April 2, 2002


The Boomerang Syndrome (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, April 2, 2002, NY Times)
Avraham Burg, speaker of the Knesset, was quoted as saying in Haaretz: "Just because the position of the Palestinians is a stupid one,just because they cannot overcome terrorism and they fled the peace process in a violent manner, does that require us to enter this insane cycle?"

It's interesting that Mr. Kristof, an otherwise entirely pedestrian columnist, should have chosen this metaphor for his essay today, because one of the arguments that Thomas Cahill makes in his fine book The Gifts of the Jews : How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels is that the signal contribution of Judaism to mankind was to break us out of the cyclical view of history, adhered to by all of the other Middle Eastern religions of the time and by most Eastern religions even up until today, and create the idea of history as a forward progress. Until then, mankind had viewed history as an endlessly repeating circle of basically unchanging events. By abandoning this notion, Jews in effect created time, the idea that there had been a past, that this is the present and that there will be a future and that each is different than the other. This, Mr. Cahill argues, was a major part of the genius of Judaism.

Modern Jewry finds itself now stuck in a very different more malefic Middle Eastern cycle, this one of violence. It will require an equal genius to break out of the vicious round of strike and counterstrike, but one suspects they'll do so. I believe they'll have to start by being the strikers instead of the counterstrikers and by striking with massive and overwhelming force, in order to smash the cycle beyond Palestinian repair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 2, 2002 11:12 PM
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