Another Tack: Isolation I – How not to be Ill

There was a rapturous turkey trot in old Turkey the other day. Led by President Abdullah Gul, the Turks and their guests jumped for joy and did their springy one-step to celebrate Israel’s obvious ostracism.

“This is a clear manifestation of how Israel isolated itself,” Gul, who chaired the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, exulted. Twenty-one of CICA’s member-states (with the single exception of Israel) “deeply deplored” its interception of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara.

In unwavering unison, such gracious paradigms of international fair-mindedness and evenhandedness as Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Bashar Assad of Syria and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan – as well as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and PA figurehead Mahmoud Abbas – all “expressed their grave concern and condemnation for the actions undertaken by Israel” and denounced its “blatant violation” of international law.

Reveling in ostensible rectitude, Putin warned: “We can’t allow a new flame to flare up in the Middle East.” Gul laid righteous indignation on thick by announcing: “It is impossible for us to forgive the bloodshed.”

Similar spectacles are reenacted on some scale or another almost around the globe. No self-respecting city, campus or festival can resist garnering glory by whacking Israel. It’s a grand batter-Israel bash and a hit show wherever it’s staged. The plotline uncannily resembles that of Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s now-classic 1956 tragicomedy The Visit.

The allegorical setting is the hard-luck town of Guellen (guelle in German means soggy excrement) to which much-married native-daughter Claire Zachanassian returns, now an elderly bizarre multibillionaire. Guellen sorely needs a cash transfusion, but Claire quickly clarifies that her generosity has strings attached. She’ll bestow great affluence on Guellen’s denizens if they only put to death the lover she claims jilted her in her youth. At first the townsfolk refuse to kill Alfred Ill, now the respected general-store proprietor. But Claire knows – precisely as do the real world’s cynical oil-rich Arab/Muslim master manipulators – that everything is for sale, supposed virtue foremost.

Claire’s predictions are soon borne out. One by one Ill’s neighbors abandon him in a grotesque display of hypocrisy. Despite their alacrity to appease and profit, they continue to posture as morally upright – like members of the international community vis-a-vis Israel – and blame the victim for a monstrously magnified set of “unforgivable” sins.

In no time Ill becomes the object of intense revulsion, regarded as the source of all that ails Guellen. The townspeople refuse to forgive Ill for the collective suffering he “caused” them. There are no bounds to the lengths they’ll go to rationalize and justify their greed.

Sounds familiar to us defamed and demonized Israelis?

GUELLEN’S INITIALLY principled mayor is the very one who swings public opinion against Ill and in the end offers him a gun so that he may spare everyone angst and end it all “peacefully.” When Ill seeks succor from the priest he discovers that the “man of God” too has sold his soul.

The policeman – akin perhaps to international peacekeepers in our own mind-blowing saga – refuses to protect Ill, denying that he is in any jeopardy at all. He hurls invective at him and traps Ill in the auditorium, there to be slaughtered.

The town’s doctor, one of Guellen’s better sorts, eventually collaborates in the murder and, in his professional capacity, determines that Ill died of a “heart attack.”

Perhaps the most stinging betrayal is that of the “humanitarian” schoolmaster, the archetypal well-intentioned intellectual, who holds on to his values longer than the others – a bit like America in our case. He had attempted to intercede with Claire and then to expose her villainy. Eventually he tells Ill that his neighbors all turned into predators, who cannot be opposed personally by one educator.

Presumably poor hounded Ill could at least rely on his own family, like we Israelis assume we can rely on our Jewish brethren out there in the world’s big real-life Guellens. But both Israelis and Alfred discover otherwise.

Among the ranks of our brethren abroad are indifferent, well-off Jews who don’t want to be bothered with our niggling, never-ending travails. Worse yet are trendy sophisticated ultraliberals for whom Israel has become an embarrassing burden. Apathy and/or antipathy toward Israel can accrue assorted potential rewards for estranged Jewish types overseas. So it was for Ill’s kin. His son Karl and daughter Ottilie, both originally unemployed, attain inexplicable prosperity.

Bottom line: Israel is indeed isolated but that’s only because it’s cast as the Alfred Ill of the worldwide farcical extravaganza. We’re alone only because Arab/Muslim clout and wealth successfully bribe, corrupt and brainwash bona fide democracies and apparently free-thinking journalists into voluntary, even avid complicity in the attempted delegitimization of Israel. Longer-term genocidal plots needn’t be explicitly admitted and proclaimed, but the groundwork for mass murder is being methodically prepared.

THAT SAID, we needn’t consider ourselves as heading deterministically for Ill’s bitter end. Nothing is preordained. Our self-preservation hinges on not obscuring the realization that our detractors are the duplicitous self-serving equivalents of Guellen’s avaricious inhabitants. It’s crucial that we understand that we are vilified and targeted as part of a scheme as sinister as that which led to Ill’s premeditated slaying.

We can prevent our own tragic demise by deviating consciously from Ill’s path. Although his nice-guy demeanor went unappreciated by the voracious chorus that bayed for his blood, Ill accepted his fate. He forgave his family and submitted meekly to the death sentence maliciously meted out to him.

We mustn’t submit to slander by outright enemies like Ahmadinejad or Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but neither must we respectfully bow down to the judgments of the Barack Obamas, Nicolas Sarkozys or Putins who undercut our survival prospects. It’s up to us not to be Ill. The antidote to the Ill-effect is remaining convinced of our inner truth.

In our case a dose of Dürrenmatt ought to be followed up by a morsel from our own poet Natan Alterman. A founder of the Land of Israel Movement, Alterman was acutely pained by the fact that (already in his day) doubts began to be cast on the legitimacy of Israel’s existential struggle, portraying it as the aggressor and dismissing Jewish claims to the Jewish homeland. To him these were dark omens portending a Jewish mental aberration that could precipitate Israel’s downfall.

After his death in 1970 several unpublished works were discovered in his literary estate. The most evocative of these poems, “Then Satan Said” (which I translated), became his heavy-hearted, somber last legacy.

There Alterman conjured an allegorical evil stratagem in which:

…Satan then said:
How do I overcome
This besieged one?
He has courage
And talent,
And implements of war
And resourcefulness.
…only this shall I do,
I’ll dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause.

This is the first of a two-part series.

6 thoughts on “Another Tack: Isolation I – How not to be Ill

  1. Ah Sarah, I sense your heartbreak in this article. How hard it must be to write the truth. I know, because I have children, grandchildren, cousins who are estranged and indifferent to Israel’s fate. It’s not that they don’t understand, they don’t want to be concerned, not their problem is what one said to me just yesterday.

    It seems some in Israel have the same attitude. Every Jewish newspaper in the world should have made the suicide bombing of the shrine in Pakistan front page headlines, to show the world what the extremists do to their own people. Perhaps if every atrocity they commit worldwide made the headlines every day it would embarrass them into silence.

  2. ‘We’re alone only because Arab/Muslim clout’ and wealth successfully bribe, corrupt and brainwash bona fide democracies and apparently free-thinking journalists into voluntary, even avid complicity in the attempted delegitimization of Israel’
    How can it be that after decades of loyal and devoute religious obedience to the dictates of the Great Global Master Superpower to his peace agenda cure could Israel have fallen into such disrepute ?
    Still after all the painful concessions and retreats for their peace cure, Israel is rewarded with great evil from her mythical friend and foe’s alike,How can it be ?
    Here is how and why !
    If Israel had followed the correct way tor real peace (Exodus 23) and said ‘drop dead’ to the nations’ Road Map plan ;
    “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. 22 But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. 24 You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.
    25 “So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. 26 No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.
    27 “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. 31 And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
    I don’t thnk Israel would have recieved any worse threatment than it is receiving now.
    And Israel’s follower ,not a leader, goes to Washington. It’s as if Obama is God and Bibi Moses is going up to Mt Horeb to recieve the latest commands.
    Can religious and devout Bibi say no to his God ?

  3. Israel is alone because she is winning – an often unrecognised phenomenom. If you were a regime sustained by the most ignoble premises, you too would not like Israel. I you dwell on a belief which calls Jews born of the apes, guilty of mosque dumping in the Jewish sacred capital, and pray 5 times a day its a blessing to kill Jews – you too would hate Israel, and in a directly proportionate measure of any good she does.

    Israel is an affront to two of the world’s biggest religions, overturned their most pivotal religious doctrines, is holding the most cherished real estate in the universe, triumphed in democracy in record time and under impossible conditions, is one of the super powers, attained surpreme hi-tech brevity – and did this with no oil and barely any land – under a daily barrage of deathly arrows and chants for her destruction. How dare she!

  4. I’ve just discovered your excellent blog, wish I had much sooner. Trenchant, solid and cogent writing, we need many more people like you (not just journalists).

    We must also focus on forces that are in favor of us, embolden and strengthen them, not the forces of hate.
    Can’t wait to read the second part.

    Kudos and keep up the wonderful work!

  5. Hi –

    Thank you for another great article.

    The Visit certainly does delineate the human dynamics at play behind the world’s hatred of Israel.

    I don’t think, however, that the driving force is anything as pragmatic as greed (for Arab oil).

    If Israel found massive reserves of Oil in the Negev tomorrow, it would probably buy us a few minutes of respite, but not much more.

    What really drives this dynamic is an ancient and decidedly impractical hatred.

    That hatred which our leaders are denial of and which you spell out so well in “Edgardo and the quarterbacks” (

  6. Hi Sarah,

    Your Blogs are really good…You may lose friends, whole world may turn against Israel…but one group beleives that they need to raise their voices in support of Israel…Infact, they are commanded to do so by their God…As a Bible beliving Christian from India, i beleive that supporting Israel is my obligation as Paul writes in Romans 11…I am proud of being an Israeli supporter and i will speak up for her whenever possible..Bible plainly states “God’s only desire is to bless Israel” ,”He who keeps ISrael neither slumbers nor sleeps…God Bless Israel…

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