1.14.2009

Israeli Exceptionalism

Probably for good reason, I feel compelled to speak/write more delicately about Jews, Jewishness, and Israel than I do when speaking about... anybody else. I suspect I'm not alone. And, again, I'm not necessarily saying we shouldn't collectively speak with more consideration when it comes to Jewish people.

However, sometimes "delicate" doesn't do the trick. In my view, it's time to separate theology and politics a little in the name of Justice: Israel is a military force, and whether they are justified by the political situation or not, they have been using statistically "disproportionate" force in Gaza in recent weeks (nearly 1,000 dead Palestinians).

Theologically (or "culturally?"), Jewish people believe that they are in a singular relationship with G-d that persists regardless of worldly actions. When not in possession of political and military power, there is little danger in this belief... see Wade Davis' TED Talk on the beliefs some Sierra Nevada Indians who believe their prayers alone keep the world from falling apart.

But when this "exceptionalist" belief is reinforced by military might, I start to wonder: are G-d's people still G-d's people if they have the biggest guns? Is Israeli Exceptionalism a reality, or a phantom?

Other questions: can a person be anti-Israel without being anti-semitic? Who in the Middle-East are "the least among us?" Is Ahmadinejad's "wiping Israel off the map" the same thing as "another holocaust?" Are these leading questions?--unjust questions?--uninformed questions?

2 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Well said--you raise excellent questions and articulate a concern that I share.

There is the question of whether such attacks were justified by Hamas' terrorist operations. America by and large ignored the UN when it decided to invade Iraq. Now it seems Israel is doing the same. In terms of justification, I think one can argue that Israel has endured more substantial losses (America acted preemptively). Since rockets are still flying into Israel, I know that those Hamas rocket caches reportedly struck the other day will not be as etherial as Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction." Yet, as you suggest, the response seems "disproportionate" to the threat.

And, of course, I am plagued by historical memory--of arguments that taste like corpses. I feel the need to be delicate, as you put it, out of a guilt and a frustration and a despair and a hope.

Yet... I don't think firing missiles is what Levinas had in mind.

Casey said...

Levinas... or YHWH.