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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Avram Burg: always interesting, not always right

A Chinese curse: "May you lead an interesting life." Avram Burg is always interesting, because he makes sure to be interesting. Let's face it, unless you make noisy and atrocious statements, you cannot attract much publicity for matters related to Judaism, Zionism, etc. B*O*R*I*N*G.
Therefore Burg tries not to bore us. Avram Burg is the P.T. Barnum of Jewish affairs, or he is trying to be. If he is not comparing Zionists to Nazis, he is comparing Ahmed Yassin to orthodox rabbis. In Time to attack he calls for war against fanatics essentially. "Death to all fanatics," quoth Burg, in particular orthodox fanatics of all different religions. He is willing to take a gratuitous swipe at evangelical Christians (or his idea of evangelical beliefs) as well as orthodox Jewish fanatics. The essence of his argument:
There is no theological difference between certain rabbis from Hebron, the former Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and the evangelical preacher hoping for Armageddon at the site of our Megiddo. Those who say that "God's law is first" are no different from one another, whether they wear a rabbi's skullcap, Hezbollah's turban or the cloak of a North American spiritual leader. They are all engaged in a cruel battle against me. They are the enemies of freedom and democracy, and are hostile to liberty, equality and the status of women.
It is remarkably like what I wrote in Soldiers who refuse orders. But Burg is also wrong. There are two or three differences between Ahmed Yassin and the hypothetical evangelical preacher hoping for Armageddon:
1- Ahmed Yassin was willing to use, and did use, violent methods to secure his goals. Thus far, only one or two deranged people tried to use violent methods to bring about the Christian Armageddon.
2- Yassin wanted to kill me. People like John Hagee want to defend me. From my subjective point of view, that is a very different goal.
2- Like many orthodox Jews, Burg has a stereotyped view of Christian supporters of Israel. He thinks, apparently, that all evangelicals are supporters of Israel, and he thinks that all people who believe in Armageddon want to bring it on actively by committing violent acts. These are all misconceptions about Christian Zionism.
Burg starts out to answer the same question that I answered in Soldiers who refuse orders:
The latest equation bridges between draft-dodgers and the soldiers who refuse to evacuate homes in Hebron. On the face of it, we have draft-dodgers - the left-wing bleeding hearts from greater Tel Aviv - and evacuation refuseniks - nationalistic and idealistic, but "a little" too extreme, too patriotic and too religious. And we are in the middle: We live outside Tel Aviv, but not in Hebron; we want peace but are not prepared to pay the Arabs the price. Instead of being flooded with concern over the fanatics and rabbis who have penetrated the fabric of Israeli statehood like cancerous cells, we have created an equation. We were furious for two days, we condemned them - and we went on our merry way. Everything is balanced, thank God.
But Burg has a different answer. He gives a free, blanket pass to all draft evaders, it seems, but a blanket condemnation of all right wing protest:
After the waves of demagoguery, spin and media opportunism have passed, it will become clear that this equation is extremely dangerous, because it releases us from dealing with this country's unruly elements. The more we ignore the cancer of rabbinical nationalism, the closer and more concrete the mortal danger is. The real equation is between the refuseniks of Hebron and their foundation in Torah - and Hamas, Hezbollah, Christian fundamentalists and their fanatic brethren.
And after that, he never mentions the leftist refuseniks again. I agree that protest that is not anchored in democracy is dangerous. But  protest that aims to destroy the state is equally dangerous, even if it claims to be "democratic." The Bilin protestors and the refuseniks (those who refuse to be drafted) are not against this or that policy of the Israeli government. They are against Israel as a state of the Jewish people. They are against the Zionist idea. They don't get a free pass under the rubric of "democratic protest." They should not pass Go. They don't collect $200 either.
On the other hand, the equally dangerous rabbis and refuseniks of the right do not get a free pass either. And neither do the anti-Zionist Haredi draft evaders. They should not pass "Go." But somehow, they manage to collect a great deal more than $200 from our tax money to finance activities that are subversive to democracy and to Zionism, and undermine the state as surely as the anti-Zionists of the left. Nobody should get a free pass just because we like their stand on a particular issue. That includes Burg and his immoral use of pensions and drivers granted him as ex-head of the Jewish Agency.
Ami Isseroff

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