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The Suicide of the Palestinians

From the March 25, 2002 issue: Beyond barbarism in the Middle East.

10:00 PM, Mar 15, 2002 • By DAVID GELERNTER
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Why do they do it? Partly for powerful negative reasons. It isn't easy to leave home; and many Israelis are determined that Jews will never again be driven from their homes into alien lands by thug mobs. But there is more to Israel than resolve in the face of a uniquely tragic history. Israel still pays its way using the world's only emotional currency denominated entirely in negative numbers. It needs a new currency with positive markings.

Israeli thinkers ought to speak less about the tragedy (or the ordinariness) of Israel's 3,000-year history, and more about its luminous greatness; ought to talk up the nation's brilliant prospects, and the central role it has played from Moses to Wittgenstein in creating and molding Western civilization. They don't like to talk this way, but they ought to steel themselves and do it anyway. "The Jew is a desert region," Wittgenstein wrote, "but underneath its thin layer of rock lies the molten lava of spirit and intellect." Israeli thinkers have talked enough desert; it is time to talk lava. Much of the world is at a spiritual lowpoint right now, dragging its belly on the ground. Israel has known before what to do about that. Israel has addressed the whole world and wrought spiritual revolutions, and ought to do it again now.

David Gelernter is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.