Spokesman For “The Jewish People” Calls For An End To Jewish Morality

In the glutted landscape of Jewish communal life, no institution blusters with greater pomposity than the Organization That Claims To Speak On Behalf Of The Jews (OTCSBJ). What’s most frustrating about the OTCSBJ is that it often speaks not on … Read More

By / May 19, 2008

In the glutted landscape of Jewish communal life, no institution blusters with greater pomposity than the Organization That Claims To Speak On Behalf Of The Jews (OTCSBJ). What’s most frustrating about the OTCSBJ is that it often speaks not on behalf of “the Jewish People” but of the tiny percentage of Jews who sign up for its email lists. Most notorious in this category is the Conference of Presidents (“American Jewry’s recognized address for consensus policy”), which clamored vociferously for an invasion of Iraq (see its "Daily Alerts" of cherry-picked panic from 2002 and 2003) despite the fact that a majority of American Jews opposed the invasion. A relatively new OTCSBJ has entered the scene: The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. Chaired by Dennis Ross, the JPPPI seeks to formulate an overarching “Jewish policy” with an eye towards strengthening the status of Israel as the “center of Jewish life.” As a sign of how it views the vitality of Diaspora Jewish life, the JPPPI has on its team the famed Israeli demographer Sergio DellaPergola, who clings to the widely-discredited National Jewish Population Survey of 2001, with its bleak outlook for Jewish life in America. After all, it's easier to promote Israel as the "center of Jewish life" if Jewish life everywhere else is falling apart. Now the Founding President of the JPPPI, Yehezkel Dror, has written a stunning op-ed in The Forward about where he feels “the Jewish People” should head. Essentially, he argues, the "requirements of existence" must trump everything else. In light of Israel's (or "the Jewish People's") interests, Dror characterizes moral considerations as "political correctness and other thinking-repressing fashions." He singles out Jewish activism on China and on Turkey's genocide of Armenians, arguing that Jews must be supportive of China and Turkey, "or at least remain neutral," in light of Israel's strategic interests. Bewilderingly, he then takes the "end to morality" argument to the nuclear level:

Similarly, Jewish leaders should support harsh measures against terrorists who potentially endanger Jews, even at the cost of human rights and humanitarian law. And if the threat is sufficiently grave, the use of weapons of mass destruction by Israel would be justified if likely to be necessary for assuring the state’s survival, the bitter price of large number of killed innocent civilians notwithstanding.

Thankfully, Dror concedes that it's hard to define what constitutes "survival" ("there is much room for debate," he assures us. Gosh, thanks, Yehezkel!). But, he insists:

When important for existence, violating the rights of others should be accepted, with regret but with determination. Support or condemnation of various countries and their policies should be decided upon primarily in light of probable consequences for the existence of the Jewish people.

In short, the imperatives of existence should be given priority over other concerns — however important they may be — including liberal and humanitarian values, support for human rights and democratization.

If nothing else, Dror's outlook — shared, presumably, by the JPPPI — represents a remarkable devolution. Yesterday's popular Jewish cant about Israel ran along the lines of "Israel, and everything it does, is by definition moral." How far have we progressed if we no longer even pretend it's moral, instead insisting that morality itself must be relinquished as a vestige of an earlier age? What's more, we must weigh Israel's interests not only in discussions of the Middle East, but in ethical issues that come up anywhere in the world. Whatever the situation, says Dror, we risk imperiling the Jewish People's existence by aligning ourselves purely with morality.

One wonders how the term "survival" will be defined. With the proper argument, it can include not only nuking Iran, but rounding up all non-Jewish inhabitants of the West Bank (and hell, pre-Green Line Israel too) and shipping them off to the other side of the Jordan River. Slobodan Milosevic was interested in his people's survival too. Was he the intellectual and moral forefather of the JPPPI?

It seems almost providential that just last week, Albert Einstein rose from the grave to give us a warning about Jews and power. “As far as my experience goes," he wrote about Jews, "they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power.” Dror offers evidence that sixty years into what some people call "the Jewish return to sovereignty," it might be time for some chemotherapy.

Just as importantly, with this op-ed, the JPPPI has shown that it has scant knowledge of "the Jewish People," most of whom do not base decisions, moral or otherwise, on the exclusive basis of what David Ben Gurion would wish for. But that won't stop the JPPPI from insisting it speaks on our behalf. In his description of the mission of the organization, Dror has written that "most Israeli policy-makers and also intellectuals and opinion-shapers, suffer from a lack of understanding, as well as ignorance about and misperception of, Diaspora realities, especially concerning the mindset and feelings of the majority of the younger generation." Let's see, how can we bridge this gap in understanding, especially with the "younger generation"? Hey, how about we propose an abandonment of morality whenever Israel is in the picture? That should work beautifully!

At least the JPPPI is consistent with other Organizations That Claim To Speak On Behalf Of The Jews. It's currently enjoying Stage Two of Jewish organizational process:

Stage One: Establish an organization that claims to represent "the Jewish People."

Stage Two: Espouse ideology that the vast majority of Jews would consider to be out-of-touch or morally execrable.

Stage Three: Lament, in limitless policy papers, the fact that so few Jews choose to "affiliate" with the organized community.

Stage Four: Go to Stage One.

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