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Israeli society is crumbling under the weight of occupation

Israel/Palestine
on 40 Comments

According to classical political theory, human beings enter into a social contract and renounce their right to exercising unlimited violence in order not to fall prey to the violence of others. In Thomas Hobbes’s vision of the Leviathan, they invest the sovereign with that right, so as to be better protected from arbitrary force in a hostile “dog eat dog” world. Only in this manner do the emerging political subjects leave the state of nature behind them and enter the realm of civil society.

In the State of Israel, the social contract has been flawed beginning with the very formation of the polity in 1948. The Jewish citizens relinquished the possibility of unbridled violence toward each other, but not toward the Palestinian other. Since 1967, the occupied nation was situated in the collective Israeli psyche somewhere in a position between an internal and external enemy, who, in any event, had to be suppressed in order to guarantee the peace, order, and stability of the Israeli society. An implicit reason for the failure of peace negotiations was that the Israeli authorities refused to revise that damaging conception of their neighbors even in a hypothetical attainment of the “final status”.

What is going on today in Israel/Palestine is the unraveling of the original social contract, given that the Israeli Leviathan can no longer fulfill its task of maintaining internal stability through the denial of human rights and through unlimited violence channeled outwards in the direction of Palestinian people.

Everything is unfolding following the scenario foreseen by Hobbes in early modernity: each citizen reclaims for her- or himself the right to exercise force, which has previously been entrusted to the political state. Nir Barkat’s appeal to the Jewish residents of Jerusalem to carry firearms with them at all times; the simplification of Israeli gun licensing laws; the rush by civilians to purchase new weapons—all of these are telltale signs of a return to the Hobbesian state of nature, where no one is safe. (Think of the Jewish Israeli recently stabbed by his fellow citizen, who confused him for a Palestinian enemy.) The crowds chanting on a daily basis “Death to the Arabs!” and the lynch mob that, yesterday, executed an Eritrean migrant on the suspicion that he was involved in an attack on the central bus station in Beer Sheva are still more obvious expressions of the state of nature uncovered beneath the thin veneer of political state.

Above all, the narrative of democratic Israel as an orderly exception amidst the chaos of the Middle East has been exposed for what it is, namely a relatively short-lived fiction. That fantasy was plausible to the extent that a violent repression of Palestinian people produced the desired calm within the Israeli polity. However, once a small portion of that violence ricocheted and the sense of security was lost, sovereignty passed from the militarized state apparatus to the increasingly militarized civil society, less and less distinguishable from the a-civil state of nature.

As a post-scriptum to these brief reflections, I would like to add the idea that occupation and violence inflicted on others cannot be sequestered indefinitely; sooner or later, they affect and consume the occupying and violent self. An exception to the general state of emergency is bound for dilution in the prevailing chaos that surrounds it. The occupying mind cannot help but become an occupied mentality, which, in concrete (also in the literal sense of the word) terms, means that separation from the neighboring other is the segregation, enclosure, and ghettoization of the self. The construction of separation barriers is happening at an alarmingly fast pace not only in Israel/Palestine, where Jerusalem is effectively being divided by the Israeli authorities, but also in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as between the United States and Mexico. Yet, it is in Israel alone that this process is accompanied by an equally speedy collapse of civil society. Pity that the Israelis have not understood a simple fact: the biggest threat hurled in their direction comes from themselves.

About Michael Marder

Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His most recent monographs include The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium (2014), Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze (2015), and Dust (2016). He is now completing a book, co-authored with Luce Irigaray and titled Through Vegetal Being.

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40 Responses

  1. Laurent Weppe
    Laurent Weppe
    October 19, 2015, 1:41 pm

    The crowds chanting on a daily basis “Death to the Arabs!”

    How long before Ashkenazi right-wingers start openly stating and acting upon what they always believed: that Mizrahi Jews are Arabs and therefore should be treated like draft cattle and the occasional rapetoy, with the threat of systemic slaughter as the one-size-fits-all manner to keep the uppity plebs in their subservient place?

  2. niass2
    niass2
    October 19, 2015, 2:23 pm

    As a young Jew/Human I thought it might be nice to be part of some group or quasi religion that extolled kind virtues, like the way all 3 of my family members but me are social workers. What happened was I realized Isreal does not have anything like that, nor does Judaism. I went to college and noticed the other Jewish kids who hung out at Hillel were primarily losers, sorry to be so blunt, but it was primarily guys who couldn’t get laid and ugly girls. The cool Jews didnt care about isreal and were out hiking in the Rockies dropping acid.As such I never thought Hillllel had anything to do with Judaism. It just seemed like a place for college kids to go who had no friends to do lame things like basket weaving. In the end I opted to go see hundreds of Grateful Dead concerts. I found a band and a group of followers who were kind, mature, and generally spent time taking care of each other and having fun. Too bad Judaism isn’t about taking care of people and having fun. It looks like anyone who isn’t in the national Rifle Association wouldn’t be allowed in Isreal even if they were born a Jew. I don’t like insane violent places people or things, thus I do not like Isreal. Good luck to them, alcoholics attack themselves daily, too bad that’s what isreal is doing to itself. Try one day without hate or a drink, its better sobah.

  3. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    October 19, 2015, 2:52 pm

    Looking at the picture and in light of recent events I think I would be worried if I were an ” Israeli” Jew from Ethiopia or India or an Israeli Jew with Arab colouring or Arab features.When the IDF have a shoot to kill policy if the victim looks at them in a funny way there are even more dangerous possibilities given the growth in setter vigilante activity.

    BTW Take away the gun and the kippah and the one nearest to the camera looks like a bloodthirsty Palestinian terrorist to me.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      October 19, 2015, 6:26 pm

      That’s the thing. I suppose there are nuances which only locals would pick up on, but to me, Palestinians and Israelis look pretty similar for the most part. Many Mizrahi Jews – about 50% of all Israeli Jews – are darker and more stereotypically ”Arab” than many Palestinians.

      Sadly, with this toxic brew of racism and hysteria, it’s probably only a matter of time before an Israeli Jew gets fatally wounded in a ‘mistaken identity’ attack.

      • talknic
        talknic
        October 19, 2015, 9:27 pm

        @ Maximus Decimus Meridius ” I suppose there are nuances which only locals would pick up on”

        In an environment of elevated fear purposefully and carefully cultivated by successive Israeli Governments over the past 67 years and by the Zionist Federation for over a century, I doubt many Israelis have any idea of what a nuance is.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 19, 2015, 6:36 pm

      “BTW Take away the gun and the kippah and the one nearest to the camera looks like a bloodthirsty Palestinian terrorist to me.”

      And can we possibly discount the danger coming from leftist Israelis in league with the Palestinians? They may be giving the Palestinians inside information, and support, and are enemies of Zionism!

      • ziusudra
        ziusudra
        October 20, 2015, 11:40 am

        Greetings Mooser,
        Didn’t get to see your notes first.
        ziusudra

  4. amigo
    amigo
    October 19, 2015, 3:35 pm

    Thanks for that very interesting take on Israeli society.We have known for some time that Israel is in self destruct mode but you have pointed out the many ways in which it shows.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      October 20, 2015, 6:37 am

      @ amigo

      The steadfast, dying Spartan thief stands as a fitting symbol for a society that would eventually find itself dead on its feet, eaten away from the inside by its own unyielding code.

      And, how about Prussia?

  5. amigo
    amigo
    October 19, 2015, 3:39 pm

    The nearest to the front in the picture is smiling.I bet he has a Palestinian in his sights.I doubt this guy will be using his weapon strictly in defence.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 19, 2015, 6:14 pm

      .“I doubt this guy will be using his weapon strictly in defence.”

      Hey Jude, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand? I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady, ’cause I caught her messing around with another man. (and that ain’t right!)

  6. John Douglas
    John Douglas
    October 19, 2015, 3:52 pm

    Thank you, Michael Marder, for this analysis using Hobbes. I would add that the words of Jefferson, et. al., (from Locke) are also instructive, and more familiar to an audience in the States. The Declaration of Independence notes that there are Unalienable Rights that every person has simply from being a person and that a government is legitimate only if it protects those rights and,

    “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it . . . ”

    It is the “Right of the People.” This is followed by a list of Colonist grievances against the English King that look like children’s play when compared to what the Palestinians have endured at the hands of Israeli gangs and then governments.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      October 20, 2015, 6:26 am

      @ John Douglas
      Good comment. I don’t think the Hillary crowd realizes the NRA may not be the enemy of, “We, The People.” Gun laws are necessary, but it’s a slippery slope, eh? Too, there’s Washington’s farewell address re “foreign entanglements,” as well as Ike’s, on the MIC (& Security).

  7. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    October 19, 2015, 3:56 pm

    Israel may be, in a sense, self-destructing, but one does wonder: [1] when will such self-destruction be a predominant view among Israeli Jews and [2] when will it be a predominant view among Americans (or, perhaps, among American Jews)?

    Every once in a too great while NYT shows some of this falling apart of Israel: in such a case NYT dares to speak truth (not political truth exactly, but actual social truth) to the “power” of long-entrenched myth (Israel the beautiful, the Jewish [=nice] country, Israel the place for Jews in trouble to go to get out of trouble.

    But one doesn’t count on this to happen nearly often enough. Too bad, because such messages could give politicians-in-place and candidates the courage to drop the Israel-uber-alles which we’ve seen for the last 48 years.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      October 19, 2015, 5:02 pm

      “[1] when will such self-destruction be a predominant view among Israeli Jews and [2] when will it be a predominant view among Americans (or, perhaps, among American Jews)?”

      Good questions. I think this will take longer because Israel has too many enablers in the media and government. They will cover for them right up until there’s a coup or another high level assassination. Then it will be “oh, who could have forseen…?”

      Ethnocracies don’t have great staying power.

  8. Sibiriak
    Sibiriak
    October 19, 2015, 9:00 pm

    Everything is unfolding following the scenario foreseen by Hobbes in early modernity: each citizen reclaims for her- or himself the right to exercise force, which has previously been entrusted to the political state.

    —————–

    Disagree. The intensification of the war against the Enemy, the Other, the Palestinian binds together the Jewish Israeli community and binds it to the state. It is war. Individualism and dissent are suppressed. The state is strengthened. The arming of individuals erases the boundary between civilian and soldier–everyone becomes part of a military machine. This is not Hobbesian anarchy; this is a state-sanctioned mob.

    • pjdude
      pjdude
      October 19, 2015, 11:58 pm

      every hyper militerized society has eventually torn itself apart. Israel will follow eventually

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        October 20, 2015, 6:39 am

        Sparta, Prussia…see my earlier comment.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 20, 2015, 11:10 am

        “every hyper militerized society”

        Huh? “militarized society”? Do they drill? Are they enrolled in in battalions? Is there a recognized officer class which all will obey?

        No, they are just pumping guns into a fragmenting society. They will start shooting each other.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 20, 2015, 11:04 am

      “The arming of individuals erases the boundary between civilian and soldier–everyone becomes part of a military machine “

      Nope. The difference is military discipline and organization. Without that, it doesn’t matter how many light weapons you have, it’s always “God says, you go first, I’ll cover you”.

      And “I caught her messin’ around, downtown. So I shot her. I gave her the gun!” (Guitar break)

      • Sibiriak
        Sibiriak
        October 20, 2015, 11:29 am

        Mooser: Nope. The difference is military discipline and organization

        ———————-

        Okay, you’re right on that point.

        But a good number of these armed “civilian” settlers are not entirely without discipline and organization. (Many are ex-military.) Likewise with civilian vigilante groups, if they are forming. In any case, it’s possible for armed civilians to perform quasi-police/military functions, coordinating with the police/military.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 20, 2015, 11:58 am

        As the title of one of my favorite Michel Legrand songs says “Watch what happens”

        Easy access to guns means lots more suicides, domestic violence, violence escalating to shooting over anything and what I like to call ‘post-natal birth control’.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 20, 2015, 12:40 pm

        And now that the control of the IDF has been given over to settlers, I wonder how much military cohesion Israel itself will be able to muster. Even if I was a Zionist, would I want to die for a settler a settler’s religion and politics? Maybe some secular or Reform Israelis could tell us.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 20, 2015, 5:27 pm

        “Israeli Army to Look Into Conduct of Soldiers Who Fled Be’er Sheva Terror Attack.”. Haaretz –

        Maybe the settlers can do better?

  9. talknic
    talknic
    October 19, 2015, 9:49 pm

    “Israeli society is crumbling under the weight of occupation … the Zionist money making colonization project launched in 1897

    The ensuing violence, wars, occupation and Israel itself are symptoms of that project and its philo$ophy

    Judaism, Israelis, Palestinians and Israeli society are victims to the scheme.

    While the Zionist colonization project demands a return, for which there must be more and more land, there will never be peace.

    From the outset Israel has never been able afford to adhere to its obligations to International Law and the UN Charter, under which it would be required to withdraw to its self proclaimed internationally recognized borders and pay countless billions in reparations.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      October 20, 2015, 6:45 am

      Israel is always complaining that its enemies, the blatant and closet Jew-haters, are seeking to delegitimize it. Nowadays Israel strives to delegitimize the UN whenever it seeks to make Israel accountable. When the UN accepted Israel into its community of nations, the US attached a legal, contractual condition subsequent to Israel’s membership in the UN: Immediate return of the Palestinian refugees terrorized from their homes by the Nakba. Those Palestinians still have the keys to their ancestral homes, waiting to return to their homes. So, how legitimate is Israel?

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 20, 2015, 11:24 am

        || Citizen: … When the UN accepted Israel into its community of nations, the US attached a legal, contractual condition subsequent to Israel’s membership in the UN: Immediate return of the Palestinian refugees terrorized from their homes by the Nakba. Those Palestinians still have the keys to their ancestral homes, waiting to return to their homes. So, how legitimate is Israel? ||

        Israel is as legitimate as its “unshakeable ally” and enabler – the U.S. – says it is.

      • inbound39
        inbound39
        October 20, 2015, 12:23 pm

        Well….the UN certainly had no Mandate to carve up a country. I am sure the British would have said a few choice words if Northumberland or similar had been handed over by the UN for Israel……or even New York…….would the Americans have worn that? And Israel was granted Full Membership to the UN providing it implemented Resolution 194,which was written in recognition of the assassination of Count Bernadotte Foulkes by the Jewish Terrorist group Irgun. So if anything Israels failure to implement that Resolution should demand at least Israel’s suspension from the UN until it complies.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 20, 2015, 7:23 pm

        “I am sure the British would have said a few choice words if Northumberland or similar had been handed over by the UN for Israel”

        Surrey, Hampshire, even Leicestershire – yes. Definitely a protest.

        Northumberland … meh.

        ” the assassination of Count Bernadotte Foulkes”

        Folke Bernadotte. He was Swedish, not Welsh.

  10. Marnie
    Marnie
    October 20, 2015, 6:23 am

    This “society” is self-destructing. What other possible outcome could there be considering its birth and the downward spiral since?

  11. rolf
    rolf
    October 20, 2015, 11:05 am

    exactly, author Michael Marder said it at the very end of his article:
    “the biggest threat hurled in their direction comes from themselves.”

    the irony of the entier Zionis project (for homeland) culminates in this!
    that, zionsim is the ultimate anti-Semitism!
    it self-destructs.
    and 10,000+ rabbis + most expatriot Jews around the wolrd, agree, Zionism “hijacked Judaism”

    man is his own worse enemy.
    we destroy our own dreams.
    through greed.
    since 1947-11-29, the UN Partition Plan Resolution 181(II), israel was founded on terrorism, deception, greed, ethnic cleansing, holocaust industry etc.
    humanity + karma catch up. even if you’re “Chosen”
    – not that any God has human ego, is a real estate agent or is psychotic to begin with.
    the entire project was preposterous & doomed from the start.

    after all, many people have the same “Right of Return” + “Right to Sovereignty”
    + Palestinine DID exist before israel, as seen by late 1800 video footage + IDs – since zionist deny it
    + Palestinians did not cause holocaust yet pay the price for the entire world’s guilt
    + biblical israel is just that, biblical, never proven archeologically to have existed
    + imagine the worldwide chaos, since every single property used to belong to someone!
    + you do not deserve freedom/homeland through ethnic cleansing/genocide no matter how you justify it, even if you never had a homeland!
    + the 6 years of WWII cruelty was expanded by israel for 66+ years! all that empty “Suffrage” talk & hogging of all holocausts into 1, in film/book/museum/reparations etc., it spits on it all by doing the opposite of “Never Again”
    + + +

    you can only inflict so much hypocritical pain. it catches up.

  12. amigo
    amigo
    October 20, 2015, 5:17 pm

    “Israeli Army to Look Into Conduct of Soldiers Who Fled Be’er Sheva Terror Attack.”.Haaretz

    Hey , give these boys a break.They joined believing they would only be faced with Palestinian children or octogenarian men or women who are unable to out run them.This Palestinian resistance fighter , (terrorist) had a rifle and was shooting bullets at them.Screw this gig , wer,e outta here.

    “IDF will also examine if soldiers took part in lynching of Eritrean asylum seeker, killed by bystanders who apparently believed him to be a terrorist.
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.681511

    What matters here is intent.If an ioffer believes he is killing a Palestinian ,then he is not guilty of any crime. Of course that logic will be turned on it,s head if an Israeli Jew is killed.

    Sorry but there is a paywall.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 20, 2015, 5:24 pm

      “Israeli Army to Look Into Conduct of Soldiers Who Fled Be’er Sheva Terror Attack.”

      Uh-oh, looks like “Jon s” will need to suit up to defend Beersheba. This is a job for a man who knows his back is against the wall, and he has nowhere else to go, if he isn’t already packing.

    • Kris
      Kris
      October 20, 2015, 5:50 pm

      @amigo: “Sorry but there is a paywall.”

      You can use http://cachedview.com to get behind the paywall. Here’s the cached article http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.681511 :

      The Israel Defense Forces will look into the conduct of the soldiers who were present in the area of the Be’er Sheva terror attack on Sunday, and were filmed fleeing the scene.
      IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz said the military will examine two matters relating to the attack in the Be’er Sheva central bus station. In a Facebook post, Almoz worte that the IDF will look into both whether soldiers took part in the lynching of Eritrean asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum, as well as the behavior of soldiers who were nearby when the shooter, Mohannad al-Okbi, opened fire in the bus station, killing Sgt. Omri Levy
      A number of soldiers, some of whom were armed, were filmed fleeing the scene. “The existing instructions for soldiers everywhere is to strive for contact [with the enemy] and remove the threat, even when they are in a civilian location,” Almoz said.

      The Military Police are also taking part in the investigation because of the soldiers’ involvement in the case. In one of the video clips of the attack on Zarhum, an IDF soldier is seen kicking him in the head while other civilians are hitting him, including beating him with chairs.

      Once the suspects are identified, the Military Police are expected to open an investigation against them, Almoz said.

      Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has criticized those who took part in the attack on Zarhum, and said they should face criminal charges. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed the head of the investigations and intelligence division that, in light of the severity of this incident, he plans to be involved in every stage of the investigation.

      • amigo
        amigo
        October 20, 2015, 6:37 pm

        Thanks for the link Kris.Will save to file for future use.I would subscribe to Haaretz but who knows whose hands my IP address might end up in.It might end up on CAMERA.

  13. amigo
    amigo
    October 20, 2015, 5:33 pm

    More bad news for Israel!!!.

    “Israel has seen its foreign policy allies dropping like flies in 2015, with momentum building behind the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the Palestinian flag being raised at the United Nations and relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama at historic lows.

    Now Jerusalem has lost one of its staunchest allies in Canada’s Stephen Harper in the landslide election victory by Justin Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who won 184 out of 338 seats in parliament in a surprise win for the Canadian Liberal Party.”

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/canada-elections-israels-loses-best-friend-justin-trudeau-defeats-stephen-harper-1524877

    • Kay24
      Kay24
      October 20, 2015, 8:47 pm

      I think some of it’s allies also sent a strong message, when it supported the Iranian nuclear deal and support Obama over Israel. Israel was left standing alone. At this rate only Micronesia might be left to prop Israel up. Heh.

  14. lonely rico
    lonely rico
    October 21, 2015, 1:02 am

    >amigo

    Jerusalem has lost one of its staunchest allies in Canada’s Stephen Harper in the landslide election victory by Justin Trudeau

    It is with a profound sense of relief that I greet the departure of the contemptible Harper; amongst other things in Trudeau’s favor it is worth mentioning that he believes (unlike Harper) in the truth of Darwinian evolution.
    Although posing as a progressive, on Israel/Palestine Trudeau appears to be a stalwart friend of the Zionist state, mouthing ugly platitudes during the rape of Gaza (summer 2014) about “Israel’s right to defend itself”.

    Concerning the ongoing violence in Palestine, recommend Oct. 18 Counterpunch Norman Pollack article –

    Israel’s Defamation of Judaism: The Rape of the Palestinian People
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/19/israels-defamation-of-judaism/

    “Israel has come a long way since 1967 in the construction of an apartheid state and society with respect to the Palestinians, in truth, the proto-Nazification of policy and conduct in which the gas chamber has been replaced by the more protracted denial of life to the victims of an ethnocentric/racial ideology achieved through the degradation of a whole people: a faucet of inhumanity left running, where genocide is administered in drips rather than in a torrent.”

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