If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem: American Jews and the State of Israel

By Robert Silverberg | Go to book overview
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Introduction

IT TAKES a measure of boldness to present a work of history to the public today. One must be willing to be looked upon in certain quarters as somewhat square. History is not fashionable for either the partisans of revolutionary destructiveness or for the followers of the expedient and their intellectual apologists, who rationalize the "ethic of the possible."

For the former, the existent situation contains all the ingredients needed for decision-making; history is invoked to justify or to polemicize. For the latter, the test of the validity of a decision or of a position is the measure of its capacity to serve one's own interests or those of one's group effectively. Both prior commitments and theoretical justice must bow to the requirements of the moment.

This situational approach, as contrasted with the historical or evaluative approach, is the one most commonly taken--and possibly always has been. It is the approach of problem-solving. It entails a minimum of evaluation, for the actual values applied are self-serving and the general human values become useful for argumentation and rationalization rather than for judgment.

Men and nations normally turn away from historical or depth factors in their dealings with international problems. Power and strategic position are the effective determinants of decision. Long before the label "pragmatic" was given to it, this was the stance of the Machiavellis of all ages. Thucydides baldly recorded it twenty-five centuries ago in the address of the Athenians to the people of Melos: "You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." And when he has the Athenians describe the Lacedaemonians as

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If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem: American Jews and the State of Israel
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