Ezekiel’s stick (2): the meaning of national unity
The Torah portion Vayigash, for which Ezekiel’s parable of the two sticks become one is the haftorah, narrates Judah’s magnificent and moving offer of reconciliation to Joseph. As we read on in the Torah we see that the reconciliation is not complete, but it is enough for the Hebrews to survive and to thrive in Goshen until they are ready for the exodus. Even Ezekiel, relaying God’s message to a later generation of Hebrews in exile, had no illusions that the unity he promised meant unanimity. After all, when the Jews could return from Babylon, some, yea most, preferred to remain in exile. And so began another split in the Jewish nation between homeland and diaspora, between the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, between a new moon in the holy land and a double prayer outside it. But the unity of the nation upon which Ezekiel insisted was something beyond the diversity of opinion and ruling that inevitably would go on within it. Indeed, the unity of the nation is precisely what made argument between citizens possible. The unity of the nation has to do with secure frontiers and peace within its sovereign borders, as the Lord told his prophet: And they shall dwell in the land.
What have we today in Israel? Anything but peace. Palestinians from East Jerusalem drive trucks into groups of soldiers and civilians alike. Palestinians from Judea and Samaria and now from behind the Green Line throw stones and rocks at Jews in cars, knife Jews in markets and shoot them in cafes, and their leaders egg them on, eulogize and encourage them, their families, their children and grandchildren, for never can they or their Muslim co-religionists throughout the Arab and Muslim world accept a sovereign Jewish state, not even when they have signed a peace treaty with it. What else goes on? A Jewish Supreme Court orders the destruction of the Jewish hilltop town of Amona and a Jewish government that claims it is nationalist prepares to carry out its orders, even after having seen what happened when Israel evacuated all Jews from Gaza. Anything else, as the butcher asks his client?
An IDF military court found one of its soldiers, Elor Azariya, guilty of manslaughter for having shot a terrorist lying on the ground after an attack, unwilling to accept the soldier’s claim that he feared the terrorist might have detonated an explosive. The leadership of the country was quick to pounce on the soldier when he was first arrested, quick to shield the IDF from any criticism, quick to crow about the way Jewish ethics are put first even when the light unto the nations is under constant fire and attack. But the United Nations did not give a hoot about Jewish ethics when it voted to blame Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria for a stalled peace process. Nor did it say a word when the dead terrorist’s family, backed by Abbas and his henchmen, now threatened to take the convicted Israeli soldier to the International Criminal Court. And why should it when the Israeli government itself internalizes the blame it decries abroad, when it holds the life of a terrorist dearer than the trauma of a soldier sworn to defend Israel’s citizens, when it constantly talks about a peace process which any sane, clear-headed observer knows is not going to happen unless Israel decides to commit national suicide?
Of course, the government only mirrors the divisions within Israeli society and the Jewish nation. The Israeli media is so blatantly hostile to Netanyahu one can only assume they aspire to occupy positions one day now held by their tawdry colleagues at CNN and the New York Times. Netanyahu, for his part, hardly merits their contempt, since he too has paid lip service to the farce of the two-state solution and a moderate Palestinian leadership, only to find that failure to speak the truth comes to bite you in the rear in the end. Doubtless his castigators in the media feel betrayed and so cannot refrain from turning Israeli radio and television into a copycat BBC, whose loss with the collapse of the British Mandate the cultural elites of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv have equally doubtless come to regret.
Everything gets confused in the minds even of Zionists. The settlers are vilified for robbing the poor of their welfare, for inciting religious fanaticism, for standing in the way of tolerance and diversity. Like their blinded and blinkered colleagues abroad, the Zionists of Labor, the Zionists of Livni whose father was in the Irgun, the Zionists of Ha-aretz and Yediot Aharonot, the Zionists of the philosophy departments who write up the army’s code of ethics, the Zionists of the rights of every minority but not that of the Jewish majority, all these Zionists are against Zionism. They may prattle on about Jerusalem being the eternal undivided capital of the Jewish nation, but most of them think that is only pabulum for diaspora Jews who can donate money and vote for Obama and sing Jerusalem of Gold at weddings and bar-mitzvahs, while Reform rabbis and their congregants see nothing wrong in the slogan of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
That Zionism is not Zionism but treason. That Zionism is a knife plunged into the heart of every Jew. That Zionism gives comfort to our enemies and offers grist to their mill of ant-Jewish venom. That Zionism deludes the next generation of Jews and disarms them before they even set out to defend the land for which others have died. That Zionism keeps Yom Hazikaron alive and adds to its yearly list of victims and sacrificial lambs. That is the Zionism of Shimon Peres who negotiated with the outlawed PLO behind the back of his own Prime Minister and then snookered him and his country with an agreement my own mother knew was worthless. And that is the Zionism of Ariel Sharon who uprooted thriving Jewish communities from Gaza so Israel could be bombed mercilessly in recompense. That is the Zionism of fools, who do not understand that the first task of a sovereign nation is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens from attack simply for living in their own country.
On that count the nation should be as one. On that count there should be no daylight between left and right, secular and religious, settler and nomad. For without that fundamental understanding the nation cannot exist. As Lincoln foretold for the United States, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Soldiers fearful of prosecution will not readily open fire on terrorists. Ministers fearful of legal roadblocks will not enforce the law on our enemies. Politicians fearful of denunciation will not have the courage to stand up and say the simple truth. And Jews everywhere will be afraid to say that the Palestinians, grandfathers of contemporary Muslim terrorism and liars extraordinary, have no right to a state, least of all to the Jewish one. In the end, the country will be depopulated, the Jews shall scatter to the four corners of the earth, there to tremble and die with the idiots for whom the teachings of John Stuart Mill have now become contraband and offensive to university minds.
Yes, unity can sometimes be a bludgeon to stifle dissent and impose conformity. But the raucous Jewish temperament so visible in Israel ought to remind us that dissent is hardly under threat there. What is under threat is the country’s existence, its ability to function as a sovereign state and assure its citizens safety of limb and rule of law within which dissent on all other issues can proceed apace. There can be no return to Auschwitz borders, which means there can be no abandonment of Judea and Samaria. There can be no Palestinian state, for it would immediately threaten Israel’s very existence and make life hell for its citizens, strangle its airports, ruin its industry, hound it in the halls of justice around the world as it continued to wage jihad against it. There can only be one state in the land of Israel as the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Treaty concluded and the laws of war and common sense allow. There can be only one state which includes the land of Judea and Samaria, of Judah and Joseph, the two sticks made one in the vision of Ezekiel. One state. One land. One covenant. One people. Then the Lord’s dwelling place shall be over them, He their God, they His people. And the nations shall know, as Ezekiel foretold in God’s name, that He the Lord shall sanctify Israel when His sanctuary shall be in their midst for ever. Why should it be Mike Huckabee, Christian pastor and American governor, who explains to the world that Israel, all of it, including Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria all the way to the Jordan where Jesus the Jew and not Jesus the Palestinian was baptized and tempted and Elijah before him heard the still small voice of God, is not occupied but owned by the Jewish people? Why indeed?