The system of "sacred balance" is Israel's way of surviving and feeling normal. If something happens on the left, it immediately must be canceled out by an event on the right - and then everyone can relax. These equations create the illusion of sanity and save the sticky majority, which is searching for the warm and opinionless center, from having to relate to matters in a matter-of-fact way. It is from there, from the wide open spaces of a valueless and content-free consensus, that Israel's ruin will come - because if everything is balanced and canceled out, there is no need to take a position, or to do anything. It is therefore not surprising that Israel, with all its equations, cannot make decisions on matters of morality and state.
The latest equation bridges between draft-dodgers and the soldiers who refuse to evacuate homes in Hebron. On the face of it, we have draft-dodgers - the left-wing bleeding hearts from greater Tel Aviv - and evacuation refuseniks - nationalistic and idealistic, but "a little" too extreme, too patriotic and too religious. And we are in the middle: We live outside Tel Aviv, but not in Hebron; we want peace but are not prepared to pay the Arabs the price. Instead of being flooded with concern over the fanatics and rabbis who have penetrated the fabric of Israeli statehood like cancerous cells, we have created an equation. We were furious for two days, we condemned them - and we went on our merry way. Everything is balanced, thank God.
After the waves of demagoguery, spin and media opportunism have passed, it will become clear that this equation is extremely dangerous, because it releases us from dealing with this country's unruly elements. The more we ignore the cancer of rabbinical nationalism, the closer and more concrete the mortal danger is. The real equation is between the refuseniks of Hebron and their foundation in Torah - and Hamas, Hezbollah, Christian fundamentalists and their fanatic brethren.
What is happening in Israel is part of a worldwide trend. U.S. President George W. Bush accepted with terrifying superficiality the worldview of Samuel Huntington, who stated that the past's wars over economic interests, nationalism and territory have made way for international cultural wars. Huntington claimed that a clash of civilizations is taking place before our eyes - Christianity versus Islamic zealotry.
This is a terrible statement, because it oversimplifies the world into two sides - we are all Bushes, and they are all Osama Bin Ladens. Thus, in one fell swoop, all the Muslim, democratic Turks; the hundreds of millions of Muslim, democratic Indians; the Arabs of Israel; the hundreds of thousands of new democrats in Palestine; and many others around the world have been pushed into the corner with the really bad guys. Meanwhile, many evil people have been rendered legitimate merely because they are Christians or Jews. The time has come for another worldview.
The real clash is between members of democratic civilizations and those of theocratic civilizations. The first group accepts everybody as sources of administrative authority undiscriminatorily; the others view God, not mortals, as their authority, and rely on his word, apostles and zealots. This schism cuts across Christianity and Islam and is also occuring here, in Judaism. Despite the sticky and vague "schmaltz" of "the unity of Israel," there is no escaping the question of whether there is - or should be - any kind of unity with these people. In my opinion, the answer is no - they are not my brethren, they are my enemies.
There is no theological difference between certain rabbis from Hebron, the former Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and the evangelical preacher hoping for Armageddon at the site of our Megiddo. Those who say that "God's law is first" are no different from one another, whether they wear a rabbi's skullcap, Hezbollah's turban or the cloak of a North American spiritual leader. They are all engaged in a cruel battle against me. They are the enemies of freedom and democracy, and are hostile to liberty, equality and the status of women.
In a world like this, we must form new coalitions. The division between "us" and "our enemies" cannot be based merely along national or familial lines, or in beliefs and genetics. The world is divided into a coalition of some Jews, some Christians and some Muslims, versus other members of their nations and religions. Democracy versus theology.
This is not a "gentle" argument, but rather war - the rabbi against the sovereign, the "Jewish" against the "democratic," halakha and sharia against civil law, the church against the state. They cannot live under the same roof, and they are currently fighting the most ancient and most modern war - religion versus state.
And in war, like in war: The legal standing of the inciting rabbi is the same as that of the inciting sheikh, because both are equally hostile. One wants to see me dead physically, and the other wants to see me dead democratically and morally. Since I oppose the death sentence in all cases, I cannot thus condemn my domestic enemies. But the army of the democratic state, as well as its systems of governance, must purify itself from all the enemies planted by theocracy. The "army of God" must not be permitted to gain control of the institutions of state power. The state must cut the lifeline of these subversive elements, and rescind the benefits it grants them. Democracy must stop apologizing and defending itself - the time has come for initiative and attack. Weak words and nebulous formulae will not help anything here. In the choice between them and us, I favor us - for democracy, and against all its enemies, both inside and out.
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