Thursday, June 18, 2009

a purely hypothetical question

So here's what I'm wondering:

Do we believe, as a theoretical matter, that Israel might do wrong? Not tactical or strategic mistakes, but that the government could do something "bad" or illegal, something about which we'd agree that it shouldn't have done it. That is, in a disagreement between Israel and the non-Jewish world, is it possible that Israel might be wrong - or is it the case that Isreal is beyond censure? And if Israel is wrong in a particular instance, should we know about it? should we speak about it?

If Israel can be wrong, if it's possible for it to do something illegal, how would we know? It can't be that the only reliable sign that Israel did something wrong is when the State itself makes that declaration - that's just another way of saying that Isreal is above external reproach. Similarly, to say that official Jewish leaders and institutions are the only reliable judge of Israel's behavior is just to extend the blanket of infallibility from the State to the Jewish People at large.Moreover, if Israel can be wrong in a policy but that should not affect our public or private behavior - if it's not something we need to know - then we're telling ourselves, and our children, and our neighbors, that when it comes to Isreal we cannot be trusted as a source of sound legal, political, or moral judgment.

If we don't want that to be the case - if it's possible for Isreal to do wrong, and if it's important for us to know the truth - then there may be times when we need to pay attention to non-Jewish critiques. There's no way around that.What would be an good indication that Israel might be wrong, or a critique that we need to take seriously? If Syria says so? If OPEC says so? Probably not. But what if every country in the world, every major legal institution, said that Israel was wrong? Would that be an indication that there might be something worth paying attention to?

Or are we always right?