Archive for August, 2011
The extreme Israeli right’s alliance with lunatics
In recent years, the extreme Israeli right has developed an alliance with heads of the evangelical movement, who define themselves as Christian Zionists, some of whom believe that another Holocaust of the Jews will ensure the resurrection of Jesus.
Against the backdrop of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his spokesmen call the “delegitimization” of Israel, a “support event” was held in Jerusalem yesterday evening led by American preacher-broadcaster Glenn Beck. Beck was accompanied by personages identified with the Republican Party’s extreme right and a group of Christian Zionist evangelical leaders.
Beck never misses an opportunity to speak ill of U.S. President Barack Obama and to challenge his leadership. His television program fell out of favor even with rightist Fox Broadcasting, which took Beck off the air. A few weeks ago, Beck received publicity for comparing the young Norwegians who were killed by an extreme right-winger to the Hitler Youth. Hundreds of rabbis in the United States, from all streams of Judaism, have expressed disgust with Beck’s incitement on the air against Jewish financier George Soros and Jewish intellectuals “accused” of harboring liberal, leftist views.
In recent years the extreme Israeli right has developed an alliance with the heads of the evangelical movement, who define themselves as Christian Zionists. National religious rabbis and politicians connect with these preachers, including those who spread the belief in the need for another Holocaust of the Jews in order to ensure the resurrection of Jesus. These rabbis and politicians accept donations from these preachers. It is mystifying that people from Israel’s ruling party, Likud, foremost among them Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and World Likud Chairman Danny Danon, have joined the circle of Beck’s fans. So has Atzmaut MK Einat Wilf.
One might have expected the government and police to prohibit the East Jerusalem Development Corporation (a government-municipal company ) from making available the archaeological park near the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Silwan neighborhood for the fulminations of extreme rightists. These are unnecessary and harmful fulminations that testify to Netanyahu’s distorted priorities.
It was just a few weeks ago that the government denied dozens of peace activists entry into Israel; they wanted to demonstrate nonviolently their support for the Palestinians’ struggle for independence. At the time, it was claimed that this was a “provocation.” The “support event” in Jerusalem was no less provocative.
Promoting Jewish Victimhood as Guise for Victimizing Palestinians
by Yves Engler
Last week the House of Commons unanimously passed a private member’s bill to establish a national Holocaust monument. While it is a good thing to commemorate the suffering of Jews in Europe, it is important to point out that uncritical support for Israel is part of the backdrop.
Edmonton Conservative MP, Tim Uppal, who introduced the private member’s bill, explained last year: ‘After I had decided on [accepting Minister Peter Kent’s proposal to put forward An Act to Establish a National Holocaust Monument], I ended up going to Israel with the Canada Israel Committee in July. Being there, and learning what I did about the Holocaust and Israel, just made me feel more reassured that this was the right thing to do and get this bill passed.’
Speaking in favour of the bill last week, Winnipeg NDP MP Jim Maloway also connected the planned monument to Israel. ‘I had the privilege and pleasure of traveling to Israel. . . . It was a very inspiring visit . . . I was amazed to see the progress made by Israel in turning deserts into productive lands and cultivating crops in the middle of the desert.’
Alongside its ardent support for Israel, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has promoted the commemoration of Nazi crimes and the idea that anti-Semitism is worse than other forms of oppression. Concurrently, they’ve repeatedly conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
During a July 2007 meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Canada supported the appointment of a representative to the chair to report on anti-Semitism. Despite calls for a change in OSCE policy, Ottawa supported recognizing prejudice against Jews as a unique phenomenon, not one among many forms of bigotry. The OSCE meeting condemned all forms of racism, discrimination and ‘aggressive nationalism’ but added: ‘Recognizing its unique and historic character, [we] condemn anti-Semitism without reservation, whether expressed in a traditional manner or through new forms and manifestations.’
In mid-2009 the Conservatives created a National Task Force on Holocaust Research, Remembrance and Education. Headed by the fanatically pro-Israel group, B’nai Brith, the Conservatives invested $1 million in the project.
This Task Force was tied to a similar European initiative. In 2007 Ottawa applied to join the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, an organization that included 24 European nations and the U.S.. Created in 1998 the group promotes education of the genocide against European Jewry and ‘the unprecedented character of the Holocaust.’
An outgrowth of the Holocaust Task Force, the first ever Interparliamentary Coalition to Combat anti-Semitism meeting was held in London in February 2009. A number of conference participants expressed opposition to the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and Canada’s representative, Minister Jason Kenney, said ‘The argument is with those whose premise is that Israel itself is an abomination and that the Jews alone have no right to a homeland. And in that sense anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.’
Last month Ottawa hosted and funded the second meeting of the Interparliamentary Coalition to Combat anti-Semitism. Prime Minister Harper told those gathered that ‘as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand [in support of Israel], whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.’
He went on to say that this ‘hateful ideology with global ambitions . . . targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so.’
Associated with the Interparliamentary Coalition to Combat anti-Semitism the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) was formed last year to investigate what it describes as ‘this oldest and most enduring of hatreds’. Yet Canada has changed significantly since Jews fleeing Hitler were refused entry and elite social clubs restricted their access. There is little anti-Semitism in Canada today, which even CPCCA architect, Irwin Cotler, has acknowledged.
The CPCCA is not designed to combat racism against Jews, but rather to undercut growing public support for the Palestinian cause. Cotler and Jason Kenney are trying to intimidate reporters, academics, union leaders and other public figures into staying away from criticizing Israel, lest they be accused of anti-Semitism.
In ‘The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering’, Norman Finkelstein argues that the American Jewish establishment has exploited the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for financial and political gain and to further the interests of Israel. Finkelstein claims that discussion of the Nazi Holocaust grew exponentially after the June 1967 Six Day war. Prior to that war, which provided a decisive service to U.S. geopolitical aims in the Middle East, the genocide of European Jewry was a topic largely relegated to private forums and among left wing intellectuals. Paralleling the U.S., the Nazi Holocaust was not widely discussed in Canada in the two decades after World War II. In fact, the Canadian Jewish Congress consciously avoided the subject.
Numerous other commentators also trace the established Jewish community’s interest in Nazi crimes to the Six Day War. ‘The 1967 war’. explained Professor Cyril Leavitt, ‘alarmed Canadian Jews. Increasingly, the Holocaust was invoked as a reminder of the need to support the Jewish state.’ President of the Vancouver Jewish Community Center, Sam Rothstein, concurred. ‘The 1967 war . . . was the one development that led to a commitment by community organizations to become more involved in Holocaust commemoration.’ Stephen Cummings, the founder of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center, said that ‘consciousness [of the Holocaust] has changed. Jews are much more proud, and that’s a post-1967 [phenomenon]. It was the event that gave Jews around the world confidence.’
Holocaust memorials proliferated after Israel smashed Egyptian-led pan-Arabism in six days of fighting. Nearly three decades after World War II, in 1972, the Canadian Jewish Congress and its local federations began to establish standing committees on the Nazi Holocaust. The first Canadian Holocaust memorial was established in Montreal in 1977.
Nazi crimes, particularly Canada’s various ties to these atrocities, should be widely studied and commemorated.
The Nazi Holocaust, however, should not be used as ideological cover for Israeli crimes. That is an injustice to Palestinians and an insult to Hitler’s victims.
Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy. For more information visit yvesengler.com.
Israeli Criticism of Zionism and of Israel’s Treatment of the Palestinians:
There are many Israeli critics of Zionism and anti-Zionist Jews in Israel where the conflict with the Palestinians is most apparent. In 1975 journalist Charles Glass estimated that 58 percent of Israel’s Jewish population fell into the antiZionist category. Most of this opposition was of a “leftist” variety. However, Glass also stated that “they represent 50 percent of the only significant debate in the country.”
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the renowned scholar of Judaism and philosophy and the editor of several volumes of the Encyclopedia Hebraica had the following to say about Zionism and Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians:
The big crisis of the Jewish people is that the overwhelming majority of the Jews genuinely desire to be Jewish but they have no content for their Judaism other than a piece of colored rag attached to the end of a pole and a military uniform. The consciousness and the desire to be Jewish did not vanish, rather they are transformed today into a JudeoNazi mentality.
Gideon Levy, the highly regarded columnist from the Israeli daily Haaretz, has also made a comparison between Germany in the 1930′s and Israel today.
Thus comparing Germany of the 1920s and early ’30s to Israel at the start of the third millennium is not only permissible but imperative for gaining an insight into how barbarous regimes develop, grasping the differences (and there are many profound ones), and discerning the similarities, which ought to worry us.
Another Israeli intellectual Yitzhak Laor in an article, “The soft underbelly and the victim,” published in Haaretz also makes an interesting allusion to the past.
The name of this Israeli ethos is “who are you to tell us?” We are destroying Arab East Jerusalem? Who are you to tell us that it is wrong? We killed masses of Palestinians in Gaza? Who are you to tell us anything? We have maintained a brutal dictatorship in the territories for 42 years longer than any other military occupation of the postWorld War II era? Who are you to tell us? We’re allowed. We’re your victims. The past belongs to us. We will do as we please with it.
Here is what Gideon Levy writes on the prevalence of racism in Israeli society:
Now that we can use the term “racism,” the time has come to admit our society is absolutely racist, that all its components are racist. The legal system, for example, is no less tainted than Petah Tikva’s Morasha school. In many cases there is one law for a Jew and another for an Arab. The Bank of Israel, a state institution no less than the Morasha school, with 900 employees, has always been “clean” of Arab employees except sometimes one or two. Some 70,000 Israeli citizens, all Arab of course, are living in unrecognized villages, without electricity or running water, without an access road and sometimes without a school. Why? Because they are Arabs. Every week at soccer matches we hear racist epithets and chants, the kind teams in Europe are severely penalized for. Here, the referees do not even bother reporting them….
And we have said nothing yet about the attitude toward foreign workers, the occupation (the greatest racist curse) nor about the attitude toward Mizrahim since the founding of the state. The list is long and shameful.
Here are the words of Yael Lotan, another Israeli author and journalist, on the subject of racism and criticism of Israel.
It should be perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel. Giving it uncritical, unqualified support in all its actions, its violations of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, its policy of assassination and destruction that is a racist position, a position that says “Arabs don’t count, Arabs have no rights, Arabs are vermin and whatever is done to them in Palestine, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon is legitimate. And Islam is the same as Fascism.”
Now that is real antiSemitism.
There was an interesting book review published in Haaretz, on February 29, 2008, written by Tom Segev. It was a review of a book titled, When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? (published by Resling in Hebrew). It is authored by Israeli historian Shlomo Zand (also spelled Sand). Prof. Zand teaches history at Tel Aviv University. The book became a best seller in Israel. Segev writes:
…in one of the most fascinating and challenging books published here in a long time. There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened hence there was no return. Zand rejects most of the stories of nationalidentity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt and, most satisfactorily, the horrors of the conquest under Joshua. It’s all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel, he asserts.
This information and arguments have been around for a long time but it is interesting to see them published in one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers and presented in a best seller written by an Israeli historian. Segev summarizes the arguments in Zand’s book as referencing many existing studies on groups that converted to Judaism, “some of which were written in Israel but shunted out of the central discourse.” According to Segev the book describes the Jewish kingdom of Himyar in the southern Arabian Peninsula, the Jewish Berbers in North Africa, Jews in Spain that arose from the Arab conquest, and Europeanborn individuals who had also become Jews. Zand also discusses the large Jewish Khazar Kingdom in the Caucasus. Segev writes,
We find, then, that the members of a variety of peoples and races, blond and black, brown and yellow, became Jews in large numbers. According to Zand, the Zionist need to devise for them a shared ethnicity and historical continuity produced a long series of inventions and fictions, along with an invocation of racist theses. Some were concocted in the minds of those who conceived the Zionist movement, while others were offered as the findings of genetic studies conducted in Israel.
It is somewhat ironic that issues and subjects that relate to the Palestinians and Zionism that are virtually taboo in North America are openly discussed in Israel. These same subjects are much more openly discussed in Europe and in the rest of the World.
The journalist Gideon Levy wrote the following commentary on Zionism and the Israeli Left in the Israeli daily Haaretz. Can you ever imagine seeing a similar opinion piece in the mainstream North American media? Levy wrote:
And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its selfrighteousness.
A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.
One of the most prominent Israeli critics is Avi Shlaim. He is professor of international relations at Oxford University. Shlaim is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and many other books. Shlaim has commented on the character of the debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in North America,
On the other side of the Atlantic, on the other hand, the public debate on the subject of Israel is much more fierce and partisan, leaving relatively little space for the dignity of difference. The passion with which many prominent American Jews defend Israel betrays an atavistic attitude of “my country, right or wrong.”
In an article published in the International Herald Tribune the Oxford professor addressed the question, “Is Zionism today the real enemy of the Jews?” His answer was Yes:
Sharon’s government is waging a savage war against the Palestinian people. Its policies include the confiscation of land; the demolition of houses; the uprooting of trees; curfews, roadblocks and 736 checkpoints that inflict horrendous hardships; the systematic abuse of Palestinian human rights; and the building of the illegal wall on the West Bank, a wall that is as much about landgrabbing as it is about security.
It is this brand of cruel Zionism that is the real enemy of what remains of liberal Israel and of the Jews outside Israel. It is the enemy because it fuels the flames of virulent and sometimes violent antiSemitism. Israel’s policies are the cause; hatred of Israel and antiSemitism are the consequences . . .
Israel’s image today is negative not because it is a Jewish state but because it habitually transgresses the norms of acceptable international behavior. Indeed, Israel is increasingly perceived as a rogue state, as an international pariah, and as a threat to world peace.
This perception of Israel is a major factor in the recent resurgence of antiSemitism in Europe and in the rest of the world. In this sense, Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews. It is a tragedy that a state that was built as a haven for the Jewish people after the Holocaust is now one of the least safe places on earth for Jews to live in. Israel ought to withdraw from the occupied territories not as a favor to the Palestinians but as a favor to itself and to world Jewry for, as Karl Marx noted, “a people that oppresses another cannot itself remain free.”
After Israel launched its attack on Gaza on December 27, 2009 Shlaim published the following statement criticizing Israel’s actions.
The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.. . .
This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.
Many other Israelis also protested the Israeli assault on Gaza. For example there is a letter from 22 prominent Israelis who published an appeal in The Guardian. They wrote:
We, as Israeli citizens, raise our voices to call on EU leaders: use sanctions against Israel’s brutal policies and join the active protests of Bolivia and Venezuela. We appeal to the citizens of Europe: please attend to the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation’s call, supported by more than 540 Israeli citizens (http://www.freegaza.org/en/home/): boycott Israeli goods and Israeli institutions; follow resolutions such as those made by the cities of Athens, Birmingham and Cambridge (US). This is the only road left. Help us all, please!”
Judge Richard Goldstone’s UN Commission of Inquiry which investigated the December 27, 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza and the Palestinian response made a number of findings that were critical of both Israel and Hamas. As reported in the New York Times, when, “Asked about accusations that he was antiIsrael,” Judge Goldstone acknowledged he was Jewish and said, “It is grossly wrong to label a mission or to label a report critical of Israel as being antiIsrael.” While the UN Commission of Inquiry was widely attacked in Israel there were a number of Israelis who supported its critical findings.
One of the most outspoken and courageous Israeli journalists is Amira Hass. Since 2000, Amira Hass has been the only Jewish Israeli reporter living in Occupied Palestine – formerly in Gaza City, and now based out of Ramallah. She is a correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz.[i]
There are many Israeli academics and intellectuals who are extremely critical of Zionism and of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. To quote a study published by a group affiliated with the Israel Academia Monitor:
…The opinions and claims of Israel academics against Jews, Zionism and Israel are discussed and analyzed in this study. It is estimated that some 20 to 25% of people who teach the Humanities and Social Sciences in Israel’s universities and colleges have expressed extreme antiZionist positions, largely, though not exclusively, in regard to Israel’s policies and actions visàvis the Arab Palestinians . . . 
The fact is that many Israelis academics and activists have voiced strong criticism of Zionism and Israeli state policy toward the Palestinians.
Occupation Magazine which is published by a group of anti-Occupation Israelis has an archive of over 36,000 articles, many written by anti-occupation Israelis and Jews from around the world. It also provides links to dozens of Israeli human rights organizations, many not listed in this article. These Israeli human rights organizations include B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, Rabbis for Human Rights, and The Israeli Public Committee Against Torture, Yesh Gvul, the movement for soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories and Refusniks, young Israelis who refuse to serve in the Israeli military. For a collection of Israeli opposition to Zionism and opposition to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians one can review The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent, edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. It contains articles very critical of Israel’s policies, written by 27 prominent Israelis. The Forward was written by a prominent Israeli author and journalist Tom Segev.
The list of writers in The Other Israel include Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s General Security Service or Shin Bet; Yigal Bonner professor at Tel Aviv University; author David Grossman; Aviv Lavie Haaretz media reporter; attorney Shamai Leibowitz; Ishai Menuchin, a major in the Israeli Defense Forces Reserves and head of Yesh Gvul (the Israelis organization of selective refusal); Dr. Yigal Shocat former Surgeon General for the Israeli Airforce; Gila Svirsky chair of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; and Sergio Yahni co-director of the Alternative Information Centre, among others already cited in this article.
There is a growing concern amongst some Israelis that there is a growing rift between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews. Professor Yehezkel Dror, the founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), “offered a somber take on relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry” and pointed “the finger of blame at Israel’s leadership for the growing rift between the two.” Professor Dror stated that, “There is no ignoring the fact . . . that at the heart of the rift between Israel and Jewish communities abroad lies the notion that Diaspora youth have a negative views of Israel politically, nationally and socially.” 
Gideon Levy in an interview with Mario Vargas Llosa, the prizewinning Peruvian writer and a laureate of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize, published in Haaretz quoted the distinguished author saying that “only the dissidents will save the State of Israel.”
Other critical voices from Israel’s academia and activists circles include the late Professor Israel Shahak former Chair of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights; the late Baruch Kimmerling, Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; retired Anthropology professor Jeff Halper now head of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Tel Aviv University professor Gary Sussman; Felica Langer, a well known human rights lawyer who left Israel and now resides in Germany; Michael Warschawski, co-founder of the Alternative Information Center; Eitan Bronstein Chair of Zochrot, which means “Remember,” and works to remind Israelis about the Nakba or Palestinian catastrophe; the late linguist and journalist Tanya Reinhart, Professor of theoretical linguistics and Media and Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University and at the University of Utrecht; the late Victoria Buch professor at Hebrew University; Avi Kleinberg, professor of History at Tel Aviv University; Dr. Yossi Dahan, Chair of the Adva Centre, manager of the Human Rights Division at the Academic College of Law in Ramat Gan, and an editor of Ha’Oketz; author Gershom Gorenberg; Sammy Smooha a sociologist who served as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Haifa; Yossi Swartz professor at the Tel Aviv University Law School; Allegra Pacheco, an Israeli human rights attorney, noted for prosecuting the first Israeli torture trial; Rabbi Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights;  Hannah Mermelstein, cofounder and codirector of Birthright Unplugged; Carlo Strenger, professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University; Oren Yiftachel, Geography professor Ben-Gurion University; New Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe, presently the Chair of the History Department at the University of Essex in England, and formerly of history department of the University of Haifa in Israel; world renown author Jacobo Timerman; Neve Gordon Chair of the Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University; Avraham Oz, associate professor of theater at the University of Haifa; Dror Etkes, who headed Peace Now’s Settlements Watch Project for five years and now heads the Land Advocacy Project of Yesh Din, a group working against violation of Palestinians’ rights by settlers; Erik Schechter, the former military correspondent for The Jerusalem Post; Yosefa Loshitzky, Professor of Film, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London; Yacov Ben Efrat of Challenge Magazine; Amos Oz, who Steven Plaut describes as “arguably Israel’s bestknown writer;” and another famous Israeli writer with an international reputation, A.B. Yehoshua; Tikva Honig-Parnass, editor of Between the Lines; author and journalist Amnon Kapeliouk; Oren Ben-Dor, professor of Legal and Political Philosophy at the School of Law, University of Southampton, UK; Gilad Atzmon, author of two books and numerous articles, and also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe; prolific writer Israel Shamir; Amia Lieblich, professor of Psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of numerous books on the psychology of Israeli society including Tin Soldiers on Jerusalem Beach; Haaretz columnist Nehema Shtrasler; IsraeliAmerican human rights lawyer Sari Bashi; Adam Atsan an IsraeliAmerican who is involved in Kesher Enoshi: Progressives For Activism in Israel; author Akiva Orr; David Newman, professor of political geography at BenGurion University and editor of the International journal, Geopolitics; author Susan Nathan; author and journalist Yael Lotan; Israeli Television correspondent Yigal Laviv; professor of political science at Tel Aviv university Ze’ev Maoz; Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken; Haaretz editor Danny Rubinstein; and Yitzhak Laor, one of Israel’s most distinguished poets, novelists and a longtime editor and writer for the daily newspaper Haaretz, who also edits an independent journal of literature and political thought, Mita’am; Adi Opir professor of philosophy at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University and also a fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute; Akiva Eldar, Israeli journalist and author, currently chief political columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz; journalist Meron Rapoport; an orthodox Jewish studies professor who writes under the nom de plume of Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber and runs the Magnes Zionist blog; B. Michael one of Israel’s most respected journalists who until recently with writing for Yedioth Aharonoth; Ran HaCohen professor at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Comparative Literature and a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth; journalist Shraga Elam; Hillel Cohen Research Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Haaretz journalist and editorial Board member Avirama Golan; Shai Lahav Editor of the art and culture supplement to Ma’ariv, the country’s most rightwing newspaper; journalist and former IDF conscript Seth Freeman; Yehouda Shenhav professor at Tel Aviv University and the editor of Theory Criticism, an Israeli journal in the area of critical theory and cultural studies; Eyal Sivan, one of Israel’s leading film makers; Elana Maryles Sztokman, author, educator, writer, researcher and regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post; Adam Keller journalist and a founder of The Other Israel; and Gideon Spiro, a former Israeli Sergeant and journalist; Israeli Professor Ada Yonath 2009 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry; to name only a few of the many Israelis who are anti-Zionist, non-Zionist or extremely critical of Zionism and Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
- Published 02:27 18.08.11 HAARETZ
Israel’s swinish Zionism ought to be stopped
Israel tycoons have woken up to the new reality; they’re beginning to pay the price for their behavior – their capitalism has been defined as swinish.
There’s a remarkable resemblance in Israel between Zionism and wealth: Both have not known when to stop. These days we’re talking about “swinish capitalism,” a term coined by President Shimon Peres back when he was an MK; he was referring in particular to Benjamin Netanyahu, who was finance minister at the time and is now prime minister. It’s worth remembering that there is also swinish Zionism.
Swine are insatiable, it is thought. They eat everything that comes their way and gorge themselves until they die. So do capitalism and Zionism. A broad (and encouraging ) public now agrees about the swinishness of Israeli capitalism; the perception of Zionism as swinish is still the province of a tiny minority in Israel, though not around the world. Zionism and capitalism started differently.
Zionism began as a national movement that aspired to establish a national home for the Jews. Although along the way it caused grave injustice to the previous inhabitants of the land, it had internal justice. It began modestly: stockade and tower, dunam after dunam – some of them legally purchased – forms of agricultural settlement that became an international model, and a relatively egalitarian society. This movement established an inspiring and nearly wonderful state, whose amazing achievements in many areas are unparalleled in modern history.
Until 1967 it seemed this movement was satisfied. But with the eating (the victory in the Six-Day War ) came the appetite, and since then the movement has developed characteristics that can only be defined as swinish. The settlement project in the territories was impelled from its inception by unbridled territorial lust, the occupation regime became cruel and totalitarian, and Israel’s security policy became immoral. Had Zionism known when to stop, had it reined in its lust and greed, atoned for the original injustices in 1948 and changed direction, it would have become an admired movement. But it did not stop in time, it did not rein in its greed and now Israel is only begining to pay the price.
A great many of this country’s wealthy people also started out well. One family established a salt industry, another a modest dairy, this one founded a shipping company, that one started out as a building contractor and a third began as an importer of mobile telephones. They helped develop the economy, building the land and its prosperity.
But here too with the eating came the insatiable appetite, and some of them did not know when to stop their greed. They shower huge salaries on their executives, celebrate their family events lavishly, lead an ostentatious life and treat the public’s money as if it were their own, leveraging money that does not belong to them.
Now the time of reckoning has come. The public is calling them to account. The word “tycoon” has become a curse and “wealthy” has nearly become despicable. Had our wealthy people stopped their greed in time, they would have continued to celebrate on top of the world, or on top of this country at least, if also with relative modesty.
The public’s attitude to these two kinds of swinishness is remarkably similar. At first society bowed down to its wealthy, in the same way it bowed down to its settlers in the territories, its “new pioneers.” It looked away and hid its face both from the way the tycoons were making their money and the way the settlers were putting down their stakes. The state treated them that way too; it encouraged both groups. To the wealthy and the settlers it offered everything good – incentives and protection, grants and loans. It sold natural resources and companies to the tycoons at bargain prices and gave the lands of the occupation to the settlers for free.
The state was protective of both these groups. It still is, with a committee for the tycoons and the continuation of its pro-settler policies.
The tycoons have woken up to the new reality. In the summer of 2011 it’s not so pleasant to be Yitzhak Tshuva, Nochi Dankner, Ilan Ben-Dov or Idan Ofer. They’re beginning to pay the price for their behavior – their capitalism has been defined as swinish. This isn’t the case regarding the new Zionism, the Zionism of occupation and settlement in the territories. To call it swinish is still considered heretical. But when the time for the reckoning comes we’ll ask: Why didn’t we stop this swinishness in time?
13/08/11 by Uri Avnery
THE PEOPLE Demand Social Justice!” 250 thousand protesters chanted in unison in Tel Aviv last Saturday. But what they need – to quote an American artist – is “more unemployed politicians”.
Fortunately, the Knesset has gone on a prolonged vacation, three months. For as Mark Twain quipped: “No man’s life or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”
As if to prove this point, MK Avi Dichter submitted, on the very last day of the outgoing session, a bill so outrageous that it easily trumps all the many other racist laws lately adopted by this Knesset.
“DICHTER” IS A German name and means “poet”. But no poet he. He is the former chief of the secret police, the “General Security Service” (Shin-Bet or Shabak).
(“Dichter also means “more dense”, but let’s not dwell on that.)
He proudly announced that he had spent a year and a half smoothening and sharpening this particular project, turning it into a legislative masterpiece.
And a masterpiece it is. No colleague in yesterday’s Germany or present-day Iran could have produced a more illustrious piece. The other members of the Knesset seem to feel so, too – no less than 20 of the 28 members of the Kadima faction, as well as all the other dyed-in-the-wool racist members of this august body, have proudly put their name to this bill as co-authors.
The very name – “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” – shows that this Dichter is neither a poet nor much of an intellectual. Secret police chiefs seldom are.
“Nation” and “People” are two different concepts. It is generally accepted that a people is an ethnic entity, and a nation is a political community. They exist on two different levels. But never mind.
It is the content of the bill that counts.
WHAT DICHTER proposes is to put an end to the official definition of Israel as a “Jewish and Democratic State”.
He proposes instead to set clear priorities: Israel is first and foremost the nation-state of the Jewish people, and only as a far second a democratic state. Wherever democracy clashes with the Jewishness of the state, Jewishness wins, democracy loses.
This makes him, by the way, the first right-wing Zionist (apart from Meir Kahane) who openly admits that there is a basic contradiction between a “Jewish” state and a “democratic” state. Since 1948, this has been strenuously denied by all Zionist factions, their phalanx of intellectuals and the Supreme Court.
What the new definition means is that the State of Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world – including Senators in Washington, drug-dealers in Mexico, oligarchs in Moscow and casino-owners in Macao, but not to the Arab citizens of Israel, who have been here for at least 1300 years since the Muslims entered Jerusalem. Christian Arabs trace their ancestry back to the crucifixion 1980 years ago, Samaritans were here 2500 years ago and many villagers are probably the descendents of the Canaanites, who were already here some 5000 years ago.
All these will become, once this bill is law, second-class citizens, not only in practice, as now, but also in official doctrine. Whenever their rights clash with what the majority of the Jews considers necessary for the preservation of the interests of the “nation-state of the Jewish people” – which may include everything from land ownership to criminal legislation –their rights will be ignored.
THE BILL itself does not leave much room for speculation. It spells things out.
The Arabic language will lose its status as an “official language” – a status it enjoyed in the Ottoman Empire, under the British Mandate and in Israel until now. The only official language in the Nation-State etc will be Hebrew.
No less typical is the paragraph that says that whenever there is a hole in Israeli law (called “lacuna”’ or lagoon), Jewish law will apply.
“Jewish law” is the Talmud and the Halakha, the Jewish equivalent of the Muslim Sharia. It means in practice that legal norms adopted 1500 years ago and more will trump the legal norms evolved over recent centuries in Britain and other European countries. Similar clauses exist in the laws of countries like Pakistan and Egypt. The similarity between Jewish and Islamic law is not accidental – Arabic-speaking Jewish sages, like Moses Maimonides (“the Rambam”) and their contemporary Muslim legal experts influenced each other.
The Halakha and the Sharia have much in common. They ban pork, practice circumcision, keep women in servitude, condemn homosexuals and fornicators to death and deny equality for infidels. (In practice, both religions have modified many of the harsher penalties. In the Jewish religion, for example, “an eye for an eye” now means compensation. Otherwise, as Gandhi so aptly said, we would all be blind by now.)
After enacting this law, Israel will be much nearer to Iran than to the USA. The “Only Democracy in the Middle East” will cease to be a democracy, but be very close in its character to some of the worst regimes in this region. “At long last, Israel is integrating itself in the region,” as an Arab writer mocked – alluding to a slogan I coined 65 years ago: “Integration in the Semitic Region”.
MOST OF the Knesset members who signed this bill fervently believe in “the Whole of Eretz-Israel” – meaning the official annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
They don’t mean the “One-State solution” that so many well-intentioned idealists dream about. In practice, the only One State that is feasible is one governed by Dichter’s law – the “Nation-State of the Jewish People” – with the Arabs relegated to the status of the Biblical “hewers of wood and drawers of water”.
Sure, the Arabs will be a majority in this state – but who cares? Since the Jewishness of the state will override democracy, their numbers will be irrelevant. Much as the number of blacks was in Apartheid South Africa.
LET’S HAVE a look at the party to which this poet of racism belongs: Kadima.
When I was in the army, I was always amused by the order: “the squad will retreat to the rear – forward march!”
This may sound absurd, but is really quite logical. The first part of the order relates to its direction, the second to its execution.
“Kadima” means “forward”, but Its direction is backward.
Dichter is a prominent leader of Kadima. Since his only claim to distinction is his former role as chief of the secret police, this must be why he was elected. But he has been joined in this racist project by more than 80% of the Kadima Knesset faction – the largest in the present parliament.
What does this say about Kadima?
Kadima has been a dismal failure in practically every respect. As an opposition faction in parliament it is a sad joke – indeed, I dare say that when I was a one-man faction in the Knesset, I generated more opposition activity than this 28-headed colossus. It has not formulated any meaningful stand on peace and the occupation, not to mention social justice.
Its leader, Tzipi Livni, has proved herself a total failure. Her only achievement has been her ability to keep her party together – no mean feat, though, considering that it consists of refugees (some would say traitors) from other parties, who hitched their cart to Ariel Sharon’s surging horses when he left the Likud. Most Kadima leaders left the Likud with him, and – like Livni herself – are deeply steeped in Likud ideology. Some others came from the Labor Party, arm in arm with that unsavory political prostitute, Shimon Peres.
This haphazard collection of frustrated politicians has tried several times to outflank Binyamin Netanyahu on the right. Its members have co-signed almost all the racist bills introduced in recent months, including the infamous “Boycott Law” (though when public opinion rebelled, they withdrew their signature, and some of them even voted against.)
How did this party get to be the largest in the Knesset, with one more seat than Likud? For left-wing voters, who were disgusted by Ehud Barak’s Labor Party and who dismissed the tiny Meretz, it seemed the only chance to stop Netanyahu and Lieberman. But that may change very soon.
LAST SATURDAY’s huge protest demonstration was the largest in Israel’s history (including the legendary “400,000 demo” after the Sabra-Shatilah massacre, whose real numbers were slightly lower). It may be the beginning of a new era.
It is impossible to describe the sheer energy emanating from this crowd, consisting mostly of 20-30-year-olds. History, like a gigantic eagle, could be felt beating its wings above. It was a jubilant mass, conscious of its immense power.
The protesters were eager to shun “politics” – reminding me of the words of Pericles, some 2500 years ago, that “just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you!”
The demonstration was, of course, highly political – directed against Netanyahu, the government and the entire social order. Marching in the dense crowd, I looked around for kippa-wearing protesters and could not spot a single one. The whole religious sector, the right-wing support group of the settlers and Dichter’s Law, was conspicuously absent, while the Oriental Jewish sector, the traditional base of Likud, was amply represented.
This mass protest is changing the agenda of Israel. I hope that it will result in due course in the emergence of a new party, which will change the face of the Knesset beyond recognition. Even a new war or another “security emergency” may not avert this.
That will surely be the end of Kadima, and few will mourn it. It would also mean bye-bye to Dichter, the Secret Police poet.