Hitler Is Dead

The case against Jewish ethnic panic.

BY: Leon Wieseltier


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But the real problem with typological thinking about history is that it is not historical thinking at all. It is ahistorical thinking. It obscures and obliterates all the differences between historical circumstances in favor of a gross, immutable, edifying similarity. It is an insufficiently worldly way to judge the world. For this reason, such thinking was overthrown in the modern period by Jews who decided that their myths would not ameliorate their misery; that there was not only one question and only one answer; that the entire universe was not their enemy and their enemy was not the entire universe; that the historical differences mattered as much as the historical similarities, because a change in history, progress, normality, tranquillity, was possible; that historical agency required historical thinking, that is, concrete thinking, empirical thinking, practical thinking, secular thinking. All these notions amounted to a revolution in the Jewish spirit, without which the Jewish national movement and the Jewish state could not have been brought into being. A historiosophy is not a strategy. The Jews taught themselves to attend not only to their fates, but also to their interests. That is to say, they taught themselves no longer to regard themselves as the last Jews. The lesson was called Zionism. The last Jews have nothing to do but fight or die; but Zionism has more to do. Israel was not created to destroy Amalek. Israel was created to deny Amalek.

Is Hamas Amalek? I have no idea. Also I do not care. It is bad enough that Hamas is Hamas. (Was Hitler Amalek? No, he was worse.) Anyway, Amalek is not all that justifies the use of force. But the important point is that Amalek justifies nothing but the use of force. There is no other solution to the Amalek problem. And that is why all this pessimism is not only intellectually sloppy, it is also operationally superfluous. It is a view of history that provides no foundation for Israeli restraint, and sometimes restraint is the intelligent policy. Consider this week's calamity. If Netanya was Kristallnacht, then Rishon Letzion was Kristallnacht. The villain in Netanya came from Jenin, and Israel turned its might on Jenin. The villain in Rishon Letzion came from Gaza, but Israel is not turning its might on Gaza. Why not? The logic is the same. The answer, of course, is that this is not the logic of statecraft. If, as the Israeli press is reporting, there may be signs of flexibility on the Palestinian side, it is the duty of the Israeli government to stay its hand and have a look. These signs may be false; but too many people have perished not to take their measure. The exploration of opportunities for accommodation and understanding is a matter of both prudence and principle. It may be that Ariel Sharon, of all people, has comprehended this. As long as the prime minister of Israel continues to speak of the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state, Kristallnacht is over. (For Netanyahu, by contrast, every Nacht is Kristallnacht.)

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