Trending Topics:

Real estate, racism, and righteousness — a grim visit to Israel

on 40 Comments
The settlement of Psagot on the horizon, viewed from Ramallah, photo by Scott Roth

The settlement of Psagot on the horizon, viewed from Ramallah, photo by Scott Roth

Every time I go to Israel I like to report on my response to the conflict, and after visiting in September my feelings are bleaker than they’ve ever been. That’s been the trend, the last couple of visits; but this one was particularly bad. The degree of oppression and persecution, of the indifference to it inside Israel, indeed the self-righteousness, the belief that this can all just be managed, and of the hatred it is breeding inside Palestine—all these attitudes just get more pronounced.

I spent most of my time in Palestine, but I don’t like observing those feelings either. I’m sure I’d be worse under those conditions. But the demonization is unsettling, and it seems functional: You have to demonize people in order to excuse violence. There is bound to be some awful conflict ahead. And when I leave I feel thankful I’m getting away.
On my first trip seven years ago my chief impression was of how separated the people were, and this was my impression this time as well. The Israelis and the Palestinians by and large have nothing to do with one another. You are either in one community or another, and the apparatus of separation is grisly and dispiriting. Palestinians never escape it. When you visit them, you are constantly going through checkpoints or facing soldiers or driving extra hours to bypass settlements or looking across barbed wire at better roads the Israelis get to ride on.

The signs rub it in your face.

“Please maintain order and cleanliness,” in English, Arabic, and Hebrew, outside cattle gates.

“Driver please drop passengers off here before screening point.”
And the big red signs saying Area A is dangerous for Israelis to enter.

Apartheid sign in the West Bank, by Scott Roth

Apartheid sign in the West Bank, by Scott Roth

Apartheid works. It keeps people apart. Each side has its own belief system and manners and culture and society; and one is modern and the other is an occupied war zone.

In the modern one they have no idea what is going on in Palestine, and in Palestine they can only dream of going to Jerusalem or to the sea. Though they can see the dome of Al Aqsa mosque, and see the Mediterranean too.

The occupation is so dispiriting that I always imagine I can escape it by meeting well-adjusted Palestinians. Like when I met a tall striking young man with perfect English from Al-Quds university, the son of the super at my hostel. Or when I met an older prosperous gentleman sharing my cab. The shock is that as soon as you start to talk they start raging against the occupation and what it does to everyone’s life. It is impossible to adjust well to it. If I were privileged in that society I imagine I would flee, and suffer the abuse for betrayal, and not care.

Crossing through the other side is like falling into California. The worst thing about it is the self-righteousness. When you get in conversations you don’t hear the end of certain claims: that the Israelis gave back Gaza and got rockets and so they will never make that mistake again; that if the Palestinians put down their guns, there would be peace, but if the Israelis put down their guns they’d get an attack. On the assumption that something that everyone tells you must have some truth in it, I think it’s true that if the Israelis put down their guns they’d be overwhelmed. But the Israelis (and their American friends) are in Nakba denial. They ethnically cleansed a land, and the refugees are camped over the border, and the Israelis have never acknowledged the crime nor sought to redress it. Why wouldn’t generation after generation of Palestinians be fixated on returning? It’s only natural. That’s how Israel makes perfect sense: so long as you deny the Nakba. It just wants to get along like any other country, why can’t it be accepted like any other country? (As Ari Shavit lectured Palestinians on Charlie Rose the other day, You have to get over it. Other people have gotten over it. Tough.)

The false element in the Israeli assertions is the idea that Palestinians would serve Israelis with violence if they could. They don’t now. I think of this every time I’m in the Jerusalem bus station or riding through a checkpoint, or touring a settlement. There is no terrorism, there could be at any second. The Palestinians have shown incredible restraint, all things considered. They could be driving bombs into Jerusalem, they could be wearing suicide vests, etc. They don’t. A collective decision has been made not to undertake this activity. Despite the international image. Then you reflect that in South Africa and Algeria, freedom fighters used terrorism, and achieved their freedom through terrorism, and you wonder when that is going to come here.

Because I am against violent solutions, I find myself secretly hoping that partition will end the conflict. But the two-state solution was always based on the realpolitik premise that the Palestinians of the West Bank would sell out the Palestinian refugees and cut a deal for sovereignty of a fragmented state. In 2002 the Arab League committed itself to back such a compromise of refugees’ rights. Yet it has never happened. No doubt the Israelis failed to seize the opportunity, but I imagine Palestinians were also deeply divided about this compromise. The creation of refugees is the original sin of the Jewish state, and though Chas Freeman has said a just resolution must “cure revanchism,” I don’t see it being cured: And today the vanguard of my camp, the left, is invested in the idea that Israel is on the road to collapse, and that there will then be a full right of return.
For their part, the Zionists just keep creating more refugees. I used to resist the term settler colonialism, knowing there was more to Zionism than that. It was a dream of deliverance, born of persecution in Europe. Just as Marcus Garvey had wide support among blacks, there were good and valid reasons for Zionists to want to be Zionists. I might have been one myself 100 years ago. But when you spend a lot of time in the occupation seeing the expansion and ethnic cleansing, it looks like a straight-up western landgrab. Noam Sheizaf says it is all about real estate. That’s too reductive for me– I think it’s about religion too– but it definitely is about real estate, and the dispossession never ends.

The Israelis are so insensible of any injustice they’ve perpetrated that violence seems inevitable, the only thing that will reach them. I went to synagogue on Yom Kippur at an English speaking shul in central Jerusalem and the rabbi said that Jews had been dependent on God and the charity of gentiles, till we had returned to our land and become sovereign. And as a result, we don’t need God to bind our community with oaths as we had in days gone by. Presumably he meant that we now have guns. When I hear such self-serving religious nonsense I despair for the Jewish mind. Michael Walzer, a brilliant political theorist, has said similar things about tribal deliverance. Jews were self-governing and stateless for 2500 years and finally we have a state.

But do we completely leave out the dependence of Israel on the United States as benefactor, and the role of the Israel lobby in guarding the relationship? What kind of intellectual position is the whole Jewish community and Israel in when they deny what is happening to Palestinians, or pretend as the liberal Zionists do that it is temporary, that these conditions can be rolled away like scenery. It’s a delusion, born of the deep need many Jews have for a Jewish state, a belief that they will be unsafe without it, a terror born of the Holocaust, and one that Zionists cultivate (irresponsibly).

I spent a couple of days in Israel and Palestine hanging out with Max Blumenthal. His new book says that Israel is monstrous, and it’s an important book, it could shift the paradigm on Israel (and all the Shavit excitement reflects the effort to suppress Max’s message). I said to Max that some are going to try and dismiss his book as a bill of particulars, an indictment; he put all the bad things in one book. But when you are there and meeting people and riding the buses with them, or gazing out at a hilltop settlement from occupied Ramallah (the picture at the top)—I felt Max’s approach was the right one. I am sure there were good things about the Confederacy too; but Harriet Beecher Stowe left them out. Everywhere I go I see evidence of the bad faith of an ethno-religious state, and the ways it has curdled the Jewish view of the world. I met settlers in that hilltop settlement, Psagot, and others nearby it, Ofra and Ariel, who speak of the Arabs as an alien species from whom Jews must be separated. The young are indoctrinated in this understanding; their glib statements about not marrying Palestinians because girls get dragged off into “villages” are chilling. When I asked the activist Amiel Vardi if the racism that some teenagers had expressed to me was typical, he said that it was, and it was the result of occupation. Their fathers served in the occupation and now they are serving in the occupation. The occupation has cultivated racism inside Israelis. Vardi said he had never imagined that he would ever see such racist Jews. Here they are.

That toughness is frightening. A friend says that his girlfriend wants to leave. She can see, This is not going to end well. The Israelis cannot deal with the foundational issues, the walls are closing in. When I’m in the company of activists, people who are seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state, and succeeding with the active support of Netanyahu and his ministers, all I hear is contempt, and the world shares it.

As a privileged western journalist, it makes me want to get the hell out of the way. It is an unpleasant place to spend time, amid power politics and religion and belligerence. There are no visions left.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

40 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    November 23, 2013, 12:51 pm

    Israel “manages” the problem of Palestine — or manages to ignore what it wants to ignore.

    USA and much of the world do the same.

    USA and much of the world (the rich world, the capital-dominated world, perhaps China as well, a new capitalist even if a communist-capitalist state) “manage” (or “manage to ignore”) the horror being brought upon us all by CLIMATE CHANGE, much as many ignored the early indications of the Holocaust. Think of all the stories of European Jews who might have “got out in time” but failed to do so. Of course, they couldn’t believe that their lives would be wiped out if they failed to act. So they were passive and failed to act. Elected not to act. When there was time to salvage, if not everything,, then at least their lives.

    The USA is not passive but actively belligerent toward CLIMATE CHANGE and also toward Palestine (but not toward Israel). Well, most likely, the problem of Palestine will at most inconvenience a few Jews and all Palestinians, and why should the capital-dominated USA care about that? Both are small peoples. Ignoring climate change may soon show what dangers lurk in the failure to act when action is called for.

    In my book, the moral price to be paid by USA for each, climate change and Palestine, is immense.

    • seafoid
      November 23, 2013, 1:43 pm

      I think Israel and climate change are 2 major disasters that are coming down the tracks for the US . Healthcare would be a third.

      • November 23, 2013, 6:30 pm

        Actually global warming is being contested by a sizable number of scientists. I am not an expert at all but recently I got requests from my students asking for permission to take for credit a course on environmental science which judging by its syllabus seems to disagree with the Global Warming “theory”. It is just a very complex subject to say something definitive.

        I am bringing this up just to say that Mr. Weiss’s doomsday “theory” for Israel is just that – a “theory” which is indeed supported by a certain small (and very non scientific) community but has even less credibility. It is actually an out pour of emotions of total frustration that things don’t go the way this community would like them to.The subject is infinitely more complex than even the environment. Also we have seen in the past Israel going through such incredibly hard situations and making it out that I remain very optimistic that it will this time too. But one certainly should expect a crisis type of situation which can and frankly is welcome to change this impasse once and for all. We are in the finals so to speak. And each one of us has its team to support. I know which one is mine.

      • Xpat
        November 23, 2013, 8:43 pm

        We are in the finals so to speak. And each one of us has its team to support. I know which one is mine.

        In other words: I will take no responsibility for my actions. If you fail to support me you are a traitor.

      • Ecru
        November 24, 2013, 2:46 am

        Actually global warming is being contested by a sizable number of scientists.

        Very very few of whom (i.e. only a handful) are climatologists which is something I’d expect somebody in the sciences to be aware of. And as for the quotation marks around the word theory (as so many American preachers put around the word evolution) I wonder do you do the same when discussing String or M theory? (I might not be a physicist but I do have an education bright eyes).

        But one certainly should expect a crisis type of situation which can and frankly is welcome to change this impasse once and for all.

        Why can I not shake the suspicion (based on your revealed views) that for you the “welcome change” would involve even more ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

      • November 26, 2013, 8:50 pm

        seafoid- israel isn’t coming down the tracks, its been parked here very comfortably at the station for 50 years while loading up billions and billions of taxpayers dollars. where have you been?

    • RoHa
      November 23, 2013, 9:58 pm

      “the horror being brought upon us all by CLIMATE CHANGE”

      So far, the mild change of the climate (slight warming) from the end of the Little Ice Age seems to have brought no horror. However, if the climate starts to cool again we may see extended famine.

      Of course, some of the efforts made to try to influence the climate have brought about their own problems. Wind turbines in particular are an environmental and economic disaster, and ethanol fuel not only pushes up world food prices (making it still harder for the poor to feed themselves) but also damages the environment.

      • Ecru
        November 24, 2013, 11:37 am

        @ RoHa

        …some of the efforts made to try to influence the climate have brought about their own problems…

        Off topic for a sec. but I agree. The problem as I see it is that the “solutions” have concentrated on energy production not at all on energy conservation. Massive investment has gone into promoting green energy (and how green exactly is a turbine to produce?) when giving people grants for double glazing and/or house insulation would actually have a much greater impact on things. As for that matter would telling office owners that leaving the lights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a week is more than a little bit wasteful.

        Of course then the powerful energy lobbies wouldn’t get their cut so obviously that’s a non-starter……

  2. Egbert
    November 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

    “I used to resist the term settler colonialism, knowing there was more to Zionism than that. It was a dream of deliverance, born of persecution in Europe. ”

    Will there be Palestinian equivalent of Zionism? What will be their deliverance from persecution?

  3. seafoid
    November 23, 2013, 1:42 pm

    “When I asked the activist Amiel Vardi if the racism that some teenagers had expressed to me was typical, he said that it was, and it was the result of occupation. Their fathers served in the occupation and now they are serving in the occupation. The occupation has cultivated racism inside Israelis. Vardi said he had never imagined that he would ever see such racist Jews. ”


    “I recalled a conversation in 1991 with Professor Stanley Cohen, the eminent sociologist who died last month. We were discussing IDF human rights abuses, which Cohen worked tirelessly to expose. He turned to talk instead about his profound concern for young Israelis, specifically the brutalising effect that militarisation was having, and would have, on successive generations of young men and women. At the time his concerns seemed misdirected; on reflection what struck me was their prophetic accuracy.”

    “In 1976, Saul Bellow wrote: “No one is at ease in Zion. No one can be. The world crisis is added to the crisis of the state, and both are added to the problems of domestic life.” His words (in To Jerusalem and Back) ring as true as they ever did.”

  4. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    November 23, 2013, 2:45 pm

    The red notice says that entry to Area A by Israelis is illegal. Is this a new development? I know in the past Israelis were discouraged from entering Area A, but I don’t think it was actually illegal. Or was it perhaps strictly speaking illegal but the law was not enforced?

    For example, Ha’aretz had correspondents living in Ramallah and its coverage of the West Bank relied on them. Are there no longer any Israeli journalists based there? Are Israelis who go into Area A being arrested and tried if caught on the way out?

    • seafoid
      November 23, 2013, 5:02 pm

      They enforce the ban when it suits them. A few years ago an Israeli activist fell in love with a Palestinian classed as a terrorist by Israel. She was arrested for being in Area A and shown up as a dire warning to anyone else thinking of sympathizing with the Untermenschen.

  5. yrn
    November 23, 2013, 2:54 pm


    “And when I leave I feel thankful I’m getting away.”
    but then you will come again and again and again…………. how do you call it.
    Obsession, Masochism.

    • Ecru
      November 24, 2013, 2:53 am

      Curiosity? A reporters duty to report? Empathy with the oppressed and dispossessed?

      Or something Zionists lack – CONSCIENCE!

    • Pamela Olson
      Pamela Olson
      November 24, 2013, 4:30 pm

      What a beautifully ridiculous question, yrn. Did things like “conscience” and “finding the truth” really not occur to you at all?

    • MRW
      November 24, 2013, 6:16 pm


      You call it “reporting.”

  6. radii
    November 23, 2013, 6:12 pm

    if the Palestinians can just continue doing what they’re doing and practicising non-violence and put all their efforts into exposing the zionist/israeli crimes and abuses through video and other means of documentation/dissemination the momentum will keep building toward a fairer resolution for Palestinians ultimately – the world is fed up with israel’s behavior

  7. DICKERSON3870
    November 23, 2013, 6:15 pm

    RE: “On my first trip seven years ago my chief impression was of how separated the people were, and this was my impression this time as well. The Israelis and the Palestinians by and large have nothing to do with one another.~ Weiss

    “Rich People Just Care Less”, By Daniel Goleman, N.Y. Times, 10/05/13

    [EXCERPT] . . . In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.
    Social distance makes it all the easier to focus on small differences between groups and to put a negative spin on the ways of others and a positive spin on our own.
    Freud called this “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theme repeated by Vamik D. Volkan, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, who was born in Cyprus to Turkish parents. Dr. Volkan remembers hearing as a small boy awful things about the hated Greek Cypriots — who, he points out, actually share many similarities with Turkish Cypriots. Yet for decades their modest-size island has been politically divided, which exacerbates the problem by letting prejudicial myths flourish.
    In contrast, extensive interpersonal contact counteracts biases by letting people from hostile groups get to know one another as individuals and even friends.
    Thomas F. Pettigrew, a research professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed more than 500 studies on intergroup contact. Mr. Pettigrew, who was born in Virginia in 1931 and lived there until going to Harvard for graduate school, told me in an e-mail that it was the “the rampant racism in the Virginia of my childhood” that led him to study prejudice.
    In his research, he found that even in areas where ethnic groups were in conflict and viewed one another through lenses of negative stereotypes, individuals who had close friends within the other group exhibited little or no such prejudice. They seemed to realize the many ways those demonized “others” were “just like me.” . . .


    P.S. ALSO SEE: Sigmund Freud: Narcissism of Small Differences & Judging Others –

  8. Erasmus
    November 23, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Re: … I used to resist the term settler colonialism, knowing there was more to Zionism than that…. But when you spend a lot of time in the occupation seeing the expansion and ethnic cleansing, it looks like a straight-up western landgrab. Noam Sheizaf says it is all about real estate. That’s too reductive for me– I think it’s about religion too – but it definitely is about real estate, and the dispossession never ends….
    From the Jewish and the settler colonialists’ point of view perhaps there might be something they would like to claim a religious element in their settler-and landgrab motivation. However, from the point of view of those victimised and occupied, who can not share any Judaic Torah dreams or tribal motivation, the “religious element” of their occupiers is absolutely immaterial; for them it is what it essentially is: outright settler colonialism. PERIOD.

    Moreover, Mr. Philip Weiss, if it were “about religion too”, may i ask what notion of “religion” you subscribe to here, if you could detect a religious element in occupation?? At best it could be a Judaism debased of its ethical fundamental principles – and this is what conventionally is more accurately identified as Zionism.

    Yes, I see: ” it is too reductive” for you! You want to be more subtle and analytically more differentiating? At the cost of diffusing the issue….?
    Do you realize, that such is not a far cry from the classical apologetic Hasbara argument which “argues” that the I-P-conflict, the occupation, or whatever is a very, very, very COMPLEX proposition, which we cannot discuss here in the “required detail”, so as to do good justice to the occupiers and landgrabbers…..

    • pabelmont
      November 24, 2013, 7:57 am

      Erasmus: You hit an important nail on the head. I hope Phil is listening (or reading). He thinks Zionism is more than a land-grab, but about religion too. Others, seeking a way to avoid seeing thye horrible reality (at least as seen from a Palestinian viewpoint) wished to see “safety [for Jews]”, “never again [to Jews]” — and remember that although early Jewish “aliyah” was religious in motivation, the main “aliyah” was by seculars of the Ben Gurion generation — and thus couldn’t “be” “religious” in motivation.

      My old (1980) model of COMPLAINT against Zionism (when Zionism advances its best excuses — best as I see them) is this: A “fellow” robs a town’s bank, stealing all the money of all the depositors, who are all the people of the town. He uses this money to build and operate an orphanage and in the orphanage he serves (saves) children from disasters that occurred far away, even as the children of the town suffer from the loss of all their parents’ savings. Is this “fellow” a robber or a philanthropist?

      Today, noting that there was more money in the bank to be stolen and that the “fellow” continued to rob the bank for 65 years, without ever ceasing to rob, but did stop receiving new orphans, I had to reluctantly conclude that either the “fellow” had never been a philanthropist or had, over the years, abandoned philanthropy and gone whole-hog over to robbery as a life’s work.

      The French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book What is Property? once said that property is theft. The theory of “old money” is that the theft is forgotten if the theft occurred long ago. A good question arises, then: when does continuous theft become property? And when does continuous crime wipe out any and all good intentions — if any — of the criminals?

      • pabelmont
        November 24, 2013, 8:33 am

        A restatement or alternate view: Originally, Zionism had several “ends” (beneficial at least to Jews) and the taking of Palestine and ejection of the people (taking the geography without the demography, in Afif Safieh’s formulation) were merely “means”. But over time the need to achieve the original “ends” disappeared and were swallowed up by the need to achieve the “means” — the “means” had become the “ends”. Now safety and rescue are merely talking points, not realities, both having been achieved long ago, but the continuous stealing of land and ejection of Palestinian people are the important, the dramatic, “ends”.

        And if originally the “means” were so awful that they required (in anyone’s mind) to be justified by the (original) “ends”, and (in anyone’s mind) were in fact so justified, then such justification no longer works. Today, the “means” and the “ends” are one and the same, and unjustifiable — except by the familiar slogans from time immemorial (but contrary to the dream of the Charter of the UN): “to the winner go the spoils” and “winner take all” and “How many divisions has the Pope” (or nowadays, “How many nukes have the PLO?”).

        And we may ask: shall the children of Zion be exonerated for the sins of their fathers — because they are children — or shall they be judged because the crime is on-going and they are taking their places in the ranks? Who should own the stone houses of the Palestinians? And who should own the land (small and large) on which such houses stand?

      • Erasmus
        November 25, 2013, 10:01 am

        @ Pabelmont: …. I hope Phil is listening (or reading)….

        It seems Phil is not listening…..

  9. DICKERSON3870
    November 23, 2013, 6:32 pm

    RE: “For their part, the Zionists just keep creating more refugees. I used to resist the term settler colonialism, knowing there was more to Zionism than that.” ~ Weiss

    REGARDING THE “MORE TO ZIONISM” (THAN COLONIALISM), SEE: “Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths”, By Ira Chernus,, 11/11/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
    But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
    Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. . .


    P.S. ALSO SEE – “Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons”, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
    LINK –

  10. Krauss
    November 23, 2013, 8:16 pm

    When I asked the activist Amiel Vardi if the racism that some teenagers had expressed to me was typical, he said that it was, and it was the result of occupation.

    If there is one bromide I disagree with in these discussions, then it is this.
    The “the occupation did it” meme is false. Racism was a foundational stepping stone in Zionism. Yes, there was persecution, but Herzl merely couched it in the terms of anti-Semitism. He was clear in his diaries from the get-go the whole enterprise was about settler-colonialism. He clearly wrote “we’re going to spirit away the Arabs living there”.

    The occupation didn’t create this racism, it merely enforced the foundational idea behind it. Apartheid is in some ways an accidental byproduct. You could say it reflects a failure within Zionism. Because if it had succeeded what it set out to do, not a single Arab would have remained. But, of course, the year was 1948 after all. Doing a massive ethnic cleansing was hard enough.

    Doing it to the full hilt would have required a lot more, and I’m not sure Ben-Gurion didn’t go through with it out of moral bounds, but probably more about pragmatism. The state was still weak and had he gone for the 100% solution, the state could have gotten re-invaded and he knew the ’48 war was very lucky in some ways. A ’49 war could have ended up like the ’73 war, only without massive American help.

    As for your general commentary; from my point of view, it seems like you are just about to give up. I also find the article a bit puzzling. You keep reverting back to the Israeli viewpoint, but then of course you accept the horrible state of affairs and place blame where it belongs, before you start to go through the Israeli arguments again – and again.

    Israel to me is not a weak state. It’s a very strong state. It could survive without American help. What would the UN security council votes do? You can’t force intervention on Israel like you did on Serbia. Israel has nukes. It is a regional superpower. And AIPAC will make sure no vote will come to the table for at least 10, probably 20 years anyway.

    Israel’s main challenge is internal at this point. By 2020, just 6 years from now(we only got one month and a week left of this year), 50% of all Jewish first-graders in Israel will be Haredim. The national religious are growing crazier.

    If you’ve noticed, the Israeli leadership is largely secular Ashkenazi. Even Bennett, who is religious, married a secular woman and he got a pretty secular upbringing, his parents from California. Even if the Haredim will see increased work-place integration, you can’t make magic with them.

    This is what Goldberg meant when he sniffed that “Israel is becomming more Middle Eastern, and not in a good way”, even if in his case, he also blamed Arabs in general for the demise of the state.

    I’ve long withheld that Israel will be able to hold out for at least 20 years. I don’t think they care so much about the rest of the world other than for practical reasons. It’s becomming a more inward-looking country. Apartheid South Africa and Algeria are both right comparisons in terms of injustice and the racism, but they are wrong in terms of power dynamics. Both were cases where you had a 10-90 population distribution. Power matters and demographics is key to survival of a state.
    And it’s not just about quantity, a 50/50 split isn’t equal in power if one side has 10x the wealth and 100x the military power.

    Yes, ultimately, the most powerful force in the world is moral force.
    But you need something else, too, and from my viewpoint it is the domination of Haredi and the Orthodox over any other group, which will hit Israel full force in the 2020s and especially 2030s. The same demographic trends are seen in American and British Jewry, although in America especially it is a slower phenomenom which will it by mid-century, 36 years from now.

    How will Israel deal with the outside world at that point? It will become economically weaker, for one. It will also become harder to deal with an ultra-secular Western and Eastern world when your country is run by religious fanatics, many of whom have no basic English knowledge.

    And the occupation will have gotten even worse, even more brutal.

    Still, re-reading your post I am struck by an almost irritation about the Palestinians. The tone is “why can’t they just be angry for a moment?”. And the incessant rehash of Israeli arguments for justifying occupation and Apartheid and at times a half-accepted response is not something I’m used to seeing from you.

    I’m guessing you fear violence, you expect it and you know morally, it would be only retribution for violence past. I suppose this is why you favour Algeria as an analogy, because it fits the violent nightmare. My view is opposite: violence will steadily decrease as opposition to Apartheid will become harder in violent terms and easier from a moral point of view. The Palestinians are showing restraint precisely because they know they are winning the battle and the war of the minds; their cause is just.

    They have no incentive to give away this slow victory in the making by playing exactly the game their enemy needs to delegitize them through a friendly American media. Algeria isn’t a suitable analogy.

    • jon s
      jon s
      November 24, 2013, 12:53 am

      Krauss, Herzl’s intention and expectation was to live in peace with the Arab population. Your quote “we’re going to spirit away the Arabs living there” is false and misleading.

    • Ecru
      November 24, 2013, 2:59 am

      Completely agree with you about Zionism. It is and always has been at core an ideology of bigotry. The Occupation has just reinforced and sped the natural progression of something that was already there.

    • Danaa
      November 24, 2013, 2:54 pm

      Krauss, that was a really good post, and i tend to agree with you on the dire prognosis. Indeed, the problem for israelis is ultimately internal – especially as, like you say, they are very good at walling themselves off from the rest of the world.

      Like you I pointed out the increase in the religious component of Israel as the key wedge. That’s what will ultimately separate it not just from the world but from its own founding myths. On one side, the haredim who are growing more muscular in their demands as their relative numbers explode. On the other side, the national orthodox (resting primarily on mizrahi populations) represented by Shas etc. who are growing ever more nationalistic. And there, no longer on the fringe are the religious nationalists that formed the backbone of the settler movement. between these three movements, each of which has their schools, segregated from each other and from the secular ones, Israel will have a clear majority of religious jewish population, most of whom will be less than sufficiently well educated for the modern world, less well inclined towards palestinians and otheir own disadvantaged groups (like ethiopians) and generally more fanatic in how they view israel’s right to lord over the entire land. It is from their ranks that future leadership of israel will come, with the Russians increasingly marginalized as their relative numbers decline.

      israel at the moment can still present a secular face to the world, a face that hides the terrible divisions within its society, allowing lying liberal language to paper over the horrors of occupation of others. Israel still has supporters like jon s, a confessed liberal zionist, desperately trying to prop up the foundational myth. Note that this is all he picked out of your comment krauss.

    • Danaa
      November 24, 2013, 3:31 pm

      I think your 20 year prediction, Krauss, is close enough to the mark. It will take that long for the current cohort of children educated in the religious systems to come of age, join the army and have their concerns and affinities reflected in the electoral rolls. The reverberations will, however be felt sooner – within less than a decade I believe because Israel’s all-out Neoliberal policies will exacerbate the social, educational and religious divisions – as we are already seeing. the face of israel that will be out there following the next election will be worse than Netanyahoo’s current government, and the one following that will be worse still. people like Avigdor Liberman will become the rule, not the exception. More and more high ranking military will derive from the ranks of the religious, something that is already happening.

      While this is going on, the traditional jewish establishment in the US will be forced to align itself with an increasingly theocratic state, in the face of its traditionally liberal rank and file. The shake-ups, hand wringing and desperation will become more pronounced and less rational sounding, even as the younger jews will continue to peel away.

      What of the palestinians? what indeed. like you say, Phil fears the violent cataclisms of Algeria. I tend to agree with you that intifadas will become harder and harder to mount under apartheid. Israel is not France of the 50’s and 60’s, and we should do well to remember that. Truly, the one – and perhaps only – thing palestinians can do is persevere and keep advertising their plight. The tale of israelis vs palestinians is not just a land grab by one and rebelion by the other. It is certainly not a mere religious conflict. It is a moral tale where jewish people – in israel and outside it – will find themselves in the wrong – as it already is. And that realization, one that gets more and more play everywhere, is slowly seeping into the israeli – and jewish supporters’ consciousness. Eroding something from within, An old cohesion of ethical attitudes, one that is seen as considerably more jaundiced than we thought.

      Thus must the palestinians wait, as events and outside them transform their blood enemy into a full blown Golem, one the rest of the world will no longer be able to abide. As they wait – taking their blows, almost unbearably forbearing of their suffering, the palestinians continue to speak up, make song and film, write and demonstrate against the injustices inflicted upon them, where and however they can. Converting the conscientious of the world to their cause, including many jews.

      In the end, it is not only the difference between france in Algeria and israel in Palestine that we must bear in mind. It is also that the palestinians are not American Indians, not Philipinos and certainly not Tibetans (though each and all mounted valiant resistance to their forced subjugation and/or assimilation). Palestinians are people made from another cloth, one that has fierce memory weaved into it. A memory that cannot be killed no matter how hard the israelis try. This is what drives the israelis absolutely bonkers – the knowledge that Palestinians match them, one for one, in the power of memory – collective and individual. neither people forget their dead. neither forgets a displacement, no matter how long in the past. The jews of israel have forged – unintentionally, of course, their own nemesis on the moral battlefield. The world has yet to fully process this amazing turn of historical events – that the jews, those people whose stock in trade was collective memory woven through and through with colorful alternating yarns of victimhood and morality, have finally met their match.

      I think Phil and the rest of us need to hold on to that thought, as an antidote to despair.

  11. Xpat
    November 23, 2013, 8:47 pm

    It is indeed grim. It’s not even as if violence offers any hope. If all the Palestinians rose up against the army and kept at it until the Israelis shifted. But I don’t see that happening. The Israelis are so powerful and they feel totally justified to kill as many Palestinians as it will take. The West Bank is not Birmingham, Alabama. There are no White northerners who can be shamed by any images.

  12. W.Jones
    November 23, 2013, 10:25 pm

    And today the vanguard of my camp, the left, is invested in the idea that Israel is on the road to collapse, and that there will then be a full right of return.
    They have not really made an investment. They think that the current system there will win like it is now and succeed in imprisoning the population. But ultimately it will not be stuck like that centuries from now. This is just realism, but people are open to new viewpoints too.

  13. jon s
    jon s
    November 24, 2013, 12:49 am

    Eva Illouz has an excellent , though lengthy, essay in Haaretz magazine:

    • Danaa
      November 25, 2013, 10:28 pm

      That was a good essay, jon s and yes, a bit on the lengthy side.

      I am not sure you’d agree with the direction of the essay, though. Which kind of points out that the spirit of real Judaism got lost in israel BECAUSE it has no separation between religion and state. My paraphrase, if israel doesn’t watch out it is at serious risk of becoming a great shtetl. Of course, the essay ends on a more positive note – but essays have to do that sometimes, especially if they are that long.

      You might want to take a look at Avigail Abarbanel’s comment in the talk backs. It’s interesting, to say the least.

  14. dbroncos
    November 24, 2013, 12:50 am

    “I am sure there were good things about the Confederacy too; but Harriet Beecher Stowe left them out.”

    Israel is increasingly reaching the point where the stain of Zionist crimes blots out whatever else can be said about the “goodness” of Zionists. Their good human qualities will always be inane commentary as long as Israelis insist on traveling down the road of injustice. Hasbara puff pieces aren’t enough to convince an Israel-weary world that Israel is a normal country.

  15. November 24, 2013, 5:53 am

    Talking about
    “doomsday”, “this is not going to end well”, “the walls are closing in”, “seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state, and succeeding … and the world shares it”
    “makes me want to get the hell out of the way”, “unpleasant place to spend time”, “no visions left” etc, etc.

    All that is in total contradiction to the way business people deal with Israel. Right now. Just look at this link and others below to understand

    A quote “Technology companies are on a shopping spree in Israel, spending billions on ever larger deals and fueling the country’s startup success story.
    Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500), Intel (INTC, Fortune 500), IBM (IBM, Fortune 500) and Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) have all been involved in a spate of high-profile acquisitions over the past two years, scouring the country for the next big thing.

    Zack Weisfeld, an executive at Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) in Israel, estimates that about $13 billion in Israeli tech acquisitions have been done since the start of 2012.
    “Over the last 18 months, the number of acquisitions has been staggering,” he said.”

    What I hear from my kids (who all are heavily involved in start up/high tech world) is that in addition to this CNN reviewed US related investments there is also now a growing influx of new Chinese billionaires coming to invest in Israel (partly because of the success of WAZE )
    in which one of them was apparently invested and now invests in Technion.

    Just a quote from the above fits what I hear around me
    ” “We receive two to five Chinese delegations in a week, to the extent that we are even considering bringing aboard Chinese speakers so we won’t need to communicate with the assistance of translators,”

    One of my kids company just got $12 mln investment, another in the family got partially bought by a Swiss company for several $mln.

    The big companies are coming hear to stay, not just buy and go. Look at Steve Balmer of Microsoft declaration
    “The combination of the State of Israel and Microsoft is natural since the Israeli high-tech industry is among the world’s leaders. Microsoft was wise enough to see its potential many years ago and to benefit from the quality personnel in Israel. Our investment in high-tech industries and in training people for high-tech will continue to succeed and bear fruit. I believe that cooperation between the State of Israel and Microsoft will continue for many years.”

    Or Warren Buffet – one of the most careful investors in the world. Bought three Israeli companies, one just recently
    and all continue to work in Israel.

    Google – “With two major R&D facilities, Google Israel has been behind many important innovations for the company – including the technology behind Google products like Search Live Results, Person Finder, Google Suggest, Youtube Annotations, and more. It’s fair to say that Google just wouldn’t be the same without its two major Israeli research centers.

    Same with Samsung :

    Intel :
    “Intel is Israel’s biggest private-sector employer and has been behind some of its best-known projects, from the Pentium M to Cloverview.”

    I see it also on the scientific level. We just got several huge EU grants :

    “On 19 July, the European Research Council announced the selection of 287 top scientists from around the world in its sixth Starting Grant competition. Thirty two young Israeli researchers received grants worth up to €2 million each. This places Israel in the third place in the total number of grants received after the United Kingdom and Germany. The Weizmann Institute of Science led the list with 10 grants…”
    These are just start up grants. There are also grants for senior researches
    .. in relation to population size … Switzerland and Israel (of the countries
    associated with the EU research programme), host the greatest number of successful
    candidates in this call.

    There are two major conclusions from all that
    1. Great many important factors in the world who are very much in the know (much more than the author of the article above) are not worried by the geopolitical situation in this country, So “the walls are NOT closing in”.
    2. This also explains why Israelis seeing all that do not worry too much.
    3. As far as our morality is concerned – I will touch upon this in another comment.

    • Ecru
      November 24, 2013, 11:41 am

      Just so you know prof – business men (and women) are not particularly well known for their attachment to morality. Yes you have plenty wanting to “get into bed with” the Zionists. Well quite a few jumped into bed with the Nazis too so all the modern lot are doing is proving that things really haven’t changed very much since the days of IBM selling calculators to the Germans.

  16. Sumud
    November 24, 2013, 12:31 pm

    fnlevit – Of course you’re not worried about Israel.

    Yet here you are on Mondoweiss, constantly posting hasbara. Who are you trying to convince?

  17. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    November 24, 2013, 3:35 pm

    “I used to resist the term settler colonialism, knowing there was more to Zionism than that. It was a dream of deliverance, born of persecution in Europe.”

    You’re mistaking the “what” and the “why.” The “what” has been nothing but land theft, oppression and murder of the Palestinians. The “why” is irrelevant because the end don’t justify the means.

  18. Inanna
    November 25, 2013, 9:59 pm

    Phil, Israel was militarised before it became Israel. The minority of Jews in Palestine was heavily armed and determined to drive out non-Jews. That says to me that the militarisation and its accompanying racism were there from the start and did not have to wait until the 1967 occupation. As I’ve said many times before, 1967 is simply a continuation, not something new.

Leave a Reply