A Recent Israeli Debate over Anti-Semitism Challenges the Original Assumptions of Zionism

Last month, Israel’s alternate prime minister Yair Lapid gave a speech on anti-Semitism, which he described as a species of the “family” that includes any persecution of people “not for what they’ve done, but for what they are, for how they were born.” His comments provoked a sharp response from his main political rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused him of minimizing anti-Semitism and denying its uniqueness—sparking much argument in the Israeli press. To Haviv Rettig Gur, this controversy reflects a broader one that goes back to the origins of Zionism itself:

[Early] Zionists acknowledged anti-Semitism’s strange power but argued it was caused by the [unusual] condition of the Jews within the societies in which they lived. Normalize the Jews and you’ll end, or at least “normalize,” anti-Semitism, transforming it from a unique, society-mobilizing hatred to mere banal prejudice. Jewish nationhood and self-reliance would end the world’s obsession with the Jew.

In hindsight, it might astonish us that Zionism could ever have believed the solution lay in changing the Jew. Anti-Semitism, then and now, was simply too useful to be abandoned just because the Jews of the eastern hemisphere had reorganized themselves into a nation-state.

It’s no great leap to notice the parallel between [neo-Nazis’] argument that Jews, through some secret political order, are the cause of America’s troubles, and the claims by some progressives amid the racial reckoning now rocking American society that Israel, in some equally hidden political order, is responsible for those racial ills.

In this sense, Gur concludes, there is something “apparently unique” about the hatred of Jews, namely:

the role Jews are forced to play in the political imaginations of non-Jews as the incarnation of, and explanation for, their deepest fears and most vexing social ills. It is not the idea that Israel is doing wrong, but the idea that Israel, in some deep order of global affairs, is what is wrong with the world.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Benjamin Netanyahu, History of Zionism, Israeli politics, Yair Lapid

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7