Israel’s Egyptian teachers

Recent events in Egypt have already provided Israelis with a number of invaluable lessons. The first was right there in the Bible the whole time (Prov 27:24 – nice play on words in Hebrew, by the way: ‘h[o]sn[i] is not forever’), but there’s nothing like a live demonstration to jog one’s memory: a system based on oppression and privilege has a limited shelf-life. Even the most stoic of peoples will eventually rise up and demand their rights and dignity. To ignore this truth in the name of stability and security is like putting out a fire with gasoline. It’s not just about human rights or international law. It’s also a really lousy survival strategy.

The second lesson is that peace agreements signed with corrupt and corruptible elites, without seeking to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict are, in the long-term, a rather unsafe investment. The active corruption of Palestinian officials and creation of a (relatively) privileged Palestinian elite have been an integral part of the “peace” process, ever since Oslo. The result – as the leaked Palestine Papers have shown – has been a Palestinian leadership capable of signing almost anything. But even if Israeli leaders were actually interested in a deal, what would such a deal be worth, without popular support, “ratified” by brute force?

The third and possibly most important lesson – certainly the most shocking for many – is that Arabs are people too. They don’t like being oppressed any more than you or me, and they are perfectly capable of rationally and heroically pursuing their goals, without any atavistic bloodlust or uncontrollable desire for revenge. The remarkable behaviour of the movement and crowds in Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt offer some indication of how Palestinians might go about building a single state, two states or a federation with Jewish Israelis once their democratic rights and fundamental humanity have been recognised.

A fourth and final lesson (for honours students only, I’m afraid) is that there is a limit to how much one can expect others – millions and tens of millions of others – to pay, in order to assuage one’s own fears and sustain one’s own unsustainable way of life.

About Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel

Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel is a Canadian-Israeli translator living in Italy.
Posted in Egypt, Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

{ 106 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. annie says:

    great article shmuel. one question

    The first was right there in the Bible the whole time (Prov 27:24 – nice play on words in Hebrew, by the way: ‘h[o]sn[i] is not forever’)

    the proverb is ‘for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.’. what does ‘hosni’ mean in hebrew? riches?

    • Thanks, Annie. The root hsn in Hebrew has two meanings: treasure (something stored) or strength (cognate of the arabic hṡn). The context of the chapter in Proverbs has led most commentators and translators to favour the first meaning, although, as a popular saying – especially in modern Hebrew – the latter meaning is generally understood. The second half of the verse however, explicitly mentions political power (“the crown”), and the structure of “synonymous parallelism” (expressing the same idea, in different words, in both halves of a verse) is typical of Biblical poetry.

      • Danaa says:

        Shmuel, could you provide the verse and the ‘hsn’ reference in the original Hebrew please? thank you.

      • annie says:

        thank you shmuel.

      • “treasure (something stored) or strength (cognate of the arabic hṡn).”

        Spot on! Hoṡn in Arabic means strong/fortified and by extrapolation, protected/treasured. The sound ṡ (ṡad) is different from the sound s (seen) as in Hosni (Mubarak) even if it’s indistinguishable for a non-Arabic speaker’s ear

        • There is a Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic ṡad (ṡadi) – pronounced in most modern Jewish traditions as “tz” – but the Hebrew cognate of hoṡn is written with the non-emphatic letter samekh – as is the name Hosni, so the play on words works much better in Hebrew. There’s a good deal of “migration” between similar letters in Hebrew-Arabic cognates. The Hebrew ʼaḥ (brother), for example, is the equivalent of the Arabic ʼakh.

  2. Avi says:

    A fourth and final lesson (for honours students only, I’m afraid) is that there is a limit to how much one can expect others – millions and tens of millions of others – to pay, in order to assuage one’s own fears and sustain one’s own unsustainable way of life.

    Indeed, for honor students only.

    • Sumud says:

      I think that’s an American/English thing Avi – we use the English spelling and plural form in Australia also..

      • Avi says:

        Sumud,

        My point was that only those with a shred of honor recognize that there is a limit to how much one can expect others to pay in order to assuage one’s own fears. I thought that was Shmuel’s idea, too. You know, the play on words. Wasn’t it?

  3. David Samel says:

    Brilliant article, Shmuel. In a rational world, your four lessons should be met with cries of “Duh,” but in the world we live in, the overwhelming majority of decision-makers and media elites have not learned a single one. If they simply accepted the notion that “Arabs are people” like you and me, the established order and “conventional wisdom” would undergo a radical transformation. They can’t directly dispute that lesson without being embarrassed, so they must camouflage their underlying bigotry with rhetorical acrobatics.

    • Thanks David. A simple glance, even at Haaretz, offers numerous examples of such “rhetorical acrobatics” (today’s analysis by Zvi Barel is a case in point).

      Sayed Kashua put it very well in his column this weekend:

      That’s it, everything’s about to change here. Not that I understand how or why, but that’s the general feeling. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the authorities in Israel are so fearful of change? Ah yes, they’re afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood and another Iran on the border. After all, most of our analysts have already decided that contrary to what the demonstrators in Cairo’s streets are demanding, there is no chance for democracy in the Islamic world. “That’s not right,” argued Dr. Uriya Shavit on Reshet’s morning program. “Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and it has a real democracy.”

      “Yes,” countered Eli Shaked, “but Indonesia is not an Arab country. And there’s a difference.” According to the former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, whose employment history proves he must know Egypt like the back of his hand, Arabness is the problem that’s preventing democracy.

      And it’s not racist, he explains to the host. They just don’t have the good old Judeo-Christian values, says the ambassador. In other words, it’s not a matter of education or poverty or long years of oppression; it’s the lousy Arab character that’s prevented us from reaching the status of Christians and Jews who tout acceptance of others as their supreme slogan.

      I used to think one of the troubles with this place, where people are always buzzing about humanism and accepting others, was the lack of knowledge of Arabic. After listening to our Arab affairs analysts, I reached the conclusion that it would be better not to teach Arabic at all here. In fact, Yisrael Beiteinu should get a law passed banning Jews from learning Arabic, if the result is going to be analysts like …

      • hophmi says:

        All well and nice, Shmuel. But your fourth lesson is a little nasty and ridiculous. In the first place, Israelis don’t rely on keeping Egyptians under the boot for their security. In the second, no state would trade its own security for the democratic aspirations of another state’s people, if it actually came to that.

        I don’t think Israelis should have to die for Egyptians to have democracy. Do you?

        • annie says:

          Israelis don’t rely on keeping Egyptians under the boot for their security

          explain.

          I don’t think Israelis should have to die for Egyptians to have democracy.

          that’s rich considering egyptians are the ones who have endured a brutal dictator supported by zionism for the last 30 years while not keeping their end of the peace treaty. do you think palestinians or egyptians should be dying or being tortured for israel’s ‘democracy’.

          orwell would be impressed.

        • hophmi says:

          “that’s rich considering egyptians are the ones who have endured a brutal dictator supported by zionism for the last 30 years while not keeping their end of the peace treaty. do you think palestinians or egyptians should be dying or being tortured for israel’s ‘democracy’.”

          No, of course not. My point is that a lot of people here seem to discount Israel’s concerns about what happens in Egypt as if they don’t matter. Israel is a bordering state that has fought three wars with Egypt. They have a right to be concerned about what Egypt turns into.

          And let’s be honest. The entire West is essentially looking at this the same way they do. They’ve all closed around Suleiman.

        • Hophmi,

          The Israeli government has urged western governments to support Mubarak, and many Israelis would like to see Mubarak remain in power, regardless of the consequences for Egyptians. The reasons for this have to do with Israeli concerns – real or imagined, with or without other causes. What any of this means for Egyptians is totally irrelevant to most Israelis. Were it in fact a situation of having “to die for Egyptians to have democracy” you would have a point, but you know as well as I do that that is not the issue here. It’s all about a “margin of safety” (whose safety), for the sake of which, Israelis are more than happy to sacrifice Egyptian freedom, livelihood, well-being – whatever it takes. When it comes to Palestinians, it gets much much worse.

        • hophmi says:

          “What any of this means for Egyptians is totally irrelevant to most Israelis.”

          Just curious; do you think it would be any difference if the shoe were on the other foot?

        • Potsherd2 says:

          Let them be concerned. But they don’t have the right to dictate the nature of another nation’s government based on their own concerns, or impose conditions.

        • eljay says:

          >> My point is that a lot of people here seem to discount Israel’s concerns about what happens in Egypt as if they don’t matter.

          Of course Israel has a right to be concerned. And nothing says “beacon unto the nations” like working to ensure that Egypt fails to become a peaceful, democratic society and remains, instead, an oppressive dictatorship.

          Must be because the latter represents the “common values” shared by the Zio-supremacist “good in the world” and the Mubarak régime.

        • Apart from the obvious “two wrongs don’t make a right”, we know that Israeli behaviour is immoral in the here and now. Are you suggesting that the hypothetical immoral behaviour of Egyptians can justify that in any way? I think you’ve just proved my point.

  4. MRW says:

    Shmuel,

    I’ve wondered where you’ve been. This is my favourite (the spelling is a hat tip to you) piece of yours so far. Probably because you have to be one smart mofo to write like a North American when you’re an Israeli living in Rome; moreover, think like an outsider to everything that you were brought up believing (which you do consistently.)

    You got me at The first was right there in the Bible the whole time and kept me right through the definition of honor.

    • MRW
      My understanding is that Shmuel, bless him, grew up in the US and migrated to Israel in his late teens..
      Correct me if I’m wrong, Shmuel!

      • TGIA,

        Thanks for the blessing! I was born in Canada (hence my “funny” spelling) and moved to Israel in my early teens (14).

        • MRW says:

          Ahh, I thought you moved to Israel when you were two or four. No wonder your English is so native to my ears. So you grew up in Canada when it still had some politically neutral cajones, and it was proud of it….and Montreal was still a great city to party in.

        • Definitely a formative experience, growing up anglo-montréalais in the ’70s. Arrived in Israel just in time for the Lebanon War, Israeli withdrawal from Sinai and the heyday of Gush Emunim and Peace Now.

  5. eee says:

    Shmuel,

    1) The Palestinians have risen up many times since immigration of Jews started to Israel. They have not been the most stoic of people. Of course, nothing lasts forever, but neither do democratic regimes, so what is the point of what you are saying? To call a strategy that has been working for so long “lousy” is just interpreting reality wrong. By the way, how would characterize the survival strategy of the Jews in Europe before WWII? Obviously, it was a lousy strategy but you seem to be recommending a similar one.

    2) An agreement with a tyrant that lasts 30 years is a good one. An agreement that lasts 2 years is a bad one. 30 years of an extra 0.25% GDP growth per year gives you a GDP 20% bigger and much less dead people (assuming an average 3% per year growth). So while I agree with you, the devil is in the details.

    3) The Jews are also people like anybody else. However, in the case of the Jews you seem to deny their ability to rationally pursue their goals. In fact your whole argument is that the Jews are not working to further their interests. So it doesn’t follow that since Arabs are human just like anybody else, what they do is rational. And it really doesn’t. Nasser was very popular and clearly deceived the Egyptian people. The jury is still out on what results their current actions will bring.

    4) A true liberal democracy in Egypt will not change much the life style of Israelis. Israel is not afraid of a democracy in Egypt. Israel is a afraid that the instability of the change process may lead to an islamic take over which could lead to war. But whatever Israelis think, the issue is out of their hands with regard to Egypt.
    With regards to the Palestinians, the major issue is the right of return, and if your lesson is that eventually Israelis will have to accept the right of return, I disagree. Only the future will tell. When people are willing to fight for what they believe in, they can survive a very long time.

    • Avi says:

      4) A true liberal democracy in Egypt will not change much the life style of Israelis. Israel is not afraid of a democracy in Egypt. Israel is a afraid that the instability of the change process may lead to an islamic take over which could lead to war.

      Could, would, should. And yet, it is the non-Islamic successive governments of Israel that have led that country to war after war, from the bloodbath in Sabra and Shatila to the assault on Gaza in 2008/9.

      Nonetheless, courtesy of the Israeli Shas, the only good Arab is a dead Arab.

      The problem with the Israeli Zionist brain is that it is incapable of seeing its own hypocrisy. It is Tzvi’ut of the first degree. And this from the only country in the region with a nuclear, biological and chemical arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

      These views don’t get anymore transparently pathetic than that.

      • eee says:

        There is no hypocrisy here. An Egyptian has every right to worry that Shas or some other Israeli party may come to power and may advocate war just as much as an Israeli has the right to worry about the same process in Egypt.

        • Avi says:

          And yet, no Egyptian movement has yet to have the audacity to impose one political movement or another on the Israeli people. But, you presume to have the luxury of such right. That’s called selfish arrogance and its emblematic of the colonial way of thinking. As a nation, if Israel wants to evolve and mature to become part of the world-community, then it needs to understand that there are limits to its chosenness.

        • eee says:

          How wrong you are. At least twice in its history, in 1948 and 1967 the Egyptian government tried to impose a form of government on Israel’s Jews. I would in fact say that this was the Egyptian policy for a long time.

          Israel is not imposing any form of government on the Egyptians. It is just articulating its worries that the current process may take a wrong turn and advising caution. That is a legitimate course of action.

        • Avi says:

          eee February 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm

          How wrong you are. At least twice in its history, in 1948 and 1967 the Egyptian government tried to impose a form of government on Israel’s Jews. I would in fact say that this was the Egyptian policy for a long time.

          A form of government? You know you’re going to need to be more specific than that.

        • MRW says:

          Hear, hear, Avi.

        • eee says:

          The Egyptian formal reason for joining the war in 1948 is described by the Arab League declaration:
          “the only solution of the Palestine problem is the establishment of a unitary Palestinian State, in accordance with democratic principles, whereby its inhabitants will enjoy complete equality before the law, [and whereby] minorities will be assured of all the guarantees recognised in democratic constitutional countries ….”

          The Egyptians were trying to force a one state solution contrary to the will of the Jews in Israel. Their “audacity” was very costly.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Israelis bombed the Egyptian air force while it was grounded and drove the (non-Jewish) population of Sinai out by force of arms, but it was Egypt that was trying to force a government on Israelis?

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Egypt was advocating for a government in Palestine that where Jews are treated just like everyone else? Oooooh! How malicious and anti-Semitic, huh.

        • Avi says:

          The Egyptians were trying to force a one state solution contrary to the will of the Jews in Israel. Their “audacity” was very costly.

          That’s what they call in the propaganda business “Good Spin”.

          How is it possible to meddle in a state’s affairs if that state doesn’t exist, has not been recognized by the UN and its leadership seeks to establish a state on another people’s land?

          And that brings this exchange to an end. You’re a waste of time.

        • Potsherd2 says:

          eeevil is making the false claim that Egypt started the 1967 war.

          Among other lies.

        • eee says:

          Israel came into existence in May 15, 1948 and was immediately recognized by quite a few countries. Your “technical” argument is very weak. The Egyptians were not interfering with Israel because it did not exist? Just as the Serbs where not interfering with Kosovo because it did not exist as a country? Israel existed because the people of Israel willed it. And the Egyptians were trying to stop them and force a solution against the will of the Israelis. Their “audacity” cost them dearly.

        • Shingo says:

          So how did the Egyptian government tried to impose a form of government on Israel’s Jews in 1967 eee?

        • seafoid says:

          On Saturday, President Shimon Peres delivered an impassioned defense of Mubarak, *****crediting him with saving both Arab and Israeli lives by preventing war in the Middle East.****

          The arrogance. Israel would have killed as many Egyptians as necessary until they bent the knee to the Pax Americana. That Pax is now breaking down.

          Peres could have stopped Cast Lead. He didn’t. He could have prevented the Qana massacre. He didn’t. Only Zionists are entitled to a death machine and only Zionists are entitled to the logic of death as peace . Because as Donniel Hartman says, “As Jews our natural affinity group is the oppressed. “

        • RoHa says:

          “Israel existed because the people of Israel willed it.”

          They willed it, but that doesn’t make it right.

        • Shingo says:

          Israel existed because the people of Israel willed it.

          Apartheid South Africa existed because the people of South Africa willed it.

          Nazi Germany existed because the people of Germany willed it.

        • MRW says:

          eee,

          This is off the wall and wrong: “The Egyptian formal reason for joining the war in 1948 is described by the Arab League declaration:”

          (1) You have not included the entire quote, nor the context.
          (2) You should have read Talknic’s post about this to Hophmi a few months ago (scroll down)
          link to mondoweiss.net, and
          (3) If you had, you would have found the wealth of factual, historic documents on his website.
          link to talknic.wordpress.com

          This statement of yours below is a patent falsehood, completely contradicted by the official documents. (Talknic’s link above has more than enough links to the official docs; I don’t have to repeat them.)
          The Egyptians were trying to force a one state solution contrary to the will of the Jews in Israel. Their “audacity” was very costly.
          Tilt. Wrong.

        • hophmi says:

          Talknic’s response to me was as beside the point and irrelevant then as it is now.

          Citing the Arab League declaration is a little like citing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to prove that the Americans weren’t involved in the events leading to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. It’s almost laughable to think you could win an argument like this by appealling to the “official documents.”

          And Talknic answered a question no one had asked, claiming that the declaration proves that no one was aiming for an “Islamic state.”

          No one had asserted that they were. They were aiming for an “Arab state,” and the line of the Arabs in run-up to the GA vote was that the entire state had to be an Arab state, and that if this didn’t happen, there would be a war, and the lives of Jews living in the Arab world would be endangered.

          Jamaal Husseini said the partition line would a line of fire and blood.
          link to senegambianews.com

          He said: “No candidate for election was returned without pledging to give Palestine his most earnest activities. In those circumstances it was idle to think. that the creation, of a Jewish State would not arouse a general uprising in the Arab world, and it should be remembered that there were as many Jews in the Arab world as there were in Palestine, whose positions might become very precarious, even though the Arab States did their best to protect them, If partition were forced upon Palestine”

          This is a threat, a brazenly obvious one, that if the uppity Jews establish an autonomous entity in the all-Arab Middle East, Jewish minorities will be persecuted. The whole point of the invasion was to crush the Jewish state before it could establish itself, and to grab land meant for the Palestinians, which is exactly what Egypt and Transjordan did, occupying them for 20 years with no talk of a state.

        • Shingo says:

          The whole point of the invasion was to crush the Jewish state before it could establish itself,

          False. First of all, Israel was not invaded, Palestine was. Israel decalred it’s independence (along the partition borders) and yet, insisted on maintaining a presence outside those borders, which was a balatant provocation.

          By declaring independence, Israel made it’s own bed.

        • Shingo- Egypt bombed Tel Aviv, isn’t that an invasion? And are you maintaining that no Egyptian armies crossed the lines of the territory allocated to the Jewish state in the partition plan?

        • hophmi says:

          “False. First of all, Israel was not invaded, Palestine was. Israel decalred it’s independence (along the partition borders) and yet, insisted on maintaining a presence outside those borders, which was a balatant provocation.

          By declaring independence, Israel made it’s own bed.”

          You make me laugh. You’ll believe anything you read on Palestinian propaganda websites.

          Palestine was invaded? Where do you get this crap? Tel Aviv was bombed by the Egyptian airforce. Invasions came from the South and the North. These were part of Israel. There’s a reason Trygve Lie called the Arab invasion the first “armed aggression” the world had seen since World War II.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “Shingo- Egypt bombed Tel Aviv, isn’t that an invasion?”

          No, it’s a bombing. Did Nazi Germany invade London?

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “Invasions came from the South and the North. These were part of Israel.”

          The point which Shingo is making, if I read it correctly, is that since Israel had already posted its gunmen and ethnic cleansers beyond the partition lines into Palestine as defined by the partition, it no longer had any right that anyone respect its rights within the partition lines.

        • Shingo says:

          Tel Aviv was bombed by the Egyptian airforce. Invasions came from the South and the North.

          False. Israel was bomber but NOT invaded. had there been an invaded there would have been a UNSC Resolution condemning the invasion.

          And spare us the crap about the UN being pro Arab. It had just created Israel after all.

        • Shingo says:

          And are you maintaining that no Egyptian armies crossed the lines of the territory allocated to the Jewish state in the partition plan?

          Technically, they did cross during battle, but that’s not an invasion.

          And if bombing Tel Aviv was an invasion, then every time Israel crosses into Lebanese air space, that would also be in invasion right?

        • hophmi says:

          “False. Israel was bomber but NOT invaded. had there been an invaded there would have been a UNSC Resolution condemning the invasion.”

          Thank you, Tommy Flanagan. snl.jt.org/char.php?i=195

          “Yeah, yeah, it wasn’t an invasion, no, it was a . . . a celebration! Yeah, that’s the ticket, a celebration. They were firing their guns at Jews in celebration of their new state!”

          **sigh**

          Israel was invaded, and as I pointed out above, the UN Secretary General condemned the invasion as aggression, and as I also pointed out above, the Arabs did not leave much to interpretation as to what the invasion was for.

        • Shingo says:

          Thank you, Tommy Flanagan. snl.jt.org/char.php?i=195

          In other words, you have no evidence to the contrary and all you can do is sit in the corner and spit.

          Thanks for proving my point hophmi. You’re the best.

          Israel was invaded, and as I pointed out above, the UN Secretary General condemned the invasion as aggression, and as I also pointed out above, the Arabs did not leave much to interpretation as to what the invasion was for.

          Please provide a link to that condemnation.

          Much appreciated Hophmi. I know you’ll come through NOT,

        • talknic says:

          “the UN Secretary General condemned the invasion as aggression”

          At the time the condemnation was made, the UN Secretary General was not Trygve Lie .

        • talknic says:

          hophmi February 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm
          You make me laugh. You’ll believe anything you read on Palestinian propaganda websites.

          The Israeli Government did Palestinian propaganda in May 1948. AMAZING!!!

          link to avalon.law.yale.edu

          link to unispal.un.org

          link to mfa.gov.il

          “Palestine was invaded? Where do you get this crap? “

          All the UNSC resolutions post May 15th 1948 that say “peace in Palestine” not ‘peace in Israel’ — Israel was declared independent of Palestine May 15th 1948.

          ——————

          BTW my website is PRO Israel, as a law abiding nation, living in peace with it’s neighbours, instead of living in it’s neighbours territories in a state of constant war and generating hatred based on complete fabrications. (all of which I see you have eagerly gulped down)

    • annie says:

      strategy that has been working for so long

      what strategy that’s been working so long?

      They have not been the most stoic of people

      excuse me? you do not think palestinians are stoic? you’ve got a lot of nerve.

      • eee says:

        “what strategy that’s been working so long?”

        The Israeli strategy.

        “excuse me? you do not think palestinians are stoic? you’ve got a lot of nerve.”

        How does the second intifada mesh with your understanding of “stoic”?
        Would a “stoic” people get so visibly outraged by Sharon walking on the Temple Mount? Would a “stoic” people show clear visible happiness at a relative becoming a “martyr”? There is nothing “stoic” about the Palestinian emotional pleas one constantly finds on this blog. The Jewish people are not “stoic” either by the way if that at all matters.

        • Avi says:

          The Jewish people are not “stoic” either by the way if that at all matters.

          In other words, your entire argument has fizzled and your rhetoric has failed.

        • eee says:

          And why is that? I have clearly shown through various examples that the Palestinians are not “stoic”. Would you like more examples?

          My statement about the Jews is there just to make sure that the argument stays on point and does not slip to the “hypocrisy” channel.

        • annie says:

          I have clearly shown through various examples that the Palestinians are not “stoic”. Would you like more examples?

          actually i would. in fact you can start w/someone i assume to be a normal palestinian. perhaps you can demonstrate for me how this person is not stoic.

          “what strategy that’s been working so long?”

          The Israeli strategy.

          oh really, iow you think the current arrangement is an example of what works? iow, the rest of the world is crazy and israel’s doing hunky dory. unreal.

        • eee says:

          Clearly some Palestinians are “stoic”. But the Palestinians in general are not “stoic”. They express their feelings and emotions visibly and clearly and often act based on them.

        • annie says:

          there are millions of them. you sound like a pompous know it all.

        • eee says:

          Come on Annie, just recently you were cheering a Ben-Zakai article in which he said:
          “Yes, I know, Mondoweiss is quite rightly dedicated to the never-ending story of how badly the State of Israel is screwing the Palestinians, and I’ll return to that subject forthwith. But for a moment, let’s talk about how Israelis treat each other. They treat each other like shit. They’re loud, rude and arrogant. They’ll pull any old dirty and infantile trick to jump the line at the supermarket, cut each other off in traffic, get ahead at the office, or screw the other guy when money changes hands. They’re a bully nation and a nation of bullies, led by a shamelessly corrupt political-military-economic elite that misses no chance to feather its own nest while shafting the poor and the weak. That’s Israel today.”
          link to mondoweiss.net

          Did I miss you calling him pompous? :) No, in fact you were quite supportive in the comments.

        • annie says:

          go reread the thread eee

    • Shingo says:

      However, in the case of the Jews you seem to deny their ability to rationally pursue their goals

      No, we’re talking ab out Israelis and the fact that their policies have been self defeating. For example, Israel’s rejection of a Palestinians state wil eventually lead to a single state, which will either be apartheid or non Jewish.

      Israel is a afraid that the instability of the change process may lead to an islamic take over which could lead to war.

      You mean, that Egypt would cease to be a WAshington/Israeli puppet and not allow Israel to get away with attacking it’s neighbors at the drop of a hat?

      With regards to the Palestinians, the major issue is the right of return

      As the Palestinian papers reveal, the major issue is the Isreali government. Livni was rejecting offers that didn’t even mention refugees.

    • seafoid says:

      13 eee January 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm
      Whatever happens it is good for Israel.
      The status quo is good, and if the islamists take over Israel will just take back the Sinai which is also good. Let’s see what they then do with Israel sitting on the Suez Canal. They will have to grovel to the US to get the Sinai back. And if there is a prolonged civil war, that is very bad for the Egyptian people, but how does it harm Israel? Egypt is such a basket case that it cannot make any meaningful problems for Israel.

  6. bijou says:

    Great piece. And here is the simple bottom line: When everyone’s needs are (more or less) equally met, including the need for dignity, then peace and security reign supreme. By contrast, when one party tries to impose by force a solution that meets ONLY its OWN needs and NONE of the other’s, the result is neverending instability, violence, and hatred.

    “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten…” – sadly, apparently not, but it’s so basic that it should be so.

  7. James North says:

    Shmuel: A characteristically terrific post. I like all your lessons, but especially the third one: Arabs are people too. It is a sad tribute to several centuries of Orientalist pseudo-scholarship and mainstream journalism in thrall to hasbara that this could come as a surprise.

  8. You described well the gamble that Israel took in putting its eggs in the “powerful state” basket.

    The most powerful states in the region are Israel (sentiment and relations more than US interests), Saudi Arabia and Gulf states (oil).

    Neither of those will be permitted to fall. The US desires a precedent of peaceful transfer of power, as occurs in elections among communities that regard elections as primary definitions of self-governance (over force).

    Where they determine that peaceful transfer of power is impossible, they prefer stability. That is why the US waited a little until it was clear that the Egyptian street did not desire a bloodbath, but desired a peaceful transfer of power to elections.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      The US desires a precedent of peaceful transfer of power, as occurs in elections among communities that regard elections as primary definitions of self-governance (over force).

      Bullshit. If that were true, this or this wouldn’t have happened. Let alone Iraq today, Iran in 1953, and most of Central and South America at various points in time since the Monroe Doctrine was declared, lately of which would be Honduras.

      • Avi says:

        Chaos,

        As you probably know by now — as annie said — pompous Zionists project their own wishes onto reality. If they will it, it must be true. And there is no point in presenting them with reasonable evidence. It doesn’t matter. That’s how belief and ideology go hand in hand in creating such a force of oppression in the world. Bin Laden’s got nothing on Zionism. Herzl hijacked Judaism a hundred years before him.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          I think what the shame is, when you cut all of their arguments — Witty, eee, the others — and examine the core… you find an outright rejection of foundational American ideals. Just a ways up the thread, eee called it “audacity” to presume that immigrant Jews in Palestine would be expected to be considered equal citizens with the natives, rather than the ruling class of Israel (and of an abused and greatly victimized Palestine). Witty also supports this notion of Israelis dictating Palestine’s borders, military and domestic security, and international relations, and on top of that open rejects the idea that different ethnicities can co-exist in the same community as equal partners.

          Israel and Zionism are utterly antithetical to modern Western concepts of democracy (let alone Middle Eastern ones — bookmarked, and thanks eee!) and I still find it unfathomable that the US is tithed to Israeli interests and agendas the way it is, not just at the expense of our integrity and ideals, but at the expense of our actual interests as a nation.

        • eee says:

          The US is powerful but has its limits. The US stopped its support of the Partition Plan in 1948 and did not play any role in determining who would win the war of 1948. It was against the war of 1956 and also warned Israel not to attack first in 1967. In many cases the US just plays catch up to what happens on the ground.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          did not play any role in determining who would win the war of 1948

          Remind me again, which world leader was the first to announce his recognition of Israel, after Zionist militants razed over five hundred Palestinian villages and shot the survivors if they dared to return?

          That’s gratitude for you. Thanks AIPAC, for pissing away my tax money to coddle the ungrateful child of colonialism that still suckles at our collective teat.

        • Shingo says:

          It was against the war of 1956 and also warned Israel not to attack first in 1967.

          False. LBJ told the Israelis that they would easily defeat Nasser and that Nasser would not attack. Israel agreed.

        • “Witty also supports this notion of Israelis dictating Palestine’s borders, military and domestic security, and international relations, and on top of that open rejects the idea that different ethnicities can co-exist in the same community as equal partners.”

          What a stupid lie about my views.

          “pompous .. project their own wishes onto reality”

        • Shingo says:

          What a stupid lie about my views.

          It’s your views that are stupid Witty, not how they are projected.

          You have reject a single state solution because you clearly reject the idea that different ethnicities can co-exist. There’s no point denying it.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          True or false, Witty: you desire an arrangement whereby Israel controls Palestine’s borders and the Palestinians aren’t allowed their own military.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “I think what the shame is, when you cut all of their arguments — Witty, eee, the others — and examine the core… you find an outright rejection of foundational American ideals. Just a ways up the thread, eee called it ‘audacity’ to presume that immigrant Jews in Palestine would be expected to be considered equal citizens with the natives, rather than the ruling class of Israel (and of an abused and greatly victimized Palestine).”

          Of course; they’re Zionists. Zionism is, at heart, a racist ideology, no different than the racism that propelled Apartheid, Jim Crow laws in the Southern US, the Nuremberg laws and every other similar example throughout history, notwithstanding the differences in their implimentation. And to cut off the predictable excuses: I’m not talking about a pie-in-the-sky theoretical construct, concerned with high-minded ideals with Jews self-governing while you ignore (or in the case of some, glory in) the death, destruction and bloodshed which forms the foundation of your state. I’m talking about the real-life, practical realities that the target of their covetousness was land that already belonged to another people and who lives and interests these Zionists were willing to sacrifice for their racist ideology.

        • annie says:

          What a stupid lie about my views.

          “pompous .. project their own wishes onto reality”

          oh stop your whining. so tell us richard who exactly does the permitting? who’s doing the dictating in your view? please be specific.

          Neither of those will be permitted to fall.

        • hophmi says:

          “I think what the shame is, when you cut all of their arguments — Witty, eee, the others — and examine the core… you find an outright rejection of foundational American ideals.”

          Which ones would those be? The foundational ideal of killing a couple million Native Americans? The foundational ideal of Manifest Destiny? The foundational ideal of slavery?

          Oh, I guess you mean the foundational ideal of democracy.

          “Israel and Zionism are utterly antithetical to modern Western concepts of democracy”

          And what are those? Allowing 12 million people to die at the hands of Nazi terror, including 6 million Jews? Brushing by human rights violations in China, Darfur, Kosovo, and Bosnia? Building the neo-liberal economic system?

          I’m just confused here by your statement.

          Seems to me the Knesset is pretty much based on modern European parliamentary democracy. That means your “utterly antithetical” statement is pure BS. Like most of what you post here.

    • RoHa says:

      “Israel (sentiment and relations more than US interests)”

      Sentiment: the sentimental attachment that American politicians feel towards their funding and the media who present their image.

      Relations: the relations American politicians had with young lads and lasses on their trip to Israel, as recorded on video.

  9. robyn says:

    Lesson number five: If Netanyahu (despite huge amounts of aid) can thumb his nose at the american president then neither he nor anyone else should be surprised when Mubarak does so (despite huge amounts of aid we could really use back home). And thereby increases the likelihood of great instability. Even Crowley admitted that there greater risk of chaos in Egypt the longer the regime didn’t take concrete steps.

    On the other hand I don’t blame Israel for being freaked out by the situation. Both the PA and Hamas appear to be too….

    • Chaos4700 says:

      This is, indeed, the boiling point where American imperialism falls. Obama can’t dispose of Mubarak. He’s “too big to fail,” and we know what that means to Obama.

      • seafoid says:

        Too big to fail ends up with a Lehman Brothers. It is the worst recession since the 1930s. It almost destroyed Goldman Sachs. The US had light touch or no touch regulation of finance and for the last 44 years has had no regulation of Israel. The results will be the same for Israel as for finance. It is the same corruption and know nothings, after all.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          It almost destroyed Goldman Sachs.

          Don’t be silly! Ben Bernanke would have never let that happen. Anyway, Goldman Sachs came out ahead — they made record profits thanks to the bailout (if you can wrap your head around that) and one of the fiercest competitors got liquidated.

          Who would have thought Wall Street crossed Pennsylvania Avenue and run straight through the Oval Office?

  10. seafoid says:

    Lesson 5 . Even the best Zionist institutions are a shadow of what they used to be

    “the new head of intelligence, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at his first appearance before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, told the MKs that “there is no concern at the moment about the stability of the Egyptian government.” That same day Egyptians took to the streets.”

    Israeli deterrence is a victim of its own past success.

  11. The day it became clear that Mubarak was grooming his son to succeed him was the day it should have been clear that after Mubarak died there would be some sort of turmoil in Egypt. Tunisia and human nature speeded that day and brought it upon us before Mubarak’s death. The dignity of the peaceful crowds in Tunisia and in Egypt have been impressive. The overwhelming reaction of the Israeli leadership has been predictably dismal. The Likud has never accepted the fact that time is not on Israel’s side, particularly with the settlement project intact and never resting, and their concept that time would stand still forever although illogical has not changed much (at all?) in the last 33 years since they gained power for the first time in ’77.

    How this will all play out is another question. Whether the innate conservatism of those backing Suleiman as the transition leader will mess up the outcome or whether the split forces of secularists versus the unified Muslim Brotherhood will yield a result that ultimately will undermine the will of the majority, there are still many potholes on the path to true democracy in Egypt.

    (On the question of stoicism: whereas the great masses of Palestinians have displayed remarkable dignity for a remarkably long time in the face of oppression, one cannot call the Hamas and Fatah bombing campaign of buses and pizza places during the second intifadeh an example of stoicism.)

    • seafoid says:

      The day it became clear that Mubarak was grooming his son to succeed him was the day it should have been clear that after Mubarak died there would be some sort of turmoil in Egypt.

      Now available in hindsight. Why didn’t Israel’s so called intelligence services pick that up? Why is Bibi so worried?

    • andrew r says:

      WJ, what was the point of that parenthetical bit? Not everything has to be balanced by mentioning the buses and pizzarias. In fact, nothing should.

      • Stoicism was mentioned by Shmuel and was commented on by others.

        • Stoicism was mentioned by Shmuel and was commented on by others.

          I actually meant it as a figure of speech – inspired by the Egyptians, not the Palestinians. I don’t know whether I would describe Palestinians as stoic. Restraint, steadfastness and dignity might be more apt. Israeli and western impressions of the Palestinian struggle are rather distorted (they are Arabs after all), seeing only violent resistance (where non-violence has been far more pervasive) and violence against civilians in particular – to the point of defining even military operations with military objectives as “terrorism”. I therefore agree with andrew that your remark was superfluous and probably intended (subconsciously?) to restore “balance”, lest we go too far in appreciating and identifying with the Palestinian struggle. Yes, there are parts of the Palestinian struggle that are indefensible, but must we really bring those up every single time we have anything positive to say about Palestinians – especially when it is Israeli (and western) brutality that we are preconditioned to excuse or accept as “decent” and “civilised”?

          Other than that, a really great comment.

        • annie says:

          whereas the great masses of Palestinians have displayed remarkable dignity for a remarkably long time in the face of oppression

          thank you with all sincerity. no one suggested suicide bombings were an example of stoicism. but this is what eee had the gall to said:

          I have clearly shown through various examples that the Palestinians are not “stoic”……..Clearly some Palestinians are “stoic”. But the Palestinians in general are not “stoic”. They express their feelings and emotions visibly and clearly and often act based on them.

          unbelievable! as if there are outlets for instincts of rage in palestine outside of being torture and /or prison or the grave. i woke up this morning with this rattling in my mind, the nerve of calling palestinians not stoic with the full power of zionism supported by the world superpower on their necks for decades hunting their youth, their leaders, stalking spying jailing assassinating.

          so WJ, why did you not speak up earlier when eee’s abominable assertions were posted here in this thread, to him?

        • Any resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict will involve a large dose of forgiveness and focusing on the blood spilled, in a way, moves the conversation in the wrong direction.

          (In Jerusalem most people ignore the plaques in memory of those killed at certain spots. I’m sure that people in Gaza who live next to ruins have no time to put up plaques because the killing was too common to indulge in memorializing and the plaques would be too large.)

          On the subject of stoicism as a national characteristic in reaction to oppression, certainly it is something that has been highly questioned in my lifetime in reaction to the “going like sheep to the slaughter” image of the Jews during WWII. Even the Dalai Lama has been criticized for his policy of nonviolence by Tibetans, as not having achieved anything for his people.

          I would say that I admire stoicism in the individual, but I would not advise it as a pragmatic method for a nation or group.

        • annie says:

          I don’t know whether I would describe Palestinians as stoic

          the incredible women i met in gaza, and the doctors and teachers there, and our guides… i have never encountered such stoicism in my life.

        • Any resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict will involve a large dose of forgiveness and focusing on the blood spilled, in a way, moves the conversation in the wrong direction.

          That’s not what I meant, and we’re not there yet.

          As for stoicism, I agree that it’s highly overrated, but I wouldn’t confuse it with impotence or non-violence.

        • annie- My responses to objectionable comments whether by eee or others is not something that I can predict. I usually respond to anti Israel comments more than I respond to anti Arab or anti Palestinian comments. (But I would say that I respond one fifth of the time that I feel like commenting, the other times I just say, let it pass.) I suppose that eee would be more apt to take criticism from me to heart than he would take criticism from you and thus you have a point. I guess I erred by including my stoicism comment as a parenthesis on a general comment rather than posting it up above where it belonged.

        • annie says:

          I agree that it’s highly overrated

          what choice does one have under certain circumstances other than self destruction or insanity. it requires nerves of steel to endure while virtually imprisoned and denied ones rights and the rights of one’s children and people. i don’t think it is over rated.

          the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will

          in the case of palestinians, a will to survive against all odds.

        • annie,

          It all depends on what you mean by stoic. Semantics aside, I think our impressions are the same.

        • annie says:

          thanks, me too. re semantics, i guess i wasn’t aware of another kind definition of stoicism. we were cross posting earlier.

        • James North says:

          Let’s give wondering jew some well-deserved credit here. He’s willing to come to this site, engage, and re-examine the convictions of a lifetime. This is rare, and admirable. I hope that I would have the same kind of intellectual courage.

        • annie,

          Maybe I was thinking of a more philosophical definition, but to my mind, feelings like outrage and frustration – natural and important emotions – are not compatible with the idea of stoicism. That is why I would use other words to express the immense respect I have for the Palestinian people as a whole and for the many individual Palestinians whose stories I have heard.

  12. seafoid says:

    link to latimes.com
    “These governments, these leaders have to recognize that they must respond to the legitimate needs for economic and political reform,” Clinton told National Public Radio in an interview recorded early Sunday in Munich.”

    Bring it home, honey. The American people deserve no less than the people of Egypt.

    link to nybooks.com
    A poll released on January 2 by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair asked respondents how they would balance the budget. Answers: increase taxes on the wealthy, 61 percent; cut defense spending, 20 percent; cut Medicare, 4 percent; cut Social Security, 3 percent

    • Antidote says:

      “Answers [US citizens]: increase taxes on the wealthy, 61 percent; cut defense spending, 20 percent; cut Medicare, 4 percent; cut Social Security, 3 percent”

      Answers (Congress): increase taxes on the wealthy, 3 percent; cut defense spending, 4 percent; cut Medicare, 20 percent; cut Social Security, 61 percent

    • MRW says:

      About tax increases: great piece on NPR about Reagan. Sure, he cut taxes in 1981, but by 1982/3, the deficit was so high he had to raise taxes — because spending cuts didn’t do it — and introduced the largest corporate tax increase in US history. In fact, contrary to the meanderings of the Mama Grizzly from Alaska — and the majority of the great uneducated Americans — President Reagan raised taxes 11 times during his two terms, more than Bush Sr, Clinton, and Bush Jr.
      4:21 min
      link to npr.org

      Listen to it. A hoot of fun to have these facts in your pocket.