'Auschwitz' Borders; for Israel, Peace Remains a Fiction

Article excerpt


The Annapolis Peace Conference last month was both the end and beginning of a very bad dream. Its not that this assembly codified any fixed and precise outcome for Israel, but that it reinforced America's commitment to a delusional cartography. Whatever its diplomatic disguise, the so-called Road Map to Peace in the Middle East remains an elaborate fiction drawn only in sand. Taken seriously, it could still transform Israel's intuitions of danger from a disturbing hallucination to an authentic nightmare.

"Nightmare." According to the etymologists, the root is niht mare or niht maere, the demon of the night. Dr. Johnson's dictionary says this corresponds to Nordic mythology - which saw nightmares as the product of demons. This would make it a play on, or translation of, the Greek ephialtes or the Latin incubus. In all interpretations of nightmare, the idea of demonic origin is central.

Israel's demons are of a different form. Their mien is not directly frightful (one reason that they are so dangerous), but hidden and ordinary. If they are sinister it is not because they are hideous, but because they are commonplace. Their evil is not always readily identifiable. But the demons that stalk the Jewish state are palpable and lethal.

Israel's demons are those of a people who have become accustomed to existing without any serious meanings. These demons prey easily upon a state without any real direction, a Jewish state that has forgotten its essential and everlasting purpose in the world. Reducing itself to a "thing" at Annapolis, a tiny, banal and negotiable object in a vast sea of enemies, Israel effectively announced that it was willing to become a corpse. This assessment would surely be disputed by the Israeli prime minister and by the American secretary of state, but the Israeli dike is already shot full of holes, and the flood (remember the flood?) may soon be unstoppable.

Ironically, in matters of war and peace, Israel may take certain lessons from ancient Troy. The prime minister should even recall the pleadings of Trojan King Priam before Achilles. Though Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stopped short of clasping President Bush's knees and kissing the president's hands, the Palestinians and their allies already knew that Israel had lost. …