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Jewish Death Wish

Rabbi Berel Wein

One of the more interesting things about writing a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post is the mail I receive in response. It is always fascinating, though sometimes not completely enjoyable, to read what others think about my wisdom and insights, and sometimes even about me personally.

Over the more than two years that I have been writing this column, a pattern has been established in these communications. The overwhelming number of positive comments come from non-Jews who seem to understand that Oslo, Yasser Arafat and Belgium are all non-starters as far as the current situation is concerned.

On the other hand, the overwhelming number of critical, even vituperatively hostile mail comes from some of my fellow Jews. Most of these Jews are hostile to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and even to Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and are convinced only Israeli intransigence prevents the creation of the Middle East rose garden.

In their letters, I discern a faint death wish. If only Israel would, God forbid, disappear, they could then get on with their lives in the societies in which they live without having to bear the moral angst the Jewish state has somehow thrust upon them.

This death wish is not limited to certain Diaspora Jews. If not for a death wish, how else can one explain the recent media campaign against the IDF's demolition of the houses at Rafah in the Gaza Strip? The IDF was accused of lying and of willfully and unnecessarily exposing the "residents" of those houses to the cold and bitterness of homelessness.

It later turned out the homes were in fact unoccupied for weeks before and only served as a haven for terrorist snipers and for smuggling arms by ways of tunnels from Egypt. The whole episode on CNN and BBC was just another Palestinian charade of weeping old women and destitute children, especially imported for the TV cameras to conduct their wailing and cursing of Israel on camera.

Nevertheless, on one of the major interview programs on Channel 1 (the government's own channel!) a nine-minute segment was devoted to the matter. Six minutes was devoted to the presentation of the Palestinian accusations and barely half that time was allowed for the rebuttal of former OC Southern Command Yomtov Samia as to the actual facts. The skepticism of the interviewer towards the IDF and the lavish sympathy toward the Palestinians was obvious.

DO WE want the IDF to stop defending us from these murderers, even if it sometimes does not meet the so-called unworldly standards of Amnesty International? Why are the IDF spokesmen liars and the Palestinian Authority representatives people of integrity and truth? Have we not learned anything about these PA representatives over the past decade? What will it take to convince us of their true intent, another bat mitzva massacre? And if nothing will convince our peace-loving Jewish intelligentsia of their follies, then is this not their ultimate death wish?

This attitude is reflective of the response of a portion of Jewry to the anti-Semitic accusations of the then-czarist Russian government and its press. The Jews were accused officially of being lazy, parasites, exploiters, non-productive, scheming, fanatically religious, conspiratorial, and a danger to society. These base and false accusations were unfortunately internalized by a portion of Jewry - again mainly the self-styled intelligentsia. The writings of the Haskala leaders of the time reflect their fatal gullibility in actually believing what our enemies said about us. Thus, the Haskala preached the doctrine of the "new Jew" who could not be accused of those faults. They wished the "old Jew" to die away, so that the new Jew - the productive farmer, manual laborer, utopian idealist, freed from the shackles of his faith and tradition - would emerge and the scourge of anti-Semitism would disappear.

A great deal of this death wish was tragically realized, but the promised paradise never quite arrived. Fawning acceptance of the lies hurled against us will not grant us peace or acceptance. It will only perpetuate the dangers inherent in a situation caused by our lack of resolve and faith in ourselves and our future.

Rabbi Berel Wein writes a weekly column for The Jerusalem Post, where this article originally appeared.



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