Commentary Magazine

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New York and/or Jerusalem

- Abstract

THESE are indeed troubled times for Israelis pondering their national future and for those Jews of the Diaspora who think much about their relation to Israel. The shock waves set off by the Yom Kippur War and its political aftermath, in which Israel’s essential isolation and vulnerability became so evident, are still reverberating. In many quarters there is an impulse to rethink old positions on the Jewish state. More than ever before, it seems Israel’s exasperating fate to have to justify its national existence-unlike all the other nations of the earth, down to the shabbiest military oligarchy of murderous buffoons in the ex-colonial world. In America, as a gap has begun to emerge between conceivable American policy and Israel’s vital security interests, or, again, between those interests and the commitments of many Jews on the Left to peace and freedom and the Third World forever, there are signs of growing ideological divisions among Jews. The results of the recent Israeli elections, moreover, could easily exacerbate such division. In Israel, of course, animosity between Right and Left, religious and secular, has always been the very air one breathed, but even such familiar contentiousness seems sharpened since 1973. The religious nationalists, having shown themselves more openly prepared than ever before to brandish the flaming sword of an uncompromising neo-messianism, are now part of the ruling coalition. In response to this new militancy since 1973, anti-annexationists on the secular Left like the writer A. B. Yehoshua have raised the old Zionist banner of “normalization,” with all the radical rejection of religion as the vehicle of Jewish life which the slogan implies.

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