Israel Must Not Stand as a Defendant In Front of the World but as a Plaintiff

Jan. 29 2024
About Ruth

Ruth R. Wisse is professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literatures at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at Tikvah. Her memoir Free as a Jew: a Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation, chapters of which appeared in Mosaic in somewhat different form, is out from Wicked Son Press.

Writing shortly before the International Court of Justice handed down its ruling on the accusations of genocide leveled against the Jewish state, Ruth R. Wisse observes that she has heard several people call the proceedings “Kafkaesque.” But unlike the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Israel knows who is accusing it, what it is accused of, and that it is innocent. That story, Wisse writes, is about angst; Israel’s trial was about evil:

A century after Kafka’s death, there is nothing Kafkaesque about this trial, the falsity of which is plain to all. Israel stands in its own eyes and must stand before the world not as defendant but as righteous plaintiff against “those who demonstrate total disdain for life and for the law.” Unless Israel prevails, the political calculations that have allowed this travesty can only embolden the murderers and their supporters, condemning the world to ever greater evils—and not against Israel alone. . . .

The terrorists exploited the Jews’ desire for peace as a means of entrapment and further opportunity for torment. By attacking on a Jewish holiday and a secular festival, they intended to destroy the Israelis’ joy in life. Anyone reading Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s exhilarating book about the collective strengths that constitute The Genius of Israel will recognize how Hamas turned precisely those virtues into weapons of torture to tear the Jewish people apart.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Franz Kafka, Gaza War 2023, International Law

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship