Archive for category Jewish Voice
The Ten Mythologies of Israel by Ilan Pappé
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The Ten Mythologies of Israel
1 Myth 1: Palestine was a land without people, waiting for the people without
a land………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
2 Myth 2: Palestinians resorted to acts of terror against Jewish settlers prior
to the creation of Israel………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2
3 Myth 3: Myths around the creation of Israel………………………………………………….. 2
4 Myth 4: Israel was a benign democratic state prior to 1967 ………………………… 4
5 Myth 5: The Palestinian struggle has no aim other than terror …………………… 4
6 Myth 6: Israel was forced to occupy the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, ad
must hold these territories until others are ready for peace ……………………………… 4
7 Myth 7: Isreal ocupied the West Bank and Gaza with benevolent intentions,
but was forced to respond to Palestinian violence …………………………………………….. 5
8 Myth 8: The Oslo Accords reflected a desire on both sides to reach a
9 Myth 9: The Second Intifada was a mass terror attack orchestrated by
Arafat ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
10 Myth 10: A solution in Israel and Palestine is just around the corner …….. 7
March 24, 2012
The Ghetto Within
RACIST HATE crimes are particularly ugly.
If the victims are children, they are even more so.
If they are committed by an Arab against Jewish children, they are also incredibly stupid.
This was demonstrated this week again.
IF INDEED an Arab al-Qaeda sympathizer is guilty of shooting three Jewish children and an adult in Toulouse, after killing three non-white French soldiers nearby, he caused not only extreme grief to their families, but also extreme harm to the Palestinian people, whose cause he claims to support.
The world-wide shock found its expression in a demonstration of solidarity with the French Jewish community, and indirectly with the State of Israel.
The French foreign minister flew to Jerusalem, where the Jewish victims were buried. President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the middle of the fight for his political life, appeared everywhere where an ounce of political capital could be extracted from the tragedy. So, even more shamelessly, did Binyamin Netanyahu.
Just when calls for boycotting Israel were heard in many places, this act reminded the world of the ravages of anti-Semitism. One had to be very brave to demand the boycott of the “Jewish State” at such a time. It is easy for advocates of Israel to recall the Nazi battle-cry “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” (“Don’t buy from Jews”).
Lately, Netanyahu has been mentioning the Holocaust in every speech he makes in which he calls for an attack on Iran. He prophesies a Second Holocaust if Iran’s nuclear installations are not bombed to smithereens. This has been criticized inside Israel as cynical exploitation of the Holocaust, but in the atmosphere created by the Toulouse outrage this criticism has been muted.
SOME MAY think that these responses are overreactions. After all, the outrage was committed by a single 24-year old deranged individual. The victims were not only Jews, but also Muslims. Has this act not been blown out of proportion?
Those who say so do not understand the background of the Jewish reaction.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust. There is much truth in this, but the Holocaust must be understood in this context as the culmination of centuries of persecution.
Almost every Jewish child around the world is brought up on the narrative of Jewish victimhood. “In every generation, they stand up to annihilate us,” says the sacred text that will be read in every Jewish home around the world in two weeks on Passover eve, “They”, as is well understood, are the “goyim”, all goyim.
Jews, according to our generally accepted narrative, have been persecuted everywhere, all the time, with few exceptions. Jews had to be ready to be attacked in every place at any moment. It is a continuous story of massacres, mass expulsions, the butchery of the Crusaders, the Spanish inquisition, the Russian and Ukrainian pogroms. The Holocaust was only one link in that chain, and probably not the last one.
In Jewish historiography, the story of victimhood doesn’t even start with European Christian Jew-hatred, but goes back to the (mythical) story of Israelite slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and again by the Romans. A few weeks ago the jolly feast of Purim was celebrated, in memory of the Biblical (and mythical) story of the plan to annihilate all Jews in Persia, today’s Iran, which was foiled by a pretty and unscrupulous young woman named Esther. (In the end, it was the Jews who killed all their enemies, women and children included.)
The narrative of unending victimhood is so deeply embedded in the conscious and unconscious mind of every Jew, that the smallest incident triggers an orgy of self-pity that may seem quite out of proportion. Every Jew knows that we have to stand together against an antagonistic world, that the attack on one Jew is an attack against all, that a pogrom in far-away Kishinev must arouse the Jews of England, that an attack on Jews in Toulouse must arouse the Jews in Israel.
What the assassin of Toulouse has succeeded in doing by his disgusting act is to bind French – and world – Jewry even tighter to the State of Israel. Already these ties have become very close in the last few years. A large proportion of French Jews are immigrants from North Africa who chose to go to France instead of Israel, and are therefore fiercer Israeli nationalists then most Israelis. They invest money and buy houses in Israel. In the month of August, one hears more French than Hebrew on Tel Aviv’s sea shore. Now many of them may decide to come to Israel for good.
Like every anti-Semitic act, this one in Toulouse contributes to the strength of Israel, and especially to the strength of the Israeli anti-Arab right.
I BELIEVE that the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayad, was quite sincere when he condemned the outrage, and especially the declaration attributed to the assassin, that he wanted to avenge the death of children in Gaza. No one should utter the name of Palestine when carrying out such a dastardly act, he said.
I was reminded of my late friend, Issam Sartawi, the Palestinian “terrorist” who became an outstanding peace activist and was murdered for it. He once told me that a French anti-Semitic leader came to his office in Paris and offered an alliance. “I threw him out,” he told me, “I know that the anti-Semites are the greatest enemies of the Palestinian people”
As has been pointed out many times, modern Zionism is the step-daughter of modern European anti-Semitism. Indeed, the name “Zionism” was invented only a few years after the term “anti-Semitism” was coined by a German ideologue.
Without anti-Semitism, which engulfed Europe from the “Black Hundreds” in Czarist Russia to the Dreyfus affair in republican France, Jews would have yearned for Zion comfortably for another 2000 years. It was anti-Semitism, with the threat of dreadful things to come, that drove them out and lent credibility to the idea that Jews must have a state of their own, where they would be masters of their own fate.
The original Zionists did not intend to build a state that would be a kind of General Staff for World Jewry. Indeed, they thought that there would be no World Jewry. In their vision, all the Jews would congregate in Palestine, and the Jewish Diaspora would disappear. That’s what Theodor Herzl wrote, and that’s what David Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky believed.
If they had had their way, there would have been no anti-Semitic murders in Toulouse, because there would have been no Jews in Toulouse.
Ben Gurion was narrowly restrained from telling American Jewish Zionists what he thought of them. He held them in utter contempt. A Zionist, he believed, had no business to be anywhere but in Zion. If he had listened to Binyamin Netanyahu sucking up to the thousands of Jewish “leaders” in the AIPAC conference, he would have thrown up. And understandably, because these Jews, who were clapping and jumping up and down like mad, egging Netanyahu on to start a disastrous war against Iran, then went back to their comfortable homes and lucrative occupations in America.
Their English-speaking children attend colleges and dream about future riches while their contemporaries in Israel go to the army and worry about what would happen to their defenseless families if the promised war with Iran really comes about. How not to vomit?
BY THE way, the symbiosis between American politicians and the Zionist lobby produced another weird curiosity this week. The US Congress unanimously adopted a law that makes it easy for Israelis to immigrate to the US for good. All we have to do now is to buy a small business in America – say a little delicatessen shop in a corner of Brooklyn, for half the price of an apartment in Jerusalem – to automatically become American residents, and eventually citizens.
Can one imagine a more anti-Zionist act than this plot to empty Israel? All out of love for Israel and Jewish votes?
The Israeli media applauded, of course, this astounding new evidence of American friendship for Israel.
So here we have a murderous anti-Semite in Toulouse driving the Jews towards Israel, and a cravenly Zionist US Congress enticing the Israelis back into “exile”.
WHEN ISRAEL was founded, we thought that that was the end of Jewish victimhood, and especially of the mentality of Jewish victimhood.
Here we were, Hebrews of a new kind, able to defend ourselves, with all the strength of a sovereign state.
Cry-baby victimhood belonged to the despised and detested Diaspora, to the dispersed and defenseless Jewish communities.
But victimhood has come back with a vengeance, both as an all-purpose political ploy and as a mental attitude. The Iranian nukes, real or imagined, give it a big boost. As long as Israel is in a state of fear, the Second Holocaust mentality will not loosen its grip.
From day to day, Israel becomes more Jewish and less Israeli. As has been said, it is easier to get the Jews out of the ghetto than to get the ghetto out of the Jews. Especially in a permanent war.
So in the end we come to the same conclusion as in all other matters: Peace is the Answer.
Even as I write this, the bulldozers have been busy throughout that one indivisible country known by the bifurcated term Israel/Palestine. Palestinian homes, community centers, livestock pens and other “structures” (as the Israel authorities dispassionately call them) have been demolished in the Old City, Silwan and various parts of “Area C” in the West Bank, as well among the Bedouin – Israeli citizens – in the Negev/Nakab. This is merely mopping up, herding the last of the Arabs into their prison cells where, forever, they will cease to be heard or heard from, a non-issue in Israel and, eventually, in the wider world distracted from bigger, more pressing matters.
An as-yet confidential report submitted by the European consuls in Jerusalem and Ramallah raises urgent concerns over the “forced expulsion” of Palestinians – a particularly strong term for European diplomats to use –from Area C of the West Bank (the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control but which today contains less than 5% of the Palestinian population). Focusing particularly on the rise in house demolitions by the Israeli authorities and the growing economic distress of the Palestinians living in Area C, the report mentions the fertile and strategic Jordan Valley (where the Palestinian population has declined from 250,000 to 50,000 since the start of the Occupation), plans to relocate 3000 Jahalin Bedouins to a barren hilltop above the Jerusalem garbage dump and the ongoing but accelerated demolition of Palestinian homes (500 in 2011).
At the same time the “judaization” of Jerusalem continues apace, a “greater” Israeli Jerusalem steadily isolating the Palestinian parts of the city from the rest of Palestinian society while ghettoizing their inhabitants, more than 100,000 of which now live beyond the Wall. Some 120 homes were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2011; over the same period the Israeli government announced the construction of close to 7000 housing units for Jews in East and “Greater” Jerusalem. “If current trends are not stopped and reversed,” said a previous EU report, “the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders seems more remote than ever. The window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing….”
In fact, it closed long ago. In terms of settlers and Palestinians, the Israeli government treats the whole country as one. Last year it demolished three times more homes ofIsraeli citizens (Arabs, of course) than it did in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The demolition of Bedouin homes in the Negev/Nakab is part of a plan approved by the government to remove 30,000 citizens from their homes and confine them to townships.
None of this concerns “typical” Israelis even if they have heard of it (little appears in the news). For them, the Israeli-Arab conflict was won and forgotten years ago, somewhere around 2004 when Bush informed Sharon that the US does not expect Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, thus effectively ending the “two-state solution,” and Arafat “mysteriously” died.
Since then, despite occasional protests from Europe, the “situation” has been normalized. Israelis enjoy peace and quiet, personal security and a booming economy (with the usual neoliberal problems of fair allocation). The unshakable, bi-partisan support of the American government and Congress effectively shields it from any kind of international sanctions. Above all, Israeli Jews have faith that those pesky Arabs living somewhere “over there” beyond the Walls and barbed-wire barriers have been pacified and brought under control by the IDF. A recent poll found that “security,” the term Israelis use instead of “occupation” or “peace,” was ranked eleventh among the concerns of the Israeli public, trailing well behind employment, crime, corruption, religious-secular differences, housing and other more pressing issues.
A for the international community, the “Quartet” representing the US, the EU, Russia and the UN in the non-existent “peace process” has gone completely silent. (Israel refused to table its position on borders and other key negotiating issues by the January 26th “deadline” laid down by the Quartet, and no new meetings are scheduled). The US has abandoned any pretense of an “honest broker.” Months ago, when the US entered its interminable election “season,” Israel received a green light from both the Democrats and Republicans to do whatever it sees fit in the Occupied Territory. Last May the Republicans invited Netanyahu to address Congress and send a clear message to Obama: hands off Israel. That same week, Obama, not to be out-done, addressed an AIPAC convention and reaffirmed Bush’s promise that Israel will not have to return to the 1967 borders or relinquish its major settlement blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He also took the occasion to promise an American veto should the Palestinians request membership in the UN – though that would merely amount to an official acceptance of the two-state treaty that the US claims it has been fostering all these years. No, as far as Israel and Israeli Jews are concerned, the conflict and even the need for pretense is over. The only thing remaining is to divert attention to more “urgent” global matters so that the Palestinian issue completely disappears. Voila Iran.
Oh, but what about the “demographic threat,” that “war of the womb” that will eventually force a solution? Well, as long as Israel has the Palestinian Authority to self-segregate its people, it has nothing to worry about. While the Palestinian Authority plays the “two-state solution” game, Israel can simply herd the Palestinians into the 70 tiny islands of Areas A and B, lock the gates and let the international community feed them – and go about placidly building a Greater Land of Israel with American and European complicity. Indeed, nothing demonstrates self-segregation more than Prime Minister Salem Fayyad’s neoliberal scheme of building a Palestinian …something… “from the ground up.” By building for the well-to-do in new private-sector cities like Rawabi, located safely in Area A, by building new highways (with Japanese and USAID assistance) that respect Israeli “Greater” Jerusalem and channel Palestinian traffic from Ramallah to Bethlehem through far-away Jericho, by expressing a willingness to accept Israeli territorial expansion in exchange for the ability to “do business,” Fayyad has invented yet a new form of neoliberal oppression-by-consent: viable apartheid (viable, at least, for the Palestinian business class). And as in the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa, the Palestinian Authority maintains a repressive internal order through its own American-trained/Israeli-approved militia, a second layer of occupation. (During the 2008 assault on Gaza, one of the few places in the world in which there were no demonstrations was the West Bank, where they were forbidden by the Palestinian Authority. Then-Prime Minister Olmert crowed that this was evidence of how effectively the Palestinians had been pacified.)
Indeed, by clinging to the two-state solution and continuing to participate in “negotiations” years after they have proven themselves a trap, the Palestinian leadership plays a central role in its own people’s warehousing. The reality – even the fact – of occupation gets buried under the diversions set up by the fraudulent yet unending “peace process.” This only enables Israel not only to imprison the Palestinians in tiny cells; witness today’s mini-ethnic cleansing, just one of thousands of micro-events that have the cumulative effect of displacement, expulsion, segregation and incarceration. It also enables Israel to then blame the victims for causing their own oppression! When a Palestinian leadership assumes the prerogative to negotiate a political resolution yet lacks any genuine authority or leverage to do so, and when, in addition, it fails to abandon negotiations even after they have been exposed as a trap, it comes dangerously close to being collaborationist. For its part, Israel is off the hook. Instead of going through the motions of establishing an apartheid regime, it simply exploits the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to perpetuate the illusion of negotiations as a smokescreen covering its virtual imprisonment of the Palestinian “inmates.” Once the current mopping up operations are completed, the process of incarceration will be complete.
Today the only alternative agency to the Palestinian Authority is segments of the international civil society. The Arab and Muslims peoples for whom Palestinian liberation is an integral part of the Arab Spring, stand alongside thousands of political and human rights groups, critical activists, churches, trade unions and intellectuals throughout the world. Crucial as it is for keeping the issue alive and building grassroots support for the Palestinian cause that will steadily “trickle up” and affect governments’ policies, however, civil society advocacy is a stop-gap form of agency, ultimately unable to achieve a just peace by itself. We, too, are trapped in the dead-end personified by the two-state solution, reference to a “peace process” and their attendant “negotiations.” There is no way forward in the current paradigm. We must break out into a world of new possibilities foreclosed by the present options: a “two-state” apartheid regime or warehousing.
In my view, while advocacy and grassroots mobilization remain relevant, several tasks stand before us. First, we must endeavor to hasten the collapse of the present situation and subsequently, when new paradigms of genuine justice emerge from the chaos, be primed to push forward an entirely different solution that is currently impossible or inconceivable, be that a single democratic state over the entire country, a bi-national state, a regional confederation or some other alternative yet to be formulated. The Palestinians themselves must create a genuine, inclusive agency of their own that, following the collapse, can effectively seize the moment. Formulating a clear program and strategy, they will then be equipped to lead their people to liberation and a just peace, with the support of activists and others the world over.
A necessary and urgent first step towards collapsing the otherwise permanent regime of oppression in Israel/Palestine is that we stop talking about a two-state solution. It’s dead and gone as a political option – if, indeed, it ever really existed. It should be banned from the discourse because reference to an irrelevant “solution” only serves to confuse the discussion. Granted, this will be hard for liberals to do; everyone else, however, has given up on it. Most Palestinians, having once supported it, now realize that Israel will simply not withdraw to a point where a truly viable and sovereign state can emerge. The Israeli government, backed by the Bush-Obama policies on the settlement blocs, doesn’t even make pretence of pursuing it anymore, and the Israeli public is fine with the status quo. Nor does the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians seem to faze the American or European governments, or the Arab League. Even AIPAC has moved on to the “Iranian threat.”
Behind the insistence of the liberal Zionists of J Street, Peace Now, the Peace NGOs Forum run out of the Peres Center for Peace and others to hang on to a two-state solution at any cost is a not-so-hidden agenda. They seek to preserve Israel as a Jewish state even at the cost of enforcing institutional discrimination against Israel’s own Palestinian citizens. The real meaning of a “Jewish democracy” is living with apartheid and warehousing while protesting them. No, the liberals will be the hardest to wean away from the two-state snare. Yet if they don’t abandon it, they run the risk of promoting de facto their own worst nightmare of warehousing while providing the fig-leaf of legitimacy to cover the policies of Israel’s extreme right – all in the name of “peace.” This is what happens when one’s ideology places restrictions on one’s ability to perceive evil or to draw necessary if difficult conclusions. When wishful thinking becomes policy, it not only destroys your effectiveness as a political actor but leads you into positions, policies and alliances that, in the end, are inimical to your own goals and values. Jettisoning all talk of a “two-state solution” removes the major obstacle to clear analysis and the ability to move forward.
The obfuscation created by the “two-state solution” now out of the way, what emerges as clear as day is naked occupation, an apartheid regime extending across all of historic Palestine/Israel and the spectre of warehousing. Since none of these forms of oppression can ever be legitimized or transformed into something just, the task before us becomes clear: to cause their collapse by any means necessary. There are many ways to do this, just as the ANC did. Already Palestinian, Israel and international activists engage in internal resistance, together with international challenges to occupation represented by the Gaza flotillas and attempts to “crash” Israeli borders. Many civil society actors the world over have mobilized, some around campaigns such as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), others around direct actions, still others engaged in lobbying the UN and governments through such instruments as the Human Rights Council, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and international courts. There have been campaigns to reconvene the Tribunal that, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, has the authority and duty to sanction Israel for its gross violations. Dozens of groups and individuals alike engage in public speaking, mounting Israel Apartheid Weeks on university campuses and working through the media. And much more.
And here is where Palestinian civil society plays a crucial role, a role that cannot be played by non-Palestinians. If it is agreed that the Palestinian Authority must go if we are to get beyond the two-state trap – indeed, the dismantling of the PA being a major part of the collapse of the present system – then this call must originate from within the Palestinian community. Non-Palestinians must join in, of course, but the issue of who represents the Palestinians is their call exclusively.
Non-Palestinians can lso suggest various end-games. I’ve written, for example, about a Middle East economic confederation, believing that a regional approach is necessary to address the core issues. The Palestinian organization PASSIA published a collection of twelve possible outcomes. It is obvious, though, that it is the sole prerogative of the Palestinian people to decide what solution, or range of solutions, is acceptable. For this, and to organize effectively so as to bring about a desired outcome, the Palestinians need a new truly representative agency, one that replaces the PA and gives leadership and direction to broad-based civil society agency, one that has the authority to negotiate a settlement and actually move on to the implementation of a just peace.
As of now, it appears there is only one agency that possesses that legitimacy and mandate: the Palestinian National Council of the PLO (although Hamas and the other Islamic parties are not (yet) part of the PLO). Reconstituting the PNC through new elections would seem the most urgent item on the Palestinian agenda today – without which, in the absence of effective agency, we are all stuck in rearguard protest actions and Israel prevails. Our current situation, caught in the limbo between seeking the collapse of the oppressive system we have, and having a Palestinian agency that can effectively lead us towards a just resolution, is one of the most perilous we’ve faced. One person’s limbo is another person’s window of opportunity. Say what you will about Israel, it knows how to hustle and exploit even the smallest of opportunities to nail down its control permanently.
“Collapse with agency,” I suggest, could be a title of our refocused efforts to weather the limbo in the political process. Until a reinvigorated PNC or other representative agency can be constituted, a daunting but truly urgent task, Palestinian civil society might coalesce enough to create a kind of interim leadership bureau. This itself might be a daunting task. Most Palestinian leaders have either been killed by Israel or are languishing in Israeli prisons, while Palestinian civil society has been shattered into tiny disconnected and often antagonistic pieces. At home major divisions have been sown between “’48” and “’67” Palestinians; Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank have been effectively severed; and within the West Bank restrictions on movement among a bewildering array of “areas” – A, B, C, C-Restricted, H-1, H-2, nature reserves, closed military areas – have resulted in virtual, largely disconnected Palestinian mini-societies. Political divisions, especially among secular/traditional and Islamic factions, have been nurtured, not least by Israel. Overall, the Palestinian population, exhausted by years of sacrifice and resistance, impoverished and preoccupied with mere survival, has been left largely rudderless as many of its most educated and skilled potential leaders have left or are forbidden by Israel to return.
For its part, the Palestinian leadership has done little to bridge the wider divisions amongst those falling under PA rule, Palestinian citizens of Israel, residents of the refugee camps and the world-wide Diaspora, divisions that have grown even wider since the PLO and the PNC fell moribund. Indeed, major portions of the Palestinian Diaspora (and one may single out especially but not exclusively the large and prosperous communities of Latin America), have disconnected from the national struggle completely. The Palestinian possess some extremely articulate spokespeople and activists, but they tend to be either a collection of individual voices only tenuously tied to grassroots organizations, or grassroots resistance groups such as the Popular Committees that enjoy little political backing or strategic direction.
Ever aware that the struggle for liberation must be led by Palestinians, our collective task at the moment, in my view, is to bring about the collapse of the present situation in Palestine in order to exploit its fundamental unsustainabilty. The elimination of the Palestinian Authority is one way to precipitate that collapse. It would likely require Israel to physically reoccupy the Palestinian cities and probably Gaza as well (as if they have ever been de-occupied), bringing the reality of raw occupation back to the center of attention. Such a development would likely inflame Arab and Muslim public opinion, not to mention that of much of the rest of the world, and would create an untenable situation, forcing the hand of the international community. Israel would be put in an indefensible position, thus paving the way for new post-collapse possibilities – this time with an effective and representative Palestinian agency in place and a global movement primed to follow its lead.
But given the underlying unsustainability of the Occupation and the repressive system existing throughout historic Palestine – the massive violations of human rights and international law, the disruptive role the conflict plays in the international system and its overt brutality – collapse could come from a variety of places, some of them unsuspected and unrelated to Israel/Palestine. An attack on Iran could reshuffle the cards in the Middle East, and the Arab Spring is still a work in progress. Major disruptions in the flow of oil to the West due an attack on Iran, internal changes in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, instability in Russia and even the fact that China has no oil of its own could cause major financial crises worldwide. Sino-American tensions, environmental disasters or Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban with unpredictable Indian reactions may all play an indirect yet forceful role. Who knows? Ron Paul, President Gingrich’s newly appointed Secretary of State, might end all military, economic and political support for Israel, in which case the Occupation (and more) would fall within a month.
Whatever the cause of the collapse – and we must play an active role in bring it about – it is incumbent upon us to be ready, mobilized and organized if we are to seize that historic moment, which might be coming sooner than we expect. Effective and broadly representative Palestinian agency will be critical. Collapse with agency is the only way to get “there” from “here.”
Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
Weimar Revisited by Uri Avnery
19 Nov 2011 http://www.avnery-news.co.il/english/index.html
“YOU AND your Weimar!” a friend of mine once exclaimed in exasperation, ”just because you experienced the collapse of the Weimar Republic as a child, you see Weimar behind every corner.”
The accusation was not unjustified. In 1960, during the Eichmann trial, I wrote a book about the fall of the German Republic. Its last chapter was called: “It can happen here” Since then I have come back to this warning time and again.
But now I am not alone anymore. During the last few weeks, the word Weimar has popped up in the articles of many commentators.
It should be sprayed in huge letters on the walls.
ISRAELI DEMOCRACY is under siege. No one can ignore this anymore. It is the main topic in the Knesset, which is leading the attack, and the media, who are among the victims.
This does not happen in the occupied territories. There, democracy never existed. Occupation is the very opposite of democracy: a denial of all human rights, the right to life, liberty, movement, fair trial and free expression, not to mention national rights.
No, I mean Israel proper, the Israel inside the Green Line, The Only Democracy In The Middle East.
The attackers are members of Binyamin Netanyahu’s government coalition, which includes semi-fascist and openly fascist elements. Netanyahu himself tries to remain discreetly in the background, but there can be no doubt that every single detail has been orchestrated by him.
In the first two years of this coalition, attacks were sporadic. But now they are determined, systematic and coordinated.
At this moment, the anti-democratic forces are attacking on a wide front, The three main pillars of democracy – the courts, the media and the human rights organizations – are under simultaneous, deadly assault. (Remember Weimar?)
THE SUPREME COURT is the bastion of democracy. Israel has no constitution, the Knesset majority is totally unbridled, only the court can (if reluctantly) check the adoption of anti-democratic laws.
I am not a blind admirer of the court. In the occupied territories, it is an arm of the occupation, devoted to “national security”, approving of some of the worst incidents. Only in rare cases has it come out against the worst practices. But in Israel proper, it is a stout defender of civil rights.
The extreme rightists in the Knesset are resolved to put an end to this. Their front man is the Minister of Justice, who was appointed by Avigdor Lieberman. He is pushing a series of scandalous ad hominem bills. One of them is designed to change the composition of the public committee that appoints the judges, with the undisguised intention of bringing about the appointment of a particular right-wing judge to the Supreme Court.
Another bill has the undisguised purpose of changing the existing court rules in order to put a certain “conservative” judge in the chair of Chief Justice. The declared purpose is to abolish the rule of an independent court which dares, though only in rare cases, to block “anti-constitutional” laws enacted by the Knesset majority. They want the court to “represent the will of the people”. (Remember Weimar?)
Until now, since the first day of the state, the justices have been, in practice, chosen by cooptation. This has functioned perfectly for 63 years. Israel’s Supreme Court is the envy of many countries. Now this system is in mortal danger.
Another bill, which would have compelled candidates for the Supreme Court to undergo grilling by a Knesset Committee chaired by another Lieberman appointee, and obtain their approval, was withheld at the last moment by Netanyahu himself, He had already given his approval, but shrank back after the almost universal condemnation – and is now posing as the defender of democracy from his own underlings.
The chairman of the Judicial Committee of the Knesset, another Lieberman appointee, is rushing these laws through his committee, contrary to established procedures. In a stormy session this week, a female member called him “a coarse thug”. He replied: “You are not even a beast”.
A minimal purpose of these bills is to terrorize any judges considering vetoing the other anti-democratic bills that are being enacted. Some say that the effects are already being felt.
In several famous cases, the government openly flouts the Supreme Court’s orders, especially concerning the evacuation of “settlements outposts” built on lands belonging to Palestinian farmers.
Who will defend the court? The former Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, who was hated by the rightists because of his pioneering “judicial activism”, once told me: “The Court has no army divisions. Its power rests solely on the support of the public.”
THE ASSAULT on the media started some time ago when the American casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, a close friend of Netanyahu, started a daily tabloid paper with the express purpose of helping Netanyahu. It is being distributed for free and now has the biggest circulation in the country, threatening the existence of all the others (but also bribing them by giving them huge printing orders.) Money is no object. Huge sums are being spent.
That was only the beginning.
In 1965 the Labor party government enacted a new libel law (called literally “the Law of the Evil Tongue”) which was then clearly designed to muzzle “Haolam Hazeh”, the mass-circulation news magazine I was editing, which had introduced investigative reporting to Israel. I appealed to the public to send me to the Knesset in protest, and 1.5% of the voters were incensed enough to do so.
Now the right-wing gang in the Knesset wants to sharpen this anti-media law even more. The new amendment grants up to $135,000 damages to anyone claiming to be hurt by the media, without their having to prove any damage at all. For newspapers and TV channels, which are already in a precarious financial position, this means that they better give up all investigative reporting and any criticism of influential politicians and tycoons.
The new winds are already being felt. Journalists and TV editors are cowed. This week, a program on Channel 10, considered the most liberal, gave five minutes to a song glorifying the late “Rabbi” Meir Kahane, who was branded by the Supreme Court as a fascist, and whose organization was outlawed for advocating what the court called “Nuremberg laws”. An avowed member of this organization, which is alive and kicking under another name, is now a vocal member of the Knesset. (Remember Weimar?)
A major purge of TV journalists is already underway. One by one, directors of all TV channels are being replaced by confirmed rightists. It was openly admitted that the government would force the closure of Channel 10 by calling in outstanding debts if a certain journalist were not fired. Though generally an establishment type, this reporter had irked Netanyahu by exposing his and his wife’s luxurious traveling style at government expense.
AT THE same time, human rights and peace NGOs are under heavy attack. The Knesset gang is producing bill after bill to silence them.
One bill already under way forbids human rights associations to receive donations from foreign governments and “state-like organizations”, such as the UN and the EU. Right-wing organization receive, of course, huge sums of money from Jewish American billionaires, who fund the settlements (which are also indirectly financed by the US treasury, which gives tax-exempt status to the so-called “charitable organizations” that fund the settlements.)
The law which levies huge indemnities on organizations and individuals who advocate a boycott on the products of the settlements is already in force. The hearing of an application submitted by Gush Shalom to the Supreme Court against this suppression of political protest has been postponed by the court again and again and again.
This parliamentary terrorism is accompanied by the accelerating violence of fascist gangs from the settlements. These SA-like gangs call their actions “Price Tag”. Usually, they react to the isolated cases of the army demolishing a few “illegal” buildings in a settlement by attacking a neighboring Palestinian village, setting fire to a mosque or carrying out what can only be described as a pogrom. (Remember Weimar?)
MARTIN NIEMÖLLER, a German U-boat captain and later pacifist pastor, who was thrown into a concentration camp by the Nazis, coined the famous lament: “When the Nazis came to take the Communists, I was silent. After all, I was no Communist. When they took the Jews, I was silent. I am no Jew. When they arrested the Social Democrats, I was silent. I was no Social Democrat. When they came to take me, there was no one left to protest.”
What we are witnessing now are not isolated attacks on one or another human right – what we are seeing is a general attack on democracy as such. Perhaps only people who have experienced life under a fascist dictatorship can fully realize what that means.
Of course, the similarity between the collapse of the German republic and the processes in today’s Israel does not mean that the same events must follow. Nazism was unique in many ways. The end of real democracy may be followed by different systems. There are many models to choose from: Ceausescu, Franco, Putin.
Certainly, there is no similarity between the small German town called Weimar and Tel Aviv. Except perhaps the fact that many houses in Tel Aviv were designed according to the Bauhaus architectural school – which originated in Weimar.
Weimar was once a cultural center, where geniuses like Goethe and Schiller produced their masterpieces. The German republic which was founded in 1919, after World War I, was called by this name after the national assembly which framed its very progressive constitution there.
On these lines, the endangered democratic State of Israel, whose Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948 in Tel Aviv, could rightly be called the Tel Aviv Republic.
We are not yet in 1932. The Storm Troopers are not yet roaming our streets. We still have time to mobilize the public against the looming danger. This week’s demonstration that will take place in Tel Aviv against the de-democratization of Israel may mark a turning point.
|We, the Traitors|
“THERE ARE situations in which a real patriot has no alternative but to be a traitor,” wrote the distinguished German journalist, the late Rudolf Augstein, in a review of one of my books in the late 1980s.
“My Friend, the Enemy,” described, among other things, my meeting with Yasser Arafat. It was the first encounter between an Israeli and the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was held in the heat of the battle for Beirut in 1982, and to get it I had to cross enemy lines.
In the 14 years leading up to that initial meeting, I maintained regular contact with the PLO’s leadership, though it was officially defined, at that time, as a terrorist organization and identified with the arch-terrorist Arafat. I reported those contacts to Yitzhak Rabin, while he was prime minister (1974-77). Needless to say, it was only 11 years later that Israel concluded a treaty with the PLO, our prime minister embraced Arafat and those ministers who wanted to put me on trial as a traitor were themselves making pilgrimages to him.
WHEN AUGSTEIN wrote his comment, he was thinking, especially, of Nazi Germany’s most famous case of treason: the 1944 plot led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Von Stauffenberg, a war hero who lost an eye and several fingers in WWII, had many qualms before deciding to strike. As a real patriot, he came to the conclusion that only the killing of Hitler could save Germany from the approaching disaster of defeat, and the unnecessary death of hundreds of thousands of people in a lost war. But he had sworn allegiance to the Fuehrer, and as a devout Catholic he considered the breaking of an oath to be a very grave matter. A rebellion in wartime was, of course, treason.
Almost all Germans would agree today that such an act of treason was moral and just. Hence, the street where the German general staff headquarters was then situated, and in whose yard von Stauffenberg was executed, is named for him today. Here, then, treason and patriotism dwell together.
Claus von Stauffenberg was not a leftist. On the contrary. he was a man of the Catholic right, very conservative, a scion of many generations of a noble family. But more often, it is left-wingers who face accusations of treason. That charge may be the curse that rightists – worldwide, but particularly in Israel – most often level at leftists: that they betray their people and their homeland.
According to the right-wing view, the left undermines national resolve and helps an enemy that is scheming to destroy us. The Left almost always opposes increasing the defense budget, preferring to spend the money on social services such as education, health and welfare. It holds the individual at a higher level of importance than the nation and the state. It seeks peace and, to this end, is ready to make concessions to the enemy. In the Israeli-Palestinian arena, it is ready to cede parts of the land that the Almighty himself promised to the Jewish people. In short, despicable traitors.
The leftists in Israel and around the world counter that they are the real patriots, for it is they who seek a healthy society, which is the real foundation for national security. After all, only citizens who feel part of the homeland and the state will support it wholeheartedly.
Moreover, no state can wage endless wars. The state and the individual need peace, for only in peace can a state develop all its spiritual and material resources. According to the left, those on the right cultivate feelings of hatred, fear and prejudice against aliens, both those in other lands and among the minorities within the state.
In order to win the support of the masses, the right seeks constant security tension and war adventures, an atmosphere to justify their own distorted worldview. That is why the right wing is a threat to the state and its citizens, and will ultimately bring about national disaster, which in our case would be the destruction of the “Third Temple” that is the renewed Jewish commonwealth. In short, despicable racists.
OUR OWN history includes instances of betrayal that long preceded that of the German von Stauffenberg.
Many years ago I had lunch with someone who was then a key figure in the Israeli economy. During the conversation I suggested that Shimon Bar Kochba, who led the failed Jewish uprising against Rome, in 132-135 C.E., was a crazy adventurer, that the Zealots of the Great Revolt who had preceded him were criminals and that the Maccabees too, before them, had fought a murderous civil war.
The banker stared at me with a look of endless astonishment in his clear blue eyes. He had never heard such strange views. On the spot, I decided to write a series of articles on the subject. They were published serially in Haolam Hazeh, and did not cause an uproar.
Some time later, however, Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former head of Military Intelligence and at the time a historian at the Hebrew University, wrote a book in the same vein, and the dam burst.
The Zealots’ rebellion against Rome, he wrote, was an act of madness. In present-day terms, they could be called extreme right-wingers. Sensible people such as King Herod Agrippa II warned about the futility of the adventure against the huge military might of the Roman superpower. But the Zealots silenced those voices, murdered whoever spoke against the revolt and seized control over the Jewish community. When the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem, in 70 C.E., Zealot groups burned one another’s stores of grain, certain that they were not needed because the Almighty himself would redeem his holy city.
One of the sensible people who remained in the city-gone-mad was Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai; he rightly predicted what would happen. Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead, had himself smuggled out of town in a coffin, approached the Roman commander and requested permission to settle in Yavneh and open a spiritual center there.
This was out-and-out treason: deserting the front, cowardice, maintaining contact with the enemy, collaboration. When I was an adolescent, I was a member of the Irgun pre-state underground, and we organized a mock trial for him. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. The Zealots were our heroes.
But the Jewish people’s collective wisdom in fact hailed Ben-Zakkai’s treason. His move is widely seen as enabling the survival of Judaism during the 2,000 years of Diaspora. In other words: His treason saved the people. His act was the patriotic one. The Jewish community was able to remain on its land and flourish until the appearance of the next madman, Bar Kochba, another member of the extreme right, to use today’s terminology.
The historical verdict on the Maccabees is more positive. They are favorably etched in the Jewish consciousness, whereas the Zealots’ activities are recalled in the mourning of Tisha B’Av. The Maccabees’ activities, on the other hand, are celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah, and the Zionist movement has hailed them as freedom fighters who liberated the Jews from oppressive alien rulers.
And indeed, in contrast with the Zealots and Bar Kochba, the Maccabees had a realistic view of the political situation of their day. They made alliances and managed the rebellion wisely. But the Maccabees’ war, in the second century B.C.E., was first and foremost a civil war. We say the Maccabees conducted a murderous campaign against the Hellenists – but who were the Hellenists? They were the people who adopted the most enlightened and advanced culture of their day, approximately equivalent to American or general Western culture today.
The “national religious” camp of those days and the counterparts of today’s “hilltop youth” regarded the Hellenists as traitors, precisely the way today’s leftists are branded. (This, however, did not stop the Hasmonaean kings, who succeeded the Maccabees, from adopting Greek culture themselves, as some of their names show ).
MANY CENTURIES later, the baton of crazy messianism passed to Shabbetai Zvi.
His teachings captivated, with the speed of wildfire, the Jewish masses around the world. Only a small number of Jews dared oppose this madness, and they were the “traitors” of those days. When the bubble burst, and the so-called messiah converted to Islam, it became clear that his opponents had been right. But this did not move the masses to embrace them. On the contrary, as Gershom Scholem tells us, after Shabbetai Zvi’s disgrace, the hatred for his opponents became still more bitter.
And we still haven’t mentioned the arch-traitor, the prophet Jeremiah, who preached surrender. He was a real defeatist, and for this, the right-wing rulers of sixth and seventh century B.C.E. Judah tossed him into a pit of mud. Yet, his words were incorporated into the Bible while those of his adversaries were forgotten.
ONE CAN draw countless examples from the histories of other peoples too. At times of crisis, the real patriots, those who call for peace and compromise, – in short the “lefties,” – are considered traitors, whereas the nationalists of all types, the warmongers, the inciters of hatred, are perceived as patriots.
It is of them that the British man of letters Samuel Johnson said that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Published in Haaretz, Oct.7, 2011 as The acts of perfidious traitors throughout Jewish history
Musings of a self-hating Jew
By Saul Landau
Sixty-three years ago most Jews rejoiced over the birth of Israel. Some thought it would become the place where a new vision of socialism with justice and equality would arise. Clearly, not all Jews believed that – or in those values.
Six plus decades later, the idea that Palestinians also deserve their own nation with UN recognized boundaries has caused a panic reaction from the Israeli government and its supporters throughout the world – including the President of the United States as he opposed the idea at the UN last month.
Why the panic? Look at comparative maps of Palestinian territory as outlined by the UN in 1948, with what’s left of that land today. The maps show Israel has stolen most of it – to build settlements for Jews only.
Jews, like my friends and I throughout the western world, do not want to migrate to the Promised Land (Zion now equals much of Palestinian territory). We don’t want to live amidst Israeli settlers, many of them self-righteous and very superior (chosen by God?) and oblivious to or even proud of what they’ve done to Palestinians.
Decades of Israeli sponsored ethnic cleansing – forcing Palestinians from their homes, villages and land – opened the way to the vast Jewish-only housing developments on Palestinian land. Those who denounce those illegal land grabs get denounced as “anti-Semites.”
Israel, once a land of egalitarian Kibbutzes, has turned into an aggressive and right wing nation run by religious Orthodoxy and desires for ever more territory. Look at the map.
Friends abroad wonder how a right wing Israeli government and its U.S. fan club (the Israeli lobby, American Israel Political Action Committee and its offshoots) has converted the U.S. Congress into blind supporters and the President into an obedient servant.
President Obama disgraced himself and his office when he bowed to the patrons of Israel by threatening a veto of Palestinian statehood in the UN Security Council. His world status shrank. The Arab world especially witnessed the once all-powerful United States following Israeli demands – a far cry from impartial leadership in a no-fabled peace process.
How can Obama expect anyone to believe he will promote a peace plan? Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to use those words as he expands settlements into Palestinian territory. Obama’s plan seems akin to continuing his obedience to the demands of a widely condemned (by the UN) nation.
Indeed, in September Washington sent bunker-busting bombs to Israel. Washington continues to insist on curbing Iran’s non-existent nuclear threat while ignoring Israel’s real potential to do immeasurable damage to the region and the world.
After decades of Palestinian struggle, Obama has implied those people are not yet ready for, or do not merit, their own state. Is he implying they are inferior to Jews? Does it mean Washington recognizes the stolen (occupied) territory as officially Israeli property? Does he justify the second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the colonial condition of those in the occupied territories? The implication is clearly yes.
Thanks to his servility to Israel, combined with events in the Arab world, Obama has presided over the end of U.S. dominance of that region. The kiss-ass Arabs (Mubarak and Ali of Tunisia) have gone into the garbage pile of history. The King of Jordan and the oily Saudis and Kuwaitis can no longer obey Washington’s dictates and hope to retain the tiniest modicum of respect from their people.
Phrases etched into journalese like “peace process,” “Camp David” and “Oslo Accords” will become forgotten or turned into sick jokes.
What Israel and apparently Washington fear is a state that looks like Swiss cheese, pieces of land cut off by large Israeli settlements, patrolled by Israeli soldiers and without independent access to its own water, military establishment or even airports.
Does Israel have a right to exist? It exists. It has 200 nuclear weapons. The question is: can the majority of people and nations force Israel (and the U.S.) to allow for the existence of Palestine.
To such a question the Israeli government and its fan club scream “anti Semitism” a response to all criticism of Israel. This has earned me, and thousands of others, the title of “self hating Jew.” On the list you’ll fnd Noam Chomsky and Woody Allen. (http://www.masada2000.org/list-L.html)
One trait that helped Jews survive so many centuries of persecution was their ability to laugh at themselves. Israeli expansionists of course can still make sick jokes about occupying Palestinian territories.
Saul Landau’s new film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP
Saul Landau is an internationally known scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker on foreign and domestic policy issues. He has been a fellow at IPS since 1972 and at the Transnational Institute since 1974. He has written 13 books, thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and reviews, and made more than 40 films and TV programs on social, political, economic and historical issues.
|The More Enemies, The More Honor|
|08/10/11AN OLD photo from World War I shows a company of German soldiers getting on the train on their way to the front. On the wall of the car somebody had scribbled: “viel Feind, viel Ehr’” (“The more enemies, the more Honor”.)|
In those days, at the very start of what was to be the First World War, country after country was declaring war on Germany. The spirit of the graffito reflected the hubris of the supreme commander, Kaiser Wilhelm, who relied on the war plan of the legendary German General Staff. It was indeed an excellent war plan, and as excellent war plans are apt to do, it started going awry right from the beginning.
The foolish Kaiser now has the heirs he deserves. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, a former army Chief of Staff whose intelligence is below the average even of that rank, has announced that Israel could not possibly apologize to Turkey, even though its national interests may demand it, because it would hurt our “prestige”.
Many enemies, much prestige.
It seems that we shall soon run out of friends whom we can turn into enemies to gather even more prestige.
LAST WEEK a black cat came between Israel and its second best friend: Germany.
High-ranking German officials confided to their Israeli colleagues that their Kanzlerin, Angela Merkel, was “furious” when she heard that the Israeli government had approved the building of 1100 housing units in Gilo, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Just a few days earlier, the Quartet had invited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to restart negotiations and abstain from “provocations”. If this is not a provocation, what is?
Merkel, generally a woman of placid equanimity, did not keep her rage to herself. She called Binyamin Netanyahu and gave him a severe dressing-down, something that had never happened before.
Until now, Germany has kept to a strict code of behavior towards Israel: after the unspeakable crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews, there could be no criticism of any Israeli act, Germany would pay for a crucial component of Israel’s armaments, Germany would suspend all moral criteria as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was concerned.
Not any more, it seems. We may be losing our only second-best friend.
THE CLASSIC example of “How to lose Friends and Alienate People” is, of course, our affair with Turkey.
David Ben-Gurion, the arch-architect of Israel, believed that peace with the Arabs was neither possible nor desirable. He devised an alternative: a ring to encircle the Arab world – an alliance of non-Arab allies. These included Iran (under the Shah), Ethiopia (under Haile Selassie), several other African states and, of course, Turkey (under the legacy of Kemal Ataturk).
Our relations with Turkey developed over the years into a very close marriage, especially cozy between the armed forces. Joint exercises, sales of lots of arms, intelligence sharing. While Israel was helping the Iraqi Kurds against Saddam Hussein, it helped Ankara to oppress the Turkish Kurds. Jerusalem seriously considered laying a pipeline under the sea from Turkey to bring in water, which Turkey has in abundance and Israel sorely needs.
Suddenly everything changed. Turkish-Israeli relations foundered like a ship hit squarely by a torpedo.
It started when the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, abruptly got up and left a public dialogue with Shimon Peres in Davos. Israelis could understand that: not everybody can stand Peres.
But Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Office decided to retaliate. His deputy, a genius by the name of Danny Ayalon, summoned the Turkish ambassador to his office for a rebuke and had him sit on a low sofa while towering above him on a high chair. The ambassador did not notice, but little Danny proudly explained his ploy to the assembled Israeli journalists. The Ambassador took his leave and went home.
Turkey reacted unofficially by sending the Mave Marmara to break the Gaza blockade. Nine Turks were killed. Turkey was in uproar. Erdogan demanded an apology. That’s where the prestige came in.
One can argue, of course, that the whole business was a premeditated tactic of Erdogan’s to change course and dump Israel for other allies. If so, it was even more stupid of our government to play into his hand.
WHEN THE Arab Spring broke out, Turkey jumped on the bandwagon and proposed a Turkish-Egyptian axis, reminiscent of the good old days of the Ottoman empire. Israel, on the other hand, stuck to its customary line.
Instead of realizing what was happening, our government clung to the shattered dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. If it had come out immediately and wholeheartedly in favor of the revolution, it could, perhaps, have gained a foothold in Egyptian public opinion, which had come to detest Mubarak as a well paid American lackey who helped Israel in starving a million and a half Arab brothers in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli intelligence did not realize that we were facing a historic earthquake that would change the region. Actually, it never foresees or understands events in the Arab world, being blinded by its contempt for Arabs.
The result was that Egyptian crowds attacked the Israeli embassy, forcing the ambassador and his staff to flee the country, and that saboteurs repeatedly blew up the pipeline that transports Egyptian gas to Israel at very low prices (probably negotiated after due bribes were paid to the right people.)
People here are now saying that the Egyptian public has always been against the peace with Israel, through no fault of ours. That is quite untrue. I was in Cairo a few days after Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem and found the Egyptian capital delirious with joy. Countless Israelis have visited Egypt since then and have been received always and everywhere with utmost friendliness. It was only when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories became more and more oppressive that Egyptians started to feel betrayed.
Lieberman and Co. have lost Turkey and are losing Egypt, our two stalwart allies in the region, and have insulted, humiliated and trodden on the toes of a dozen other nations. But they have undoubtedly gained much prestige.
PEOPLE WHO look for logic in politics often arrive at conspiracy theories.
When the present government coalition was set up, Lieberman asked for the ministries of immigrants’ absorption, justice, interior security (police) and foreign affairs.
Immigrants – that was natural. His voters are mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Justice and police – also natural. The police are conducting an endless investigation against him concerning mysterious funds that he and his very young daughter have received from Eastern European sources.
But the foreign office? What for? Why not the far more prestigious Ministry of Defense or the immensely powerful finance ministry?
One of my acquaintances has come up with a theory: what if the Russians…
Lieberman spends a lot of his time in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and his native Moldova. Who else but Russia has an interest in destroying the international standing of Israel, one of the closest allies of the United States? Wouldn’t it have been rational for Vladimir Putin to…
But that is, of course, a joke. Not only is Lieberman known as an upright Israeli patriot, so patriotic that no one can stand next to him, but no handler in Moscow would accept as his agent a man with shifty eyes, who speaks with a thick Russian accent.
No, there must be another reason. But which?
A FOREIGN journalist asked me the other day: “but what do they think?”
“They” – Netanyahu, Lieberman et al – are losing all our remaining friends, humiliating Barack Obama on the way. They sabotage the resumption of peace negotiations. They sprinkle settlements everywhere.
If the Two-State solution is finally made impossible, what remains? A unified state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan? What kind of state would that be? They are dead set against a bi-national state, which would be the total negation of Zionism. An apartheid state? How long could that last?
The only “rational” alternative would be total ethnic cleansing, the driving out of 5.5 million Palestinians from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel proper. Is that possible? Would the world tolerate it, unless it is distracted by an invasion from Mars?
The answer is: “they” just don’t think very much at all. Israelis have been conditioned by their experience to think in the very short term. As the Americans say: “A statesman thinks about the next generation, a politician thinks about the next election.” Or as the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann used to say: “The future will come and care for the future”.
There is no national debate, only a vague desire to keep everything. Rightist Zionists want to hold on to all of historical Palestine, leftist Zionists want to hold on to as much of it as possible. That’s as far as the thinking goes.
The ancient Hebrew sages said: “Who is the bravest hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend.” The modern sages who govern us have turned this around: “Who has the most prestige? He who turns his friend into an enemy.”