The Deeper Meanings of “Disengagement”


“All people, Jews or gentiles, who dare not defend themselves when they know they are in the right, who submit to punishment not because of what they have done but because of who they are, are already dead by their own decision; and whether or not they survive physically depends on chance. If circumstances are not favorable, they end up in gas chambers.....”—Bruno Bettelheim, Freud’s Vienna And Other Essays.

Bettelheim, like the Greek poet Homer, understands that the force that does not kill - that does not kill just yet - can turn a human being into stone, into a thing, while still alive. Merely hanging ominously over the head of the vulnerable creature, it can choose to kill at any moment, poised portentously to destroy breath in what it has “graciously” allowed, if only for a few more moments, to breathe; this force mocks the fragile life it intends to consume. The singular human being that stands helplessly before this force has effectively become a corpse before any lethal assault is even launched.

Israel, still manipulated and assaulted by an intermittent stream of barbarous Palestinian terror, is in the process of becoming this pitiable individual writ large. Called upon again and again by our “civilized” world to negotiate with ritualistic murderers and child-sacrificers, the Jewish State under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will soon face a very basic choice. It can accept an immutably genocidal Palestinian state carved out of its own still-living national body, or, instead, it can affirm its sacred post-Holocaust obligation to endure and reaffirm its enduring Torah obligation to “choose life.”

Should the Sharon Government accept the former, and continue with its announced “disengagement” policy of unilateral territorial surrender (a policy linked to an imagined “Two-State Solution”), Israel would already lie defeated.

Prime Minister Sharon plans to “disengage” from 21 Gaza settlements and from four settlements in Samaria beginning in July. Yet, in his latest annual report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shin Bet intelligence director Avi Dichter underscored the manifest perils of Jewish evacuation and surrender. His strategic argument, straightforward and essentially unassailable, was that Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists - newly unencumbered by any Israeli military presence - will quickly transform southern Israel into a second South Lebanon. He added that handing northern Samaria to Palestinian control could result in the creation of a second Gaza.

Even today, even after Oslo and the “Road Map”, and the election of a Palestinian “president”, the official Palestinian Authority (PA) map of “Palestine” still includes all of Israel. There are no two states on the PA maps, only one. There is no plan for coexistence with Israel in PA doctrine, only continuation of the longstanding Arab/Islamic “phased plan” for Palestinian “liberation”. There is no Arab state on this bleeding planet that genuinely accepts a Jewish State in the Dar Al-Islam, in the “world of Islam”. Not one.

What sort of peace can Israel negotiate with a “partner” whose only real question is, “How long before we can get the Jews to die?” And how shall Israel navigate such a problematic peace in a world where the traditional forms of anti-Semitism are now being reinvigorated by newer fashions of Arab/Islamic Jew killing - fashions that call openly for the maiming and mutilation of Jewish children with nary a hint of condemnation from “civilized” countries?

Shall Israel complain? No problem, it can always find authoritative comfort in the United Nations and its International Court of “Justice”. Shall it be allowed to erect a fence to protect its children from being torn apart and burned alive? Certainly not, since the lives of Israel’s Jewish children are loudly declared to be less valuable than the olive trees of inconvenienced Palestinian farmers. So it has already been written in the ICJ’s July 9, 2004 advisory opinion on Israel’s security fence.

One might expect that Israel, after all the horror it has suffered at the hands of Arab terrorists, would betray itself no longer. When Priam enters the tent of Achilles, stops, clasps Achilles’ knees and kisses his hands, he has already reduced himself to a hapless and unworthy victim, one to be disposed of without ceremony and in very short order. Realizing this, a gracious Achilles takes the old man’s arm, pushing him away. As long as he is clasping Achilles’ knees, Priam is an inert object. Only by lifting him up off his knees can Achilles restore him to a position of self-respect and to a living manhood.

Here Israel and Priam part company. Israel’s frenzied enemies, twisted by Jihad, will never act in the honorable manner of Achilles. Their aim is not the high-minded revitalization of a respected adversary, but rather the “liquidation” (still the term favored in the Arab world) of an inert object by genocide and war. The Iliad reveals certain important lessons for Jerusalem; it should be read with this in mind.

For whatever reasons, Israel has now come to accept a deformed view of itself that was spawned not in Jerusalem or Hebron, but in Cairo, London, Damascus, Paris, Baghdad, Washington, Teheran, Hamburg, Jericho and Gaza. Degraded and debased, this is the view not of a strong and powerful Jewish people, determined to remain alive in its own land, but of a conspicuous corpse-in-waiting, brought home from a two-thousand year exile only to make its present-day slaughter even easier to inflict. It goes without saying that large majorities of courageous Israelis have always fought bitterly against such an intolerable view - against the delusionary vision of Israel’s “Peace Camp” and the Sharon plan - but this view is currently the official national image nonetheless.

After Auschwitz, after Belsen, after Warsaw, after Lodz, there can’t be any more intolerable expression of Jewish self-deception than an Israel that has learned to “live with terror.” To suggest otherwise, after every blown-up bus or school or restaurant, to say that life in Israel must return to “normal”, is not normal. It is inexcusable and unspeakably abnormal.

Writing several years ago about Israel under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli novelist Aharon Megged noted: “We have witnessed a phenomenon that probably has no parallel in history; an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation.”

This identification has taken poisonous root in a succession of Israeli governments that have stubbornly refused to understand their enemies, even while the streets of Israel’s cities have been transformed by primal Palestinian killers from civilian thoroughfares to sacrificial altars. Today, there are even Jewish scholars who advocate Israel’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, arguing in prestigious American journals that Israel can negotiate true peace only by first agreeing to a “nuclear weapon-free zone” in the Middle East.

There is a way out of this humiliating, fateful and delusionary condition, but it must go far beyond the standard suggestions of policy and leadership changes. Replacing Ariel Sharon will not be enough. Israel requires a way that demands, more than anything else, an upright posture for the nation, an appropriately heroic posture that precludes clasping the enemy’s knees and kissing his hands. It is a way of dignity, not of supplication. It is a way of open, full and unapologetic warfare against evil, of standing firm for Jewish lands, of choosing boldly and faithfully to stay alive, of avoiding not only death at the bloodied hands of inflamed enemies, but also avoiding a shameless and distinctly un-Jewish death-in-life.

Louis Rene Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University.

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