By Martin Love

There is hope in enlightened individuals in any culture

March 14, 2018

Plato, perhaps the most notable Western philosopher who lived in Athens some 2500 years ago, wrote: “Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let along believed by the masses.”

This certainly is one sad truth that applies to every culture that ever existed since there is never perfection in human affairs and organizations, but the “shadows and lies” in different places and at different times vary in size and intensity so as to render some cultures qualitatively better than others. Regarding those who do have the vision to see dangers and hypocrisies, however, they can be better understood and believed, but this usually comes at a time when the culture itself is in a state of dissolution and crisis, and only complete morons could fail to figure out they have been delusional.

What is especially remarkable about the “culture” in the US currently is that the “masses” are especially delusional about the notion of American “exceptionalism” touted by those in the US government and those influential with it. This concept is nothing more than an invitation, it appears, to wreak havoc and chaos militarily around the world. To threaten, bribe, harm and intimidate others. And the delusions about the wisdom and rightness of American foreign policies are in part, at least, a factor pushed by the mainstream media in the US, which is beholding to corporate interests and oligarchs.  But the US is hardly alone in its presumptions, and its alleged chief “ally” in the Middle East, Israel, may be even worse with its delusional policies and actions.

But there is cause for some hope and it can arrive, as it always does in any culture, by way of an enlightened individual who is not afraid to speak out and challenge the status quo.

In the case of Israel, I am speaking of Avraham Burg, who back in 2000 even served as interim President of Israel. I recently heard and saw Burg on public TV in the US. He has been in the US promoting a book, being interviewed and even speaking at synagogues in cities like New York and Boston, and often to applause by Jewish audiences.  But what is most striking about Burg is his apparent warmth and humanity, his ability to project what seems to be genuine optimism about the possibility for reform and change in Israel’s society and “culture”… and thus at least a lot more “peace” in the Middle East eventually. He has said that Israel’s future is a choice between becoming a fundamentalist Jewish state or a bi-national Jewish-Arab federation with open borders and part of a regional union. He has called for the boycott of products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He has denounced while he confirmed the existence of nuclear weapons in Israel. He has called for a reduction, if not the elimination, of the Zionist “Law of Return”.  He thinks that “Zionism” is not a sound basis for Israeli culture any longer.

And you might think he is not at all welcome among his fellow Jews and that he might already have been targeted by extremists, as Yitzhak Rabin was, in Israel. But this is not the case. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but Avraham Burg seems to have the uncanny ability, given his warm personality and intelligence, to say all sorts of things that Zionists extremists deplore without provoking extreme reactions.

The immediate question is whether Burg is having a positive impact among his fellow Jews in the US? How has he been received at the synagogues where he has spoken and promoted his latest book? Reports suggest that his appearances have been without incident, without displays of temper or hostility. In fact, no discord at all, except that at one synagogue on New York’s West Side someone suggested, very lightly and with a smile, that Burg was a “troublemaker.” But given the reception he has enjoyed, the question has also arisen whether anyone really cares what Burg thinks, and Burg has not presented his views in a “political” way, but merely as an author (again, his fine persona) who has some ideas worth exploring.  Still, even if there is a paucity of “care” about his specific ideas, with audiences secure in their notion of “exceptionalism” within the meme of radical right-wing Zionism, one has to imagine that Burg’s ideas do have, or will have, some impact. Especially as the crimes of the Likud government and its supporters in Israel become increasingly apparent to the world.

Iran must be lauded for its longstanding posture against the extremists in Israel and for justice for Palestinians. And against Israeli militancy, which has created chaos, in partnership with the US, in the Middle East. The reaction to this posture is that the Israeli government claims it “means” that Iran wants to wipe out millions of Jews. Netanyahu recently made this claim again. This is dishonest hyperbole. One must not forget that Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel and these Jews do not want to move to Israel.


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