So the world is entranced and pretty excited by the protests in Egypt. This is all well and good. After all its a big story, and pretty clear cut – millions of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators on one side and a brutal police state on the other. Everyone’s happy. Except, it seems, the Jews, who have decided that the whole one member one vote thing isn’t really in our interests.
Not that people are coming out and saying it outright. Being an out-and-out authoritarian anti-democrat is seriously unfashionable. No, the tactic amongst right-wing Jews is to express a seemingly benevolent concern – ‘ wouldn’t it be awful if there were elections, and the Muslim brotherhood won, and then they cancelled elections and made Egypt a theocracy’. Egyptians might, they suggest, be better off with the devil they know. There is a biblical precedent for this kind of approach. Having left Egypt (cute irony) many Israelites think they would have been better off as slaves to Pharoah:
We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!
Sticking with oppression because you’re afraid of the future. Doesn’t get a good press in the Hebrew bible.
Benjamin Netanyahu (always more of a Pharoah than a Moses) has been praising Mubarak to the hilt, and talking in apocalyptic term of what happens if he goes. This, at the very least, represents bad tactics. Being best chums with Israel’s increasingly neo-fascist government is not going to add to Mubarak’s popularity with the Egyptian people. But at least Bibi is prepared to say explicitly what many commentators, bloggers and facebookers are only prepared top hint at. He’s clear that the only important consideration, the goal by which all developments must be judged, is what is good for Israel. Its a very narrow version of good for Israel, granted, but the government, backed by the old slimeball Shimon Peres, is clear that the main that has given security on Israel’s southern border for 30 years, as well as co-enforcing the blockade of Gaza, should be kept in power. Flagrant realism, blatant display of (supposed) national self interest. Is this the current state of Jewish ethics?
If Judaism is not about creating a just world for all then what the fuck is it? As the sublime Emmanuel Levinas put it:
The ethical order does not prepare us for the Divinity, it is the very accession to the divinity.
Or, as he might have said: Justice. Its good for the Jews.