Avi Steinberg
The Second Coming of Yeshayahu Leibowitz, p.3

Nevertheless, the radical nature of Leibowitz’s thought cannot be denied; Leibowitz was not a compromiser. He believed that only a full, immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the territories would save Israel. Bassi, reflecting current right wing realpolitik, does not believe that a full withdrawal from the West Bank is feasible—neither politically nor logistically. Bassi’s position, thus, reflects as type of Leibowitz-lite perspective, a domesticated version of Leibowitz’s solution. Bassi might argue that he is implementing Leibowitz to the extent that this is possible in the Israel of 2005. Leibowitz might reply that this sense of helplessness in the face of pro-settler politics is (yet another) strong indicator that a full and immediate withdrawal is crucial and long-overdue. Thus, from a true Leibowitzian point of view, the disengagement might turn out to be yet another dangerous delusion. Perhaps, like the Prophets he liked to quote to support his views, Leibowitz is a character doomed to be perpetually misquoted and misapplied. Like all radicals, Leibowitz’s edginess was essential to his thought—implementing his views, therefore, would necessarily require adopting his harsh and uncompromising attitude. Needless to say, this is far from politic, for it takes a unique type of person—and an even more unique country—to burn with moderation, to be zealous in the name of subtle, middle-of-the-road positions. Until that Leibowitzian golden republic of fanatically moderate rule take holds, the battle of the under-zealous moderates and the over-zealous extremists continues.

In the meantime, many in Israel are staking their hopes on Leibowitz-lite.

[1]       [2]       3

Avi Steinberg is a freelance writer based in Boston. Last summer he was in Israel and Gaza covering the Disengagement for the Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine (Cleveland, Ohio) and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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