Commentary Magazine


Topic: Leo Pinsker

Toulouse a Reminder of the Need to Refute Jewish Cowardice

Many probably think, but fewer have the arrogance to write, that the recent shooting deaths of at least four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France are Israel’s fault. The thinking goes that Jews inevitably are associated with the self-declared Jewish state, whose alleged crimes enrage its supposed victims, who then lash out at the Jews close by, which are often those living in smaller diaspora communities. Because it shoulders the blame, Israel should also therefore take responsibility for the danger it poses to worldwide Jewry by properly amending its policies or even dissolving itself, thereby curing the world of its desire to hunt Jews.

Even if we accept the questionable assumptions behind this view, it represents a stunning endorsement of Jewish cowardice.

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Many probably think, but fewer have the arrogance to write, that the recent shooting deaths of at least four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France are Israel’s fault. The thinking goes that Jews inevitably are associated with the self-declared Jewish state, whose alleged crimes enrage its supposed victims, who then lash out at the Jews close by, which are often those living in smaller diaspora communities. Because it shoulders the blame, Israel should also therefore take responsibility for the danger it poses to worldwide Jewry by properly amending its policies or even dissolving itself, thereby curing the world of its desire to hunt Jews.

Even if we accept the questionable assumptions behind this view, it represents a stunning endorsement of Jewish cowardice.

The basic ideas were probably most clearly articulated by the late Tony Judt in his 2003 Jewish anti-Israelist New York Review of Books essay of the season, “Israel: The Alternative.” Effectively catapulting Judt into a non-academic fame he had not otherwise known, this and his other assorted anti-Israel writings were driven primarily by the conviction that Israel, as he put it, “is bad for the Jews.”

Why? “The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews. The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel.”

There is one Zionist truth that Judt and his ilk pin their hat on, which is that the goal of the Jewish state is indeed and always has been, since Leo Pinsker put pen to paper, to change the way the world looks at Jews. For Pinsker, it was the unique quality of Jewish statelessness that prevented “a certain equality in rank” between Jews and non-Jews, a condition that fostered Jew-hatred and led to the terrible violence of Russian pogroms. For Theodor Herzl, his far more famous successor in Zionist pamphleteering, it was simply the presence of Jews that enraged the masses. He wrote, “We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.”

The thing Pinsker, Herzl, and their followers got sadly wrong was the idea that Jews could be saved from Jew-hatred by creating a state of their own, either by “normalizing” the Jewish condition or by providing completely for their physical security. No state, though, can provide for the complete safety of all its citizens, let alone its ethnic kin abroad. And hatred of Jews, as should be beyond plain by now, clearly draws from deeper waters than the Jewish political condition, whatever it may be.

We should call the fantasy that Jews would be able to live in peace if only they gave up their claim to independence cowardice because that is the term we reserve for those who willingly give up what is theirs in the hope that by so doing that may be freed of physical danger. The Jewish state may not be able to resolve the non-Jewish problem of hatred of Jews, but it can – as has been the case these last ten years in an Israel that has woken up to the truth that many of its enemies can be appeased only by its death – cure the Jews of their fascination with weakness.

That is, if we have the courage to stand united against the irrational attacks launched against us and our children.

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