The End of Illusion

Article excerpt

What follows is a measure of what I have learned in the aftermath of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

First, the belief that "Jews don't do things like this" appears to have been an expression of hollow conceit. And the anguish that many Jewish leaders have expressed over the shattering of this notion strikes me as a denial of reality. In point of fact, Jews do do things like this] Because, in the context of the pursuit of nationalist, political aims where power is a critical ingredient, all varieties of violent acts are to be expected. Nationalist Jews will tend to behave like all other nationalists. Yehuda Halevi, the twelfth-century Spanish philosopher, himself a proto-nationalist, was very aware of this stinging truth. With great craft and integrity he has the Khazar king gently rebuke the rabbi by proclaiming, "If you had power, you too would kill] " (Kuzari, I:114) Indeed, Jews do have power and they do kill--even each other.

Second, some remarkable rabbis have engaged in an unprecedented process of soul-searching which they have taken public. Yet they avoided confronting the messianic ideology that provided the underpinning for the heinous murder of the Prime Minister. This failure to extend their self-criticism can be explained by the fact that messianism, in this post-Six-Day-War era, has emerged as the sole justification for religious Zionism. To challenge the messianic interpretation would thus be tantamount to calling the entire enterprise into question.

But the events of the past few months culminating in the assassination compel us to reconsider the wisdom of advocating an ideology driven by messianic aspirations. More often than not, the pursuit of a utopian messianic vision has pushed believers beyond sober consideration of cause and effect into a realm where only ends matter and the violation of basic moral norms is held to be legitimate. Rabin became the enemy because, by agreeing to trade "holy" land--whose conquest was viewed as a critical step in the unfolding messianic drama--for peace, he was precluding the advent and obstructing the process. …