April 23, 2007

What Independence?

We pass this 59th Yom Ha-Atzmaut in the wake of a frighteningly serious war and saddled with the most discredited, corrupt and inept government ever seen in the history of the State of Israel.

In the 59 short years since the creation of the State we have seen miraculous development and growth in the country. In terms of population, infrastructure, science and technology, culture and of course its world-beating economy. Israel’s economy is bigger than all of her Arab neighbors combined, and notwithstanding her huge defense burden - triple that of the USA and five times that of the UK as a percentage of GDP.

But for all this exponential growth in every conceivable area that we happily record on this 59th Independence Day, there is one vital feature of statehood that has failed to make the grade and has eroded significantly in real terms.


Israel is now more dependent on others than perhaps it has ever been before. Dependent on the USA for its defense and economic aid, dependent on the EU for its trade, dependent on the UN for the few crumbs of legitimacy it ever receives and dependent on the world’s left-leaning media for the few breaks it ever gets in balanced reporting. Moreover it is dependent on a handful of lone voices in academia to loyally argue its case and thereby stave off resolutions of boycott and divestment.

It is hard to see Israel ever becoming truly independent until it has the self-sufficiency to spit the world in the eye as the oil-rich pariah states do so well. Until that time, Israel will have to continue to kowtow to world leaders whose foreign policy is based on appeasement, self interest and fear of terrorism being brought onto their streets. Israel will continue to subordinate its security decisions to the political whims of successive American secretaries of state on their whirlwind visits to the region, tearing down vital security checkpoints to prop-up so-called moderates in the enemy camp for another month or until the next congressional election.

Israel has therefore been celebrating an illusion for 59 years.

But whilst true independence continues to elude the State, the Jewish people have never really lost it.

Our people achieved their independence at Mt. Sinai.

That was the time and place where they were chosen by the Almighty in preference to all the other nations on the planet.

Chosen to be different, to hold to a higher set of morals and standards.

Chosen to be the people of the book – the nation of Torah.

And this independence – ‘la différence’ - is what has singled out the Jews in every generation for envy and hatred by virtually every country and creed you could care to name.

Traditionally the greatest hate had been reserved for the more religious who wore strange hats and clothing – those who so blatantly failed to assimilate in the ways and appearance of their host countries. A people apart. They who clung jealously to their traditions of Sabbath observance and observance of torah and mitzvot.

Those Jews who have assimilated, have lost their identity as Jews and – in the process – have lost that spiritual independence among nations that was gifted at Sinai. If they look, act, eat and behave like gentiles – what will ever make them special other than the purely material standards of wealth and power? What is there left to fight for … or to hand over to the next generation?

Such is the unfortunate predicament of the State of Israel. Its secular leaders crave assimilation amongst the nations of the world. For people like Shimon Peres and Avigdor Lieberman – two coalition members at extreme opposites of the political divide – their most prized ambition is for Israel to become a member of the European Union.

In Jewish terms this would be a disaster!

Peres and Lieberman are savvy enough to know that – for all the extra trade and development grants that would spring from EU membership – there is an awful sting in the tail. The free movement of labor. That, in effect, Israel would no longer be in control of her borders and would be unable to decide who comes to live and work in the country.

On an individual scale, Jews who assimilated have given up the Torah and their special lineage.

Similarly on the national scale, if Israel assimilates into the EU, it will forfeit its position as a Jewish state.

Like the ordinary Jew clinging to his traditions, Israel’s independence can only be assured if it strives to maintain its position as a Jewish State – not just as a ‘State for the Jews’. This means stubbornly clinging to the land which is ours and our articles of faith.

This is why I personally don’t make much ado of Yom Ha-Atzmaut.

For me, Yom Yerushalayim has by far the greater significance.

And there lies the essential difference in hashkafah:

Those that cleave to Jerusalem.

And those that yearn for Brussels.

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