Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5762 - April 17, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Secular Zionist Crisis

In addition to the difficulties that we all suffer and grieve -- the deaths, murders and worldwide antisemitic attacks -- the remaining secular Zionists are going through an ideological crisis. Professor Amnon Rubinstein, a former minister of justice, current MK (Meretz) and university professor, recently wrote: "A hundred years after opening the Zionist gate, secular -- not religious -- Jewish nationalism is suffering a great crisis. The sheer power of the Moslem- Arab hatred for Israel and its Jews forces despair into our hearts. When Arafat said "No" to the proposals of Barak and Clinton and began his bloody intifadah, the first to be hit was the secular Jewish public that believed, for the most part, that a solution of two states for two peoples would bring peace and security. For nationalist, secular Jews, the ideal of peace is vital not just for the material promise that it holds, but because it allows them to stick with their Jewish nationalism and at the same time their universalist beliefs.

" . . . The crisis of secular Jewish nationalism is a genuine crisis. Signs of it are in evidence in the media, in academia, in every place that Israelis meet. . . . It is also natural and heart-rending."

The events of the last decade, beginning with the peace agreements at Oslo and the White House lawn through the offers of former prime minister Ehud Barak at Camp David for a Palestinian state and the outbreak of new violence less than two months later that has still not ended, have brought the social and historical assumptions that drove the secular Zionist movement into question. Their philosophy was that the foundation of a "normal" state and the minimizing of particularist Jewish elements would lead to the acceptance of the Jewish people as just another nation among many.

The depth, breadth and power of the Palestinian and Arab hatred have called these fond hopes into question or perhaps even buried them for good. The obvious rise of worldwide antisemitism even in the "enlightened" West has shown that it is not just an Arab phenomenon but, at least in some form, it has very broad echoes.

Jewish nationalism was supposed to take the place of Jewish religion and Jewish learning as an idea and an ideal. But Jewish nationalism cannot even explain why the Jews are hated, much less provide a reasonable framework for dealing with it. The persistence of antisemitism leads those whose hopes were focused on the State of Israel as a solution to the Jewish problem to nowhere.

Professor Rubinstein notes: "The faxes and phone calls that come in are not divided into [political] Right and Left, but into religious and secular: the former are not shaken by the threat of terror, but the secular express deep despair."

Peace will only come when all of us return to our roots and our common heritage. Chazal have given us the keys to understanding the source of the hatred in our unique heritage and mission, which gives us the moral strength to bear our burden as well as the basis for living with our non-Jewish neighbors in peace by honoring and respecting them. When we understand that our primary responsibility is to remain true to ourselves and our heritage as embodied in the Torah, then we have a sound and time-tested basis for living in peace and mutual respect with our non-Jewish neighbors.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.