Friday, April 14, 2006

David Ben-Gurion

They don't make leaders in that mold anymore. I came across this amazing quote of his just now:

'I don't understand your optimism. Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance. So it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out... I'll be seventy years old soon... if you asked me whether I shall die and be buried in a Jewish State I would tell you Yes; in ten years, fifteen years, I believe there will still be a Jewish State. But ask me whether my son Amos, who will be fifty at the end of this year, has a chance of dying and being buried in a Jewish State, and I would answer: fifty-fifty'. In conversation with Nahum Goldmann, in 1956; as quoted in The Jewish Paradox: A personal memoir (1978) by Nahum Goldmann

Quite a lot to unpack from that! There's genuine leadership for you. Accept your responsibilities, be unabashedly partisan in defense of your interests. That's your responsibility as a leader!

But the quote also demonstrates that Ben-Gurion was not a romanticist and he recognized that there was adequate justification for the existence of a Jewish homeland without denying the legitimacy of the grievances of those who were displaced to give it room to be birthed.

At some point in Israel's future, that moral balance must be redressed - but not now, while survival is at stake. I signed the Euston Manifesto below, but I qualify the two-state solution praised therein with the caveat that 1. the two-state solution is a temporary solution, and 2. if 50 years after a two-state solution is achieved, there is not a federalist solution, then the region will again be home to a cycle of violence for another thousand years. And in fact a successful andvibrant - and above all, free - Israel is a crucial component of a peaceful Middle East for the decades and centuries ahead. So work towards two states for now - but remember that all walls must eventually fall.

Jewishness, Democracy, and Greater Israel - pick any two.

1 comment:

  1. sheesh, it's like clockwork. Post about Israel and attract a pile of totally unrelated rants.