The tension — “never again,” and “never again to Jews” — hardly mattered in the diaspora, where the Haggadah was composed and for which it was intended. There was an implicit assumption that Jews were the unarmed outsiders — so that doing what prevented their persecution, or advanced their civic relations, also advanced social tolerance and the formation of civil society more generally. This is, gratefully, not the condition of Jews today, and not the way the Haggadah reads. Israelis have military power and political institutions; they defend against, but also exercise rule over, others. We don’t have the arguable luxury of assuming Jewish interests to be coincident with those of every oppressed person. Our survival imperative is not inherently free of bigotry, nor are the land and its inhabitants merely poetic and hypothetical. The next time an Israeli leader speaks of Amalek, remember the Rabbis’ hysterical fantasies. These are touching. They can also be fatal.
– Bernard Avishai
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