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A World With Enemies

July 23, 2014

It has been a great ambition of modern political thought to bring about a world without enemies. But Hamas’s ruthless quest to slaughter Israeli civilians and to reap the public-relations boon of Palestinian deaths is a reminder that both the civilized world, and Israel more specifically, still has enemies. Two years ago, after Operation Pillar of Defense perplexed many American liberals, Aryeh Tepper offered a helpful rebuke in Jewish Ideas Daily:

The Slate article captures, in particularly concentrated form, perhaps the deepest dimension of contemporary liberal Jewish-American “disillusionment” with Israel: Israel is a troubling reminder that we do not live at the end of history.  The world is the same as it ever was, divided into friends and enemies.
Need this make us sad?  Of course not.  Theodor Herzl understood that “the enemy is necessary for the highest effort of the personality;” after all, it was Jew-hatred that originally spurred him into action.  As the African-American writer and critic Albert Murray has taught throughout his career, for heroes, dragons are simply opportunities to do their thing.  As God or fate would have it, Zionism still demands a heroic Jewish ethos. 
Do liberal American Jews possess the intellectual and spiritual resources to identify with this ethos?  It remains an open question whether they have the courage to reject the soul-comforting illusion that Jews can live without making enemies.  If they choose to hold on to that illusion, a sad future awaits.


More about: America, Israel, and the Middle East  • Jewish Political Thought