Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Violence and Redemption in the Holy Land
We are hearing much about the third intifada as lone Arabs attack Jews with knives and axes, and try to kill lots of people with their cars. One Arab, frustrated by his inability to successfully play human skittles leapt from his vehicle and proceeded to attempt to beat his chosen victim with an iron bar before being subdued. Acts of violence and terror are now a weekly occurrence and would be a daily occurrence if not for the vigilance of the security services.
The debate on how to prevent violence (and ultimately how to stop it completely) is heavily influenced by the extremists so unless we have loud, clear and unequivocal guidance from our political, religious and moral leaders the street will continue to rule; passions rather than respect will govern our actions and the violence will escalate because no-one is seen to effectively and consistently provide justice.
“If we really want to take an effective stand against extremism, we should not obsess over the extremists; rather, we should tackle those who facilitate, empower and legitimize extremism.” Providing a Platform for Terror, Nov 29, 2012 by Sam Westrop
An example: The debate on “ownership” of the city of Jerusalem has been magnified by the Palestinian leadership, so that now, all residents of Jerusalem have been deemed settlers and occupiers, and therefore, are justified as fair game… just like any modern orthodox Jew (those wearing knitted kippot and tsitsiot over their jeans). But Jerusalem is the main battleground, lose that one and Haifa and Tel Aviv will follow.
Who are the people facilitating, empowering and legitimizing extremism?
After the murder of the three Jewish seminarians in Judea and Samaria, Fatah (of which President for Life Mahmoud Abbas is its leader) posted the following threat (with thanks to Isi Leibler):
“Sons of Zion, this is an oath to the Lord of the Heavens: Prepare all the bags you can for your body parts. … We wish for the blood to become rivers.”
That’s inciting the populace to violence. The savage imagery portrayed cannot hint at even a glimmer of hope for a peaceful future between neighbors. And yet this is a man in control of an entity that desires national freedom, someone we have often been told is a ‘genuine’ partner for peace.
Intolerance does not need a reason, it simply requires a target. The entire history of Palestinian nationalism is predicated on the denial of legitimate Jewish history, the renunciation of Jewish rights and the delegitimization of Jewish sovereignty. Not drawing attention to this nationally mandated bigotry legitimises it, on a global scale.
In 1955 Israel blithely dismissed the UN with the words, famously uttered by Ben-Gurion “oom shmoom” (the UN, so what?) That pithy phrase soon entered the Israeli political lexicon. The contempt it expressed was deserved, nevertheless it was a mistake to ignore the damage to Israel that propaganda could cause, spread globally through the UN. Allowing others to write and re-write the history books has done Israel incalculable damage by helping Israel’s enemies to spread their narrative into the global mainstream.
One example from the many corrupt UN agencies will suffuse as the exemplar for United Nations duplicity. The creation of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) was an act of conspiracy whose intent was to guarantee a continuous war would be waged against Jewish existence in Israel. The United Nations fashioned an organization that was answerable only to itself, was self-perpetuating and whose foundation document, applied to any nation other than Israel would have been deemed to be blatantly illegal. UNRWAs raison d’être can only be interpreted as easing into position the replacement of one population with another. Thus UNRWA legitimized Arab colonialism and is, for as long as it remains in existence, an act of United Nations sanctioned ethnic cleansing.
The struggle against the UN may be arduous as well as costly to Israel but it is a necessity for its survival and yet Israel has largely suffered in silence rather than fighting it.
Israel’s founding political leaders were left-wing and militantly secular, at least until the ascent of the right wing Likud party to national leadership in 1977. Yet the same political attitude has continued to govern Israel’s elites since 1977 – it has meant that neither Left nor Right has addressed the religious dimensions of the war between Israel and its enemies, either internationally or internally within Israel.
Writing in Yedioth Aharonoth (an Israeli newspaper) on 9th November 2014 Yoaz Hendel described the killing of an Arab wielding a knife at police as resulting “from the national-religious conflict being waged.”
In any society in which a vacuum forms, people with definite ideas will fill the emptiness that has been created. That vacuum is an opportunity for views of what is right and what is wrong and of personal continuity expressed through time and space. Our identity is layered. Europe is allegedly a post-nationalism entity and this is where many of its problems lie. People who feel that something is missing from their lives are susceptible to a crippled interpretation of any process that can be explained to them with simplicity.
While issues of identity are never simple - if a person is born in a country they take on the identity of the country in which they live, or they should. It is part of the basis for the social contract that defines and enriches everyone living in a democracy. An Israeli may be a Christian, Druze, Jew or Muslim. Their primary identity may be national (based on their place of birth or election) or religious but Israel has refused to engage in this debate. This has created a vacuum which allows the extremists to dominate the ongoing debate amongst all Israelis.
A “big” problem in Israel is that the national anthem clearly states Nefesh Yehudi (Jewish soul). This makes the Arabs feel like “outsiders” which they don’t like! I suspect that a Nefesh Yisraeli (soul of Israel) would be equally unacceptable however it may be the only answer that has broad national backing, except to those who do not want a state called Israel. And those people who don’t want to live under a Star of David (for a national flag)? There are 29 Christian nations that include crosses in their national flag (including Britain and Sweden). There are 17 Muslim nations with Islamic symbols. The Palestinian Authority flag is green, white, red and black. These are the classic colors of Islam, pan-Arab imperialism and Ba’athist genocide. The flag of Hamas is theocratic.
Arab identity is not based solely on ethnicity. It is religiously colonialist and brutally intolerant of any minorities unfortunate enough to endure living beneath its exercise of power. Palestinian nationalism is inconsistent with Jewish self-determination. A person of Jewish faith cannot be a Palestinian unless they are hostile to Zionism (which is arguably the main aspect of Israeli identity). Palestinian nationalism has usually been antisemitic and it denies Jewish Near-Eastern history while interpreting European Jewish history unfavorably. This is nothing less than a war to deny Jewish civilization.
And yet, over three generations Israel has failed to attack this apartheid view of Arab-Palestinian exceptionalism which refutes Muslim or Christian Israeli identity as bogus and worse, a betrayal of the “Arab nation.” The nephew of an Arab member of parliament called himself an Israeli Muslim in an internet video and as a consequence he was forced to flee for his life - overseas. His aunt, the Member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi, publicly attacked him. This is also a marker for the extremists. It tells them that violence against the individual is permissible. Most of the Arab leadership and its captive intelligentsia terrorizes the populace into conforming to an anti-Zionist / antisemitic narrative that denies them full integration into Israeli society.
Benjamin Netanyahu has refined the art of doing nothing during three terms as Prime Minister. When he is forced to confront anything he is a populist leader so his do-nothing approach encourages chaos. It is only at the breaking point that he will choose the easiest route to placating the situation. This is his failure. It is his weakness as a leader.
It will damn him in any future written history about Israel because the issue of identity is even more important than whether or not the current leader of the Palestinians is inclined towards making peace with Israel. Peace will not be achieved while a large fifth column lives in Israel, one that refuses to acknowledge the equal rights of the Jewish majority. Paradoxically, the equal rights of the Arab minority are undermined by the fear of that fifth column.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s British television tackled the issue of discrimination and prejudice with the sitcom “Till Death us do Part.” Its American equivalent “All in the Family” ran for most of the 1970’s. Israel desperately needs something similar to re-educate its people.
Kurt Tucholsky (a journalist and social commentator) labelled World War I a “worldwide latrine filled with blood, barbed wire, and hate songs.” For Israel (and Jews elsewhere), if the world is to not become another latrine filled with blood and hate songs it needs to de-escalate the passions that are being expressed everywhere in strident and apocalyptic terms. For that to happen Israel, for one, needs a firm and guiding hand at the helm of government. Novelist Amos Oz believes the Israel-Palestine conundrum is a battle between extremists and pragmatists - on both sides. Only when the extremists are all but silenced will there be a chance for peace between Israel and Palestine. In a normal society guidance would come from the clergy and then from government but in Israel because of its secular history that clerical guidance is absent or mostly confrontational. So leadership must begin with the government providing a vision for how it can unify the nation and marginalize those people or groups who are working to keep the nation divided.
Barry Rubin (Israeli columnist and professor) said “The Palestinians’ leaders have long believed that an intransigent strategy coupled with some outside force—Nazi Germany, the USSR, weaning the West away from Israel—will miraculously grant them total victory. They aren’t going to change course now that that route leads not forward but in circles.”
That same Arab-Palestinian strategy is fought in the Western World usually far more subtly than the naked racism and religious bigotry that is expressed within the Muslim world nevertheless things will get worse, everywhere, because the fascist nature of identity politics is again reasserting itself in western social discourse.
Fascism is the tyranny of the few against an even smaller group in order to proscribe that groups equal exercise of human rights and ultimately, by eliminating their equal rights, to exclude that target group.
Israel is the victim of fascism in the UN and that fascism is spilling over into Western society. Jews are once more becoming victims. How often have we engaged in peaceful protest, only to be confronted with intimidation and violence? These twin tactics are the fascists preferred tools of persuasion. In the boycott movement and in academia such methods as these are viewed as the acceptable demonstration of their right to freedom of expression. Our right to not live in fear is inevitably dismissed as the suppression of our enemies own right to protest. In Weimar Germany the Nazis used the same tactics that the Left and their Muslim allies now use to undermine our democratic rights.
Here’s the thing. The Palestinians have their identity. It is 1,400 years old, tribal and hierarchical. It is racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and antisemitic. It is Arab history being fiendishly re-enacted today in Iraq and Syria.
Israeli identity is still in the mix. It is still under development. It is 66 years old (1948), it is 97 years old (1917) and it is 4,000 years old. It is defined by the period of the Bible, by the Second World War, by 1948, 1967, 1973 and 1979 (the War of Independence, the 6 Day War, the Yom Kippur War and the Peace Treaty with Egypt). Judaism and Israel began in history some time between 2,600 and 2,100 years before the Prophet Muhammad got his big idea.
Arab identity as expressed in jingoistic circles is based on disrespecting ones enemy. Pan-Arabism has an intellectual history in the 20th Century that is wholly triumphalist. All opponents are ‘the enemy’ – remember the recent picture of the Arab women showing her shoe to ‘the Jew’? In Arab culture the shoe directed towards a persons face says “you are beneath me, I trample on you”. It is a telling symbol of Arab cultural attitudes that it finds no opposition in Arab society.
With age comes wisdom (in theory). Respect is earned by intentional humanity that is endowed unconditionally. It is a concept that Arab identity denies to us and to everyone who is not them. It is their greatest strength but also the root of their greatest threat to us.
Israel, for its own sake as well as for the sake of the Diaspora, must understand the consequences of failed leadership, of its inability to create a credible consensus. Finding a way to express our rights in our sovereign homeland that is inclusive for all of Israel’s citizens must be a priority. Only then will peace be possible.