Raging against the dying of the right
In his recent book Paradigm Lost, Ian Lustick claims that the Two State Solution (TSS) paradigm is lost and we are now in a One State Reality (OSR). His argument is interesting and important, though he seems a bit polyannish about what might commence with the OSR in terms of Palestinian-Jewish comity in what is now the West Bank, once the OSR is recognized and all are granted the franchise and equal political rights. However, the fact that the TSS paradigm is crashing around us is becoming clearer by the day. Jared Kushner’s latest very minor tome is perhaps final testimony to its undoing.
Lustick’s title is, of course, a play on Paradise Lost and “paradigm shift.” The latter the theory that is expounded in Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn’s theory is that a paradigm operates until it is no longer possible to perform the mental acrobatics which might keep it afloat. That is, the death knell of a scientific theory is not a series of experiments whose evidence is counter to the theory. That merely serves to motivate the theorists to embark on more and more obscure methods to prove the theory true. It is only once these attempts are so baroque as to be impossible that a new theory might take its place.
It is not up to me to weigh in on whether Kuhn’s theory is correct in terms of scientific practice. However, I will avow that the Pharisaic casuistry (please see Y Peah 8:8, 21a) that is now being employed by the hasbarah industrial complex testifies like a hundred witnesses to the dissolution of the paradigm. The noise of the crashing of the beams and the collapse of the floors of the edifice might wake the dead Zionists of the early twentieth century who might have had too much faith in their progeny.
The latest entry in the annals of hasbarah polemics is from Gil Troy, a Canadian-Israeli polemicist, who decides to take his rhetorical cudgel to, of all the targets in the field, rabbinical students and the seminaries who train them. (“Are Rabbinical Schools Becoming Anti-Israel Pulpits?“) However, Troy is far from alone in the field of hasbarah polemics. The past year or so has yielded a bumper crop.
Daniel Gordis has written a book not about American Jews, but at them, which almost completely ignores the Palestinians, most of the history of Zionism, and the tendency of the current Prime Minister and his government to favor authoritarian and fascist world leaders, and the politics of racist incitement at home. Yossi Klein Halevi has written a book not about, but at Palestinians, which is really aimed at Americans, and in which he uses imaginary Palestinians as his interlocutors. Surprisingly enough, his imaginary interlocutors agree with him.
Tal Keinan, whose credentials for writing God is in the Crowd is that he is a highly trained killer (albeit as an air force pilot, he kills from a distance) and a venture capitalist, also writes a book at American Jews (whom he admits having little affinity for), in which he proposes a parliament of world Jewry to come up with the solution because crowds can guess better than individuals how many marbles there are in a jar. Palestinians do not play much of a role in this book, and much like Kushner’s ostensible “peace plan” do not have much to say about their future.
Gil Troy’s contribution is not a book but a column for the Jerusalem Post, though he manages to be as scurrilous and outrageous in the thousand words or so of his screed as the others in their larger tomes.
We can skip all the slander in most of the piece. The point is in a paragraph in the middle. “Do liberal seminaries have any formal Jewishly-based ideological standards regarding belief in God, ritual practice, Jewish patriotism or, yes, Zionism?”
Setting aside Jewish patriotism for a minute. (Is it Jews being patriotic to their country? Jewish fidelity to other Jews and the Jewish community? Is this the new stand-in for the gibberish word “peoplehood”?) Notice that one thing on this listicle is not like the others.
The answers to the first part of the question are yes, and yes. (I have taught in a Conservative seminary for 25 years.) How did Zionism get into this list? Zionism is a political ideology and practice. There is a religious form of it, actually religious forms of it.
However, it is not one of the foundational beliefs of Judaism. One of the challenges facing the American Jewish community is that Zionism has replaced Judaism as the religion of choice for many/most affiliated Jews. For many, one might say too many, Israel has become the civil religion of American Jews.
The supposed mic drop question is: “And if so, has any seminary flunked any student on ideological grounds recently?” More than anything, this points to the ignorance of Troy about rabbinical schools. The work of vetting students happens before they are admitted.
If a student is admitted to a rabbinical school, it is after they have shown alignment with the religious mission of the school. There is still a lot to do to make rabbinical schools better. However, very little of this has to do with Israel.
Finally, the question that remains after reading Troy is, why? That is, why attack rabbinical schools whose faculty and students are dedicated to training and working as teachers, preachers, and pastors; Jewish leaders who shepherd Jews through their most intimate and public lifecycle moments; those who walk beside their communities in joy and grief?
Perhaps this is because after the depressing, sad, humiliating, and ultimately tragic attempt at a peace plan which basically puts the US stamp of approval on the annexation of all of the West Bank, with no viable Palestinian state, American Jews will have to make a choice.
And here Lustik’s book poses a serious question to liberal Zionists in America. Many of those will have to decide whether they will support an apartheid state or demand that Israel adopt one person, one vote and share all the land from the river to the sea with the Palestinians.
The hasbarists are angry and disappointed that the liberal American rabbinate does not want to shill for the Israeli right wing anymore. Or they fear that the American rabbinate understands that the Jewish community has as much to gain from “Our Homeland the Text” as from the geography of Israel.
And therefore, the reaction is to lash out and accuse those who are dedicating their lives to the Jewish community of not caring about Jewish pain. Rabbis, cantors, and educators will continue to use their training to make a case for Judaism in the 21st century. Troy seems to want them to become reflexive enablers of a regime whose democracy is collapsing under the weight of its own intransigence. For shame.