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.