Tuesday, January 13, 2015

AbbaEban. Our place in the human scheme. Congress Bi-Weekly. vol. 40. no. 6. 30 Mar 1973.

I have pondered on the specific theme that has been chosen for your Dialogue. It is the problem of the relationship between the Jewish people and Israel to the new revolutionary movements. The fact is that the question is pervaded by an atmosphere of disquiet. We feel that the new revolutionaries do not like us, and we are traditionally and historically most anxious to please.
Let my first reflexion be about the obsession of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel with the question of their image. It is a specific product of Jewish history. We are constantly looking at ourselves in every mirror. The question “what does the world think of us?” breaks in upon our consciousness morning, noon and night.
The fact is that whatever other people thought of us could determine not merely our sense of self-esteem but our very prospect of survival. What other people thought of Jews would determine whether they would remain alive with any kind of dignity or whether they would be consigned to the most odious of violent brutalities. Hence, this rather restless, neurotic insistence on being admired does deserve the respect of historic justification. Nevertheless, it has disconcerting effects. Here Israel is the inheritor of the predicaments of Diaspora Jewry.
Other sovereign nations do not continually ask themselves what others think of them. The main objective and theme of Foreign Policy is not to be universally loved. The questions asked by a State in its international and external relations are these: Do our international relations suffice to ensure us the means of our physical security? Do our international relations suffice to ensure us that measure of economic sustenance and interchange without which a viable society cannot be maintained? Do our international relations suffice to preserve and develop us as a trading unit able to nourish its existence by a balanced and expanding commerce?
But the State of Israel must ask, additionally: Are our international relations sufficient to save us from the depressive effects of isolation? Because precisely in the light of Jewish traumatic experience, if Israel were really a kind of leper colony, boycotted, shunned, banished, denied the equality of status in the international enterprise, then the resulting mental and psychological effects would be severe.
When I ask these questions about policy, I reach an affirmative answer: Yes, our foreign relations are adequate to ensure our security. Do not the past five years prove it? Yes, our external relations are sufficient to ensure that Israel, during its period of inevitable economic imbalance, can receive from outside, in various forms, the additional nourishment that its society and Economy need. Yes, Israel is integrated into the rhythm of international commerce, reflected in the most impressive of Statistics, its commercial relations with 103 countries. Its Gross National Product has increased in the past five years from IL 11 billion to IL 23 billion; its export earnings have gone up in that period from $700 million to $1,300 million; the movement of pilgrimage and tourism has gone up since 1967 from 270,000 to 690,000; its average per capita income is now overtaking that of many western European countries, which is, however, offset by the monumental dimension of our per capita debt.
The fact is that Israel as an economic and commercial unit has developed a vitality out of all proportion to its size. Those who look at the map and speak of 100 million being a bigger market than 3 million are now talking statistical nonsense. This month Israel’s Gross National Product – this country of three million – overtook that of Egypt with its 40 million people. Israel’s imports from the European community countries are greater than what the European countries export to all the Arab countries put together. And this is not the only aspect of Israel life in which the physical dimension is irrelevant to a true understanding of its inherent nature. [I don’t give a fuck.]
You will notice that I have not included within the fundamental aims of a Foreign Policy that we should be universally loved. First of all, nobody has achieved this. Our adversaries have achieved it, perhaps, less than anybody. Normally, a certain amount of sympathy goes out to the victims of History but not to those who surmount the vicissitudes of History in triumph. The victor is usually not popular. The extraordinary achievement of the Arabs in 1967 is that they managed at the same time to be the underdog and unpopular in the eyes of many.
It is the total weight of values and interests which, in the last resort, determines a nation’s place in the world. To those who have come from the United States, may I offer this reflexion from the news of the week. It has so often been said, for example, that the United States had no possibility, so long as it maintained its present support of Israel, to achieve its two major objectives in the Middle East, namely, the withdrawal of soviet power leading to a favourable transformation of the American strategic balance, and the expansion of recuperation of american interests in the Middle East.
Well, here we find [unclear] prophecy is completely [unclear] has nothing to do with [unclear]. It has everything to do with [unclear] interests. The United States [unclear] through the tenacity that [unclear]oped – if I might say so [unclear] Israeli wall of tenacity [unclear] without any change of [unclear] to Israel, celebrated the [unclear]viet strategic power from [unclear] without any way affecting [unclear] with Israel it finds itself [unclear] a long line of arab States [unclear] Yemen and Algeria and [unclear]ing the resumption of [unclear] it. In other words, problem [unclear]larity and of sympathy [unclear] the long run, decisive.
With Israel there must [unclear] due sense of balance. The [unclear] History – and here I speak [unclear] History in its long and [unclear] continuity – is the word [unclear] jewish History is the story [unclear] people’s unprecedented resolution [unclear] in conditions completely [unclear] to its persistence. It is the [unclear] in which this miracle of [unclear] has evolved without a [unclear]ritorial base, without the [unclear] social cohesion that [unclear] the powers of central [unclear] other words, this instinct [unclear] insistence must have been [unclear]ably more potent than [unclear] instinct in History, for [unclear] that other nations, subjec[unclear] same destiny of exile [unclear] territory and absence of [unclear] compact territorial instinct [unclear] never survived, in the [unclear] the term “national survival.” [unclear]
Let me then put this [unclear] what the Left and the [unclear] movements think of us [unclear] perspective. It would be [unclear] thought better of us. We [unclear] in the effort to improve [unclear] what is called our “im [unclear] that Thucydides would [unclear]nied Israel the appraisal [unclear]mulated about ancient [unclear] people was born to have [unclear]self and to give none to [unclear].
One of the things [unclear] give no rest to others is [unclear] to affirm the legitimacy [unclear]tice of our historic efforts [unclear] our survival.
[unclear] next point complements, inadvertently, something that Hertzberg has already said. There are illusions about the past relationship between the jewish people and the revolutionary left. For a [unclear] and a half, the liberal left [unclear] jewish political and social [unclear]. But this attitude was always [unclear]. One of the payments that revolutionary left asked of the [unclear] in return for individual rights [unclear] appearance. What the revolutionary left said to us was: “We will [unclear] your individual freedom, at the expense of your collec[unclear]ideation.
Assumption was that in a free [unclear] society there would be no [unclear] the maintenance of jewish [unclear]rism. Throughout the 19th century the revolutionary left literally [unclear] full of invidious remarks about [unclear] insistence of self-affirma[unclear] survival.
[unclear] as assumed that the destiny [unclear] duty of Judaism was to dis[unclear] in the universal utopia. [unclear] Zionism came on the scene [unclear] product not only of specific [unclear] in Judaism but also of [unclear] Nationalism, the phrase [unclear] “Zionism” no longer had about [unclear] glow that it possessed in [unclear] of Garibaldi and Mazzini. [unclear] was now a great amount of [unclear]cerning reactionary national[unclear] reactionary Nationalism is the [unclear]ism of others.
[unclear] should note, however, that the [unclear] left, the Social Democratic [unclear]conciled its support of jewish [unclear]rights with an imaginative [unclear] to the Zionist Movement [unclear] recognised as a movement [unclear]nal liberation and self-expression.
[unclear] we have witnessed the rise of the new left which identifies Israel [unclear]tablishment, with acquisition, smug satisfaction, with, in fact, [unclear] basic enemies against which [unclear] is waged. Let there be no [unclear] the New Left is the author [unclear] progenitor of the new anti-Semitism. One of the chief tasks of [unclear] dialogue with the gentile world [unclear]ve that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is [unclear] distinction at all.
Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism. The old, classic anti-Semitism declared that equal rights belonged to all individuals within a society, except the jews. The new anti-Semitism says that the right to establish and maintain an independent, national, sovereign State is the prerogative of all nations, so long as they happen to be jewish. And when this right is exercised not by the Maldive Islands, not by the State of Gabon, not by Barbados, not by 23 american Republics and not by 50 african States, but by the oldest and most authentic of all nationhoods, then this is said to be Exclusivism, Particularism, and a flight of the jewish people from its universal mission.
Therefore, neo-anti-Semitism is a legitimate label to put upon the denial by the new left and others of Israel’s right to its national identity. The common element between the two anti-Semitism is discrimination.
A factor in the hostility of the revolutionary left, perhaps becoming increasingly marginal in the general socialist world, is the fact of our victory. The tendency is to associate palestinian Terrorism with the concept of liberation. It is of course an antiliberation movement. It is a conscious attempt to destroy an enterprise of national liberation that has already been achieved. The Ideology is sustained by false analysis and analogies. Of course it is true that the Mau Mau liberated Kenya from the british, and that the FLN liberated Algeria from France, but they didn’t liberate France from France, and they didn’t expel Britain from Britain. The Fatah and kindred movements seek to free Israel from Israel. They do not seek to expel a foreign or external colonial presence. Their efforts are dedicated to “politicide” that is, the assassination of a State.
The problem of our victory is also of psychological importance. The generous, liberal gentile mind is well conditioned to the spectacle of jewish fragility, vulnerability and defeat. It has not grown accustomed, to the phenomenon of jewish security and self-expression. In a sense we have done many people a vast injury by ceasing to be an object of their benevolent indulgence. We have withdrawn ourselves from the scope of their compassion. There is therefore a certain Logic in the slogan which was so current shortly after the 1967 War: David unfair to Goliath.
Let us not attempt the impossible. I suggest to you that to win the sympathy of the new left is something that is in its totality not feasible. I don’t say that the phenomenon of alienation cannot be restricted, but the alienation is inherent in the ideological world of those movements which are in conflict and collision with our own world of jewish values.
If we are true to our set of values, we cannot win the approval of any Ideology that is based on Negativism [whatever that means,] on Nihilism, on anarchical revolt, on contempt for the human legacy. If these people are wrong about everything else, why should they be right about Israel?
I do not believe that any argument, however sophisticated, can probably change the convictions of Noam Chomsky or of I.F. Stone whose basic complex is one of guilt about jewish survival. They feel themselves associated with our unpardonable audacity at not having been destroyed or eclipsed or, more accurately, at not having been merged into some homogenised universalist utopia.
The fact is that Israel can only be approved within the framework of a positivist Philo, and not of a nihilist Philo. Israel, whether it is fashionable to say this or not, is still an essentially positivist venture. [Whatever that means.] In Israel growth is still the central theme. It is still more important to say what you build than what you destroy, to say what you are for than to declare what you are against. Affirmation is more important than protest. If the new left asks of us to separate ourselves from traditional values, the answer can only be that an Israel that is cut off from its continuous legacy cannot possibly be Israel in any essential meaning of the term. An attitude of iconoclastic revolt against Traditionalism is not consistent with the Israeli personality. Innovation, yes. The adaptation of the old legacy to the new needs, certainly. But a sundering of one’s self from roots in past History would be more destructive of this nation than of any other.
Therefore, the only answer to ourselves and to others is to find out what [] Israel’s essential dimensions [are]. What are those dimensions that enlarge it beyond the restrictive effects of its Geography and its small physical size? I suggest to you that there are four or five such dimensions. There is, first of all, the jewish dimension. To the extent that Israel is jewish, it is not just a small middle eastern country. By developing its jewish dimension it saves itself from the perils of Provincialism and regional limitation. It is no longer a small country but a people that strides across unlimited vistas of time and space.
All the literature about Israel attempts to relate Israel to various terms of reference: Are we going to be orientalised? Are we going to be European? Are we going to be western? All the learned gentlemen who discuss Israel in such terms overlook the other possibility, namely, that we are going to just be Israel, that is to say, we are going to stand firm in the belief that we have meaning only insofar as we stand high and aim straight within our own distinctive frame of values. Israel is affected, of course, by universal currents but remains persistent in its particularity.
It is this tension between Universalism and national specificity which animates the whole of jewish History. To be jewish means having the special relationship to the sources of israeli identity, to prophetic Judaism, to liberal Nationalism, to Democracy, and to contemporary Humanism. Thus, to be a jewish State means that there cannot be full separation between State and Religion. Our unique faith is one of the elements at the source of Israel’s particular identity.
The relationship cannot be modernised, it can be humanised, it will have to be taken out of its present harsh and rigid orthodoxies. But what is called the status quo is not a parliamentary conspiracy. It is a contract between the secular majority and the religious minority with both aiming at preserving the unity of the jewish people, because without such a contract it is not certain that this unity could be preserved.
The contract has got to be modified and humanised as have all contracts, but the matter cannot be resolved by the secular majority sweeping aside the special place of faith in jewish national identity.
To be jewish also means to be Hebrew, and here I want to express a concern for Israel’s cultural future. There is a danger of inundation. There is a growing and regrettable admiration of certain meretricious externalities of western civilisation. We must resist being smothered by what is in general a beneficient contact with Europe and American and thus lose that which is specific in our own culture. In a sense, all nations are like other nations, joined together in the same destiny, but that which each nation holds particular to itself might be its real contribution to the universal storehouse of culture. [This motherfucker’s obviouslyhigh. Nothing new.]
The other danger derives from our regional position. It is the danger that we shall be “arabised.” I am not speaking about the immigrants from arab lands, I refer to the effects of the present political and territorial situation. We must reach a firm decision on how jewish we want the jewish State to be. We are now in 1972. Let us take the year 1990, in which I have no doubt we will be having a Dialogue here on this very subject. 1990 is not a very remote date. I shall be at the age at which israelis usually begin to qualify for the highest office.
In 1990, if we take the Israel before 1967, with Jerusalem, that area will have 4 million jews and 900,000 arabs. But if we look at the situation in 1990 within the present cease-fire lines then, according to the statistical evidence that our Cabinet has received and which has in any case been published, there will be in this country either 6.7 or 7.5 million persons – the latter figure based upon the idea that there will be an immigration of at least 50,000 for every year until then. Of that 6.7 million or 7.5 million, there will be 40-43% arabs.
The destiny of such a society will not be the subject of jewish decisions, because a 40% arab minority will in effect constitute a majority, because our 60% jewish [unclear] a pluralistic population. [unclear] decisions by controversy, [unclear]sensus. Therefore, on [unclear] which jews are divided, [unclear] will decide.
Our political life will [unclear]nated by a constant [unclear] arab vote. I take it that [unclear]cide on a unitary State that [unclear] have to be free and [unclear]. Whatever you say of that [unclear] will not be jewish in the [unclear] the main decisions about [unclear] its Economy, its social [unclear] not rest with the jewish [unclear].
To say that this doesn’t [unclear] to speak contemptuously [unclear]raphy – I heard one of my [unclear] solve the problem by saying “Geography, Shemography” – is [unclear] of utmost frivolity and [unclear]ness. There is no modern [unclear] a State existing in a [unclear] which 40% of its citizens [unclear] deepest loyalties and [unclear] to its flag and the culture [unclear] memories and the association [unclear] neighbours. Therefore, a [unclear] upon whether we find a [unclear] I think we must find, of [unclear] a majority of the arabs in [unclear] West Bank and Gaza a separate destiny.
I believe that a separate destiny is not incompatible with the high measure of social, economic integration and the main[unclear] processes of mutual [unclear] sibility. I believe it is [unclear] reconcile separate soverei[unclear] the creation of larger [unclear]nomic energy and organis[unclear] above all, keep the front[unclear] I believe that this decision [unclear] total but maximal satisfaction and determination. Self-Determinism is not an absolute right: the [unclear] arab Nationalism in its [unclear] is that it demands 100% [unclear] determination, saying that [unclear] wherever they are must [unclear] their sovereign flags.
We must retain the [unclear] developing our pioneering [unclear] namely, the special israeli [unclear] not acknowledging the [unclear] of nature. There is also [unclear] dimension, the search for [unclear] of individual liberty and [unclear]. And if this element in our [unclear] tapestry were to be lost, [unclear] our appeal to all progressive elements would be diminished. And [unclear] there is the special scientific [unclear] intellectual vocation which is [unclear] for a nation that seeks to [unclear] and matter and quantity by [unclear] and quality.
[unclear] dialogue with the outside [unclear] must be based on an element [unclear] understanding. We need not [unclear] any exaggerated view of our [unclear] the human scheme, and yet [unclear] difficult not to be impressed by the disproportionate impact of this small jewish people upon the intellectual and spiritual History of mankind. [A great step for me.]
The human composition of our country is not less important than its geographical configuration, for when all is said and done, we will have to make our own revolution. We are a people that has had a continuous experience of contact with all the intellectual currents of History, from ancient prophecy to modern Science, from the dim roots of man’s past to the shining possibility of his future. The fact is that Israel is a revolutionary movement in its own way because it is an effort to transform human and physical realities.
I can only hope that a dialogue of this kind – and a dialogue is not a discussion between two, but a discussion between many – will not be externally directed to a disproportionate extent. The problem is really not what the new left thinks of us, but whether we are ourselves true to our most essential image. To be our not to be is not the question. Everybody wants to be. How to be and how not to be, that is the essential question.

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