Thought for the day

Saul Bellow wrote To Jerusalem and Back after a visit of several months’ duration in 1975. Published in 1976 and still in print, it is full of observations that remain on point as Israel fights for its survival today. This passage is from pages 135-136 of the original hard cover edition:

The 1973 war badly damaged their [i.e., the Israelis’] confidence. The Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal. Suddenly the abyss opened again. France and England abandoned Israel. The U.N.-bloc vote revived the feeling that she “shall not be reckoned among the nations.” While Israel fought for life, debaters weighed her sins and especially the problem of the Palestinians. In this disorderly century refugees have fled from many countries. In India, in Africa, in Europe, millions of human beings have been put to flight, transported, enslaved, stampeded over the borders, left to starve, but only the case of Israel and the Palestinians is held permanently open. Where Israel is concerned, the world swells with moral consciousness. Moral judgment, a wraith in Europe, becomes a full-blooded giant when Israel and the Palestinians are mentioned. Is this because Israel has assumed the responsibilities of a liberal democracy? Is it for other reasons? What Switzerland is to winter holidays and the Dalmatian coast to summer tourists, Israel and the Palestinians are to the West’s need for justice — a sort of moral resort area.

While others have made the same point, I don’t think anyone has ever made it better. I will be back with a concluding excerpt tomorrow featuring the book’s most famous line.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.