Monday, January 21, 2008

Welcome, Bernie

Bernard Avishai's name is familiar to anybody familiar with Zionism and Israel. He has been writing on the subject for years, and if I may say so, he is one of the best. This is no small compliment, coming from somebody who is on Bernie's left, and who abandoned his sort of liberal Zionism after thirty years of Peace Now rallys. So it is with great pleasure that I welcome him to the list of liberal Zionist bloggers. And, anyway, he lives a few blocks from away from me, on the other side of Emek Refaim.

The nice thing about the blogging business is that when one blogger gets weary, there is another one ready to jump in fresh as a daisy. I have been morose lately --the Gaza madness wears heavy on my soul -- and I have found it difficult to put fingers to keyboard. I am also en route to the galut of Washington, DC -- from one mad capital to another. So if you got here and are still reading this, please check out Bernie's analyses here

Gideon Levy wrote last week about the Israeli -- the human -- need to "do something" whenever the other side strikes. The Israeli reaction resembles an elephant trying to swat his backside with his trunk; the move is reflexive, not well-thought out, and always futile. The image works for both Lebanese wars and both intifadas. If we Israelis don't "do something" then we let the bad guys get away with murder, or kidnapping, or random shelling. But our response is always dispropotionate, ill-considered, and counter-productive. After Nasrallah's speech about willing to trade Israeli body parts, the minister of justice Meir Shitrit, one of the most moronic men in Israeli politics, announced that the proper response to Nasrallah is targeted assassination. Forget the question of morality and law, Shitrit's elephantine response is understandable but dumb. OK, so Meir Shitrit is not the Israei government. But we are condemned to repeat the same process every time this happens.

And why must we "do something"? It is not to solve the problem, or to stop the other side. It is always to make our side feel better. It wounds our national pride that these guys can hit us using Davidkas, sorry, Kassam launchers. So we hit back hard. Then we can say, "Sure they are shelling us, but look how many of them we are killing. Hey, we could wipe them out, but we are civilized, so we don't see things like that." So the real purpose of the exercise is Le-shahrer lahatz; to let off steam. The rightwing is at our back, etc., etc.

All this happens all over the world. But in a country which has been in a perpetual state of war for all its existence, which is run either by military men, or by civilians who usually defer to the military, then this is the pattern of our existence. Afghanistan and Iraq-like reactions aren't inevitable in the US; had there been another president, history would have been different. But they are inevitable, or nearly inevitable in Israel.

And that should lead us to ask more fundamental questions why this so. I have my answers.

I look forward to hearing Bernie's


Anonymous said...

It is interesting seeing the different responses to the despair plaguing the Left in Israel. You, on the one hand, have, if I understand you correctly, abandoned Zionism. Bernard Avishai, on the other hand, has adopted a new religion which provides him comfort in believing that "globalization" and "international intervention" will bring somehow salvation, even though he has not explained how this will work.
I don't know how you, as a professed Orthodox Jew came to Zionism, but Avishai apparently comes from an old-line Labor Zionist background. What he apparently still doesn't understand, but feels in his guts (and I am referring to all of the old Labor Zioinst camp as a group) is that Labor Zionism had many internal contradictions built into it that would have to explode eventually, leading to the crisis that he is always outlining in his blog. Labor Zionism was a bizarre mixture of a modified form of Marxist Socialism and internationalism mixed with Jewish nationalism. How can you mix "Jewish parochialism" with internationalism? MAPAM tried to solve the problem by aligning itself with the USSR, but the pervasive antisemitism there didn't allow for that. They then threw themselves into a pro-Third World mode, adopting for themselves radical Palestinian nationalism, becoming big advocates of Arafat and his terror groups. At first they sensed triumph when the apparently more "sane" Labor Zionists (Rabin, Peres, Beilin et al) finally adopted the MAPAM/MERETZ narrative and brought Arafat to Israel and then turned him loose to kill. It seems to be finally dawning on this group that the Palestinians, in spite of all the good wishes from this group in the Zionist Left, does not reciprocate the love and rejects any peace with Israel, even a "Leftist" Israel on any terms (No. 1 advocate of this line Yossi Beilin was first chucked out of the Labor Party and he has also now been forced out of the leadership of MERETZ).
Labor Zionism, on the other hand, decided to turn from its failed Marxist/Socialist/internationalist ideology towards creating a monopoly-capitalist system with plenty of goodies for those with good connections with the state apparatus. Shimon Peres is the great advocate of this camp, offering to bring selected Palestinian VIP's into the system, thinking that tying them into Israel's monopoly capitalism will get them interested in lining their pockets as the old Labor Party and Kibbutz socialists have been doing, instead of planning war and revolution.
Peres calls this "The New Middle East" and it was thought it would get Palestinians' minds off war and terrorism. This failed also.
The Palestinians, in a free election, voted out the FATAH gang that was enriching itself out of this system and voted in HAMAS who totally rejects any cooperation with Israel.
People like Avishai and Peres still cling to this in their endless mantra that the conflict with the Palestinians is due to "poverty", although it has been shown that the most extreme ideologues and terrorists come from well-to-do backgrounds.
Avishai uses as an example his friend Sam the Supermarket Magnate. Avishai laments that if only the Palestinian youth could be turned from their current Islamic death cult into enterpeneurs like Sam, then there would be light at the end of the tunnel. However, even Avishai admits that seems to be a tall order.

I, on the other hand, not having come from what you call a "Liberal Zionist" or "Labor Zionist" background feel no such angst. I am optimistic about Israel's future. I see that finally it is able to more effectively use its human resources to make its economy grow (in spite of the monopoly capitalists efforts to prevent this by maintaining artificial controls on labor and resources). I see the Arab world falling farther and farther behind as Israel pulls farther and farther ahead. Once the Arab's oil loses its value or runs out, something which is inevitable in the coming decades, their power and influence in the world will decline accordingly and Israel will have even more room to maneuver. What is needed is Jewish "tzumud" (steadfastness)-a trait traditionalist Jews (unlike Peres' and Avishai's Labor Zionists) have always excelled in.
Olmert, a convert to the old Labor Zionist thinking says "Israel is doomed", I say "Israel's best days lie ahead of it, regardless of our current difficulties". And this will benefit not only Israel's Jews but the Arab/Palestinian population as well.

Tikkunknitter said...

You and your blog are recipients of the YOU MAKE MY DAY award.
You can learn more at my blog
THANK YOU for making my day.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the introduction. He is great.

Fare well.