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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Jewish Nation State and Identity

The Declaration of Independence states that Israel is Jewish and democratic in equal measures.  Any law which therefore defines Israel as Jewish above all else (as opposed to Jewish and democratic) makes democracy subservient to faith.

The conflict between religious and secular jurisdiction over issues of personal status is complicated by Israel’s early modern history.   When the new state was born it was less than three years after the defeat of Nazism.  In Israel, the Jewish faith, as a religious institution, was viewed as endangered.  Israel’s secular rulers absolved themselves of any responsibility for issues of personal status by encouraging traditional religious bodies to exercise authority without statutory boundaries.  This sowed the seeds for both the reinvigoration of orthodoxy and its political empowerment.

The state was conflicted - indifferent to religious faith at the same time as it accepted the orthodox stream of Judaism as the only one exercising legitimacy.  The state ignored the abuses religious hegemony created because it was reluctant to become involved in a religious debate.

Any political culture is open to abuse but an inexperienced, immature political culture without a tradition of legal oversight and practical control will be subjected to continuous testing as to the limits of what constitutes legitimate authority.

Once the period of ideologically led consolidation was over (the first 20 to 30 years of independence) what had been understandable “accommodation” in order to help to develop and give strength to state institutions and bureaucracies became state sanctioned corruption.  Transparency is not a welcome participant amongst the political herd. As political movements, all parties naturally saw abuse of political – economic power as a means of asserting and maintaining their ideological legitimacy, however, patronage and personal aggrandizement are all part of a corrupted political establishment.

I recall a group of enthusiastic and idealistic young adults explaining their plans to a ranking member of the government who “knowing what was ‘best’ for them” had no intention of acquiescing to a single point they made.  The arrogance of a patriarchal political culture begets contempt for constituencies because certainty of purpose is central to their political philosophy.  There is no such thing as a transparent back room deal! In a dysfunctional democracy politics is not the art of compromise (the golden mean) but an act of will by an individual or a group exercising control over the rest of us.

A misunderstanding of the nature of democracy is at fault. Democracy is more than “one person one vote.”  If the government fails to support the people they lose faith in government.  An abusive culture is created that exploits tribal identification and within a tribal culture, elites become more important than law (because influence is hierarchical and authoritarian).

To quote Murray Kahl:

“Emerging governments must demonstrate they can resolve problems faced by the citizenry, such as crime, insurrection, general economic growth, secure freedom and the rule of law.”  (And additionally, in Israel’s case:  terrorism and hostile missile activity).

Democracies fail because they do not uphold the nations’ laws, no matter how imperfect those laws may be.

The Declaration of Independence is clear:

  •  Israel is to be a state of Jewish immigration aliyah and of "the ingathering of the exiles." This principle was set forth in legal and practical terms in the Law of Return, passed two years later (1950);
  • Israel is to be a state of development for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
  • Perhaps most importantly, Israel is to be a state based on the fundamentals of freedom, justice and peace, a state in which all the inhabitants will enjoy equality of social and political rights, along with freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

The document continues: The state will be guided by the principles of justice enunciated by “the prophets of Israel” and it calls for the Arabs to participate in building the state.

The state was founded by secular people but their big idea was imbued with Jewish ethical considerations as well as Jewish historical visions.  Israel’s founders could not have foreseen a future where the states Arabs and the extreme Left would abuse their rights of statehood or that Israel’s external enemies would actively coordinate a campaign with Israel’s internal enemies in order to delegitimize Jewish history and even, to deny Jewish attachment to Jerusalem as diplomatic continuation of the war against Jewish independence.

So Israel can reaffirm the principles of the Declaration of Independence.  It could also act on them in order to demonstrate their relevance.

Israel should attack the racist campaign of delegitimization, in every forum, in every interview and in every debate.   None of the fine words in Israel’s Declaration of Independence are of any consequence if Israel’s diplomats and politicians do not respond to every libel against the state and not just by comparing its actions to its enemies, but also by attacking those in the Muslim world and in liberal-left circles who undermine the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

One of Israel’s former justice ministers (Professor Daniel Friedman) said that “declarative laws don’t have the power to solve theoretical or social disputes” but what he seems to have missed is the whole point of having them in the first place.  They create a framework and a vision for Israel’s legislators to work towards achieving.

Emerging states have a lot to prove.   They must demonstrate they can resolve the issues that confront their nation, equitably.  Issues of identity, unity and protection are all equal in importance and underlying all of them is perception, which governs everything.

Failing states do so because they fail to act on discrimination.  But there is a greater responsibility for minorities to integrate when a national framework already exists. Integration does not necessarily mean assimilation. And because discrimination in society can be from both sides what it also does not mean is separate development and most definitely what it does not mean is separate laws that run counter to the national ethos.

There is a difference between civil rights, which remain equal and national rights that can be synonymous with a divisive tribal identity.   There will be people who argue that to survive in the Near East you must adopt the attitude and behaviors of the environment in which you live. So a toxic culture of bigotry is acceptable?  This may well be the Arab way but it goes against everything Zionism believes in.  Herzl’s Zionism envisioned Jew and Arab living in one nation, equal and prosperous.  Israel’s identity as a Jewish state does not negate that vision.

Israel’s identity as a Jewish state is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.  Israel’s symbols, its flag, its education system, its day of rest on Saturday, all these things are central to the identity of its citizens even if they are not personally central to an individual’s minority identity.

It is here that government in Israel has failed spectacularly.   By not involving itself in religious law it has created sectarian religious conflict; by not imposing sanction on those who agitate against Israeli Arab identification with the country of their birth (Israel) the government has helped to poison the issue of national identity.

As a consequence of the proposed Nation State Law Arabic would have lost its status as one of the two official languages of Israel.  This ignores the reality of Arab culture.  Most Arabs are fluent in Hebrew so to remove its status is provocative and discriminates without providing any sensible justification.  70% of Israel’s Arabs describe themselves as Palestinian - only 30% describe themselves as Israeli.  Bullying will not reverse those statistics.  What will reverse them is working together to create a unified nation.  The Arab parties are racist parties which exist to play the Palestinian identity card and therefore to maintain separation (apartheid).  The Arab political parties are impediments to Israeli unity.

No Israeli politician has had the courage to tackle this violent and bigoted opposition to integration.   The irony is that those parties vying for the title of “Zionist” completely miss the point because ethnic integration is at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.

Turkey suppresses the Kurdish language as does Syria.  There is little to no room for minority recognition anywhere in the Near-East.   But not just in the Muslim world.  If Putin needed a pretext for his invasion of Crimea it was the removal of Russian as one of Ukraine’s official languages.  It was a decision that Ukraine recognized in hindsight as disastrous and it has been reversed.

The final impediment to Israeli national unity is foreign interference in its internal affairs.  Since the establishment of the State of Israel nations have worked without respite to undermine the legitimacy and the identity of the Jewish State. NGO’s (non-government organizations) continue to receive significant foreign funding through mainly western governments and western churches. It is they that have actively sought to delegitimize the Zionist and Jewish agendas.  Aaron David Miller describes the Arab states as “nothing more than tribes with flags.” In Israel, foreign funding has been used to encourage that tribalism and fragmentation.

Jewish history is being denied, denigrated and damned. Instead of demanding the cessation of subversive foreign funding Israel should regulate it.  As happens in the USA, any foreign funding must go along with formal registration of any recipient organization, as the local agency of a foreign entity.  Any activity promoting disunity must be actively discouraged.

But more important than even this issue, in the long term a nation needs a vision to survive. The USA has its exceptionalism through which its capitalist version of democracy has spread globally – Iran has its theocratic vision of a world ruled by and for the Islamic faithful. It informs and instructs the direction of its foreign policy.

What is depressing about the Israeli elections for the 20th Knesset?  There is no self-evident vision; there are no fundamental principles being extolled by the Zionist camp.  The talent is wholly missing from the political arena.

The Jewish people are too often harangued for being either too legalistic or too philosophic and in both cases it is meant to say that Jews are not anchored in the real world.  It seems that Israel’s politicians are so cynically anchored in the real world that they are incapable of working for the common good.  The multiplicity of parties zealously guarding their own parochial privileges are incapable of sublimating their own crude desires for the greater cause that is served by promulgating a vision of unity and amity.

That is the depressing issue that Israel’s more attuned voters had to confront when voting for the Twentieth Knesset on Tuesday 17th March 2015.

God Save Israel from her politicians.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Israel, Class Warfare, and our Islamic Inheritance

Following the fall of communism the European Left was largely discredited.  Yet there was little recognition that most people are only comfortable with a middle ground in their every-day existence.  The politics of envy that communism exploited could no longer attract a mass following unless it could surround itself with disgruntled followers who could be convinced that an “us and them” scenario still existed. The issue was not that poverty had ceased to exist or that injustice was no longer rife in the world but that in only a few kinds of society was the possibility for improvement so stifled as to create mass dissatisfaction.

80 per cent of people living in the Western world are now classified as belonging to the middle class and the rest of the world is rapidly joining them, thus making the pool of malcontents to exploit working class dissatisfaction too small to pose a significant threat to societies.  There is an issue here. We should care for the poor more than we do but the Left no longer enjoys a constituency of limitless potential to inflict damage on the establishment. It is part of the establishment and very comfortable at that.  It has not created a political debate that would animate a significant minority of the population to force a momentum for change in order to help alleviate the suffering of the marginalized poor.  And most of the poor are protected by some sort of safety net.  It is not that people are not vulnerable but a critical mass of people who need our help, even where they do exist do not automatically turn to the Left as their savior.

We do not possess clear cut definitions to tidily fit a Marxist revolutionary model.  Class definitions based on social identity and economic capacity are no longer necessarily connected.  Social class is relatively stable and defined by cultural affinity while socioeconomic class is far more fluid.  The lower classes barely exist compared with the past other than as small marginalized groups whose problems are complex and not easily fixed.  The working classes often earn far more than their professional class ‘rivals’.  The working classes are likely a sub-set of the middle classes as both an economic and a socioeconomic group.

The lower classes have been replaced by an underclass of resource poor families and individuals and this group now includes members of the middle classes – their common denominator is their poverty but not their education or even their social background.  The rapid growth in food banks attests to the issue of resources as being the most immediate problem. There is little debate about how to solve the unemployment issue in society.  Civil society has failed to confront the ethical question behind what is a manageable, acceptable level of unemployment or under-employment.  Instead, society treats the unemployed as a statistic, as an economic lever that is useful for manipulating wage policy or as an inevitable aspect of any economic cycle.   The reality for humanity is that it remains as it has always been, a damaging cyst eating away at the vitality of every society.

The left clings to the tired cliches of nineteenth and twentieth century envy populism to sell an anachronistic product whose starting point is predicated on encouraging conflict and division.   But today, those issues are further complicated by religious extremism.

The countries with most pronounced inequality are unequal for all of the traditional reasons such as structural deficiency which fails to protect the weak from the strong, tribal domination and social stratification which permanently traps the poor in hierarchical disadvantage.

If in previous centuries the poor were trapped by their powerlessness, modern weaponry has changed the usual outcomes of enslavement or persecution but it has also created the conditions for unending warfare and ever increasing numbers of casualties.  Relative advantage is never assured but the balance of power has shifted from the state to anyone able to buy modern weapons and attract followers.

The next change from the past is that many of the disenfranchised poor are in the Muslim world which paradoxically contains the world’s greatest concentration of material wealth. However in this case, class tensions are a product of ethnic and tribal rule resulting in rising income inequality and increasing unemployment with vast numbers of people simply shut out from any possibility for a future not mired in extreme poverty because they are not part of an empowered group.   Egypt and Turkey, two of the largest Muslim nations, are, in particular, guilty of this divide. It has created the political conditions required for revolutionary change to occur. Except that while prior to the late nineteenth century, movements were reactionary and fundamentalist, from the late nineteenth century and onwards they were ‘revolutionary’ - a mixture of secular populism and in the Muslim world, Islamic populism.  After many decades this mix has been proven to be successful in rallying a wider group of disaffected and marginalized fighters but as ineffective as previous movements in solving the issue of class-tribal inequality.  Islamic populism overcame its secular rivals by creating a social movement that at least in theory supported community, social justice, religious authority and a return to glory days of Islamic and Arab domination. And the religious movements learnt the lessons of past demagogues.

Historically successful movements in the Islamic world were horrendously ruthless in subjugating their enemies and conquering their neighbors.  The Islamic State (IS or Daesh) as well as those movements that preceded them (such as Al Qaeda) can quote the Koran to justify total rejection of modern civilization in favor of extreme acts of violence and brutality.  Other faiths are condemned for having moved on from their early history. The peculiar nature of Islamic society is that its civil society has never been separated from its religious infrastructure (except in Turkey during the Kemalist period spanning 1923 and 2010) and so the faithful justify everything by claiming fidelity to the violence and barbarism of Islam’s Seventh Century of the Common Era (A.D.) foundation.  Classic concepts of cultural and physical conquest are based on ferocity, fear and theft; it represents a rational assessment of historical Islamic precedents of conquest.   Slaughter everyone who resists you and the next area you invade will either fight you to the death or will collapse in fear, more likely the latter than the former.  Islamic history has glorified this strategy and it has nearly always worked. 

The Arab Spring truly became a winter of discontent (and bloodshed).  The only way the extreme left could justify its existence is by allying itself with a Pan-Arab kindred spirit.  And that is frightening because, given what we now know of their brutal suppression of opposition, this partnership places the extreme Left squarely alongside the Nazi political continuum. The kindred spirit to which they aspire to cooperate in “revolutionary resistance to Western society” is Muslim.

If pan-Arabism and Islamism are both viewed as progressive kindred spirits then their religion is untouchable, beyond criticism.  In their Manichean world Israel is a malformation that must be excised from the region for the greater (Muslim-Arab) good.  This is the well-spring from which all Jews are damned, unless that is, they are Jewish Uncle Toms, the professional anti-Semites who wield religious identification as a sword to strike down their coreligionists.  The ideological basis for this antisemitism is as ruthless as it is consistent with the historical record of brutality they try to conceal.

Fascism is a movement that aggressively denies its foes any voice in protest against their persecution.  It is dependent on regimentation and suppression of contrary ideological positions.  Albert Camus, writing in “The Rebel” says that “Fascism is an act of contempt. Inversely, every form of contempt, if it intervenes in politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, fascism.” And Leon Trotsky (on National Socialism in 1933) “Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth (century)….”

In its desperate need to prove that it is still relevant the Left has moved towards the hinterlands of political activism by its unquestioning embrace of Arab - Islamic causes. Though Islamofascism threatens to further compartmentalize the Middle East into mutually intolerant ethno-fascist cantons, the Left continues to drift further into a democratically fatal accommodation with them.

Israel will one day have to make peace with bad people.  But it must not compromise on either the issue of lack of trust or the ongoing incitement, which negates any efforts to construct a solution that serves the cause of peace - for both sides.   Prior hostility is the root cause of present day racism-antisemitism and it predates Zionism.  Western ‘liberal’ fascism has collaborated with antisemitism for too long and it makes the task of achieving peace all the more difficult. This is because that hostility to Jews in Europe as well as in parts of America makes trust almost impossible to prove.

The credibility of political fascism is based on the assumption that demanding a blood sacrifice will placate the butchers for whom 1,400 years of blood and conquest has only created greater enthusiasm for killing, not less.  The theory of appeasement has never worked but its enthusiastic supporters do not stop trying because they never have to make the sacrifice.  Where time and again it was the Jewish peoples “turn” for sacrifice it is now Israel’s turn.  So appeasement is justified by first preparing the public.   The assumption that the Jewish people will be coerced into placing their collective heads into the gluttonous Islamic lions jaw, and that their probable sacrifice will assuage the blood lust of a faith for whom cultural conquest and physical domination are intrinsically theologically fused into a single vision of a world ruled by them and for them only - is fundamentally flawed.  Appeasement never works.  But society is only accustomed to a flawed status-quo where we scapegoat others to compensate for our failures.

The Islamic inheritance is not entirely the responsibility of its Muslim followers.  But prejudice and intolerance, theological and political violence are a historical part of the Islamic heritage that helps to explain the flood of Western Muslims to Daesh (IS).  The ethics of decapitating ones enemy with a rusty knife is not part of current Western discourse nor is it part of OUR civilized behavior.  To outgrow twentieth century fascism the Muslim world needs to have experienced shame, not humiliation.  Humiliation is what it feels because of a perceived “War on Islam.”  The secular order understands and condones attempts at appeasement because it does not attach any importance to an Islamic threat to that order, at least not in the Western World.

Shame is something altogether different.   In this century alone, millions of people have died so that those on the Left can feel comfortable not facing up to their own ideological prejudices, myopia and historic failures. Maintaining silence and ignorance about Islamic theological outpourings sanitizes the crimes of the Left as well as those of Islam and the absence of shame encourages and facilitates further atrocities. There can be no respite from terrorism and no movement towards peaceful co-existence anywhere in the world while Israel and Jews are demonized for the sake of the appeasers, not even for “Peace in our Time.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Guardian Newspaper embraces Antisemitic Conspiracies

When I read the article about leaked South African documents referring to an Israeli conspiracy to dry up the Nile my first reaction was not skepticism or laughter but outrage.  Put aside the logistics for such an undertaking. (The River Nile is the longest river in the world at 4,300 miles and is shared by eleven countries).

I even understood the “secret” report that emanated from South Africa.  Before the end of the Apartheid regime the population of South Africa was officially twenty-two million people with Whites representing 27% of the total. Post apartheid that total population doubled to forty-four million with the white group being reduced to just 13.6% of the total.  Apparently no government had ever seen the need for an effective population census. Preventing civil war or a Zimbabwean style economic and social collapse has meant accommodating prejudice and superstition, in spite of South Africa’s recent history.  Despite both Arab (Muslim) and Western nations leading the top ten countries with economic influence in Apartheid era South Africa and though Israel had very minor economic interests in South Africa during the apartheid era (well below the top ten export nations) I would even expect an antisemitic narrative to be a predictable outcome.  It is easier to damn a minor irritant for its imagined crimes than it is to confront a major export partner.  What surprises me is that Israel’s Mossad would trust South Africa’s intelligence service sufficiently to interact with it.

This latest story is reminiscent of Egyptian and other Arab conspiracies that were laughable, for instance the migrating bird that was “really” an Israeli spy, at least according to the quality Arab press.  And who can forget the sharks that were also accused of working for the Mossad?  We expect crackpot journalism to be the hallmark of the fascist press. A story about drying up the River Nile with genetically modified Israeli weeds (read “Jewish” if you really want to dive into the sordid world of conspiracy journalism) sounds like the South African Intelligence Service creating its own version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which was largely the work of the Russian Secret Police).

I expect the British newspaper, The Guardian, to be antisemitic. There exists a longstanding tradition in British society that is hostile towards any display of difference, as a result of which the urge to conform is enormous.  One result is to foster a characteristic curiosity and disdain for difference that may explain Britain’s fascination with eccentricity.  At the same time, the repressive urge to conform has meant that successive generations of immigrant communities eventually did assimilate into British society.  Not by subsuming their peculiar group characteristics but by culturally “vanishing” (assimilation, not integration).

The Jewish community has mostly survived through the infusion of successive waves of Jewish immigration and not, by natural population growth.

That intolerance of difference has been legislatively marginalized but it has also created ghettos that are virtually untouchable by law enforcement and are therefore immune to any of the normal pressures that society would apply to conform.  Instead of nurturing a multicultural society, anti-racist legislation hot-housed mutually antagonistic communities, disabling any pressures that might have facilitated reconciliation.

A simple example is the anti-racist legislation that was too hurriedly passed in reaction to the Muslim terror attacks on the London transportation system that murdered 52 civilians and injured over 700 more people on the 7th of July 2005). 

Nationwide, teachers were exposed to potential accusations of racism, without provocation. The immediate effect was to silence any legitimate criticism because of the threat posed by that latent, ever present threat.  A teacher could be accused of racism and faced suspension from work for a period of up to 12 months while the allegations were investigated.  Even if all charges were subsequently found to be false the result would be that your career was ended.  In Education, the legislation helped to create a perception that there is no smoke without fire.   The Salem Witch Trials of over three centuries ago spring to mind – how ironic that legislation meant to protect everyone from being persecuted was exploited by Muslims to terrorize the rest of us.  In one Muslim dominated school the Imam who taught the Koran to Muslim students told of one child who threw their Koran across the room and was immediately turned into a Monkey. This evokes a Muslim antisemitic myth. The science teacher who confronted this imam (remarkably, all the students believed him) and challenged the story very quickly understood that to question this story was to invite allegations of racism.

This is more than simply an unintended consequence of badly crafted legislation.  Instead of protecting us all it has created an atmosphere of fear and censorship which is exploited by and insulates minority bigots who correctly understand the virtue that inheres to a group placed in a position of privilege. Being a protected minority they can virtually do no wrong.  I would be surprised if, because of this legislation, recent, massive, sex abuse scandals involving Muslim pedophile groups were not encouraged by the reluctance of authorities to investigate Muslim wrong-doing.

The political Left has never had to come to terms with the original sin of its creation. Its antisemitism and its genocidal history arose out of its over-exuberant ideological intolerance of competing worldviews and its dogmatic, literalist assertion of Right against all others. Again, this perhaps explains bad legislation as deliberate, ideologically crafted social Darwinism.

The British Left has always been comfortable within its polite antisemitic skin.  Jews who practiced obsequious self-flagellation did so because of an ethnic (religious) affiliation few ever attempted to familiarize themselves with.  They were held up as exemplars of what a ‘good’ Jew looks and behaves like.  Being honorary members of the British anti-Zionist Left made them almost accepted.  That societal pressure to conform to a barely concealed undercurrent of antisemitism exposes its prejudice when the mainstream Jewish community and their Christian supporters are less than silent.

The Guardian Newspaper is similar to the New York Times in enunciating a philosophy around human conflict that is unique in its focus on Israeli “original sin”.  The philosophy is summed up with the explanation that the Paper will not address Palestinian racism in any of its writing about the conflict. By its acceptance of an exclusive anti-Zionist, anti-nationalist agenda the racism of Israel’s opponents is dismissed by making the claim that when “the Palestinians” have their own state the Paper will change its attitude towards antisemitism.

This buys into an immoral intellectual argument that if you uncritically support a bigot and a murderer they will cease with both practices once you satisfy all of their demands.

It places the victim in the insane position of being entirely to blame for everything.

The Guardian, through its uncritical support for an anti-Israel conspiracy has bought into the vein of similar writings reminiscent of medieval blood libels, rumors of well poisonings and the spreading of the Black Death. 

So I return to the story of Judeo-Zionists (the Mossad) attempting to dry up the worlds longest river – the Nile. That a specific allegation can be used to prepare the ground for an Arab attack on Israel (which following on from the inevitable annihilation of the state’s Zionist inhabitants through the use of non-conventional weapons) would be justified by reference to a potential attack on the Nile.

In this case, the Left truly has become the Nazi Left.

Israel is at war with the Guardian Newspaper. It is apparent that Israel is oblivious to this fact. That story about Israel’s mythical technological endeavors demonizes all Israel and her supporters.

This is not just a Freedom of Speech issue. This story is not “just” another hoax. We know that once a story is published through a reputable newspaper website, it becomes universally available for dissemination.  It cannot be removed from the internet even if it is withdrawn, with apology, from the Guardian website. 

When the facade of a semblance of diversity exists it can be difficult to respond to any threat that materializes with uniform action because inevitably, complexity requires a nuanced approach. The Guardian Newspaper has presented itself as hegemonic in its opposition to Israeli statehood, as hateful in its approach towards Jewish self-determination in Israel and as wholly uninterested in any truth applicable to a Jewish State.

War with a hegemonic adversary is straight forward. The enemy is identified, unambiguous and promoting an agenda that is without mercy.  Israel is at war with the fascist and antisemitic Guardian Newspaper and it is time it took the written war as seriously as it takes the hot war against Hamas and similar Nazi ideologies such as Islamic State (Daesh), Hezbollah and the Islamic State of Iran.

The People of the Book seem to be reluctant to internalize the lessons of our recent history. Sticks and Stones can break our bones, but with words begins the slaughter.