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The disconnect

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There’s a very important piece in Haaretz today:

Pre-state Jewish undergrounds enjoy a renaissance among settlers. In recent years, interest in the pre-state Revisionist underground movements has grown among West Bank settlement youth.

By Chaim Levinson

Dozens of people crowded into Tel Aviv’s Jabotinsky Museum last week to celebrate the 130th birthday of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist Movement…

Oved Federman, 15, son of radical religious right-wing settler Noam Federman, won second prize for his film about Yehiel Dresner, an Etzel militant executed by the British Mandate authorities in 1947.

This is the real disconnect between our image of modern Israeli society here in the United States and the emerging reality on the ground. To be sure, much of Israeli society remains modern, secular, and otherwise Atlantic in orientation. But with these generally positive inclinations, it is also true that even this part of Israeli society is “coarsening” in many ways, especially with an increasing indifference to Palestinians.

In addition, with the rise of National Religious Orthodoxy and now this nostalgia for Revisionist Zionism, there is increasingly little left of secular Mapai/Labor Zionism in Israel as the ideological core of the society. Also, the effect of the immigration of a million Russian "Jews” should not be underestimated: Avigdor Lieberman is typical of important currents in that community and very “Russian” in his attitudes on things like rule of law and ethnic minorities.

It is ironic that the old socialist, Labor Zionist society remains the image that most Americans, and many American Jews have of the place, and so they are shocked, for example, when the religious authorities there define Judaism so narrowly that fewer American Jews count any more. The reality of what Israel is becoming, it seems to me, has not sunk in over here.

Michael Desch

Michael Desch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008.

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