Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Know Thy Enemy, 2

Shelby Steele, a professor at the Hoover Institute, tells it as it is:
This is something new in the world, this almost complete segregation of Israel in the community of nations. And if Helen Thomas's remarks were pathetic and ugly, didn't they also point to the end game of this isolation effort: the nullification of Israel's legitimacy as a nation? There is a chilling familiarity in all this. One of the world's oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: The Jews are being scapegoated again. (via Goldblog).
So which is it? New, or ancient? Both, actually. It's new, because back in 2005 as Israel was unilaterally leaving Gaza, people didn't talk this way for a moment; newish, because in the 1990s, as Israel seemed to be handing over control of the Palestinians to their own government, it wasn't the fad to talk this way; vaguely new, because in the 1950s and 1960s, when folks were occasionally mighty embarrassed about the poor Jews of Europe, it was really bad taste to talk this way.

Ancient, because the idea that the Jews are uniquely evil is at least 2,000 years old, and never went away throughout, though it did rise and subside from time to time. It was also a motivating force in Zionism, the understanding that sooner or later it was inevitable that things would get worse for the Jews, and the time had come for them to take care of themselves.

It is this sense of community, forged both by the negative parts of being derided by others, and the positive parts of pride in the community itself, that underlie much of Jewish identity and of course Zionism. Not jingoistic "we're right no matter what", rather the more basic "we are we, we've got the right to be we, and we're important enough to ourselves to commit further efforts to being we".

The enemies of Israel repudiate that: "you don't deserve to exist as a community unless you don't bother anyone, and we'll define what might be a bother according to whatever whim hits us at whatever moment" - that's basically what they've been saying these past 2,000 years, give or take a century. There were long periods when Jews had no choice but to bend with the whims and accommodate themselves as well as they could; Zionism is the decision to build a whim-resistant place.

In this context, Assaf Sagiv's fascinating article in Azure is a worthy contribution, even if it has the length of an academic article rather than an op-ed. Titled The Sad State of Israeli Radicalism, he convincingly shows that Israel's far left is quantitatively different than its Zionist left. The Zionist left is in favor of the Jews having a state, and they hope to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians by partition (code word: 1967). The radical left is against the Jews having a state of their own at all, and have nothing good to say about it in any way (their code word is 1948). The Zionist left is sometimes uncomfortable with some actions of the Zionists; the radicals are simply anti-Zionist. They are against Jewish nationalism, insist it's an invention of European colonialism, and hope for its demise as an anachronism.

The irony of the radical position is that by joining in the general negation of Zionism, they're reinforcing the justification for its existence: it is irrational to single out the Jews, but since it's happening nonetheless, it's proof that the Jews cannot do anything rational that will make themselves acceptable, except for disappearing.

Equally ironic is the fact that Israel's anti-Zionists pretend to own some universally moral high ground, when in reality all they do is embrace the genocidal rejection of the Jews (either directly genocidal as with Iran Hezbullah and Hamas, or implied genocidal as in "the Jews don't deserve to be a nation"). According to them, Jews seeking national expression is criminal, while Palestinians seeking national expression is universal morality.

Like this:


Anonymous said...

Shelby Steele is naming Poland but not Germany - after reading his piece a couple of days ago I stumbled on another piece doing the same.

There were Poles who didn't behave as decent people should and maybe there were too many of them and they stayed at it too long but they were NOT the inventors and CEOs of the industrial style killing spree.

That "honour" belongs to us - exclusively ...
why is the commentariat all of a sudden getting squeamish about naming us? or rather, is it lapsus or intent? an if it is intent why? because we are still credit-worthy? and so one must be nice with us?


Barry Meislin said...

Equally ironic is the fact that Israel's anti-Zionists pretend to own some universally moral high ground, when in reality all they do is embrace the genocidal rejection of the Jews.

Indeed; but rabid ideologues don't do irony (at least not terribly well). Not their strong suit.

Hmm. And yet, agitating for (and working towards) Israel's disappearance has become precisely the universally moral high ground...

...using the following "incontrovertible" logic:
1. That Jews are a religion, not a people, and therefore don't deserve a state of their own; and/or
2. That Jews are not even really Jews but a relatively modern construct that has nothing to do with history and everything to do with Western colonialism/racism/apartheid; and/or
3. That even if Jews are Jews(!), that Zionism is merely Western colonialism/racism/apartheid, etc.; and/or
4. That while they have nothing against Judaism (no, not they), they do have a problem with the State of Israel; and/or
5. That, therefore, the goal of destoying the State of Israel is, by definition, not anti-Semitic. (This view is reinforced by the (rather grim) fact that a considerable number of Jews subscribe to this goal, with the punch line being, "if Jews want to destroy the State of Israel, how can the desire to destroy Israel be in any way anti-Semitic?"); and/or
6. That the existence of and actions of the State of Israel are in and of themselves anti-Semitic and generate anti-Semitism; and/or
7. Ergo, to fight anti-Semitism, you must do your utmost to destroy the State of Israel.
8. Etc.,
9. Etc.,
10. Etc.,

Perversity in all its glorious panoply.

As for the so-called Zionist Left, unfortunately (as I see it), in the current circumstances (which don't seem to have any reason to change), their recipe for a resolution of the conflict, while theoretically far different from the radical Left (and seemingly far more acceptable), will---I would even venture to say, must---lead to the same results.

Under the current circumstances (which by popular definition, are and always will be Israel's fault).

Which, having enabled (most) Israelis to grasp this, may be the main positive aspect the Oslo Peace Accords and the ensuing process.

(Well, you did mention "irony"....)

Anonymous said...

mind boggling finds during one!!! stroll through the park:

the witness in this piece is Stéphane Hessel who acted as front-man, poster-child for the promotion of the Goldstone report in Germany - I googled, it is the same guy:
this is William Dalrymple from January 2009 but it is worth to listen to as an example on how to build a slander while remaining hard to pin down:

when the talk turns to Kashmir he describes vividly those coming back after having been tortured by the Indians often with horribly scarred bodies - cut - compare it to the IP-situation - then an interval of ladida - and then he gets around to the ISI and the Saudis. (all is of course the US' fault) - by that time one is so disgusted by the Israelis doing the same to the Palestinians as the Indians do to Kashmiris (according to dear Willy) that one feels very little incliniation to think for oneself.
From an interview with the director of an art house in Berlin that gets vandalised by the very very loony left - roughly translated: those who talk about dissolving the mighty are trying to take over/gain stepping stones in there (i.e.power) themselves.

"Diejenigen, die immer von der Auflösung des Mächtigen reden, versuchen selber, dort die Pfosten einzuschlagen."

Anonymous said...

Queen Noor and Oliver Stone at Bill Maher on June 11, we women are really quite something - I watched until Oliver Stone chimed in but my bet would be Queen Noor is going to win that battle and any battle.

Maher got the wind out of her sails first time really well but she unperturbed marches through with her inside knowledge, her insinuating - she's brillant.
and no pro-Israel super-beauty-genius-female or male would be allowed to get away with it the way she is, not even if Israelis would decide to get themselves a monarchy.