Well, that was certainly fun, wasn't it.
I've been giving rather a lot of attention to the Israelis at the far left fringe who, intentionally or merely irresponsibly, aid and abet Israel's enemies in their campaign to bring it to its knees through lawfare, diplomacy, boycotts and other methods of delegitimization. This morning I thought I'd engage in a spot of even-handed balancing, so I criticized the fanatics of our political right. Had I given it much thought I'd have said I was (temporarily) siding with my lefty readers, of whom there are a number, including two who identify themselves.
It didn't work out that way. I was offline all day, but when I got back I found some 25 comments dissecting what I'd said from all directions.
First, my thanks to all the participants for the civil discussion. Blog discussions often don't remain civilized very long, and I'm honored that the ones on this blog mostly do.
The fact that our resident representatives of the hard left took umbrage at a post that was mostly critical of the far right is instructive. It rather reinforces my observation that the extremes are not only similar, they even feed off one another - which of course is not a new observation nor original, there are many historical examples. Fanatics will be fanatics; what makes them far from the mainstream is common to them all. So for those of you who questioned my use of the term "loonies", I was applying it as it usually is meant: folks who have severed themselves from the diverse perspectives to which a very large majority of their society adheres. When you've got a free and democratic society, with the diversity of opinion that such societies have, and then you've got small splinter groups of odd folks way off at the edge, I don't see the harm in calling them loonies.
Alex and Didi engaged in a spot of sleight of hand. They claimed I had said that the extremes of left and right have in common their eagerness or willingness to be violent; then they got all worked up about this accusation, though I hadn't actually said it.
So first, to be clear: yes, there are elements in Israel's looniest left who engage in violence against Israeli security forces. Not in murder, nor in terror as in random attacks of civilians, but low-level violence against officials of the state going about their legal and reasonable actions? Yes. Some of it has been reported in the media, some of it I take from the stories of my son Achikam who has been at the brunt of it as a soldier doing his job near Bil'in last year.
The reason Alex and Didi tried that rhetoric trick is that while political life-endangering violence in Israel has always been extremely rare, there has been a bit of it from right on left, and almost none from left on right. This gives the left a feeling of moral superiority. Yet the whole phenomenon is so limited and rare, that this is more sanctimony than plausible political reasoning. I can think of two political assassinations in 60 years, and a handful of attempts that may or may not have been intentionally unsuccessful. Tarnishing an entire camp with that thin a brush isn't reasonable, and exonerating the other camp for being the victim is feeble reasoning.
Anyway, it's a red herring, as Gavin calmly explained. Our loony left and frenzied right don't engage in the exact same activities: that's obvious. The right attacks innocent Palestinians, while the left undermines Israel's legitimacy as a democracy; the fanatics to the right are thugs, while their counterparts to the left are well-heeled academics, legal types and journalists; the ones to the right look outlandish in almost any setting while the ones on the left could easily melt into the background at a posh European conference - but that's the point, not an exoneration.
One of the most peculiar things about our loony left is how extraordinarily thin their skin is. They dish out barrels of filth, much of it either dishonest, downright false or at best tendentious, and they do so ever more often in foreign languages for the gleeful consumption of our enemies; yet whenever anyone calls them out for doing so, they shriek to the high heavens that democracy is being tortured to extinction. Jest yesterday we had yet another example.
Amir Benayoun is an orthodox singer who uses Arab forms of music. It was my intention to slow down the shirim ivri'im thread now, but sooner or later I'll obviously need to discuss the Sephardi music and its great contribution to Israeli music. I presented Benyoun briefly the other day.
This week Benayoun recorded a sing called Ani Achicha, I am Your Brother. The Hebrew lyrics are already up at shiron.net, here; there's no English translation up, nor am I convinced there will be. Im Tirzu posted the recording on You Tube.
What the song is about depends, apparently, on the beholder. The lyrics themselves express anguish. They are sung from the perspective of a young reservist, calling on his lefty brother to desist from hating him since they're brothers. I defend you, you spit on me; the enemy doesn't manage to kill me but you're trying to; as I charge forward my back is to you, but you're sharpening your knife; I'm your brother you're the enemy; I love you hate.
It's not a nice song. Nor is it fair, since there are soldiers of both political camps in the same combat units, and both camps have their share of shirkers. The most potent line in my opinion is Ata mosser oti le-Zar, you're turning me over to foreigners - except that the term mosser has centuries of baggage to it, and is a devastating accusation. (Jews who have betrayed their brothers to persecution are, alas, not as rare as we'd like).
Having read the lyrics over and over, and watched the video repeatedly, it seems to me a song of anguish, not hatred. In no scenario is it a threat to democracy.
Unless you read Haaretz. They put their story about it on the front page of the Hebrew paper edition (alas, not on their English-language website). The item uses all the tricks of the trade, telling of "enormous anger" but without any quantification and citing two excitable sources as if they're vox populi in classic Guardian agitprop style. Since these are quotations you can't quite attribute them to Haaretz itself, which is merely reporting. Of course, no quotations of supporters are forthcoming.
The final paragraph offers the observation of one Igor (no last name): "Benayoun stole his lyrics from the songs of Hoerst Wesel".
I don't think there were songs (plural) of Hoerst Wesel, only one - but that one was the Nazi battle song. So Haaretz has cast Amir Benayoun as a Nazi. Because he doesn't like the NIF.