they are, is all that they are, no different from the power-mad everywhere, except for the mythology of victimization that they use to justify their addiction to power and their victimizing of us. The famous joke has it exactly right: 'There's no business like Shoah business.' During the period of their normalization there was the innocent symbol of little Anne Frank, that was poignant enough. But now, in the era of their greatest armed might, now at the height of their insufferable arrogance, now there are sixteen hours of Shoah with which to pulverize audiences all over the world, now there is 'Holocaust' on NBC once a week, starring as a Jew Meryl Streep! And the American Jewish leaders who come here, they know this Shoah business very well — they arrive here from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, these officials of the Jewish establishment, and to those few Israelis who still have some truthfulness in them and some self-respect, who still know how to utter something other than the propaganda and the lies, they say, 'Don't tell me how the Palestinians are becoming accommodating. Don't tell me how the Palestinians are oppressed and that an injustice has been done. Stop that immediately! I cannot raise money in America with that. Tell me about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust!' And this explains why there is the show trial of this stupid Ukrainian — to reinforce the cornerstone of Israeli power politics by bolstering the ideology of the victim." (pp. 132-133).|
|"What happens when American Jews realize that these people [the Zionists], with their incredible arrogance, have taken on a mission and a meaning that is utterly preposterous, that is pure mythology? What happens when they come to realize that they have been sold a bill of goods and that, far from being superior to Diaspora Jewry, these Zionists are inferior by every measure of civilization? What happens when American Jews discover that they have been duped, that they have constructed an allegiance to Israel on the basis of irrational guilt, of vengeful fantasies, above all, above all, based on the most naive delusions about the moral identity of this state? Because this state has no moral identity. It has forfeited its moral identity, if it ever had any to begin with. ... [T]his is what they have done by breaking the hands of Arab children on the orders of their illustrious minister of defense. Even to world Jewry it will be clear: this is a state founded on force and maintained by force, a Machiavellian state that deals violently with the uprising of an oppressed people in an occupied territory, a Machiavellian state in, admittedly, a Machiavellian world, but about as saintly as the Chicago Police Department. They have advertised this state for forty years as essential to the existence of Jewish culture, people, heritage; they have tried with all their cunning to advertise Israel as a no-choice reality when, in fact, it is an option, to be examined in terms of quality and value. And when you dare to examine it like this, what do you actually find? Arrogance! Arrogance! Arrogance! And beyond the arrogance? Nothing! And beyond the nothing — more arrogance! And now it is there for the whole world to see on television — a primitive capacity for sadistic violence that has finally put the lie to all their mythology! 'The Law of the Return'? As if any self-respecting civilized Jew would want to 'return' to a place like this! 'The Ingathering of the Exiles'? As if 'exile' from Jewishness begins to describe the Jewish condition anywhere but here! 'The Holocaust'? The Holocaust is over. Unbeknownst to them, the Zionists themselves officially declared it over three days ago at Manara Square in Ramallah. I will take you there and show you the place where the decree was written. A wall where the soldiers took innocent Palestinian civilians and clubbed and beat them to a pulp. Forget the publicity stunt of that show trial [the Demjanjuk trial]. The end of the Holocaust is written on that wall in Palestinian blood." (pp. 134-135)|
|"For forty years they have been dragging Jews from all over the world, making payoffs, cutting deals, bribing officials in a dozen different countries so as to get their hands on more and more Jews and drag them here to perpetuate their myth of a Jewish homeland. And now comes Philip Roth to do everything he can to encourage these same Jews to stop squatting on somebody else's land and to leave this make-believe country of theirs before these unregenerate, power-mad, vengeful Zionists implicate the whole of world Jewry in their brutality and bring a catastrophe down upon the Jews from which they will never recover." (p. 137)|
|"Sephardic boys," George told me as we continued toward a side door of the jail. "Moroccans. The Ashkenazis prefer to keep their hands clean. They get their darker brethren to do their torturing for them. The ignorant Arab haters from the Orient furnish the refined Ashkenazis with a very useful, all-purpose proletarian mob. Of course when they lived in Morocco they didn't hate Arabs. They lived harmoniously with Arabs for a thousand years. But the white Israelis have taught them that, too — how to hate the Arabs and how to hate themselves. The white Israelis have turned them into their thugs." (p. 139)|
"If it weren't that Israel was Jewish, would not the same American Jewish liberals who are so identified with its well-being, would they not condemn it as harshly as South Africa for how it treats its Arab population?"|
I chose again not to reply, but this discouraged him no more than the gavel had. "Of course, South Africa is irrelevant now. Now that they [the Israelis] are breaking hands and giving their prisoners medical injections, now one thinks not of South Africa but of Nazi Germany." (p. 142)
|"'If you jump out of a burning building, you may land on the back of a man who happens to be walking along the street. That is a bad enough accident. You then don't have to start beating him over the head with a stick. But that is what is happening on the West Bank. First they landed on people's backs, in order to save themselves, and now they are beating them over the head.'" (p. 144)|
|"Woody Allen wrote something in The New York Times," George said. "An op-ed article. Ask Anna. Ask Michael. They read it and couldn't believe their eyes. It was reprinted here. It ranks as Woody Allen's best joke yet. Philip, the guy isn't a shlimazl just in the movies. Woody Allen believes that Jews aren't capable of violence. Woody Allen doesn't believe that he is reading the papers correctly — he just can't believe that Jews break bones. Tell us another one, Woody. The first bone they break in defense — to put it charitably; the second in winning; the third gives them pleasure; and the fourth is already a reflex. Kamil hasn't patience for this idiot...." (p. 155)|
|"To put all these Jews in this tiny place, surrounded on all sides by tremendous hostility — how can you survive morally? Better to be marginal neurotics, anxious assimilationists, and everything else the Zionists despise, better to lose the state than to lose your moral being by unleashing a nuclear war. ... What does owning Jerusalem, of all places, have to do with being Jews in 1988? Jerusalem is by now the worst thing that could possibly have happened to us." (p. 158)|
|"There is nothing in the future for these Jews and these Arabs but more tragedy, suffering, and blood. The hatred on both sides is too enormous, it envelops everything. There is no trust and there will not be for another thousand years." (p. 161)|
"What we have done to the Palestinians is wicked. We have displaced them and we have oppressed them. We have expelled them, beaten them, tortured them, and murdered them. The Jewish state, from the day of its inception, has been dedicated to eliminating a Palestinian presence in historical Palestine and expropriating the land of an indigenous people. The Palestinians have been driven out, dispersed, and conquered by the Jews. To make a Jewish state we have betrayed our history — we have done unto the Palestinians what the Christians have done unto us: systematically transformed them into the despised and subjugated Other, thereby depriving them of their human status. Irrespective of terrorism or terrorists or the political stupidity of Yasir Arafat, the fact is this: as a people the Palestinians are totally innocent and as a people the Jews are totally guilty." ...|
"I speak sincerely. They are innocent, we are guilty; they are right, we are wrong; they are the violated, we the violators. I am a ruthless man working in a ruthless job for a ruthless country and I am ruthless knowingly and voluntarily. If someday there is a Palestinian victory and if there is then a war-crimes trial here in Jerusalem, held, say, in the very hall where they now try Mr. Demjanjuk, and if at this trial there are not just big shots in the dock but minor functionaries like me as well, I will have no defense to make for myself in the face of the Palestinian accusation. Indeed, those Jews who contributed freely to the PLO will be held up to me as people of conscience, as people of Jewish conscience, who, despite every Jewish pressure to collaborate in the oppression of the Palestinians, chose instead to remain at one with the spiritual and moral heritage of their own long-suffering people. My brutality will be measured against their righteousness and I shall hang by my neck until I am dead. And what will I say to the court, after I have been judged and found guilty by my enemy? Will I invoke as my justification the millennial history of degrading, humiliating, terrifying, savage, murderous anti-Semitism? Will I repeat the story of our claim on this land, the millennial history of Jewish settlement here? Will I invoke the horrors of the Holocaust? Absolutely not. I don't justify myself in this way now and I will not stoop to doing it then. ... You will say, 'I did not approve of Sharon, I did not approve of Shamir, and my conscience was confused and troubled....' You will say, 'I did not approve of Gush Emunim and I did not approve of the West Bank settlements, and the bombing of Beirut filled me with horror.' You will demonstrate in a thousand ways what a humane, compassionate fellow you are, and then they will ask you, 'But did you approve of Israel and the existence of Israel, did you approve of the imperialist, colonialist theft that was the state of Israel?' And that's when you will hide behind Appelfeld. And the Palestinians will hang you, too, as indeed they should. For what justification is Mr. Appelfeld from Csernowitz, Bukovina, for the theft from them of Haifa and Jaffa? They will hang you right alongside me...." (pp. 349-351)
|"Ruining reputations is no less serious an intelligence operation than destroying nuclear reactors. When they are out to silence a voice they don't like, they know how to accomplish it without the blundering of our Islamic brothers. They don't issue a stupid, barbaric fatwa that makes a martyred hero out of the author of a book that nobody can read — they quietly go to work on the reputation instead. And I don't mean halfheartedly, as they did in the past with you, turning loose the intellectual stooges at their magazine. I mean hardball — loshon hora: the whispering campaign that cannot be stopped, rumors that it's impossible to quash, besmirchment from which you will never be cleansed, slanderous stories to belittle your professional qualifications, derisive reports of your business deceptions and your perverse aberrations, outraged polemics denouncing your moral failings, misdeeds, and faulty character traits — your shallowness, your vulgarity, your cowardice, your avarice, your indecency, your falseness, your selfishness, your treachery. Derogatory anecdotes. Idle mockery. Bitchy chatter. Malicious absurdities. Galling wisecracks. Fantastic lies. Loshon hora of such spectacular dimensions that it is guaranteed not only to bring on fear, distress, disease, spiritual isolation, and financial loss but to significantly shorten a life. They will make a shambles of the position that you have worked nearly sixty years to achieve. No area of your life will go uncontaminated. And if you think this is an exaggeration you really are deficient in a sense of reality. Nobody can ever say of a secret service, 'That's something they don't do.' ... [Y]ou are being given the benefit of a lifetime's experience by someone who has developed the highest regard for you and cannot sit by and watch you destroyed. The consequences of what you've written are simply beyond calculation. I fear for you. ... It is not a quiet book you've written — it is a suicidal book...." (pp. 396-397)|
|The Solution: DIASPORISM|
|Right now, the author finds that his ideas on resettlement are received with more hostility in Israel than in Poland. He maintains that however virulent Polish anti-Semitism may once have been, "the Jew hatred that pervades Islam is far more entrenched and dangerous." Roth continues, "The so-called normalization of the Jew was a tragic illusion from the start. But when this normalization is expected to flourish in the very heart of Islam, it is even worse than tragic — it is suicidal. Horrendous as Hitler was for us, he lasted a mere twelve years, and what is twelve years to the Jew? The time has come to return to the Europe that was for centuries, and remains to this day, the most authentic Jewish homeland there has ever been, the birthplace of rabbinic Judaism, Hasidic Judaism, Jewish secularism, socialism — on and on. The birthplace, of course, of Zionism too. But Zionism has outlived its historical function. The time has come to renew in the European Diaspora our preeminent spiritual and cultural role." Roth, who is fearful of a second Jewish Holocaust in the Middle East, sees "Jewish resettlement" as the only means by which to assure Jewish survival and to achieve "a historical as well as a spiritual victory over Hitler and Auschwitz." (p. 32)|
"The great mass of Jews have been in Europe since the Middle Ages. Virtually everything we identify culturally as Jewish has its origins in the life we led for centuries among European Christians. The Jews of Islam have their own, very different destiny. I am not proposing that Israeli Jews whose origins are in Islamic countries return to Europe, since for them this would constitute not a homecoming but a radical uprooting." ... [But] for the European Jews, Israel has been an exile and no more, a sojourn, a temporary interlude in the European saga that it is time to resume."|
"Sir, what makes you think that the Jews would have more success in Europe in the future than they had there in the past?"
"Do not confuse our long European history with the twelve years of Hitler's reign. If Hitler had not existed, if his twelve years of terror were erased from our past, then it would seem to you no more unthinkable that Jews should also be Europeans than that they should also be Americans." (pp. 42-43)
"A second Holocaust is not going to occur on the continent of Europe, because it was the site of the first. But a second Holocaust could happen here all too easily, and, if the conflict between Arab and Jew escalates much longer, it will — it must. The destruction of Israel in a nuclear exchange is a possibility much less farfetched today than was the Holocaust itself fifty years ago."|
"The resettlement in Europe of more than a million Jews. The demobilization of the Israeli army. A return to the borders of 1948. It sounds to me," I said, "that you are proposing the final solution of the Jewish problem for Yasir Arafat."
"No. Arafat's final solution is the same as Hitler's: extermination. I am proposing the alternative to extermination, a solution not to Arafat's Jewish problem but to ours, one comparable in scope and magnitude to the defunct solution called Zionism. But I do not wish to be misunderstood, in France or anywhere else in the world. I repeat: In the immediate postwar era, when for obvious reasons Europe was uninhabitable by Jews, Zionism was the single greatest force contributing to the recovery of Jewish hope and morale. But having succeeded in restoring the Jews to health, Zionism has tragically ruined its own health and must now accede to vigorous Diasporism."
"Will you define Diasporism for my readers, please?" I asked, meanwhile thinking, ... What sort of hoax is this hoax?
"Diasporism seeks to promote the dispersion of the Jews in the West, particularly the resettlement of Israeli Jews of European background in the European countries where there were sizable Jewish populations before World War II. Diasporism plans to rebuild everything, not in an alien and menacing Middle East but in those very lands where everything once flourished, while, at the same time, it seeks to avert the catastrophe of a second Holocaust brought about by the exhaustion of Zionism as a political and ideological force. Zionism undertook to restore Jewish life and the Hebrew language to a place where neither had existed with any real vitality for nearly two millennia. Diasporism's dream is more modest: a mere half-century is all that separates us from what Hitler destroyed. If Jewish resources could realize the seemingly fantastic goals of Zionism in even less than fifty years, now that Zionism is counterproductive and itself the foremost Jewish problem, I have no doubt that the resources of world Jewry can realize the goals of Diasporism in half, if not even one tenth, the time."
"You speak about resettling Jews in Poland, Romania, Germany? In Slovakia, the Ukraine, Yugoslavia, the Baltic states? And you realize, do you," I asked him, "how much hatred for Jews still exists in most of these countries?"
"Whatever hatred for Jews may be present in Europe — and I don't minimize its persistence — there are ranged against this residual anti-Semitism powerful currents of enlightenment and morality that are sustained by the memory of the Holocaust, a horror that operates now as a bulwark against European anti-Semitism, however virulent. No such bulwark exists in Islam. Exterminating a Jewish nation would cause Islam to lose not a single night's sleep, except for the great night of celebration. I think that you would agree that a Jew is safer today walking aimlessly around Berlin than going unarmed into the streets of Ramallah." (pp. 43-45)
"This will come to pass," he declared oracularly, "because it must come to pass — the reintegration of the Jew into Europe by the year 2000, not a reentry as refugees, you must understand, but an orderly population transfer with an international legal basis, with restoration of property, or citizenship, and of all national rights. And then, in the year 2000, the pan-European celebration of the reintegrated Jew to be held in the city of Berlin."|
"Oh, that's the best idea yet," I said. "The Germans particularly will be delighted to usher in the third millennium of Christianity with a couple of million Jews holding a welcome-home party at the Brandenburg Gate."
"In his day Herzl too was accused of being a satirist and of making an elaborate joke when he proposed the establishment of a Jewish state. Many deprecated his plan as a hilarious fantasy, an outlandish fiction, and called him crazy as well. ... For years now, President Ceausescu has been selling Jews to Israel. Yes, you hear me correctly: Ceausescu has sold to the Israelis several hundred thousand Romanian Jews for ten thousand dollars a head. This is a fact. Well, I propose to offer him ten thousand more dollars for each Jew he takes back. I'll go as high as fifteen if I have to. I have carefully studied Herzl's life and have learned from his experience how to deal with these people. Herzl's negotiations with the sultan in Constantinople, though they happened to fail, were no more of a hilarious fantasy than the negotiations I will soon be conducting with the dictator of Romania at his Bucharest palace."
"And the money to pay the dictator off? My guess is that to fund your effort you have only to turn to the PLO."
"I have every reason to believe that my funding will come from the American Jews who for decades now have been contributing enormous sums for the survival of a country with which they happen to have only the most abstractly sentimental connection. The roots of American Jewry are not in the Middle East but in Europe — their Jewish style, their Jewish words, their strong nostalgia, their actual, weighable history, all this issues from their European origins. Grandpa did not hail from Haifa — Grandpa came from Minsk. Grandpa wasn't a Jewish nationalist — he was a Jewish humanist, a spiritual, believing Jew, who complained not in an antique tongue called Hebrew but in a colorful, rich, vernacular Yiddish." (pp. 46-47)
|"[A Diasporist] is a Jew for whom authenticity as a Jew means living in the Diaspora, for whom the Diaspora is the normal condition and Zionism is the abnormality — a Diasporist is a Jew who believes that the only Jews who matter are the Jews of the Diaspora, that the only Jews who will survive are the Jews of the Diaspora, that the only Jews who are Jews are the Jews of the Diaspora — " (pp. 170-171)|