From Sinai to the two-state solution: the long reach of Jewish trauma
People forget that the two-state solution was a Jewish idea. Precisely for that reason it has never worked and never will work. If the Palestinians had come up with it they would have seen to it that they were already living in peace with the Israelis, side by side, in the new Middle East Shimon Peres used to wax rhapsodically about when selling the idea to whoever would listen. Unfortunately, the people who were doing the listening were people who already lived in states at peace with their neighbors, like Europe and America, and Israelis who thought they could enjoy that too. Themselves exiles and refugees from the Enlightenment, the Israelis who had built up the Yishuv under the British Mandate and then ran the government for decades had hailed physically and culturally from the European heartland. And though they were glad to have escaped the Nazi nightmare, they never took a good hard look at the longer history of European animus to the Jews that has now resurfaced in support for the Palestinian cause.
Herzl was one of those European Jews. His blueprint for a Jewish homeland was thoroughly European: modern, scientific, cosmopolitan, its citizens happy to be living and working together for the betterment of all, lauded by the world and conversing in German! The Palestinian Arabs, as they were called then, were and would not be a problem. How wrong he was on most counts, and how wrong were most of his successors, Jabotinsky being the most notable exception. After the Six-Day War his successors renewed Herzl’s misconceptions, the left especially bemoaning the tragedy of one land for two peoples and coming up with the solution to that tragedy of two states for two peoples. Indeed, it was the Israeli left that opened the doors of the U.S. State Department to the PLO and an Israeli Labor Government that signed the Oslo Accords, bringing the same PLO to the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria. Their reward was a quarter century of unremitting murder, lies and diplomatic jihad against Israel from this perfidious PLO, who have yet to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Did the Israeli left and their sympathizers learn the lesson? Did the Jews worldwide? The answer is no. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party have gotten suckered into the crazy discourse of the two-state solution, which they now claim to modify rather than announce clearly and forthrightly to the world that it was a mistake and that Israel is now abandoning the plan which Israel, and not the Palestinians, first floated.
One has to wonder where this persistent sympathy for the two-state solution comes from. One can understand its appeal to the mindless denizens of welfare state democracies who enjoy the benefits of a tolerant and pluralist society which they project onto the global stage, even when they are under siege from migrant Muslim populations that not only refuse to embrace them but assault, rape and slaughter them. One has more difficulty understanding how Jews can persist in this delusion, given that the list of victims added to Israel’s annual memorial gatherings for the fallen only grows each year.
One could ascribe it to their European heritage and its penchant to understand the other which made its appearance in the nineteenth century along with the muck that so many decry. But it goes beyond that, since Jews themselves were on the receiving end of much of the muck. One has to go back long before, back to when the Jewish impulse was first set in motion so very long ago, back to Sinai itself where the trauma of the Jewish covenant set in, long before all the subsequent ambiguities and backsliding of Jewish history expressed themselves.
And what was there at Sinai if not thunder and lightning and the ram’s horn through which boomed the awesome voice of God Himself instilling fear into the children of Israel, that they may believe in Him and in His servant Moses and follow the laws He so graciously laid down for them? And the smoke that rose like the furnace of smoke Abraham from afar had seen rise up from the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah only upped the ante of fear and trembling that took hold of the newly liberated Israelites, the very ones who had turned on Moses at least five times since they recently left Egypt. But all that tremendous epiphany would still not be enough to explain the trauma that seized Israel forever hence, generation after generation quaking in their boots as they relived the great moment of Sinai.
No, something more was at work, something for which the children of Israel then and subsequently were right to experience as shame and betrayal. For when they heard the great voice of God boom out from the mountain the Israelites took fright and begged Moses to speak to God on their behalf and relay the message. Moses, faithful servant and leader that he was, did as requested and relayed the laws of the Lord to the children of Israel. But when he went up the mountain to get the tablets of stone on which were engraved the Ten Commandments from which flowed all the others, the children of Israel forgot him and betrayed both him and the Lord Whose servant he was. They made a molten golden calf and proclaimed it the god who had taken them out of Egypt, thereby breaking the first and second commandments to which they had but recently given their assent and doing it in the cruelest manner possible.
Already they had accused Moses of taking them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, turning on him by turning Egypt into a land of plenty in which they had feasted rather than acknowledging it for the house of bondage and misery it had been. Now they betrayed him even further as they sent him up the mountain only to take advantage of his absence to turn to idol worship, thereby shaming him and themselves forever. The consequences were horrific. God alerted Moses to the trouble back at the camp. Moses descended the mountain and threw a fit, smashed the tablets and called the Levites to his side who proceeded to slaughter three thousand of the malfesasants.
The people regretted their action, but their apologies had no lasting effect. Time and again the people abandoned Moses and their God. They balked at going forth to conquer the land. Moses’s cousin Korach and his followers mutinied against Moses’s and Aaron’s leadership. They continued to complain to Moses about the lack of food and water, trying his patience and that of the Lord countless times in their sojourning in the desert. And when they got to the Promised Land they heeded not the one injunction Moses had repeated to them at nauseam before he died on the eastern bank of the Jordan. When you come into the land, he warned them, throw out the idol-worshippers and tear down their places of worship, for if you allow them to stay they shall corrupt you and you shall lose the land. We have only to read the books of Judges and Kings to realize the Israelites did no such thing. Instead they repeated the errors of their forefathers in the Promised Land and ultimately lost it, not once but twice.
The Jews, in short, have always been double-dealing their covenant with God. The summons of the Lord to become a holy people, attractive though it was, proved too onerous a task, and so the Israelites of old, like those of today, welshed on the task. The sin of the forefathers got repeated in subsequent generations, the memory of the first trauma passed down through genes and stories, the guilt repressed for this documented act working its way down the millennia far more effectively than the guilt Freud imputed to the Hebrews for killing their first leader, upon which he speculated in Moses and Monotheism with the talent he had for putting things persuasively.
How did this guilt work out, you may ask? By turning the exodus story on its head. The Jews gathered every year to memorialize the Passover could emphasize either the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, the great deliverance drenched in death and the injunction to follow and enrich the gift of Sinai which was its purpose; or they could stress the theme of the oppressed and the downtrodden, the need to care for the stranger because they too were once strangers in a strange land, raising that obligation to extend even to those who would not accept the ways of a law-based society. Ancient Israel allowed the idol-worshippers to remain along with their death culture. They wound up hollowing out the historical innovation that ancient Israel represented, corrupting it into a poor facsimile of the nations surrounding it. Elijah had to confront Jezebel and her dogs and the priests of Baal as Moses had once had to deal with his gang of malcontents. And now modern Israel has to contend with the Palestinians in similar fashion, gangsters who have brought nothing but terror and ideology into the Jewish state, which they hide behind a discourse of victimization that modern democracy willingly indulges them in.
It is this very concern for the plight of the stranger which led Israelis and Jews world-wide to the suicidal mistake of the Oslo Accords. But concern for the stranger and the oppressed does not extend to murderers, to people who not only refuse to acknowledge your existence but instead seek to liquidate you and it. Only the trauma of guilt going back to Sinai can explain why Jews continue to indulge their sworn enemies in this way. It is as if they are trying to atone for the guilt and sin of their forefathers, who cruelly abandoned God so quickly after He had saved them, transgressing the first commandment from which flowed everything He had tried to set in motion yet again. And as they continue to misread their own history, the Jews are condemned to repeat it.
In the twisted Passover story self-styled progressive Jews like to tell, much is made of the fact that the Torah says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in his ongoing negotiation with Moses. They will even quote the phrases where God reassures Moses – when Moses is reluctant to go to Pharaoh with his demand to let his people go – by telling him things only look bad. Actually, God tells him, His hand is at work here as well, for He is making Pharaoh stubborn so as to provide further occasions to display His power and glory: the ten plagues, each worse than the one before, leading up to the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened long before God came on the scene. There arose in Egypt, the Torah says, a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. But the readers of the Hebrew Bible know that is impossible. As vizier of Egypt, Joseph manipulated a famine to turn all of Egypt into indentured laborers for Pharaoh, thereby guaranteeing the perpetual solvency of the royal treasury. What Pharaoh could ever forget that service?
The stubborn confrontation to the death that went on between Moses and Pharaoh was an historic one, a struggle between two incompatible societies. As the Lord Himself said, it is a terrible thing I am doing, bringing one nation out from amidst another to create a new way of life, launching humanity on a new trajectory. Ancient Israel, small though it was, represented this new difference in the evolution of human society. Alone among the societies of the ancient world, it was oriented to life, to the rule of law and to the outlaw of child sacrifice as its cardinal precept. Such conflicts are conflicts to the death. We have known them ourselves in the last century and we are witnessing one again in the present one. The Muslim leaders of the Arab world and beyond, and especially of Palestinian society, never tire of repeating how you Jews love life, while we Muslims love death. The upshot is the major Palestinian contribution to modern life: the child suicide bomber. The contrast explains in a nutshell why no Palestinian state should be allowed to emerge between Jerusalem and the Jordan river. Israeli sovereignty must be extended over all of Judea and Samaria and the Palestinians who remain must be expelled, mercifully but firmly.
No country can be expected to include in its midst a population wholly antithetical to its way of life and determined to liquidate it. The Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are so thoroughly imbued with and indoctrinated in a way of life incompatible with the Jewish values of democracy, tolerance and care that to try and integrate them into Israeli society would be tantamount to committing national suicide. Already we see that respecting Muslim holy places has not led to any reciprocal respect by Muslims towards Jews. On the contrary, after Israel allowed the Muslim religious trust, the Waqf, to maintain control of the Temple Mount because the Al-Aksa mosque sits atop it, Muslim religious authorities have forbidden Jews to visit it and to pray there, even silently. Jews are not even allowed to move their lips should they succeed in visiting the Temple Mount, and this with the approval of the Israeli government whose police enforce this ban. What further proof is necessary of what Moses warned the ancient Israelites against: throw out the idol-worshippers lest you wind up following their ways and lose yours in the process? Clearly it is time to tear down the Al-Aksa mosque as the ancient Israelites were enjoined to uproot the groves of the idol-worshippers and reinstall freedom of worship in the democratic state of Israel.
But most of all it is time to put an end to the ghastly and lethal charade that is the two-state solution. It is time to assert Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and Gaza. If the Muslims do not want to leave they can always convert to Judaism, their first step on a long and laborious road to embracing the culture of democracy. But for that to happen, Jews must face their millennial-old trauma that started back at Sinai and resolve to put an end to it. They are not obliged to atone for the sins of their forefathers by repeating them. They are however obliged to assume the mantle of sovereignty that goes with being a nation and to carry through on the covenant without which a rule-of-law-based modern society would not have come into existence. They might start by reading the Hebrew Bible. It is, after all, the Jews’ literary DNA.