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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu's Last Stand

Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi’s) out of this world strategy for dealing with the Palestinian bid for recognition at the UN General Assembly (GA) requires further examination.

On the one hand the Israeli electoral system creates stability for the leadership of the governing party.  If they enjoy the confidence of their paid up membership they can say and do what they want and the only requirement to maintaining power is exercising a sufficiently imaginative negotiation to achieve a coalition agreement. The downside to successful completion is lack of respect for the electorate.  Success encourages dictatorial behaviour by the leadership; tact and vision do not come as part of the package. Because this system is so successful it is arguably the best advertisement the world has against the proportional representation system.

To discuss the logic behind Bibi we must first look at Israel as a nation.  It is a country that was created around a deeply felt animosity towards religious observance. Israel in 1948 could easily have slipped into the Soviet camp. It did not, but has instead retained a schizophrenic attitude that has progressed in recent decades from antipathy towards religion into what we would label today, embarrassed tolerance. A recent survey revealed 55% of Israeli Jews in favour of keeping religious laws. The issue is that for a majority of Jews in Israel, Judaism is cultural and this will remain so until the state separates religion from formal state sponsorship.  Shimon Peres had a religious wife but he refused to publicly exploit this for the ‘good of the party’ – something that is done worldwide in all political systems.  Bibi has no such ethical qualms. He has appeased an ultra-orthodox political leadership that is at best ambivalent towards contact with the secular community; a fractured community that is structurally tribal and excludes any one with whom they marginally disagree.  This is not the way to build a state.

Nor has the Left ever displayed behaviour that was not congruent with this collaborationist model of behaviour.  To quote Alan Johnson “A Principled Bid in the Upcoming Israeli Election” (World Affairs Journal 29 November 2012) “…Labour’s leader (Shelly)Yacomovitch makes warm noises toward the settlers and invites the electorate to vote their wallets. She offers no vision for Israel’s future relations with the Palestinians..”

In order to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict we have to contextualise it. If we view the conflict within the larger picture of Judaism and Islam then what emerges is a war that must be fought on an entirely different canvas.

But the West is frightened to confront anything that is based on religious differences. When Samuel P. Huntington published “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” – he was hailed as a prophet, someone whose ideas would change the world. And then the politicians got hold of his book and wholly condemned it. The world’s leaders were eager to deny its central thesis which was: Conflict today is not primarily about access to food or water or land but it is about ideas. The main proponent of hegemonic religious activism is Islam and its theology is diametrically opposed to modern Western thought on almost all issues of morality.

The only way that peace will come to the region is to address Arab/Muslim actions over the centuries and the prevalent attitude of hatred, discrimination and theologically inspired ethnic conflict. But Israeli politicians, like their Western counterparts, are incapable of addressing the subject, although more so because of their recent militantly secular history.  Israel is at the fault line of this clash of civilizations. Because of Israel’s modern history it hovers between indifference and antagonism towards framing the conflict thus.

Israel’s enemies deny any kind of Jewish contact with the Land, they reject any historical or current affiliation and in every international forum they argue against the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish or any other kind of nation. And it is this prejudice that Israel has never addressed either at home or internationally.

Which brings me to the next point:  Raphael Lemkin coined the word as well as the concept of ‘Genocide’.  Irvin-Erickson wrote (“The Romantic Signature of Raphael Lemkin”) “Lemkin defined nations as “families of minds”…. Lemkin intended the word ‘genocide’ to signify the cultural destruction of peoples, which could occur without a perpetrator employing violence at all. In his 1944 Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Lemkin wrote that genocide was “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” A colonial practice, genocide had two phases: “One, the destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.”

When we consider pan-Arab Muslim colonialism as an ideological imperative then Palestine is but a pawn in an ongoing battle and one that we ignore at our peril. The Arab world and its non-Arab Muslim allies commit cultural genocide as theologically justified behaviour. It furthers their expansionist religious ideology and rewards the select faithful with unlimited economic power that barely trickles down through the cultural or political elite. It is the classic Marxist definition of exploitation.

And yet the Global Left caters to their prejudices as if no religiously inspired agenda exists.

Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) received his degree (doctorate) from a Soviet era University. His degree thesis was denial of the Shoah. People change.  Communist officials became SS officers and after the war they were recruited to both Eastern and Western intelligence agencies in spite of the copious amounts of blood they had on their hands.  People change.  But you must first provide them with a reason to change and Israel has never given Abu Mazen the reason for him to change from the political bigot he is.  As chairman of the Palestinian Authority he rejects the existence of the State of Israel and the two-state solution.  A post he placed on his official Facebook page on October 13 2012 stated his intention to apply to the UN General Assembly for recognition of Palestine as a non-member state.

He wrote: “The recognition (of the UN) will not liberate the land on the day after, but it will prove our claim that our land is occupied and it is not disputed land.”  One Israeli newspaper explained it thus:  “Abu Mazen states explicitly in the post that he is not only referring to the Judea and Samaria territories that Israel occupied in the Six-Day War, and over which peace negotiations are being conducted, but “this applies to all the lands that Israel occupied before June 1967,” meaning the State of Israel within the Green Line”. 

We have to understand that cherished (even bloodthirsty) ideas are not easily forsaken.

The Koran with its mantra of finality, the attendant pan-Arab lust for power at all costs, these are both seductive and comforting. Their anti-Western song can soothe the soul.  Immanuel Kant described the enlightenment as the freedom to use ones own intelligence. Leftist philosopher Michel Foucault in the “Sovereign Enterprise of Unreason” celebrated the Iranian revolution of 1979 because it would contribute to the destruction of enlightenment principles.   If observation of the natural world led to conclusions that were correct for that time then reason became an end in itself and not necessarily connected to morality or ethics. And hence the seductive pull of rejecting Western thought and returning to more ‘authentic’ but spiritually profitable times.

The Koran is the problem not because it is inherently genocidal but because it may be interpreted any way that achieves the aim of the translator.

At least one of my Jewish ancestors faced excommunication because they made changes to the order of service / accepted meaning of text.  The bible is more or less immutable, unchangeable.  Millions of words have been written AROUND the text in order to explain it, interpret it, and re-interpret it in light of changes in the modern world.  A whole industry of exegesis exists and has done so from the very beginning of faith.  Christian and Jew tread carefully around the text and yes, both have their fundamentalists who believe the world to be no older than 4,000 years (Jews) or 2,000 years (Christians).

But Islam is the only faith that allows every bigot and mass murdering psychopath to interpret the word of God in THEIR image.  The challenge for western Muslims is to undergo a Reformation that fixes for all time the text of the Koran in a way that is neither offensive to Jews or Christians nor for that matter, threatening to anyone else of faith.  The challenge is to prevent an open interpretation of the Koran that justifies continuous warfare against the infidel and mass murder as a viable option of religious faith.

And how does this connect with Bibi Netanyahu and the Palestinians? Because all of us have difficult challenges in fighting the intolerance of our own fundamentalists.

On October 25th 2012 in a popular Israeli newspaper (Yediot Ahrononot) influential Rabbi Shlomo Aviner stated that “a woman cannot serve as a Knesset member. It is immodest.”  Taken to its logical conclusion all women must be banned from public life –anywhere in fact that is not in the home.  Aviner is considered to be one of Israel’s spiritual leaders.  So when he referred to breaches of the rules of modesty that were liable to occur if women were found to be in a public place, people listened.  In Israel, a war is being waged for the soul of the people.  There are two mutually exclusive national religious trends – the first integrationist and the second isolationist. Israel also has its extremists.

And what did Bibi do – nothing.  It is typical that he would steer clear of any statement that offended his potential political supporters, even when they are misogynistic religiously inspired Neanderthals.

This is Israel’s problem.  Palestine will only negotiate when it has something to lose and time is not on its side.  Israel can only negotiate when it displays the clarity of vision to find its own path to peace with its enemy.

Mohamed Morsi,  President of Egypt, was recently seen on Egyptian television saying a clear ‘Amen’ to a Muslim prayer that instructs the Muslim faithful to commit genocide against the world’s Jews.  There can be no excuses for this. Only a fool will believe that what starts with one nation ends with one nation. This is the leader of the world’s most populace Arab nation inciting his people to mass murder.

Nor can we pretend that Hamas are interested in Peace with Israel or that the separate Palestinian Authority (the putative State of Palestine) is anything other than a supercessionist, racist and antisemitic conspiracy in progress.  The latest ‘big lie’ is that the Jewish people are colonizers in their own land; the other ‘big lie’ is that Islam is a religion of peace.  Unless Bibi is willing to confront those twin ‘big lies’ that also now underline western attitudes to Israel there is little hope for an Israeli future.  I apologise to whoever said this but to quote them “There is an iron law in history. Appeasing xenophobic movements or totalitarian regimes invariably lead to disaster, encouraging escalating demands to levels which either culminate with surrender or make armed conflict inevitable” and “President Reagan, besmirched by liberals as a warmonger, assumed a hard line position against Soviet expansionism which led to the collapse of the Evil Empire”.

So we need a carrot and stick approach to politics.  And Bibi possesses the intelligence but not the courage to challenge the bigots at home or the bigots abroad. It is only by challenging the current narrative, both at home and abroad that we will be able to work out a liveable solution for all peoples in the area.

Did Israel over-react to the UN Vote?  Of course it did and no it didn’t. The Israeli government lost an opportunity to be the first to vote in favour of the resolution – in fact it should have sponsored the resolution.  It could then draw out the obvious glaring discrepancies between the Islamic/Arab/UN position on Israel and their treatment of other nations to explain why trust is absent from any discourse on a permanent settlement of the conflict. Ongoing Islamic and Arab hostility, the hypocrisy that Israel faces internationally, ‘the big lies’ – all should be brought up at every international forum. Israel was obliged by common sense to seize the moment. With every possible diplomatic opportunity Israel fails to take the initiative.

Part of this, as I have previously shown, is due to a total breakdown in appreciating the religious inspiration for the conflict.  In part it is due to secular Israeli antipathy towards engaging in a debate about religious issues.

The reality is that Israel is wholly engaged in supporting both the PA and the theocratic fascist and racist Hamas regime.  Israel will pay the PA’s debts because if it does not the PA will collapse and the security forces in the PA will go unpaid.  Hamas and other groups will pour into the vacuum that is left behind and Israel will have another Gaza on the West Bank. Israel has already ceded de facto recognition of Gaza’s regime because it is in its interest to do so. A low profile is kept for ideological and electoral reasons.

So it is all about talking to the electorate and educating our friends about the multiple threats as we perceive them to be.  And for what ever inexplicable reason that few can fathom either inside or outside of Israel, the Israeli political establishment is incapable of drawing on this narrative.

And construction? It is part of the failure to address Arab bigotry that instead, the government is punishing Abu Mazens' supporters not Abu Mazen.  It is far easier to alienate Israel’s ‘friends,’ to energise and invigorate its enemies than to come up with a visionary approach that challenges Israel’s enemies.