A Critique of Avraham Burg
The former head of the World Zionist Organization is now one of Zionism's fiercest critics.
This article was written in response to Avraham Burg's working paper, The World & Judaism, which was presented at the Bronfman Vision Forum's Judaism as Civilizations: Belonging in Age of Multiple Identities, a project of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation.
Michael Walzer once described "the stereotypical leftist critic" as a man who "with much attendant drama, detaches himself from all emotional ties" that had bound him to his place of origin, and "discovers universal values as if for the first time."
Avraham Burg is Israel's stereotypical leftist critic, high priest of the country's alienated elite. His father, who fled Berlin in September 1939, was among the founders of the National Religious Party. Burg fils followed in his father's political footsteps; he headed the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency, and spent a decade in the Knesset, including four years as speaker.
But since his failed 2001 bid for leadership of the Labor Party, the increasingly disaffected Burg rather dramatically began to express revulsion for the world in which he had been raised, and for the country which he had served with distinction.
Disaffection & Isolation
"The Israeli nation today," Burg averred in an overheated 2003 article, "rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice? It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers."
In his latest book, The Holocaust is Over, Burg suggested that the Israeli soul had been distorted by the Shoah, the trauma of which "created a national obsession of exaggerated securitism that often morphs into primitive belligerence." Israel's moral deterioration, he remarked, reminded him not a little of the last days of the Weimar Republic. And the Shoah complex, he wrote, infected the Jewish state with "a boundless paranoia that is no longer able to distinguish between friend and predator, a primitive suspicion of everyone."
Burg's disaffection was not surprisingly accompanied by a growing sense of isolation. "There is no one to talk to here," he told an interviewer from Ha'aretz. "The religious community of which I was a part--I feel no sense of belonging to it. The secular community--I am not part of it, either. I have no one to talk to." Burg blamed his growing isolation on his erstwhile colleagues. "As an Israeli," he told Der Spiegel in 2009, "I feel lost because so many of my fellow countrymen are in love with war."