Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Sliding into the Muck

Almost 30 years ago I was a young research assistant. My boss was a historian of about 40 - youngish, by the standards of historians. He was very firmly left-minded in his politics, but perhaps more significantly, he was quite outspoken in his radical interpretations of his core material, antisemitism. I was fascinated by his positions. We only worked together for a few years, but we remained in contact for another decade or so, until his animosity towards Israel grew so extreme he picked up and left (no, he didn't wash up in London). Watching him at the time, and thinking about him every now and then after he'd left, it was pretty clear to me what had happened to him. Bits of it were his personal things, but the public part of the story was that he had this urge to explain to the rest of us how wrong we were, but the more extreme he became, the less people were willing to listen, and eventually he was talking only to himself, but furiously since the fact that no-one was agreeing with him proved him right in his own eyes while radicalizing him ever further. If we hadn't been willing to listen when he was merely harsh, how much more he felt justified when he went off the tracks.

It was tragic. He was a good man on a personal level, and a good teacher.

I've seen the same dynamic repeat itself since then many times. None of this has anything to do with the eagerness of entire societies to believe the worst about Israel or the Jews, because there's no isolation there - on the contrary. It does however help in understanding some of Israel's home-grown critics-and-eventual-enemies; it may even help to explain the small sub-culture of anti-Zionist Israelis,who are slowly growing from individual isolated radicals into an isolated minority of radicals.

Observe the case of Yonatan Shapira.

Yonatan grew up in the elite of Israeli society (or what regarded itself as the elite, which isn't exactly the same). When he reached the age he trained as a pilot, and served in the IAF until the rank of captain, so five or six years. In 2003 he was at the head of a small group of pilots who objected to Israel's targeted assassinations - remember, these were the days before assassination by drone was the mainstay of America's war. His public stance got him kicked out of the air-force; his continuance of it later lost him his job in civilian aviation: the spiral of isolation had begun.

Here's a 7-minute section of an interview with him from an early stage of his radicalization, made four or five years ago. While I disagree with some of its content, he's still strongly within a Zionist framework: We are faced by a vile enemy, we have the right to defend ourselves, but our methods are against what we taught ourselves about morality.

To be honest, had he stopped there, I would grudgingly be proud of him, even while disagreeing. He's a musician, and here's a moving recording he made about the assassination of Salach Shechade in July 2002 - Shechade being one of the top mass murderers the Palestinians ever produced, whom we killed along with 13 innocent bystanders most of them children. The Americans have repeatedly done far worse since then, but that's cold comfort:

In a typical Israeli twist to the story, about then Maya Korem recorded a flirty light-headed song about her friend and fellow music student Yonatan Shapria:

So far, it's a story about an Israeli on the outer edge of mainstream political discussion. People like this, however, since they feel very strongly about their positions and the rest of us disagree, sometimes begin to blame the rest of us for being worse than we really are. Here, for example, Shapira explains to the BBS about Israeli war crimes that were not happening, certainly not as a policy, during the Gaza operation. And note: now he's no longer telling the truth, not even his partial view of it. He's effectively lying. And he's no longer talking to us, trying to convince us to relent, repent and improve our ways. Now he's telling the world how awful we are.

Last week Shapria popped up in Warsaw, of all places. He and some local friends sprayed anti-Israeli graffiti on one of the few remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto. This is, quite simply, an abomination. It also demonstrates a theme of Israel's anti-Zionists, the denial of Jewish history. I'll write about that at greater length sometime soon; this event demonstrates it clearly. No longer do we dislike certain Israeli policies; no longer are we against the Jewish determination to express themselves as a nation. No, now we've got to prove that there never even was a Jewish nation, or if there was it never mattered.

Finally, look at this video made earlier this week made by Max Blumenthal. Blumenthal is convinced he's showing the brutal Israeli occupation in action, but that's because he knows absolutely no history. Anyone who has ever studied the history of human relations, or ever focused on the violence groups, nations or societies routinely use against each other will immediately recognize that this film actually documents how astonishingly benign the Israeli occupation is - so we ought to thank him for his effort. Still, two comment about its content:

1. There are regular IDF troops, and there are policemen. The two arrests are done by the police, not the soldiers. I'm pointing this out because not all viewers will know enough to recognize the different uniforms and legal roles.

2. The two men being arrested are Israeli Jews, not Palestinians. Note their animosity towards their fellow citizens early in the film. And note that the more vocal of the two, the second to be arrested, is... Yonatan Shapira. (h/t Peter)

He has come a long way.


Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

Yonatan Shapira is one of my heroes and a major hope for Judaism, particulary NewJudaism. I am nominating him for a Nobel Peace Prize, along with Judge Goldstone, for their fight against zionism. I also hope to bring Shapira together with Bishop Desmond Tutu to San Francisco

Bryan said...

Rabbi Jutner's posts are much funnier when I'm sleep-deprived. Then again, this is true of all satire.

I never understood anti-Zionist Israelis. I can't even wrap my head around the idea of an American saying America shouldn't exist, and America is as much a colonial invention as Zimbabwe. It simply does not happen.

Anonymous said...

Beware Tony keep a close eye on Yonatan while Tutu is around - those Catholics are as keen on converting people as ever and you wouldn't want to lose one of your congregation, would you?


For the first time I am all for the American habit of handcuffing and preferable feet cuffing them too without any ado - amazing they even leave the backpacks of the guys untouched - that'd scare me to death (the 7/7 bombers did it with backpacks)

What were the shots about? one seems to have been Israeli, was it tear gas or aimed to de-activate whatever had been thrown on the street?

I've been over to read Max Blumenthal's text to go with it. They should create an island for these people - there can't be any worse punishment for them than to make them spend the rest of their lives or until they have come to their senses in eachother's company getting bored out of their mind by competing for the most absurd conspiracy theories.

That Blumenthal guy has a wikipedia entry that reads suspiciously like he helped in writing it but while looking up the nutter I found he did an interview at Fresh Air - Terry Gross usually does a good job so if anybody is interested in getting more from him


Anonymous said...

Ther is no way Rabbi Tony Jutner is real. He has to be a troll - and a funny one to boot.

There is so much absurdity in his post that it can be nothing more than a troll.


eamonnmcdonagh said...

here in Argentina it's cuffs and face down on the ground until they figure out what to do with you when they arrest you. Oh and Tutu is an Anglican, not a Catholic

Anonymous said...

you break my heart - I still have hopes that Brits are going to rescue the world once again

Tony maybe funny but in the past he got outright hurtful and very unfunny - so I vote for deferring judgment


Dave said...

I agree this clip is actually a pro-israel clip. The police do nothing to the children or any Palestinians and arrest two Israelis without any more than a little shoving. Thanks Max.

A said...

Fake-rabbi Tony "Amandla" should make a shrine to his fake-heroes and bring them together in a Kumbaya-stravaganza, maybe on board of a flottilla-tortilla sponsored by Turkey.

Gavin said...

That's a pretty fair assessment Yaacov; that people essentially radicalise themselves when they become obsessed with their own self-righteousness. The less their opinions are listened to the more extreme they become. Nobody can hear them so they have to shout louder.... and louder.

I also think that the radical left are driven by some inner ego which forbids them from self-examination. They can't bear to face the enormity of their actions if they prove to be wrong, and as a self-defence mechanism they drive themselves to more extreme acts to escape the awful truth that they're well out of their depth. Take away their attention-seeking and they're just little people who never achieve anything of substance and who will never get a mention in the pages of history.


Michael W. said...

Is this how the anti-Jew element of Christianity came into being? No offense to Christians:

The Jewish followers of Jesus preached something different to the Jews (Jesus as Meshiach), the vast majority didn't agree, Jesus followers became more radical (you no longer have to keep kosher and other stuff), they start preaching to the gentiles, and eventually they turn against the Jews completely.

Silke said...

Gore Vidal in Julian suggests pretty much that Christians were a lot better at PR than Jews i.e. incorporating virgin birth and a lot of other heathen stuff and while convincing all those heathens they of course had to belittle where they came from.
Human nature being what it is It is vexing if your elders who have a legitimate right to the book you derive your whole right to exist from won't acknowledge that your sequel is the better book (especially when there's no chance to become it in the eyes of any non-faith dominated reader) Once you believe you possess the truth than everybody else is well in need total domination only for his/her own good of course.

AKUS said...

Yakov - thanks for this, and specially for the information about the last clip.

I had watched it, and was angered by seeing someone (it turns out to be Shapira) with a clear Israeli accent pretending to be a foreigner by speaking English to the cameras, who at one point suddenly broke into Hebrew as he was being arrested, then remembering his role and asking in English "Where's my bag?" (cue the anger - "the israelis stole his bag!!").

You may be aware that a still from those children was then used by the Times of London to show how Israeli soldiers frighten little children, as noted by Honest Reporting as another example of fauxtography:

Utterly disgusting. And infuriating to see what young soldiers have to put up with. It can break your heart. When I did miluim in Gaza, there was not a child who dared to come near us - Ark Sharon had made sure of that.

Carrie said...

Max Blumenthal is actually an American version of Yonatan Shapira. He was born into the American elite. His father, Sydney Blumenthal was an advisor to Bill Clinton. I first noticed Max Blumenthal when he made a documentary critical of America's evangelicals which was picked up by HBO. I guess from there his career didn't really go anywhere and then he made that video of drunk American Birthright kids talking bad about Obama. After that he has been marginalized and posting on MondoWeiss and places like that. I think his ire is only directed at Israel these days.

If you go to his youtube page, the titles of his youtube videos are really hysterical. One of them is "IDF BRUTALLY arresting Yonatan." Another is the title of this one "IDF vs children." It is apparent that these titles have nothing to do with the actual videos and I think you hit it right on the head that these videos are actually pro-Israel. They look a lot like the videos the US military press office release from Iraq.

Victor said...

Yaacov, you've described the process of Jewish radicalism well. Perhaps, in your experience and observation, you can prescribe a way to reverse it.

YoniG said...

Palestinian kids and wacko demonstrators obviously know they have nothing to fear from IDF soldiers. So much for the "brutal" occupation myth.

The Scrutinator said...

Can someone translate what the kids were saying (to English)?

Key question for the West: would you let your children do this? Crowd an armed soldier or policeman, his finger on the trigger, waving their arms and shouting at him?

Silke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silke said...


it's the "culture" - watch the guy in the top right corner of the video how long he keeps yelling allahu akbar before he bends down and takes care of his frightened toddler

AKUS said...

The Yonatan Shapiro clip has been misused again by the Guardian - another example of fauxtography:

Apart from the fact that it has nothing to to with the article in question by the ridiculous Rachel Shabi(a supposed protest by academics against the plan to dismiss academics calling for a boycott of Israel ), it once again uses a frame from that clip to misrepresent what happened:

Anonymous said...

I searched the agency's site for the fotographer's name
He/she has a very special eye and besides being very busy seems to use to headlines only:

Mideast Palestine or Mideast Israel - the Guardian picture is no 00000402242727 and right next to it you find picture no 00000402243075 which is further proof that they are still keeping that old Rodolfo Valentino Sheikh image very much alive - a bit dark but as romantic is the first 00000402243077
Unfortunately the site doesn't let one know how much one has to pay for their stuff.

I sign off in total anonimity again because somebody over at Fake Ibrahim's stole my Google name and I don't know yet what that means and how to remedy it.

Silke, the real one

Anonymous said...

i like the kids playing games in the end, seems they are not overly impressed or suppressed by the 'occupation forces'