I hold my breath, Haaretz, because of your new “Black Flag over Israeli Democracy” series.
This series is focused on undemocratic trends in Israel itself (and it does discuss the loyalty oaths and anti-NGO legislation) – but these are symptoms of the terminal illness that is “the settlements.” Your owner and publisher Amos Schocken (who is already crazy enough to let Gideon Levy and Amira Hass write for him) understands this: Zionism in Israel today does not require Democracy to function. The “Bloc of the Faithful” has to kill Israeli democracy to win: and that victory, Shocken says, will mean apartheid.
For in a world where every Arab and liberal is the enemy, Chemi Shalev writes, Democracy quickly becomes expendable, whether in the U.S. or Israel (just as in a world where minorities and secularist are targets of opportunity, human rights quickly become expendable).
Jeffrey Goldberg praises Israel for being “a country in possession of a robustly independent judiciary; a boisterous, appropriately unkempt press; a mature and activist civil society; and an assortment of fearless and effective human rights organizations.” But the Occupation is undermining all of this (this year alone has seen the Israeli right working to undercut each and every one of the above points Goldberg makes in praise of Israeli democracy).
This is, of course, why I think the Occupation has to be discussed in-depth in this series as part of the “Black Flag over Israeli Democracy” – it is precisely why there are price taggers and settler constituencies – constituencies that now possess a plurality in the IDF – who could care less about judicial independence or press freedom when land is in question). Since the 1970s, it is they who have dominated Israeli politics – ironic (but not surprising) that a religious revival like the “Bloc of the Faithful” began at the same time Islamism and Evangelicalism entered their renaissance of (backwards-thinking) political potency. They are all related to one another. Their unity and patience, Schocken notes, in moving to make real their Greater Israel, Islamic Republic or New Jerusalem or whatever, is their greatest strength. And the end result need not be inclusive or tolerant.
Benny Gantz and Avidgor Lieberman are the new faces of war, and of the political center of gravity in Israel. Their rise was always a potential outcome of history, and it seems to be the one in ascendance today. But even Lieberman’s secular jingoism is becoming anachronistic among the Israel right. Religion is trumping non-religious arguments about border defense, and has been for some time.
I think that no one wanted to believe that this ascendance was a possibility for Israel. The realization must be unpleasant for Israelis who consider themselves progressives: to think that the society built by Holocaust victims – even one built at others’ expense – could ever take steps against its own citizens that evoke memories of interwar European authoritarianism (and that of neighbording Syria and Egypt). That Israeli civil society could ever take on aspects of the tinplate tyranny enforced in the West Bank by Ramallah. That now Jewish women are being ordered to the back of the bus.
When I wrote an article on religious education and censorship in Israel this past summer, I compared the measures to an effort by the Iranian regime to ban the teaching of journalism on (wholly ficticious) religious grounds. At the time, I was concerned that in making the analogy, I was going way too far. But now, Bradley Burston – an American immigrant to Israel and a senior editor at Haaretz – is even more forcefully advancing the Iran analogies in his “A Special Place in Hell” column. I wrote an article examining the character of Yisrael Beitenu in light of people comparing Avigdor Lieberman to Stalin and Mussolini. Today, Netanyahu is being denounced in equally strong terms by Haaretz‘s editors as the man who will kill Israeli democracy.
What does this mean for the moribund “peace process” and the two-state solution? A one-state solution? It means that Vice Speaker Danny Danon’s “three-state solution” for annexing Judea and Samaria and sending recalcitrant Palestinians off to Egypt or Jordan is no longer a proposal that people can shake their heads at when he waxes on about it in The New York Times or on Fox News. It means the fulfillment of the Zionist enterprise may be approaching. Within Danon’s lifetime, the “mistake” of 1967 may indeed be rectified just as desires. Rick Santorum’s flub about how all West Bank residents are Israeli citizens may become reality – I will decline to speculate on what sort of “citizenship” it would constitute, though.
But even the Chairman of World Likud’s measure is insufficient for some ultra-Zionists. What about Gaza? What about the Sinai? Are they not part of Greater Israel too? When is the final line drawn? Can it be drawn?
Then, you must ask, who gets to live in Greater Israel? “Chosen” means just that. The settlers are the pioneers, the ones on the front lines fighting against the “threat” that is the ARAB (who is a FASCIST). The J14 demonstrators are contemptible hippies – and probably closest Islamists – for not seeking their housing relief via the hilltop stations of Judea and Samaria.
Go west, young man. It’s a war for civilization, and God is on our side. Amos Schocken expresses surprise that such a mentality could be so popular among Americans today, but to me, it is not in the least bit surprising. It is the American mentality. There’s a good example of this mentality in the U.S. that reflects on the challenges facing the J14 movement, and for those raising their voices against Israeli government censorship. American comic book legend Frank Miller, not known for his subtle views on Islam but known for his portrayal of Batman as a man fighting a corrupt oligarchy, has taken to demanding that the Occupy Wall Street protesters get off the streets and join the army because Islam (all all its adherents) are the real threat to our way of life.
I mention Mr. Miller’s tirade because I won’t be surprised when I read more and more pieces like them directed at J14 in the pages of other Israeli papers over the coming months. J14 will increasingly be castigated as Hamas’s useful idiots, just as Mr. Miller has castigated OWS as al Qaeda’s useful idiots. Except it won’t be some comic book artist saying it. It will be a member of Netanyahu’s inner circle. I hold my breath that the men and women from Rothschild Boulevard can open people’s eyes to the moral and fiscal bankruptcy of their government, a government that is the vehicle of the settlers’ agenda.
Who is in and who is out? Gideon Levy and Amira Hass are not exactly going to be welcome in a unified Jerusalem (Amos Shocken won’t be too popular either). Joe Dana is not going to be welcome either: “bi-national types need not apply.” Peace Now is a virus, the Israeli left is a cancer. B’tselem is being funded by Durban Conference blood money. Hemingway’s “On the Quai at Smyrna” shows the way for Avigdor Lieberman. Ahmadinejad = Hitler, and Abbas > Hitler. What’s next? A Call of Duty: Gaza installment?
Aziz Abu Sarah is right. Autocracy is ascendant. And the U.S. is their collective enabler. Arms sales are the crack cocaine of international relations, and Israeli hawks know just how to make Washington dance.
Perhaps things will change (for even the Washington Post can have a spasm of praise for nonviolent Palestinian activists, and a “pinkwashing” critic got an op-ed in the Times) as more and more Israelis wake up to the reality that their country is being hijacked. Haaretz is awake, to say the least.
Let us be wrong. Let Bradley Burston be wrong, and Gideon Levy and Joe Dana, too. And especially let Zygmunt Bauman be wrong. Phil said it of the Times regarding the “pinkwashing” piece: put our website out of business. Forty years from now I want us to be regarded as jeremiads who failed to see that what we we argued were grave portents for Israeli democracy actually marked the last gasps of the far right and the Orthodox establishment’s political stranglehold on Israel and the Occupied Territories.
I’m still holding my breath.