We are in need of sanegoria. Internally, externally, secularly, religiously, regionally and globally. A sanegor (a Greek loanword) is a defense attorney, the person whose job in a court of law is to present the case for the defendant.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a secular or religious Jew—the obligation of sanegoria can be shown from both non-theistic and theistic perspectives. You don’t have to believe that the kategoria (accusatory lawyering, representing the plaintiff; also from the Greek) comes from various angels in heaven and is heaped before G-d, although that is true; for there is enough kategoria against G-d’s people that you can see before your very eyes. Israel is earthly evidence for the existence of heavenly things and the decisions that take place up there.
From the religious point of view, accusations of Jews upon other Jews are far more readily received in heaven than those of non-Jews toward them. If the accusations are for the purpose that the Jews should repent, as HaShem’s prophets were sent to do, and in the right spirit, as the same were, then well and good; but if it is for the purpose of self-righteousness, of feeling oh-so-elevated above “this pitiful generation”, or even if well-meant but done from an incorrect, unorthodox point of view, then disaster may ensue. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, may his righteous and blessed memory be in our defense, warned against that. He was sanegoram shel Yisrael—the Defense Attorney of Israel, the one who rushed to their defense even when the surface picture didn’t look very defensible. He said, “No one is permitted to say about Israel anything evil, only to show his good”. (Note: the name “Israel” can mean “an individual Jew”, in which case it takes the singular.) The obvious question raised by this statement is, does that mean the Jews are above all criticism? No, it does not mean that; I’ll come to that in full later, so please bear with me.
There is no cause for a Jew to hate another Jew except for those who have clearly cut themselves off. Are the 613 mitzvot to be kept? Yes, they are, but don’t hate those who still don’t keep them, because, in our day, very few and far between are those who do that out of spite toward G-d (the major reasons of today are unbelief in G-d’s existence, which precludes doing anything purposely spiteful toward Him, and laziness, which, while bad, is not malicious). Should an Orthodox Jew be a [modern, state-supporting] Zionist or not? Obviously I think so, but I don’t care so much about those among the Ultra-Orthodox who don’t, because the Muslim enemy’s threats to destroy us no longer take the political leanings of any Jewish inhabitant of Israel into account, and the Western Left is fast dropping its mask of “anti-Zionism” to reveal the full, dyed-in-the-wool Jew-hatred, so all but the Naturei Karta traitors still think they could save their skin by being anti-Zionist. Many Ultra-Orthodox Jews offered prayers for the IDF during the Lebanon War of last summer, and many secular Jews have expressed discontent about the evacuation of Jewish settlements ever since that of the Gaza Strip brought us nothing but Kassam rockets on Sderot. HaShem be praised for bringing us together, although, unfortunately, through dire circumstances.
You can notice I have called the Naturei Karta people, “traitors”. It’s that way all over my blog. Are they not Jews? Yes, but they have cut themselves off. On what basis can it be said that they have cut themselves off? On the basis that they bear words justifying the murder of Jews (G-d forbid) to non-Jewish enemies of ours. In 2004, following their offering of a prayer vigil for Arafat (may he rot in hell for all eternity), a broad group of Orthodox Jewish factions, including the anti-Zionist Satmar, excommunicated them. Why? Because, even if you think Zionism was contrary to G-d’s commands, there’s absolutely no excuse for supporting those who want all your brothers dead. For a Jew to save his skin by climbing upon the corpses of other Jews (G-d forbid) is, without any argument, treason—a cutting of himself off from the Jewish people. It can be undone, it can be repented, but the unrepentant should be given no benefit of trust.
I have thus gotten back to the present-day political situation. HaShem has blessed us Jews with the assurance of the truth of His word through a unique means: not only historical arguments (other religions have those aplenty), but the sight of His decrees taking place in the present. As Yaakov Kirschen of Dry Bones cartoons fame once put it, the dictum, “In every generation they rise upon us to destroy us” is not just something we read in the past tense, something that happened to other people, but the reality before our very eyes and ears, shown and voiced by the Haman presiding over the nuclear plan of present-day Persia. Therefore, even if you [still] don’t believe in G-d and His Torah (don’t worry, you will soon—the weight of reality just can’t be held off forever. Believe me, I tried), you can easily see the case for sanegoria from a secular perspective too: we have ample kategoria from the “angels” of today, the compassionate, moral souls at the United Nations, at the European Union, in the universities all over the Western world, on the media channels of the West, and now poised to take power over the United States of America as well. But as the worst accusers of Israel spiritually are Jews who point out the faults of other Jews for personal gain or for wrong reasons, so too the greatest accusers of Israel politically are treasonous Jews like Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé. And as the kategoria of Jews against other Jews is much more readily received in the courts of heaven, so too the kategoria of Jews, especially Israeli Jews, is much more readily received among non-Jewish enemies of ours (“Moshe Cohen is an Israeli Jew and he says Israel is an apartheid state; because he is an Israeli Jew, he can’t be biased”).
The Muslims have been carrying out the all-important task of ideological warfare well: they have exploited every postmodern, post-colonial, politically correct, anti-racist sentiment of the West, and presented their cases everywhere in a form palatable to every Baby Boomer. The Israel arm of Islamic jihad against non-Muslims, also called the “Palestinians”, have performed splendidly in presenting their case, that appealing case of an “oppressed people fighting a brutal colonialist regime in order to gain their homeland and self-determination”. The world has swallowed it whole, so that, since right after 9/11, and to this very day, Western Leftists not only think, but now unashamedly say, less than 70 years after the Holocaust, that the fault for all the turmoil in the world rests solely upon the Jews (or their state, which amounts to the same thing, no matter how much they claim anti-Zionism to be different from anti-Semitism).
From a secular, meaning worldly, point of view, what can be done? Counter-warfare on the ideological front, of course (the very purpose of my blog). If our side made our case forcefully before the world, if as much effort as possible were exerted for that important purpose, even buying a few media outlets (but wait, wait… weren’t we—the Israel Lobby, you know—supposed to be in control of all the media?). Bring out the big guns, showing the evil of the “Palestinians” here, and of the Muslims worldwide, without stopping. Hammer on and on about the Danish Cartoons, about Thailand, about the Kassam rockets, and other things that could cause cognitive dissonance when compared to the Leftist theories as to “what we’re doing to make them hate us”. Say, unabashedly, unapologetically, that this land is ours—that there is no occupation, because you can’t occupy what is yours. Show the claim of the “Palestinian” nation for the fiction it is. So many things I’d never have done back when I was a peacenik in the 1990’s, but now have no hesitation doing, because this is war, and an ideological war before everything else. If all of us Jews were united in trumpeting our point of view in opposition to theirs, we could win. Our sanegoria against their kategoria.
But we have too many Jews presenting their point of view: Chomsky, Avnery, Atzmon, and recently David Grossman in his Rabin Memorial address. To the credit of the Israeli Jews, Grossman’s talk about “the necessity of return to the negotiations table with the Palestinians” was received much, much less enthusiastically than it could have been even just two years ago. It’s the problem of those lying eyes of ours, I suppose. But it is far too early to rejoice: Europe is still deep in its slumber, America has chosen appeasement of the Muslim enemy because of the fatigue of Bush’s bungling in Iraq (the cause of which was ideological—see the previous post, from November 9th), and, seeing how 9/11 fanned the flames of appeasement rather than the opposite, I have little faith that another Islamic attack on the West (G-d forbid) would not raise the introspective call of, “What did we do to make them hate us?”, once again. We are more badly in need of sanegoria than ever. This necessity has never been more stark: the less sanegoria we have and the more kategoria heaped upon us, especially by misguided Jews like Chomsky, the more acceptable will a Second Holocaust (G-d forbid) be in the eyes of many in the West. Already, we have reached the scandalous situation that it is perfectly acceptable to say of the state of Israel, and only of the state of Israel, that it would be better for the world if it stopped existing (G-d forbid). The masks are falling rapidly: more and more in the West no longer refer to the territories taken in 1967 (the Six-Day War) when they speak of “The Israeli Occupation”, but of those held by Israel in the armistice of 1949 (the end of the Independence War)! The anti-Semites of the West are not even making an effort to hide their Jew-hatred under the mantle of anti-Zionism anymore. HaShem is readying the stage for the final show.
To recap, the secular Jew should feel no less obliged to be a sanegor of his nation than is the religious Jew, for the physical reality—which no seeing eye can deny—is there to mirror the spiritual reality which he still does not believe in. And for any Jew who has had reservations about Zionism from religious reasons: too late for that now, we’re all in the same boat, and Haniyeh (shr"y), Nasrallah (shr"y) and Ahmadinejad (shr"y) don’t care what your opinions on that matter are. Be a defense attorney for Israel (the nation and the state), because your life depends on it from whichever point of view you look at it.
Now to return to the quote from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev (zt"l). No criticism of the Jews at all? Of course not. He could not go against the words of G-d in His Torah, which command every Jew to rebuke another whom he has caught sinning (Leviticus 19:17). But this rebuke must be private. Private in the sense of not washing the dirty linen in public. Private for the purpose of not shaming the other in public, for our sages say, “He who whitens the face of his neighbor in public has no part in the world to come”. Of course, if a transgression involves a whole community of Jews then the rebuke has to be public as far as the community goes—but not any more than that. More public than it needs to be, and shame is brought upon people, with bitterness following, then gratuitous hatred, and then we suffer heavily (G-d forbid). Besides these objections, the issue has special relevance to our age, more than Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (zt"l) could imagine (he passed away to his heavenly rest in 1810).
I’m talking about the media. The media has made it very difficult, if not impossible, to carry out rebukes in the Torah-true way described above. The media thrives on publicizing everything, especially the dirty linen. In that verse in Leviticus there is the explicit prohibition against gossip; the media has its livelihood on breaking that command. Perhaps, if you have read a goodly part of my blog, you think I’ve painted Israel and the Jews in rosy-colored glasses. My answer is that there is much I could write in internal criticism of what goes on in Israel, but I really cannot, because it would transgress G-d’s prohibition of gossip and of public rebuke. Rest assured I speak in real life, in private settings; other than that would be to sin against G-d.
The sinful actions of the media have their effect on the physical landscape, of course: the Muslims have their teams of readers of Hebrew newspapers, and they harvest the publicly self-critical items and articles and columns they find in them and employ them as tools of anti-Israel propaganda. For every news item washing Israel’s dirty linen in public, there is a Muslim propagandist waving them in front of Western eyes, saying, “See? They don’t even behave among themselves. They’re as corrupt as any other nation. So why do you think their state deserves to continue existing?” The media is thus another Jewish kategor providing excellent ideological ammunition for those who wish to destroy us. The media shares that blame among the non-Jews in the West also, having, for example, contributed to Bush’s failure in Iraq by ideologically hobbling him against such vital actions as Christianizing that country. But in Israel this issue is much more accute: this kategoria is leaving us without physical allies, until we reach the state in which to G-d alone are our cries for salvation. And then too we will need a lot of sanegoria in order to tip the scales of judgment to our favor.
Be defense attorneys for Israel, following the example of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, may his memory defend us, Sanegoram Shel Yisrael.