Thursday, December 9, 2010

Decline of a Dynasty

David Remez (1886-1951) was a prominent member of the generation of giants who forced Jewish history onto a new track. Arriving in Ottoman Israel in 1913 with his wife, they were among the last members of the Second Aliya, the founding fathers of modern Israel. The comparison with the Mayflower generation is plausible, for all the different historical contexts. The near-maniacal determination to create a new world was probably similar.

In the mid 1920s he had an affair with a young divorcee, one Golda Meir, though this may not have been common knowledge until their letters were published a few years ago. In the public realm he held a series of important positions in the pre-state Yishuv, and he was one of the signers of Israel's Declaration of Independence. He was a member of the first government, and at the time of his death in 1951 he was Minister of Education.

Aharon Remez (1919-1994) was a prominent member of the first generation of Sabras. Not the first Jews born in Erez Israel, of course, since Jews were being born here all along, but the first generation of children born into the growing Zionist enterprise. He was a prominent member of the group that created and commanded the Hagana and prepared it to become the IDF and to win the War of Independence - men such as Moshe Dayan, Yigal Alon, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, and Shimon Peres, (alone of them all, still active in his late 80s.) Remez was one of the founders of the Israel Airforce, and its second commander. After his father's death he was elected to the Knesset, but was more of a doer than a politician, and filled various prominent positions until the 1980s.

His son Gideon Remez may well still be alive, at least I haven't heard otherwise. Gideon was a journalist, and for many years he was the top "world politics" expert at the IBA, Israel Broadcasting Authority. For many years he ran a mid-afternoon radio program about the events of the world, which was famous for his connections. Whatever the event was, Remez would have a live interview with some knowledgeable local; it was always a pleasure to listen to his program, though you'll note that by this generation the family was reporting, not being reported on.

Didi Remez, so far as I can tell, is the current public figure in the family. I assume Didi derives from David, but see how far the family has come in four generations. Didi may define himself as an Israeli patriot, but if so he has a very unusual way of demonstrating it, by being very active in the narrow corner of the radical left that not only focuses incessantly on what Israel does wrong, but does so in English, so the rest of the world will know. That's what his website, Coteret, is all about.

I'm telling this tale not so as to attack Didi Remez personally. The man is entitled to whatever opinions he wishes to hold. It's an interesting story for its broader implication: that the segment of society which invented this country has faded, and new segments have risen to take their place; also, for the question as to whether the fading in any way fuels the animosity, as in "the new guys have betrayed what our guys were trying to do".


Anonymous said...

Boy is he gonna be pissed

Anonymous said...

He might be upset, but that is not the point.

Didi Remez is good for our democracy to a large extent. I truly believe he is marginalized by his own unreasonableness.

That is why he writes for Coteret and does not or could not get voted into the Knesset.


Lee Ratner said...

Yaacov, I don't really see it as a decline in the segment of societ which created Israel and the replacement by new segments. The largest chunk of the new segments have their intelletual origins in the teachings of Vladimir Jabotinsky, who was a contemporary of the Labor Zionists of the Second Aliyah. Even the current Religious Zionists can trace their intellectual ancestors to the Mizrahi movement that was founded shortly after the First Zionist Congress. What really happened was that the demographics changed and this allowed the minority Zionist factions to emerge as the majority but the current leaders of Israel also have their origins in the Second Aliyah period.

You can also argue that the current leaders of Israel at least on the secular side can trace their origins to the First Aliyah, who wanted Israel to be a Jewish state in the same way that Italy was say an Italian state.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov, thanks for posting this its really fascinating.

I worked for a major Jewish organization in America and at one conference we had the son of Yitchak Rabin and the Grandson of David Ben Gurion speaking. What was interesting is that neither lived in Israel.

Yuval Rabin is a consultant in Washington and Alon Ben Gurion owns a hotel in Westchester, NY.

Two of the most important figures in the State's history and their decedents' don't live here.

Are they outliers or is this a pattern?


Y. Ben-David said...

This is an interesting phenomenon. However, it is not limited to the "aristocracy" of the Left. For instance, one of Benny Begin's sons (and thus Menachem Begin's grandson) is a radical anti-Zionist, active in the anarchist movement. He gave his son an Arab first name. Adi Ophir, one of the leaders of the radical neo-Marxist movement in Israel is the son of an ETZEL fighter. So, of course, is Ram Emanuel (remember him?). There are others.
On the other hand, radical MAPAM-pro-Stalinist Meir Ya'ari has a son and grandson who were high-ranking officers in the IDF. Whereas in the US, it is common for generals and other high ranking officers to be sons of generals and to come from "military dynastys", there has not been very much of this in Israel.

For that matter, look at Tzippi Livni and Ehud Olmert. Both come from the Relivisionist/Herut/Likud aristocracy and at one time were "right-wing" but I would now consider both of them to be post-Zionists today. The New York Times had an article about Livni when she bacame Foreign Minister and they pointed out the massive shift she underwent (both her parents were legendary ETZEL fighters and super-right wing, her father was a Likud MK). The article perceptively pointed out that as she moved up the ladder in the Likud, she came to understand that the money and power in the country are on the post-Zionist Left so she adjusted herself accordingly.

On the other hand I had the pleasure of meeting the grandson of Yitzhak Tabenkin who was a radical Zioninst-Socialist in the Ahdut Ha'Avodah party and a supporter of Gush Emunim after the Six-Day War and the grandson is following in the path of his grandfather-a secular hard-line right-winger.

Rav Kook pointed out 100 years ago that it was inevitable that many secular Zionists would end up turning against it. So this phenomenon should not be surprising.
One other factor is that it is unfortunately true that children of an "aristocracy" often develop a sense of entitlement and end up being spoiled. This is particularly true of children of Knesset Members. If I am not mistaken, every single one who is in the Knesset now or in the recent past and whose parent was "right-wing" is now on the post-Zionist Left-again because as they grew up they saw where the money and power was and that became the goal, not "Zionist ideology" or "Jewish nationalism".

(I feel justified in calling Olmert a post-Zionist because he offered to hand over the Temple Mount, Western Wall and the other Jewish Holy Sites over the Green Line to the Palestinians, by way of a "neutral international body" which would be given nominal sovereignity. No "Zionist" would ever conceive of such a thing).

Micha said...

In the early 2000s Didi Remez was working for Peace Now. But, as far as I remember, he belonged to the more moderate, explicitly Zionist part of Peace Now -- hardly the anti-Israeli, anarchist type. Or at least that was my impression. I can't be sure, since I didn't talk to him. My impression was that he belonged to the part of the left who opposed the occupation on Zionist as well as humanitarian grounds.

Is there a reason to think my impression was wrong?

Israel has enough genuine haters in the left, that it doesn't need to add to the list ones who are not haters.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add to the list David Axelrod the great-grandson of Leon Trotsky. Axelrod made aliyah from the Soviet Union and was apparently a Kach supporter.

Yaacov, why is the Remez example any different from all those thousands of Jews whose great-grandparents were Orthodox/Haredi/Dati in Eastern Europe and whose descendants are now secular/anti-religious or even not Jewish. Doesn't it show that ideology quite often is not passed down the generations unchanged?

Silke said...


I had the "pleasure" of meeting Didi a couple of times or so on this blog and I read what NGO-monitor has collected as quotes (and I checked the originals to make sure their quotes are not misleading) and if Didi is not a hater, then haters must be a breed I've haven't come across yet.

dailydishwater said...

Micha, It's more that he spins and makes excuses for haters. He doesn't give a second thought to most people's agendas if they're criticizing "the Occupation." His lack of insight into some of the people he protests alongside or links to seems autistic. It's pathetic at any rate, because it shows slavishness.

Plus, he's obsessed with achieving the reputation of an intellectual, when he's only trading on his knowledge of Hebrew, with Western journalists, which any Israeli on the Left with a decent amount of time on their hands could do. He benefits because of other people's ignorance; and *analysis* of news on his Coteret blog is sophomoric.

Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

I am pleased to see the evolution of the remez family. What you have described illustrates the truth of New Judaism, where we stress Social Justice, Economic Justice, and the Right of Return of Endogenous Peoples, especially the Palestinians. David and Aharon Remez were basically Neanderthals, expelling the true owners of the land with force. Didi undoubtedly recognizes the theft and ethnic cleansing perpetuated by the zionists and is trying to make amends. Perhaps beginning with Sheik Jarrah, and eventually to give back Jaffa and Al Quds to their true owners. I call on Didi to officially endorse BDS on this website and endorse the principles of New Judaism

L. King said...

Rav Jutner,

I applaud the boldness of your approach. However do you think that returning Palestinian Arabs to Jordan is entirely correct? Some of them came from Sudan, Egypt and Syria. Go back far enough and some of them came from Turkey with Saladin. For those who are muslims their religion came from Saudi Arabia. That's why they identify themselves as Arabs. But

Then there are those who may be descended from Jews. (Some others may be descended from Samaritans. Check first if they still favor animal sacrifices at the end of Eid - that's a good way to tell the difference.) Does your "New Judaism" still contain 613 Mitzvot? Are there still 10 commandments? If so I commend you for teaching our long lost Jewish brethren about their heritage and hope that you can reclaim many Baal Tshuvoth who have lost their way. With your help no doubt many of them will be humming the Sh'ma, lighting Sabbath candles and studying the Palestinian Talmud which is their true heritage.

How bold of you call for the restoration the endogenous religious sites such as the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem in spite of the presence of the Al Aqsa's travellers's hospice on that location. Personally I would have waited, but as you pointed out, it was those hateful neanderthal Zionists who stood in the way.

Personally I would welcome the restoration of the former glory days of Muslim empires, but tell me - which Caliphate do you favor. Do you long for the Sultans of Istanbul or the Pasha's of Egypt? Are you a twelver or a fiver? Why it was only yesterday when Islam ruled the world as endogenous sovereigns. We forget that Islam is the true destiny, not only of the Middle East but of the entire world, and we are but it's humble servants.

I can hardly wait. Inshallah.

Micha said...

"His lack of insight into some of the people he protests alongside or links to seems autistic. "

People would be surprised if they knew how people in Peace Now feel about the more extreme left (relatively). They are terrified of them. They are very worried about being associated with them, and try to keep them quiet on demonstrations, while at the same time being unable to do anything about them because they are the ones who keep coming to demonstrate and to all the meetings.

There's also another thing. The Left in Israel, but not only the left has become like a tribe or a cult. Every group becomes very immersed in their own sub-group their own talking points, their own people. I've seen this personally. As a result people loose the ability for independent thinking. So I don't know where Didi stands, but I can tell you that if you look at it from the inside it's more heterogeneous than people realize. And like I said, there are enough people who are real haters, and also a lot of people who are not haters but are stuck in their little swamp, I'd rather not label someone unless I'm sure about it. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Micha said...

Look at Benny Morris. He was in the left. He refused to serve in the territories. Now he's a major defender of Israel. And this was not that he became right wing suddenly. It was more that the circumstances changed.

Silke said...

do you have any idea how your stuff comes across to an outsider?

Do you really think Didi will change his ways, if he is sure he'll be always given the benefit of the doubt.

Here is a useful lecture on the art of the public grovel. If Didi is really the misunderstood little one suffering for the misdeeds of people aligning themselves to him it might be helpful.
"the art of the public grovel"

BTW if I remember correctly Benny Morris managed his turn around without any assistance from the benefit of the doubt advocating ones.

This is not a court trial, this is a judgement by public perception with no palpable consequence for the perpetrator whatsoever quite the contrary I think currently the rewards for Israel bashing are much better than the ones for sticking by it.

Micha said...

Benny Morris didn't turn around nor does he have to prove anything. He was a serious historian whose political position, like many others, was what is known as Zionist-left, which means he opposed the occupation and supported peace from a pro-Israeli POV. when it turned out that peace is unattainable and the circumstances changed, he adjusted to the new situation, like many others in the Zionist left.

I haven't been following Didi. My vague impression was that he was also Zionist-Left, although unlike Morris, I'm not sure he has adjusted the the changed situation. which is a problem with many in the edge of the Zionist left.

However, I don't want to conflate all the people on the left with anti-Zionists anymore than I want to conflate all right wing people, or even religious right wing people or all settlers with Kahana. And that's what I mean when I say, benefit of the doubt. I grant it to lefties, just as I do to settlers or Haredim or Arabs, all of whom suffer from a negative image, partially because of their own deeds (or lack thereof).

Anonymous said...

Tony Jutner is not Rabbi. He is a radical anti-Zionist bordering on antisemitism.

Y. Ben-David said...

From my ongoing observations of the Far Left (and I include MERETZ and Peace Now in this category), I see that they are very badly divided among themselves and this will stymie their political ambitions.
There is one thing that unites them...hatred of the settlers and settlements. This is what motivated the weekly Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations. However, a problem arose at the beginning regarding what flags could be flown. Leftist Zionists would bring Israeli flags, claiming that Jews living in Sheikh Jarrah endangers Zionism and is a gateway to the Palestinian "Right of Return" which they oppose. Others brought red communist/anarchist flags who and support the "right of return" and others yet brought Palestinian flags who oppose Israel and Zionism. In the end, as I understand, it was decided to ban all flags.
One of the original organizers was Dr Bernard Avishai. He supports Israel as a state with a Jewish majority but without Zionist ideology. He also is what you might call a "Bolshevik Capitalist" in that he is strongly anti-socialist, pro-capitalist and pro-Globalization. (He is always saying that the Palestinian "entrepeneurial elites of whom he knows a couple will 'push aside' the FATAH and HAMAS gunmen' and will want to make peace with Israel in order to make as much money as possible). Well, the anarchists and communists strongly oppose globalized capitalism, and the Arab world fears it greatly as well. So we see major divisions on these issues.
The anti-Zionist party Avrum Burg is setting up I believe will be organized along the lines Avishai will be for post- or anti-Zionist Jews who don't like HADASH because of its socialist-Communist background. Another, unspoken reason Burg is setting up the party is that HADASH is an ARAB party and there are post- and anti-Zionist Jews who don't feel comfortable in an Arab party.

Thus, assuming Burg's party runs in the elections we see the post- and anti-Zionist vote will be split. They can't agree on what they want and will keep fighting each other.

A final anecdote regards a Leftist Jewish woman who, on the day of the Salute to Israel parade in New York wanted to attend a counter-demostration which is held on a side-street in order to protest "the settlements". The police put all the counter-demonstrators in one place. There she found herself with Arabs, Communists, neo-Nazis and others screaming antisemitic slogans. She said she won't attend next year. I find that encouraging.

Anonymous said...

"but does so in English, so the rest of the world will know" - it's not that but rather that (maybe) he believes that Israel would be squeezed by international pressure* and prefers to operate on that field rather than to fight for Israeli democracy and present his opinions to Israelis, in Hebrew (I haven't heard of him anyway).

I don't think his heritage has anything to with it, except maybe do to the fact that the old elite is getting pushed away.

*thank god for WikiLeaks.


dailydishwater said...

Micha, I'm only giving my impression of one person, who I think turns a blind eye to haters and those who hope to see Israel dismantled one way or the other. There are plenty of figures in Peace Now that I like, ones who don't offer excuses for anti-Zionist activists and protest alongside them.

I don't want to characterize the Left, since I consider myself on the Left in a broad sense and am comfortable with putting pressure on Israel as long as reciprocal pressure that is as public is put on the Palestinians at the same time. It's a way to help discourage the maximalists on both sides.

Obviously, some people on the Left do have a problem identifying who's on the Left. Dr. Judith Butler, esteemed philosopher:

"Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. So again, a critical, important engagement. I mean, I certainly think it should be entered into the conversation on the Left. I similarly think boycotts and divestment procedures are, again, an essential component of any resistance movement."

Anonymous said...

I believe that one of Shlumit Aloni's sons is a 'Chozer Ba'Tshuva'.

Sickness can strike anywhere.

Y. Ben-David said...

Daily Dishwater-
Thanks for the comment from Dr Judith Butler.
I find it absolutely fascinating that "progressivs" view HAMAS and HIZBULLAH as "progressive, univeralist, Leftist" organizations.
Everyone knows that in reality they are reactionaries, trying to impose, one way or another, a theocratic regime with plenty of religious coercion. They repress women and homosexuals-two groups that are favorites of the "universalist, progressive, Leftist" camp. Nor are they socialists, after all, the Arabs are traditionally master merchants and socialism does not fit their traditions. So what is "progressive, universalist and Leftist about them?". They hate Jews, they hate Israel and they hate the United States. Is that all that is required in order to be considered progressive?

peterthehungarian said...

An other relevant personality to mention here is Daphna Baram, a descendant of the veteran Labour politician Uzi Baram.
One thing is sure: she doesn't have the IQ of her father - her Israel bashing in the Guardian became an embarrassment.

Y. Ben-David said...

On the other hand, Uzi Baram's sister (both the children of a Labor Party Knesset Member) became religious and lives in a YESHA settlement. For years, Uzi refused to visit his sister in his home (and remember he is a "moderate" in the Labor Party) but he finally did so.

Barry Meislin said...

And this was not that he became right wing suddenly. It was more that the circumstances changed.

Um, no. It was more that he opened his eyes.

(Or had his eyes opened for him.)

As for Judith Butler and her ilk: Hating Jews or Zionism or Israel (or whatever) is the very essence of virtue, and the excuse that permits everything else.

(...and then there's the old joke about why we're called "the CHILDREN of Israel"....)

Anonymous said...

I believe that Yaacov who lives in Jerusalem could have looked into the telephone directory in order to find out that Gideon Remez is alive.
I usually like the texts of Yaacov, but this one is not O.K.

Anonymous said...

"I feel justified in calling Olmert a post-Zionist because he offered to hand over the Temple Mount, Western Wall and the other Jewish Holy Sites over the Green Line to the Palestinians, by way of a "neutral international body" which would be given nominal sovereignity. No "Zionist" would ever conceive of such a thing."

Except David Ben-Gurion and every other member of the Zionist movement who accepted the UN partition plan.

Y. Ben-David said...

Previous Anonymous-
Gee, I didn't know that a Jewish state existed before 1948 which controlled the Western Wall and that Ben-Gurion agreed to remove Israeli control from it.

Barry Meislin said...


(No comments as yet by Egyptian oceanographers....)

Naomi Litvin said...

As Jews, we all know that the manifestation of our childhood traumas (as we mostly come from European holocaust survivors, Jabotinsky and/or orthodox roots, inc. Russian pogroms, etc) has made us all what we are today. But lately, I have noticed that there are groups forming that are feeding off our disagreements and differences. They are using the Christian right -- the Hagee & other similar groups -- coupled with their savvy in fund raising, for their real selfish goals, in which of course they hope to fund their own salaries. What ever you think of Didi Remez, who I had never heard of until a few days ago, you have to give him credit for calling our "Act For Israel" as to what their motivations are. There are opportunists afoot, and converts and Christians who think anyone with an Israel moniker is pure, have a lot to learn.

Naomi Litvin said...

correction to above comment: i meant caling "out" act for israel ... not calling our.

Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

Did Remez is doing an invaluable service by documenting the zionist entitys war crimes for trials in the Hague. In the next few months, Argentina, sick of the constant harassment over some firecrackers in their Jewish community center and zionist embassy, is going to sponsor a resolution for an independent Palestine from the Jordan River to the Meditteranean. It will be cosponsored bu Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Uruguay and receive immediate support of 180 nations. President Obama wont veto it because he is tired of holding his nose when it comes to the zionist entity. The UN resolution calling for a complete Palestine will be enforced by a joint Turkish-Iranian-English force, and finally zionist leaders will get justice at the Hauge, assisted by Remez meticulous documentation

Barry Meislin said...

Hey, Happy Hanukah, Rabbi!!

Anonymous said...

It's a bit early for a Purim Spiel, Rav Jutner!

Micha said...

Israeli flags were often a point of contention in left wing demonstrations that I have attended. Peace Now were fanatic about having a lot of Israeli flags. Some of the people attending specifically sought the flags. But other people kept complaining about them. In events organized by the more extreme groups the only Israeli flags were on the symbols of Gush Shalom. When Uri Avneri is the most right wing person in a room, then you know you are in the company of extremists.

I was visiting my sister in Berkeley shortly after the war in Lebanon, and a friend from Peace Now told me what Judith Butler had said. He was extremely unhappy with it, but at the same time he was significantly more to the left than I was. There are a lot of gradients. There was a lot of fighting inside the left during the early part of the decade. But now it's pretty much shattered to completely separate fragments. Not only Zionists and non-Zionists, but many issues. I don't know what fragment Didi ended up on.

Silke said...

I don't know what fragment Didi ended up on.

from my outsider's perspective by just looking at Coteret and what I experienced here:

Israel needs bashing, hard, regularly and on every issue. Everything needs to be twisted so it makes the country look bad. I don't care one hoot whether this is right or left, but I know for sure that Churchill would have taken the irresponsible little arsonist to task.

DRW said...

As an American Jew who preaches Zionism from the frontline of my comfy chair in New York, I fully support the right of any Israeli, like Didi, who served bravely in the IDF, is subject to miluim, and who continues to live, work and pay taxes in Israel, and who risks having a Hamas/ Hezballah/ Iranian rocket land on his head at any moment, to spout whatever nonsense he wants.

YMedad said...

Since nobody related to it, yes, Gideon is alive and well. He and his wife are working on a book on the involvement of the Soviet Union and the Comintern in Mandate affairs.

Last month I heard them at the Truman Institute delivering this paper