Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gadi Taub's Levelheaded Views

Still by way of contradicting what I wrote yesterday here, about how Israel's Left has lost it, see this fascinating interview with Gadi Taub, a secular lefty Tel Aviv fellow who writes books about dens of iniquity (not available in English), and a fine and thoughtful book about The Settlers: And the Struggle over the Meaning of Zionism. The interview, done by Michael Weiss of Just Journalism, deserves to be read in its entirety, but here are some nice sections:
We tend to remember the danger of nationalism, but to forget that it has a central role in supporting the democratic structure. The sense of ‘we’, as in ‘we the people’, is what makes each citizen use the vote with a view to the public good. So the connection runs both ways: democracy allows national sentiments and national sentiments are functionally necessary for the well being of democracy.
The question is how to prevent national chauvinism, and Herzl believed – quite rightly, I think – that national chauvinism comes about when national sentiments are stifled by force. Zionism followed this path, in anchoring the right of Jews to self-determination in a vision of universal democracy. The Jews, explains our Declaration of Independence, have this right because they are a people, and all peoples do. This is why Zionism cannot be reconciled with an occupation. You cannot demand a right for yourself based on its universality, while denying it to others. By the same token, if someone believes in the right of all peoples to self-determination, it makes little sense to say that all, except Jews, have it.

A look at Gaza, where the differences between Hamas and Fatah were settled by the use of arms, should help us all wake up from imaginary schemes of peaceful bi-nationalism. I don’t see how Gaza would have turned into a liberal democracy if only there was a Jewish faction added to the mix. What the one-statists are promoting is going to be a chronic Lebanon style civil war. And the odd thing is, how little the London Review has drifted from old colonial habits of mind. The natives – we Jews and Arabs – aspire to national self-determination. But the good ol’ Brits, never tired of carrying the White Man’s Burden, know that the natives are too barbaric to understand what the right form of self-determination should be for them. So until they grow up, we, Western intellectuals, will serve as their political parents, and impose on them the state we know they should want. Because it is Western and enlightened, of course.

Though there are very shrill chauvinistic tones in Israel’s public sphere, and many anti-democratic forces, in many ways we are far more open than other democracies. I can only imagine what would have happened to an American legislator had he or she participated in a flotilla in which American Navy Seals were beaten with iron rods. Not only would that person not have returned to Congress, he or she would not have returned home, but gone straight to prison.
Israel let [Arab Knesset Member] Hanin Zuabi back to parliament, and I think it did well. Israel also does not outlaw a political party (named Ballad) despite its explicit support of the enemy at a time of war (in this case the Hezbollah in the last Lebanon war). This is illegal in Israel as it is in most democracies, but I don’t see any other state which would turn a blind eye to it as Israel did. So, despite the shrill tones, which should be and are denounced, we are not yet on the road to lose our democratic institutions.

6 comments:

Y. Ben-David said...

I don't view Gadi Taub anymore as "level headed". At one time, he came across as a "yefe nefesh" (do-gooder) who wanted everyone to love and understand everyone else. Today he is simply another "settler basher" and I am surprised, Yaacov, that you identify with him since you have defended the settlers in the past, even as you oppose (at least some of) the settlements.

The opinions of some of the followers of Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook that a bi-national state is now preferable, somehow, is a direct consequence of the destruction of Gush Katif, which came as blow to their beliefs about how the state of Israel would evolve. These people are a minority even within that camp, but they feel that the existing Zionist state is whithering away and we might just have to get used to the idea of a government in the not-too-distant future completely chucking Zionism which would mean giving up the whole idea of a Jewish state. This would make a bi-national state inevitable, so they feel they should hold onto the settlements even if this should develop. I don't believe Moetzet YESHA is thinking in these terms. I think rather that they don't believe a peace agreement is achievable and some sort of INFORMAL modus-vivendi with the Palestinians will evolve once everyone realizes that "peace process" is dead and that will involve the Palestinians having an autonomous regime, possibly tied to Jordan and the majority of Palestinians coming to the realization that they can't defeat Israel so they will try to make money instead. This will take time, of course. Continued Israeli support for the settlements is VITAL to this happening because this will show the Palestinians and other Arabs that Israel is here to stay and the violence does not pay and only sets them further back.
I know this is not satisfying to those who want clean-cut solutions but this is what is going to happend, whether Taub likes it or not.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting thinker I would never know of had you not posted it.

"You cannot demand a right for yourself based on its universality, while denying it to others. By the same token, if someone believes in the right of all peoples to self-determination, it makes little sense to say that all, except Jews, have it."

This is an excellent talking point. I will have to read the whole piece.

Nycerbarb

Barry Meislin said...

Israel also does not outlaw a political party (named Ballad) despite its explicit support of the enemy at a time of war (in this case the Hezbollah in the last Lebanon war). This is illegal in Israel as it is in most democracies, but I don’t see any other state which would turn a blind eye to it as Israel did.

Well, this is undoubtedly open to debate.

Certainly, it is not pleasant to have one of your parliamentarians support your enemies when they are attacking you and killing your neighbors.

(Did I say, "certainly"? Hmmm, have to think about that one.)

On the other hand, maybe it is precisely this relative tolerance (albeit grudging) of these traitors (is their any other word?) that detractors of Israel are referring to when they say that Israeli democracy is "at risk."

Did I say "detractors"? I should have said "supporters of Israel who desperately want to help Israel in spite of herself". (Phew!)

Did I say "traitors"? I should have said "clowns."

Which inspires one to propose, in the interest of Israeli democracy (and the mental health of its citizenry), that a new custom should be initiated, called...

..."the two-minute laugh."

Modeled on Orwell's famous "hate" of the same name, Israeli citizens would pause from working every day (except, of course, Sabbath and holidays) and, gazing intently on the luminous character of their choice (suggestions might be Saed Erekat, Hanin Zuabi, Ahmed Tibi, Eli Yishai, Gideon Levi, Bibi or Avigdor Lieberman, etc.---or themselves) break out into two minutes of unbridled paroxysm of hilarious, hysterical, infectious, unstoppable laughter.

Then stop, dry their tears and go back to work.

Now that would surely do wonders for everyone, laughers and laughees, alike.

There could even be laugh-o-meters where two or three opposing teams would compete for the loudest laughter, the most spectacular laughter, the most creative or original laughter, etc.

Think of it this way: is it something that societies can afford not to implement?

Silke said...

OT
Prospect has "my" first review of Simon Sebag Montefiore's new book "Jerusalem" - if you "like" sly slandering of Jews read it but keep in mind that by now the "fact" that Carthageneans did child SACRIFICE is contested by sane sounding people.

I read a lengthy excerpt of his "Young Stalin" book which made me like the author - therefore I doubt he put it as crudely as Prospect which is said to be the intellectuals' darling, claims.

http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2011/01/sebag-montegiore-jerusalem-biography-anderson-review/

Anonymous said...

I think this perfectly highlights why we don't have a deal yet.

We, from left to right, universally believe this argument about peoplehood and self determination, so we keep offering the Palestinians peoplehood and self determination.

But that's not what they want. Those concepts are alien to them, more or less, although obviously younger generations are going to be far more aware of them. What they have traditionally wanted was justice, which we can't give them because, as they perceive it, it would mean dismantling our state.

Bottom line. They have to start really wanting peoplehood and self determination in the traditional sense, or we have to admit that they don't and get the world to stop insisting that we give it to them.

Victor said...

It's the most persuasive two state perspective I've read in years. I don't know very much about the man, but I wish there were more of him on the left.