Israel is fighting a losing battle over victimhood
For years, victimhood speeches by Israeli leaders have succeeded in bringing American Jews to their feet, applauding, and getting them to open their wallets.
With regard to A.B. Yehoshua's extraordinary remark - that he had "never heard the Jews analyze the Holocaust as a Jewish failure, which was not anticipated" - I can only wonder where the renowned author was when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waved the "Auschwitz letters"? Yehoshua didn't hear that Netanyahu said that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new version of Adolf Hitler? He didn't know that Netanyahu had promised that he would not, under any circumstances, allow Iran to carry out a second Holocaust? Doesn't Yehoshua understand that Shoah equals victimhood - not guilt, not failure, and without any doubt whatsoever - and that the ability to play the victim is a strategic asset with an existential value?
In her new book, "Who is Afraid of Historical Redress: The Israeli Victim-Perpetrator Dichotomy," Dr. Ruth Amir wrotes that the perception of Israeli-Jewish victimhood, which was always present in the Jewish narrative and Jewish thought, became even stronger after the Holocaust and serves to give Israel political legitimacy.
Amir, who heads the Department of Multidisciplinary Studies at the Jezreel Academic College (full disclosure: This writer is a member of the college's board of governors ), notes that the fact that Israel sees itself as a victim justifies its aggression and injustice. With the help of guilt-neutralizing mechanisms, Israelis disengage the circumstantial link between an action and its consequences, and absolve themselves of responsibility. That is why they aren't interested in trying to correct injustices and reconcile with their neighbor.
The death of John Demjanjuk recalls the declaration that Shulamit Aloni attributes to the late Prime Minister Golda Meir after the Eichmann trial: "Now, when everyone knows what they did to us, we can do anything we want, and no one has the right to criticize us and tell us what to do." Meir even apparently commented that she would never forgive our enemies for "forcing" us to kill them - another victim-like comment.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin said before the bombing of Beirut during the first Lebanon war that "No country that fought in World War II has any right to preach morality to us, since they did nothing to stop the killing and extermination of the Jews."
Victimhood purifies the victim of any guilt and enables him to request empathy - even if he is the stronger, victorious, occupying party. This duality is the reason that for years, victimhood speeches by Israeli leaders have succeeded in bringing American Jews to their feet, applauding, and getting them to open their wallets.
The problem is that since World War II the language of human rights has been gradually taking the place of the Holocaust in diplomatic and moral discourse. Even in Germany it's getting harder and harder to play the role of occupier-victim. Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of that country's Social-Democratic Party, who has his eyes on the chancellor's seat, visited Israel and the territories last week and didn't hesitate to write on his Facebook page that in Hebron there is an apartheid regime.
If you remove the Holocaust and victimhood from the debate, Netanyahu's claim that "Israel has the right to defend itself," turns into a double-edged sword. How then, are we meant to respond to the Palestinian leader who will claim: "It's the right of a people without a state to defend itself?"
True, there is a difference. Israel is not threatening to destroy the Palestinians. It is "only" taking their lands and has "only" been holding them under a regime of occupation for 45 years, without basic civil rights. From another perspective, if it's justified to impose sanctions on Iran because it desires nuclear deterrence, why is it forbidden to impose sanctions on Israel so as to stop settlement in the territories?
Remove the Holocaust and victimhood from Israel and then ask yourself: If it's permissible for this country to bomb Iran to free itself from a nuclear threat, then why are the Palestinians forbidden to launch rockets against Israel to free themselves of the occupation? Does Jewish construction in the occupied territories accord with the law and international consensus any more than the Palestinian request to be accepted as a UN member? For how long will the Holocaust save the world's last colonialist government from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, when it is trying to withhold nuclear power from Iran?
Without entering into self-righteous symmetry, it must be said that many of the Palestinians have yet to wean themselves from their addiction to the Nakba (the so-called catastrophe of the creation of the Jewish state ) and their own victimhood. The key to their old house in Sheikh Munis (now Ramat Aviv ) that they wear around their necks will not open the door for them to a Palestinian state.
In this endless battle, the battle over victimhood, everybody loses.