Herb Zweibon, in memorial: the man who refused to be told what to say
It was with deep chagrin that we here in Israel have heard of the passing of Herb Zweibon, Chairman of AFSI.
Some here in Israel have, it seems, done insufficient justice to Mr. Zweibon by terming him merely "righteous'. Too tame! The Jewish people and mankind in general are blessed with so many righteous people who help others, treat their neighbors honestly and with respect, and do public works on behalf of their communities. Herb Zweibon was by no means merely one more righteous person in these ranks.
"He was against treating with or compromising with Israel's enemies". "Anything but apologetic". These characterizations of Zweibon are in fact priceless accolades. Zweibon even had the gall and seeming ill-manners to come right out and say what all of us long know, but none of us dares to say; that "making nice with the government of Israel - or playing kissy with AIPAC - doesn't help us".
Zweibon fought in World War II. "Did the American government understand what dire danger the Jews were in then?" he was reportedly asked by one interviewer. "I don't think they cared," Zwiebon responded bluntly. "They did relatively nothing to save the Jews. So, the reality is that we must learn to depend on ourselves, and be strong and stay strong for a long period. Otherwise, all of Israel's great accomplishments could disappear in a flash."
Israel's accomplishments certainly could disappear in a flash, but how many of us are willing to confront such a reality. A part of that reality is the social reality, in which Herb Zweibon was not merely righteous, or simply generous, but was instead one of our generation's few and much too far between unbending pillars of truth and conviction, insofar as Israel is concerned. In a world so pre-occupied with Israel-bashing that it has become habit-forming, it is a rare individual who is not swept away by the rhetoric or bowled over by the seeming logic of Israel's clever, forked-tongued enemies. It is practically unheard of for someone to come right out and say what needs to be said, and then to stand up for it. We here in Israel, and the Jewish people as a whole, owe Herb Zweibon - owe all of history's Herb Zweibons past present and future-- a debt of honor that we can not easily repay. But the difficult can be achieved, and must be achieved. We must -- with effort -- repay that debt of honor to our Herb Zweibon -- simply by being as forthright and stalwart and bold and unyielding on behalf of Israel, as we would have been if Herb Zweibon were standing right beside us, right now. And the soul of him is. And will always be.
"I don't want to be told what to say," Zweibon once explained to an interviewer. May we all be inspired by this message and grow up -- someday -- to be people who never once allow themselves to get told what to say.