Chutzpah is a Jewish word. It cannot be accurately translated. Some render it as brazenness, gall. In many languages, the word is used in its original Hebrew-Yiddish form.
The leaders of the Zionist Organization of America recently reached the very height of Chutzpah, when they demanded that the US Government abstain from appointing a pious Jew, Dan Kerzer, as US ambassador to Israel. In full-page ads in several American and Israeli newspapers, they called upon Jews to inundate President Bush and Secretary of State Powell with letters accusing Kerzer of supporting the Oslo agreement and - God forbid - sympathizing with the Palestinians.
If this were to happen between two other countries - let's say, the UK and Pakistan - such a call would sound like monumental chutzpah. When it happens between the US and Israel, it seems natural.
History knows no example of a relationship between two states like this one. It is not just friendship, not only an alliance, but a full symbiosis.
Its manifestations are numberless. For example: the vast sums of money handed by the US to Israel every year - more than to a hundred other states together. Or, the fact that President Clinton, in his effort to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, appointed a team composed solely of Jews, from Secretary of State Albright down to the assistant deputy special official in charge of the Middle East (and, of course, the ambassador to Israel, a veteran Zionist.) If Israel wanted it, 80 Senators and 400 congressmen/women would sign a petition tomorrow to transfer the White House to Jerusalem. Scores of governments around the world woo Israel in the hope that it will induce the US Congress to grant them benefits.
What is the cause of this unique phenomenon?
Some explain it as a result of American democracy, which allows the relatively small Jewish community to organize itself as a powerful lobby. The corrupt American campaign financing system makes it possibly to buy a congressman openly and cheaply. A quite small donation to his campaign fund will assure his support for a long time. The few congressmen who have dared to ignore Israel's wishes were kicked out at the next elections, when Jewish action committees financed their opponents. Published material shows that President Harry Truman was saved from defeat in 1948 by a timely Jewish donation.
Another explanation points to the central position held by Jews in American society, thanks to their special talents. They dominate the media, are prominent in the sciences, law, medicine, cinema and more. They have great influence in the fields of finances and high-tech. When the officers of the Russian secret police invented the Protocols of the Elders of Zion they could not even have dreamt of such a situation.
Many Arabs believe that Israel was created by the British and the Americans solely in order to serve as a stick against the Arabs, to prevent them from becoming an independent, united force controlling their own oil reserves.
Others, again, believe that the American arms industry is to blame for everything. It supplies Israel with immense quantities of weapons, in order to compel the Arabs to buy equal quantities. Saudi Arabia, for example, sells its oil cheaply and uses the money to buy American arms that rapidly turn into junk.
All this, while true, does not really explain the uniqueness of the phenomenon.
I believe that the reason is more profound: the identification of the Zionist enterprise with the foundations of America. The Puritans who founded American society believed in the Bible, knew Hebrew, bore Biblical names, saw themselves as the New Israel - called their country the New Canaan - justified the annihilation of the Natives with the Biblical injunction against Amalek. The Zionist Pioneers, resemble the white settlers in America, the bad Palestinians are a new version of the Bad Injuns?
Zionism is embedded in the Protestant religion, which dominates America to this very day. Years before the Zionist movement came into being, typical Zionist expressions were already in vogue in America. Eighteen years before Theodor Herzl wrote Her Judenstaat - an American best-seller called The Coming of Jesus - proclaimed that the birth of a Jewish state in Palestine was a pre-condition for the second coming of Christ. William Blackstone, a fundamentalist Protestant financier, traveled to Palestine nine years before the first Zionist Congress and planned the Jewish State. In 1891, six years before the First Zionist Congress, 413 prominent Americans, including newspaper editors, governors, congressmen, judges and multi-millionaires like Morgan and Rockefeller, signed a petition calling upon the President and the Secretary of State to ensure that Palestine would be turned over to the Jews.
George W. Bush represents all these old myths. But the new American generation is getting rid of them - just as the new Israeli generation is getting rid of our parallel ones.
Uri Avnery is a journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom, the most militant part of the Israeli peace movement.