Israel’s castle

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Well the obvious is reported in today’s New York Times a– Israel has taken up a “castle” strategy.  Why? Because the Middle East is “boiling.”

The Times also reports another obvious strategic consideration of the castle mentality: Israel prefers strong leaders in the Middle East, especially if they’re dictators, to the unknown possibilities of crumbling states.

The Times quotes Yaakov Amidror, who recently stepped down as Israel’s national security adviser:

What we have to understand is everything is going to be changed — to what, I don’t know. But we will have to be very, very cautious not to take part in this struggle. What we see now is a collapsing of a historical system, the idea of the national Arabic state. It means that we will be encircled by an area which will be no man’s land at the end of the day.

So goes Israel’s longstanding “bad neighborhood” argument. It’s always a desert jungle out there.

On the Palestinian issue–well, you know what to expect. In such a boiling, chaotic region, why pursue peace with Palestinians? The chaos is dangerous and ultimately in Israel’s favor. Why let Israel’s security guard down when the moats are dug, the Wall is high and the lead in military technology is secure.

What the Times doesn’t emphasize is what this means for Palestinians. Another decade of wait and see.

Like September 11th, the failed Arab Spring has fallen into Israel’s lap. Gift wrapped.

Not to leave out reports that Egypt’s mission seems to have moved from boxing Gaza’s Hamas government in to finishing it off. In this project expect a huge assist from Israel and, as important, a bright green light from the United States.

The about-to-be-convened Syrian peace talks in Geneva? The best one can hope for is stalemate. This means the tremendous suffering of the Syrian people will continue. Notwithstanding the outcry of the United Nations, no one seems to care about that suffering, at least enough to do something about it.

The image of Israel as a castle may work better than Israel’s other image – as a modern, nuclearized ghetto. Both castle and ghetto imagery, though, have negative resonance in Jewish history.

Even when empowered, castles and ghettos are on edge. They’re destined to pass into history as failed strategies. Nor do they conjure up prospects of a future of mutuality and flourishing.

But this may be the only way for Israel to see itself – as fortified, closed in and surrounded by a no man’s land. Despite the predictions by those who oppose Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, so far Israel’s strategy has worked.

So much for the debate as to whether Israel can be a Jewish and democratic state at the same time. Israel’s castle can’t afford such a luxury.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Future of the Prophetic: Israel's Ancient Wisdom Re-Presented.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

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

  1. shachalnur says:

    Israel has become Home of the Floundering Few.

    • Mike_Konrad says:

      With nukes.

      That is the game changer.

      Like it or not, they are not moving. And they have the nukes to prove it.

      I am NOT Jewish.
      I am American Christian
      I am NOT a Hasbarist

      I am just telling you the truth.

      Israel is going nowhere.

      The secular Jewswho might flee are the ones who would think twice about using nukes. The Religious who will stay and fight will NOT think twice.

      You may not like to hear that, but it is the truth — and they know it.

      • seafoid says:

        Maginot nukes, baby. Will not pay for pensions.

      • Taxi says:

        Mike Konrad,

        Israel’s enemies can hit the Damona. This means israel can be nuked by its own nukes.

        “You may not like to hear that, but it’s the truth”.

      • shachalnur says:

        Agreed,Israel has nukes,and they are prepared to use them,allegedly.

        Israel also knows that these nukes only work as a deterrent,because using them will probably take out their enemies(whoever that might be,and how many that may be),the question is how “the world” will react to Israel using them.

        Cristian Zionists,and even some Jewish Zionists seem to have this wet dream of Israel going for the Samson option,which would create a huge boom ,but will leave most Israeli’s catching 10′s of thousands of missiles at least,and might make any life in Israel impossible after that.

        I wonder why ?

  2. Taxi says:

    “What we have to understand is everything is going to be changed — to what, I don’t know. But we will have to be very, very cautious not to take part in this struggle. What we see now is a collapsing of a historical system, the idea of the national Arabic state. It means that we will be encircled by an area which will be no man’s land at the end of the day.”

    “… no man’s land”?

    LOL that’s gotta be the most ridiculous mideast security assessment I’ve ever heard in my life.

    The so-called Arab Spring will probably take another decade to even out – much, much will be changing in the meantime that will NOT help israel’s precious “security” problems in the least.

    Castle? Try dungeon. Try sewer. Try dungeon sewers. The very place where isrealis will be rushing to hide when the islamic spring (not Arab spring) sh*t will be hitting the zionist fans in Jerusalem and in tel aviv.

  3. pabelmont says:

    My mind drifts to the little (I hope little) Hasidic community in New York State, Kiryas Joel, where the Jews have somehow taken over the local government, including schools — which they do not send their own kids to and whose funds they cut to reduce taxes — and where many of them live on welfare. (Or so I read somewhere. Perhaps much of this scandale is not true. No personal knowledge and no recent reading.) So, OK, call it a fantasm of mine.

    But isn’t Israel like that? Butting in unwanted, claiming “Jewish” rights, depending on support from outside, doing what it wants, hurting its immediate neighbors.

  4. RE: “Even when empowered, castles and ghettos are on edge. They’re destined to pass into history as failed strategies.” ~ Marc Ellis

    A MIDWINTER EVENING’S MUSICAL INTERLUDE, proudly brought to you by the makers of the new Über-Xtreme Ziocaine® Ultra CR (Controlled Release) Transdermal Patch: Let The Good Times Roll!™

    . . . Blind man running
    through the light
    of the night
    With an answer in his hand,
    Come on down
    to the river of sight
    And you can really understand,
    Red lights flashing
    through the window
    in the rain,
    Can you hear the sirens moan?
    White cane lying
    in a gutter in the lane,
    If you’re walking home alone.

    Don’t let it bring you down
    It’s only castles burning,
    Just find someone who’s turning
    And you will come around. . . ~ Neil Young, 1970

    Neil Young – Don’t Let it Bring You Down (Live ’71) [VIDEO, 03:12] – link to youtube.com

    P.S. The Ziocaine concept was first used on Mondoweiss by “Mooser”.

    • P.P.S.

      Southern Zionist man
      better keep your head
      Don’t forget
      what your good book said
      Southern Zionist change
      gonna come at last
      Now your crosses stars
      are burning fast
      Southern Zionist man . . .
      ~
      . . . Tall white mansions
      and little shacks.
      Southern Zionist man
      when will you
      pay them back?
      I heard screamin’
      and bullwhips bulldozers cracking razing
      How long? How long? . . .

      Southern Man, from Neil Young’s 1970 album After the Gold Rush [VIDEO, 05:30] – link to youtube.com

      • just says:

        Well done and adapted. I linked to that great song yesterday, though not as well as you have done.

        I still wish that Mr. Young would not go to that terrible place.

      • Sibiriak says:

        Great twist on “Southern Man”. I might go with “Zion Man” , for rhythm and starkness.

      • Sibiriak says:

        Big jets keep Returning
        Carry me home to see my kin
        Singing songs about the Homeland
        I miss ol’ Israel once again
        And I think its a sin, yes

        Well I heard Blumenthal talk ’bout her
        Well I heard ol’ Max put her down
        Well I hope Blumenthal will remember
        Zion man don’t need him around anyhow.

        Sweet homeland Israel
        Where the skies are so blue
        Sweet Homeland Israel
        Lord, I’m coming home to you

        Yisrael Beiteinu loves its leader –boo, boo, boo!
        Now we all did what we could do
        Now Wounded Knee does not bother me
        Does your conscience bother you?
        Tell the truth

        Sweet home Judea
        Where the skies are so blue
        Sweet Home Samaria
        Lord, I’m coming home to you
        Here I come Israel!

  5. Keith says:

    MARC ELLIS- Yaakov Amidror says: “What we see now is a collapsing of a historical system, the idea of the national Arabic state.”

    A reasonably accurate assessment, however, “collapsing” would be more accurate as “being smashed to bits by outside forces.” Iraq, Libya, and Syria have all been effectively destroyed as nation states. Empire brooks no dissent and Israel has contemplated this strategy for a long time. Look for Lebanon to also come under Jihadi attack.

    Marc Ellis: “What the Times doesn’t emphasize is what this means for Palestinians. Another decade of wait and see.”

    I rather doubt that the Palestinians will be able to hold out that long. Their situation is sufficiently precarious that I think an imposed settlement is in the offing.

    Marc Ellis: “Like September 11th, the failed Arab Spring has fallen into Israel’s lap.”

    I agree. So, how did a theologian get to be such a top notch strategic analyst? I continue to be impressed.

    • Sibiriak says:

      Keith:

      Iraq, Libya, and Syria have all been effectively destroyed as nation states.

      Were they ever nation states? Was Iraq easily torn apart because imperially constructed?

      • Keith says:

        SIBIRIAK- “Were they ever nation states?”

        Yes, even though Britain and France carved out the borders in such a way as to exacerbate sectarian divisions so as to facilitate imperial rule, nonetheless, these independent states developed a certain national identity. In Iraq, for example, Sunni and Shia intermingled and intermarried. In some ways, not dissimilar from European history where nationalism was imposed upon the people by force of arms, albeit an internal affair not an imperial imposition. And by nation state, I am referring to the political joining of peoples, not the blood and soil nationalism of pre-World War II Eastern Europe, or Israel for that matter.

        Sibitiak: “Was Iraq easily torn apart because imperially constructed?”

        No doubt the original construction contributed, however, the primary cause is the massive imperial intervention designed to do just that once pacification proved untenable. Empire has a long history of simply destroying countries which it can’t subdue by other means. This is particularly true in Third World countries in which market mechanisms remain insufficiently developed to permit monetary control. Virtually all countries contain various dissident groups which remain marginal until empire decides to fund and support them in order to bring about regime change. Actually, without a militarized society and Arabs to hate, Israel has significant internal divisions which may yet cause significant problems for internal cohesion.

  6. talknic says:

    Mmmmm a picture says a thousand words

    link to google.com.au