The Future of Israel thought-provoking if not controversial

It’s heartening nowadays to find a book that vigorously supports the state of Israel against its enemies. Devin Sper’s first book, “The Future of Israel,” is based on a literal interpretation of the Torah, but I believe that much of his argument will stand even without theological backing.

Born in New York, Sper immigrated to Israel at age 17, just before the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He served for three years in the Israel Defense Forces, and earned a degree in Jewish history at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since returning to the United States in 1982 he has spoken to many audiences on behalf of Israel. He lives with his wife and two children in Scottsdale, Ariz.

As an introduction to his survival strategy, the author presents his own re-interpretation of Jewish history. The stories, filled with passages from the Torah, are invested with powerful and eloquent emotion as he relates the hard-won victories and devastating losses of the Jews in ancient and medieval times. In the Warsaw Ghetto revolt of 1943, he sees another heroic battle against overwhelming odds.

His interpretation divides the Jewish people into two camps: the “Party of Peace” (doves) and the “Zealots” (hawks); both have worn many faces since biblical times.

He blames the “Party of Peace,” primarily, for the Jews’ age-old status as victims and rootless wanderers. Its influence is traced back to the Jewish high priests who surrendered to Rome after the First Great Revolt of 66-73 CE, and compiled the Talmud to reflect their attitude that powerlessness was the Jewish norm. He likens it to “our pacifists in modern Israel who lack sympathy for the suffering of their own people and advocate pacifism toward their oppressors,” and quotes passages from the Torah that command fighting in a just cause.

He credits the zealot spirit, based on faith in God and God’s love of the Jewish people, with the survival of Judaism for so long against such heavy odds. That spirit took on new life and regained an ancient home thanks to Theodor Herzl’s publication in 1896 of “The Jewish State,” the foundation of modern Zionism.

Sper calls Herzl (1860-1904) “the first real national leader of the Jewish people since Bar Kochba,” (of the Second Great Revolt against Rome in 135 CE). But Herzl’s inspiration arose from his despair over the deep roots of European anti-Semitism; he had no idea that Arab hatred of the Jews would be even deeper and darker.

To confront that hatred, Sper proposes to halt what he calls Israel’s one-sided concessions to the “Palestinian Arabs.”

“The entire Palestinian ’cause,'” he writes, “is predicated on the lie that the Land of Israel belonged to the Arabs in the first place and was stolen by the Jews.”

He accuses the Palestinians of forfeiting their right to live within the “Land of Israel” by their persistent rejection of compromise in favor of mass murder. He would expel all the terrorist leaders, and everyone else who engages in terror and violence against the sovereign state.

“Every democracy,” Sper said in a phone interview, “must walk a fine line between protecting the rights of the innocent and protecting those same innocent from terror.”

The book, which advocates a significant change of direction for the Israeli government, is bound to provoke thought and controversy.

Some of its ideas — especially the expulsion of Palestinians — seem unrealistic; still, I would recommend Sper’s book to anyone who is concerned for the survival of the Jewish state.

“The Future of Israel” by Devin Sper (256 pages, S.Y. Publishing, $27.95).