Just Do It

In today's anti-Semitism, aimed at Israel, advocates of unilateral action (fences, withdrawal, dismantling settlements) are cast in the role of the founders of Zionism, while the settlers and their supporters, and those chasing chimerical agreements, are playing the Jewish masses, blinded, refusing to face reality.

In Alan Dershowitz's new book, "The Case for Israel," the famed advocate and Harvard law professor argues that the State of Israel has become "the Jew among the states of the world." Only the age-old phenomenon of blind anti-Semitism, he says, can explain "the world's bizarre reaction to Israel's generous peace offer [in the Barak era - D.L.] and the Palestinians' violent response to it." Throughout history, the Jew has been judged "by different and far more demanding standards," writes Dershowitz. "So too [now] with the Jewish nation."

Dershowitz's Canadian friend and colleague, the veteran human rights campaigner Irwin Cotler, offers a similar diagnosis. After years of battling in United Nations forums and international conferences, Cotler, a member of the Canadian parliament, says Israel "has become the new anti-Christ for large parts of the Western world, and a kind of Salman Rushdie in the eyes of many Muslims."

Many Israelis have been coming to the same conclusion. Whereas in the past a preoccupation with anti-Semitism was associated mainly with the political right ("the whole world is against us"), nowadays liberals and people on the left are finding it increasingly difficult to explain what is happening to us, both in the region and in the wider world, without reaching for terms like double standards, irrational hatred and anti-Semitism.

How else, for example, can one understand the chilling fact that Israel's original creation and its right to exist have become legitimate, debatable topics in public and political discourse, especially among the liberal left in many European countries? Would any of these people dream of asking similar questions about the creation and right to exist of, say, Uganda, an artificial, colonial construct if there ever was one, amid the deluge of rhetoric surrounding the death of Idi Amin? Yet this same Amin killed more Ugandans in one year than the number of deaths on both sides in all Israel's wars since the day it was born.

If the existence of this new anti-Semitism is indeed a proven fact and its character clear, what is the conclusion to be drawn? What can the object of this enmity, i.e., the State of Israel, do to defend itself, and ultimately to defeat it?

Actually, these questions were answered a hundred and some odd years ago, in the days of the old anti-Semitism, by the founding father of Zionism. He intuitively grasped - and therein lay his greatness - that in respect of anti-Semitism, there was nothing to argue about and no point in self-justification. A prejudice that is essentially irrational could not be countered or abated by explanations and rationales taken from the realm of logic. Facts were equally useless. Even if a Jew converted, assimilated and turned his back on his genes, it did him no good.

The Zionist solution was thus for Jews to stop trying to explain and convince, and instead to start doing. To take unilateral action, determined but realistic, backed up by the political support of the prevailing superpower. It was only a shame that the Zionists were in the minority, and until the majority began to understand the magnitude of what the minority was doing, it was too late for them to save themselves from the maniacal rampage of the old anti-Semitism.

Today, in the era of the new anti-Semitism aimed at the State of Israel, advocates of unilateral action (fences, withdrawal, dismantling settlements) are cast in the role of the founders of Zionism, while the settlers and their supporters on the one hand, and those chasing chimerical agreements on the other, are playing the Jewish masses, blinded, refusing to face reality until, God forbid, it becomes too late.

The trouble is that unlike the Zionist minority then, whose vision was clear and who never wavered from it, today's realists are fuzzy and fickle. Ehud Barak, for instance, who had the courage to lay out before the two peoples the only true map - the "we're here and they're there" map - did nothing to put it into practice once the other side turned it down. Instead of us taking responsibility for our own fate, he gave our adversaries the power of veto over it.

Today, as Barak considers returning to the arena, his political convictions are veiled in obscurity. Haim Ramon, who back under Barak doubted the chances of an agreement with the Palestinians and boldly called for unilateral action, has now subsided into silence, like an extinguished volcano. Shlomo Ben-Ami, appalled at Camp David by the vehemence of Arafat's loathing for the Jewish people and Judaism, has given up practical politics in favor of the intellectual life.

Luckily, Herzl and Weizmann and the others did not give up. Their perceptive analysis of the state of the nation did not go blurry. They never lost sight of the logical conclusion of their analysis. They did not allow themselves to be deterred by Arab rejection. They persisted with their program of action, as Zionists, as unilateralists.