[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Israel joins US in banning Middle East critics
grinker at mweb.co.za
Sun May 25 08:26:35 BST 2008
It strikes me that the exclusion of Finkelstein is evidence of how insecure
the Israeli establishment has become, ignoring even its own 'holy' law of
return to keep out a Jewish critic.
The death of the 'Zionist dream'
Contrary to the caricature of Israel as an expansionist and arrogant
aggressor, the 60-year-old nation is suffering a severe identity crisis.
Expansionist, imperialist, ideology-driven, US-propped, arrogant aggressor.
Chances are Israel just popped into your mind. This is how the now
60-year-old state features in many people's imaginations. But as Israelis
wave flags and set up the traditional beach barbeques in celebration of Yom
Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day), and as Palestinians and Israeli Arab citizens
take to the streets in protests marking the sixtieth Naqba (Catastrophe Day
- which is how many view Israeli independence), Israel does not appear to be
a particularly coherent or confident society.
There may still be a lot of national pride around - hundreds of thousands of
enthusiastic Israelis gathered in streets, parks and beaches to watch lavish
firework displays, flypasts and parades over the weekend. And when it comes
to crunch time, many are prepared to defend Israel's 'right to defend
itself', as evidenced by the widespread support amongst the public, media
and government for the so-called second Lebanon war in July 2006.
Yet the apparent determination in 2006 to show the world that Israel will do
'whatever it takes' to protect itself against hostile neighbours - with or
without the blessing of the 'international community' and even if it means
becoming more unpopular - quickly gave way to a severe crisis of confidence.
The government-appointed Winograd commission of inquiry into the war issued
damning criticism of prime minister Ehud Olmert and his generals.
It seems that it takes more than sloganeering and military might to win a
war, even if it is against a ragtag guerrilla force. After all, the 2006
conflict with Hezbollah paled in comparison to the wars and invasions of
1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 or even 1982. While the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
at those times did not have access to the advanced weaponry it has now, it
did have far more advanced levels of commitment, zealotry and patriotism.
Last month, by contrast, the IDF rolled out an Honourable Discharge scheme
as part of a series of new initiatives to boost motivation for military
service. This followed new IDF statistics showing that well over one quarter
of army-aged men avoid enlistment. In 2007, the number of young men avoiding
service constituted 27.7 per cent of the total number of service-eligible
men; in 1991, the figure was 18.2 per cent. As for women, 43.7 per cent of
eligible women did not enlist in 2007, as opposed to 32.8 per cent in 1991
It seems there is also a general sense of fatigue and disillusionment with
political life in Israel as a result of never-ending political crises - both
in terms of the violent conflict with the Palestinians and continuous
corruption scandals. The current probing of Olmert regarding an alleged
bribe by an American businessman prior to Olmert's induction in office
overshadowed much of the news of the sixtieth anniversary celebrations.
The very formation of the ruling centre-right party Kadima (Forward) in 2006
- by then prime minister Ariel Sharon, before a stroke knocked him from
power - seems to have been a way of giving Israeli politics direction simply
by naming a political party rather than by having a genuine sense of
Beyond the IDF, other institutions and practices that have been central to
the Israeli state and to Zionist ideology have changed radically in recent
times. Immigration from 'the Diaspora', for instance, has historically been
considered crucial for retaining the Israeli state's Jewish character. But
in the past decade there has been a steady decline in the number of
immigrants to Israel. In 2007, there were just 18,075 immigrants, compared
to 66,221 in 1997 (2). Most new arrivals are not motivated by the idealism
of the early settlers, and the absorption of immigrant groups such as
Ethiopians and those from the former Soviet Union has not been smooth.
Last year, eight teenage immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were
members of a neo-Nazi cell (but probably more accurately described as a
bunch of disgruntled youth) were arrested in the Israeli town of Petach
Tiqva, sparking new discussions about Jewishness, and the law of return,
according to which it is enough to have one Jewish grandparent in order to
be allowed to settle in Israel. This debate bears many similarities to
corrosive Western identity politics.
Another clear sign that the times are changing is the rebranding of Israel's
kibbutzim as 'eco-villages' (3). The kibbutz movement, which was part of the
Labour Zionist enterprise of creating 'Jewish land, Jewish labour and Jewish
produce', is launching an advertising campaign this summer, targeted at an
'eco-aware generation'. The kibbutzim have experienced a decline in foreign
volunteers, while younger generations of kibbutznikim chose to move to the
hip and cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, or to travel in order to pursue careers. Such
practical realities partly explain the re-branding - yet this is also a
clear snapshot of the hollowing out of Zionism. The kibbutz movement is
appealing to younger Israelis and foreigners not through old ideals, but by
appearing 'relevant' and hip and by not mentioning the Z-word or their
'dirty past' as exclusivist settlements designed to colonise Palestinian
The very task of Judaising space, traditionally the responsibility of the
state, is being outsourced to various private agents, as reported by Israeli
academics Neve Gordon and Erez Tzfadia in the Guardian last year. They
described how the Israeli government is effectively 'privatising Zionism',
contracting personnel agencies that hire temps to oversee house demolitions.
Contractors are hired to plan and build Jewish towns in the cleared areas.
Even some military checkpoints have been handed over to subcontractors. The
authors concluded that the 'corporate warriors' who man these checkpoints
are 'Israel's Blackwater' and that 'Zionism's privatisation does not
symbolise a strategic change but rather a tactical one' (4).
This misses the mark. As Brendan O'Neill pointed out in relation to last
year's scandal involving a squad of fighters from Blackwater, a security
firm based in North Carolina which has hundreds of men in Iraq, the most
striking thing was that it showed 'the American state's readiness to share
its means of coercion with others' (see Mercenaries in Iraq: Dogs of
Indecision, by Brendan O'Neill.) As with the US, the Israeli state is
outsourcing its military authority - and this is not merely a tactical
change. It signals a loss of confidence in its own ability to carry out what
have so far been fundamental tasks of the State, and its inability to
convince its own people of the political case for carrying those tasks out.
In Western activist and media circles it is popular to view the
Israel-Palestine conflict as a David and Goliath case, a clear-cut struggle
between victims and aggressors, and to denounce Israelis as a bunch of
Zionist imperialist land-grabbing ideologues. While Israel clearly is still
aggressive towards the Palestinian territories, where many are suffering
terribly, this Western view is a caricature, revealing great ignorance about
the character of Israeli society today. Rather than celebrating the
fulfilment of the 'Zionist dream', Israelis' dreams have changed and in its
sixtieth anniversary the country seems to be having a profound identity
Nathalie Rothschild is commissioning editor of spiked.
(1) IDF will Issue Honorable Discharge Cards to Raise Motivation, Arutz
Sheva: Israel National News, 1 April 2008
(2) See statistics for migration and tourism at the Israeli Central Bureau
of Statistics website.
(3) Israel re-brands kibbutzim to lure eco-aware generation, Observer, 13
(4) Privatising Zionism, Guardian, 14 December 2007
From: debate-bounces at debate.kabissa.org
[mailto:debate-bounces at debate.kabissa.org] On Behalf Of Patrick Bond
Sent: 24 May 2008 06:37 PM
To: debate at vmc08.mweb.co.za:SA discussion list
Subject: [DEBATE] : (Fwd) Israel joins US in banning Middle East critics
"Israel Arrests Outspoken Academic Norman Finkelstein" Middle East News
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