Israeli television confrontation is ‘a metaphor of the moral crisis in which Zionism is found today’

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The above interview has been making the rounds online, and has been garnering much attention in Israel. The confrontation features Dan Margalit, a well known mainstream Israeli journalist, and MK Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian member of the Knesset.

There have been several responses to the episode in the Israeli press. Below is an illuminating article by Israeli professor Yehuda Shenhav, which appears on the Hebrew version of YNET. Interestingly enough, there is a translated article on YNET’s English site attacking Zahalka called "History lesson for Arab MKs." Luckily, a Mondoweiss reader, Avi Gillon, translated the Shenhav article. From YNET:

At the moment of truth of the TV drama that unfolded during “Erev Hadash” [New Evening], the Israeli liberal became racist and domineering – a clear product of the nationalistic model called “Jewish and Democratic State” which denies the events of 1948.

Published January 5, 2010

It is very important to watch the “discussion” between MK Zahalka and Dan Margalit on “Erev Hadash”, during which the televised interview between a Jewish journalist and a Palestinian member of the Knesset became a dialog of war. In the blink of an eye, the interviewer became a “fighter” as if by dictates of a state of emergency. This is a [metaphor] of the “Israeli Democracy” situation.

At minute 5:05, MK Zahalka says that Ehud Barak listens to classical music and kills children in Gaza. Margalit admonishes him “That’s Chutzpa” [better translated as “impudence”]. He repeats the word “Chutzpa” in a sequence of more than ten times. The expression “You are impudent” is utilized in general in language within hierarchical relationships and is directed toward a person who does not obey authority. For example: A teacher toward a student, a judge toward an accused, a master toward a servant, a father toward his son. In the history of colonialism, the imperial clerk always viewed the native as a boy. In Israel, too, the Jewish elite always viewed [or treated] the Arabs as lower. But, the real drama in that same conversation starts at minute 6:55 when Zahalka is thrown out of the studio as he laughs: “This is Sheikh Mwanis here”. Margalit hurls “There, the truth [finally] comes out”.

This drama reveals the sting of the conflict and which demonstrates how the gap between liberalism and racism is hair thin. At the moment of truth, the liberal Israeli becomes domineering and racist. This is a glaring product of the nationalistic model called a “Jewish and Democratic state” and one that keeps the skeleton of 1948 hidden in closet.

Especially, since for the majority of Palestinians inside and outside the Green Line, the war of 1948 is not over yet. The “Jewish Democratic” model is based on the denial of history.

In the new anthology of Hebrew poetry about the Nakba, the periodical “Sedek” [crack] published by the editor Professor Chanan Chaver one can find solid testimony of what happened in 1948 from the mouths of Jewish poets. That is the skeleton in the closet, if it is discovered it will threaten the morality and justness of the State of Israel.

The meeting between MK Zahalka and Margalit is a metaphor of the moral crisis in which Zionism is found today. Zahalka dared in his “impudence” to point out the skeleton in the closet, the same one that Margalit is trying to hide. As in totalitarian regimes, Margalit wants to aid the regime in hiding the secret and employs symbolic violence. Margalit’s position is dangerous to the future of the Jews because it seeks to ensure the rights and security through the perpetual use of tanks, instead of opening the conflict up [and getting to the bottom of it].

Unfortunately, this is also Israel’s strategy to ending the conflict. It is based on the illusion that the conflict started in 1967. Just like Ehud Barak already learned in Camp David, he came to solve the ’67 question, but Arafat came to solve the question of ’48. Therefore, the return of Jews to [acknowledging and discussing] 1948 is inevitable.

Actually, in contrast to Dan Margalit, elements on the right recognize the relevance of the war of 1948 to bringing about an end to the conflict. It is important to note that among the settlers decent and democratic positions can be found. For example, Uri Alitzor wrote in “Makor Rishon” [“First Source”, meaning first hand account], that the High Court for Justice’s decision regarding route 443 is justified. Eli’az Cohen, declared the same, a poet and a resident of the Kfar Etzion settlement that his return to Kfar Etzion is the actualization of the right of return and the strengthening of the rights of the Palestinians to return to Yaffo [Jaffa] and Acre.

These positions are similar to those heard among the radical left. There is no doubt that the time has come to think out of the box and to identify new coalitions that will change the manner by which Israeli politics are shaped. This is truly, the big bang, not the dissolution of one party or another. This is a coalition of Jews and Arabs who see the opening of the trauma [wounds] of 1948 a necessary condition for ending the conflict. New perception needs to be formed that will recognize that within the opening of this trauma lies hope to the dead end that Israeli political thinking has gotten into. Dan Margalit, does not participate in this discussion.

Professor Yehuda Shenhav’s forthcoming book “In the Trap of the Green Line: Jewish Political Mass” that deals with the return to 1948 will be published by “Am Oved”.

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