I hold my breath, Haaretz

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.

No black flags of any kind over Israel, or green flags or blue flags. And certainly not a white one run up by Israeli progressives.

I’m still holding my breath.

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.
Posted in Activism, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Media, Occupation, One state/Two states, Settlers/Colonists, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

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

  1. seafoid says:

    “I think that no one wanted to believe that this ascendance was a possibility for Israel”

    The Palestinians have known it for a very long time. Anyone who has been to Hebron knew it.

    Israel is going through a mass delusion like the US debt binge of the last decade. Either it goes on forever or it crashes.

    Now the settlers and the Orthodox are attacking the values and the bodies of other Jews. It’s a sign that there isn’t much time left.

  2. seafoid says:

    “What does this mean for the moribund “peace process” and the two-state solution? ”

    There isn’t going to be a palestinian state. And apartheid is going to fail. And there won’t be a country called “Israel” afterwards.
    The only question is how many people have to be killed before Israelis figure it out.

  3. dahoit says:

    That’s exactly why a vote for Dr.Ron Paul next year is so important.It will end the enabling of idiotic self defeating actions by both Israel and US and will liberate Israel from the grip of American clowns who back this nonsense that is driving a just and final (no, not that one)solution further away.

  4. Chaos4700 says:

    A Call of Duty: Gaza installment?

    Bit of a personal story, but I went to pick up a pre-ordered game from a store a few years ago and the clerks were joking about something along these lines. I was able to wait until I got to my car before I broke down in tears.

    I remember a time when video games were too much of a niche to be considered a vehicle for propaganda. I miss those days.

  5. Chaos4700 says:

    Although I have to say, what’s the point of throwing a red flag when the team the referee calls out never plays by any rules anyway?

  6. Patrick says:

    “Rick Perry’s flub about how all West Bank residents are Israeli citizens may become reality”

    Actually, it was Rick Santorum who said this.

  7. lobewyper says:

    Mondoweiss folks,

    Take a look at Burston’s article linked above by Paul Mutter. It is quite powerful, and the positive comments by readers hugely outnumber the negatives.

  8. There’s definitely the feeling that some sort of endgame is in progress. The charade of peace, two states, or universal human rights inside Israel has been threadbare for a long time. Now they don’t even bother pretending about it, with little or no restraint on their subjugation of Palestine. Perhaps Iran is part of this nightmarish plan, they are so far off the map of normality, anything is possible.

  9. Mndwss says:

    Frank Miller is no longer my hero! How can i now read Ronin and not think that Miller is part of The evil Aquarius Corporation?

    Knut Hamsun became famous for his book Hunger (sult) in 1890. And was awarded the Nobel Prize (American Idol Prize of the day) of literature for Markens Grøde(1917) in 1920.

    He learned nothing from his own hunger. He became one of the rich and famous and fell in love with Adolf. In 1943, he sent Joseph Goebbels his Nobel Prize medal as a gift.

    Miller like Hamsun is on the wrong side of history.

    (people with lots of supporters is often forgiven, like American football coaches that protect pedophiles. Knut Hamsun is still a hero in Norway (for some). The Danish author Thorkild Hansen investigated the trial against Hamsun and wrote the book The Hamsun Trial (1978), which created a storm in Norway. (Later he said: If you want to meet idiots, go to Norway.)

    The norwegians protected one idiot criminal hero that they loved.

    USA has a protected concentration camp for the rich idiot people they love.

    And they call it Government /Democracy.

    Does Miller want to become President?

  10. RE: “I’m still holding my breath.” ~ Mutter
    MY COMMENT: OK, but have someone check periodically on the hue of your skin to make certain you are not turning blue.
    As for me, I’m already in an early stage of rigor mortis.

  11. Avi_G. says:

    Yesterday, I watched a disturbing report by the BBC’s Paul Wood.
    Among his recent assignments in the region, he has been embedded with US troops in Afghanistan providing over-simplified propaganda reports, he was in Gaza after the Israeli onslaught, and now he is reporting from Syria, “undercover” as the BBC put it.

    So yesterday I wasn’t surprised when I watched a report where he interviewed a group of soldiers he claimed had defected from the Syrian army.

    The soldiers were telling horror stories about the regime, about the orders they allegedly received to shoot protesters in the head.

    But, the most alarming bit of that report came at the end when Paul Wood plugged two major propaganda points, he claimed that the rebels wanted both a no-fly-zone and support from outside Syria.

    That is when I started having flashbacks to media reports about pre-invasion Libya.

    Needless to say, a conflagration seems imminent.

    • Yes. The “Libyan model” of starting “a rebellion”, and asking Wild West for help is being used again.
      It worked like a charm the first time , why not to use it again??
      The Powers do not care what people think anymore.
      They just do ,whatever they decided to do. Utilizing help from millions of “useful idiots” ,from all over the world , used for the process of reaching for the final “award”.

  12. ToivoS says:

    About 6 years back or so discussion of the transfer option in Israeli politics seemed to go into a big decline. I think it was a realization that an open democratic discussion on the pros and cons of ethnic cleansing was not doing Israel’s reputation any good. It is reasonable to presume that there was some kind of collective decision to drop the debate. Bradly Burston at that time in his blog had instructions that no comments that referred to ethnic cleansing would be accepted. I also recall some Zionists maintaining that mass transfer of Palestinians during normal times would not be possible, but during a major uncontrolled war, Israel should be able to execute their plans without undue interference.

    So even if the discussion is muted that does not mean that there are not some plans on the shelf. I have been suspicious recently that all of the noise about Israel attacking Iran may be an effort to provoke such an international crisis. I have felt that an attack on Iran is so irrational if not down right insane that it wouldn’t happen. However, if these conjectures are correct, it could make such a war somewhat rational at least from Israel’s perspective. However, it would take a madman to try to carry it out: Is Bibi that insane?