Sunday, January 25, 2009

Israel and what Barack Obama symbolizes

I fear the Israeli public is going to elect that maniac Binyamin Netanyahu on Feb. 10, and that will be the complete end of any 2-state solution, and we just have to live with a horrific Apartheid for decades, which will cause more conflict and further poison much of the world against the United States. Juan Cole

So, just to recap: It’s five to midnight and before the clock strikes 12 all we need to do is rebuild Fatah, merge it with Hamas, elect an Israeli government that can freeze settlements, court Syria and engage Iran — while preventing it from going nuclear — just so we can get the parties to start talking. Whoever lines up all the pieces of this diplomatic Rubik’s Cube deserves two Nobel Prizes.
Thomas Friedman - New York Times
David Seaton's News Links
The election of Barack Obama is bound to have a powerful effect on the Middle East and especially on Israel, perhaps for what he does, but certainly for the message the voters are sending in his person or more precisely in what his person symbolizes.

We cannot yet know what America's voters have actually voted for, but we know what they
think they have voted for and although they may not realize it, what they think they have voted for sends a powerful message to Israel. A message which conflicts with Israel's very foundations.

Americans have voted for a person who belongs to no particular "tribe" or ethnic group, an amalgam of races and cultures: a person who is a symbol of some sort of "new man", freed from any historical or ethnic preconditioning. This "Adam" quality, perhaps more than any other, excited and continues to excite Americans and many others around the globe.

However this quality is in direct conflict with Israel's whole reason to exist.

If any people in the world have a long view of things, it is the Jewish people, and no people in the world have such a short memory as the Americans.

Israel is all about purity of pedigree and lineage, of maintaining the group intact. There are literally endless discussions in Israel on the subject, "who is a Jew ". I am not criticizing this, it has proven marvelously effective in preserving the Jewish identity over thousands of years (you don't hear much from the Hittites any more, do you?) and I am sure that thousands of years from now, when the United States is merely a subject for archeologists, there will be human beings whose customs and heritage will be recognizably Jewish. The time proven Jewish way may be far superior: America may only be a flicker on the screen of world history, but it must be true to its own light.

In his inaugural speech President Obama observed that 60 years ago his father would not have been served in a Washington restaurant. Americans, in electing Obama, have symbolized the repudiation of their own tribal history and traditions and have chosen to reinvent themselves. Israelis have chosen to reinvent themselves by embracing their own tribal history and traditions. What each country stands for is diametrically opposed to what the other stands for and their national trajectories are traveling in opposite directions.

To avoid being tiresome, only one example that could sum it all up: Israel is a country where a racial-religious qualification is needed to buy land. This simply cannot be squared with what the Americans voted for when they voted for Barack Obama.

I agree with Juan Cole, quoted above: the Israelis are probably going to elect the ultra right-wing thug Binyamin Netanyahu as their new prime minister and the two state solution which now shows clear signs of rigor mortis will begin to stink.

From that point on we are looking at a clear alternative of official apartheid or opportunistic ethnic cleansing as alternatives to the liquidation of the present "Jewish state", not necessarily the end of a state where Jews live comfortably, but the end of a so defined democratic "Jewish state".

I think that Netanyahu would be comfortable with either apartheid or ethnic cleansing although I think he would prefer the latter to the former.
The question is: how are those who voted for what Barack Obama symbolizes supposed to have a "special relationship" with that? DS


Anonymous said...

Voting for Obama is not a "repudiation of tribal values" since the US has no tribal foundation for it's society. Unless you count the Indians living on reservations and working in casinos.

As shallow and image-driven as Obama's campaign was and his adoration still is, this is a man who was born to a lower middle-class family and rose to where he is today through talent, ambition, and a little bit of luck. He worked hard and was rewarded for that. Those are the values our collective country of origin was founded on, not slavery or the aristocratic tendencies of the plantation owner (or the landlord who owned the sharecroppers worked for that matter).

There's a reason Jews have flourished in the US. You have to have talent, ambition, and a little bit of luck. And years of oppression have taught the Jews that you make your own luck.

If you want to see the difference between the Jewish and Islamic world, look at the Hasidic Jews. They have embraced the modern world while maintaining their traditional beliefs. The prevailing view amongst a minorty of Muslims seems to be there is no way for them to embrace the modern world and maintain their traditional customs. They've made no attempt to accept the modern world because they seem to think the temptation would make them like a character out of Mark Twain's "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg". And certain left wing "intellectuals" sympathize with their immaturity.

I'm just saying, study the history of Israel. Who really stole the Holy Land? First it was the Romans who stole the Holy Land from the Jews. Then the Muslims stole it from the Byzantine Empire. Muslims may say they're descended from the Caananites, but who can prove that? And who actually attacked who in the 1920's when Jews began to emmigrate even when Europe tried to limit the number of immigrants to accomodate the Palestinians? Also, Jews made up a majority of the population of Jerusalem for centuries. If critics of Israel in Europe really knew their history, they would know that if anyone has killed the two-state solution it's the Muslim world and not Israel, even if your count all of the hardcore attempts Jews have made to preserve their cultural identity.


Anonymous said...

How many Jews vote in any Arab land?

What are my chances as a non-Muslim of buying land in Saudi Arabia?

So many commentators who oppose Israel's attempt to make a homeland for the Jewish religion have absolute nothing to say about some of the surrounding theocracies and their mistreatment of any and all religious minorities.

Anonymous said...

How many Jews vote in any Arab land?

What are my chances as a non-Muslim of buying land in Saudi Arabia?

So many commentators who object to Israel's attempt to make a homeland for the Jewish religion and people have nothing to say about any of the surrounding theocracies.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:03 makes a fair point but SA and its neighbours don't use terms such as "shared values" as a kind of moral blackmail when appealing to the US and Europe for support (as Lipni did so grotesquely as Israel committed mass murder in Gaza days ago).

You can't have it both ways. Is Israel a modern, secular, western-facing nation or is simply a Judaic variation on its Muslim neighbours?

Anonymous said...

The first one.


Anonymous said...

I disagree, I don't think the comparison about buying land in Saudi Arabia is a compelling one.

If Saudi Arabia were populated overwhelmingly by Jews, who were being dispossessed of their land which was then being redistributed only to Muslims, all in order to artificially create a Muslim majority population that enjoyed special benefits in a "Muslim and democratic state" ... then the comparison would hold water. But that's not the case. So you are comparing a real-life preexisting Muslim and Christian population of Palestine who are being systemically dispossessed to make way for Jewish people, with theoretical Jews who don't claim prior title to Saudi land but would like to buy some, and can't. Which isn't a very close analogy.

The reason that many commentators object to "Israel's attempt to make a homeland for the Jewish religion but say nothing about the surrounding theocracies" is not that they hypocritically prefer one kind of theocracy over another. The reason they tend to object especially to a Jewish theocracy over say a Saudi one is that the Jewish theocracy is being built in a land where the natural majority of the population happens not to be Jewish, and has to be constantly culled through exile and disenfranchisement in order to gerrymander a Jewish voting majority where one does not naturally exist. If Saudis and Israelis choose to live under a sucky system like theocracy, that's their business. But Israel's theocracy becomes everyone's business because unlike its neighbors it is creating a theocracy on a land where most people are of the "non-preferred" religion, which requires ongoing ethnic cleansing and institutional discrimination against the Muslim/Christian Arab population. That is inherently destabilizing in a region that is overwhelmingly Muslim and Arab, especially when it is funded and shielded by countries like the US which in any other part of the world insists it is for democratic values and against sectarianism, racism and ethnic cleansing.

And as for Adam and his I'm just saying, study the history of Israel... Good grief, physician heal thyself. You are confusing Zionist mythology with historicity.

First it was the Romans who stole the Holy Land from the Jews: well not really, the Jews were already a galut people long before the fall of Jerusalem. By the beginning of the Common Era there were already more Jews living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria alone than in the entire Holy Land, and no Roman made them move there.

Muslims may say they're descended from the Caananites, but who can prove that? Perhaps the same person who could prove modern day Jews are literal descendants of Biblical ones? (Though DNA testing places the bedu of the Negev in the Holy Land back to at least neolithic times, so I guess maybe they could prove it after all).

who actually attacked who in the 1920's when Jews began to emmigrate [sic].. Well, acts of violence went both ways; though the underlying act of violence, ie the uninvited encroachment on Palestine and displacement of the existing population by European immigrants only worked one way.

Jews made up a majority of the population of Jerusalem for centuries...Which centuries? Certainly none of the centuries that overlap with the Zionist project in Palestine. At the beginning of the first aliya, 1881-1882, the Ottoman Empire's population count shows 243,022 people living in Jerusalem, 7,504 of whom were Jewish, 23,480 were Christian, and 212,038 were Muslim. [The population of Palestine: Populations statistics of the late Ottoman Period and the Mandate, by Prof Justin McCarthy, Columbia Univ Press, 1990]. So I suspect we're not talking here about any centuries that have any bearing whatsoever on the modern era.

Precisely none of which has anything to do with the Palestinians people's right not to be forcibly displaced in order to solve Europe's so-called "Jewish problem", but to enjoy self-determination on their own land, which was allegedly the guiding principle under which the Mandates were allocated in the first place. The idea that you can displace the Palestinian people because the Romans crushed bar Kochba 2000 years ago is absurd. If that's a binding principle in the modern world then, on the basis of my Welsh grandmother, I hereby claim on behalf of all my displaced Celtic forebears the right to immigrate to England and send packing all those Anglo-Saxon types back to Jutland and Friesia (or wherever).

Forensic economist said...

A bit of history

The Jewish - indeed Levantine - diaspora started long before the destruction of Herod's temple. Peter and Paul preached in Jewish communities around the Roman empire. The Romans in AD80 destroyed the temple and evicted all the inhabitants of the land in the neighborhood of Jerusalem - and no where else in Palestine. The Galileans were not evicted. There are still a few Samaritan Jews left on the West Bank, regarded by the Israelis as little better than Arabs. The Arabs did not "steal the land"; they converted the inhabitants. Those who didn't convert were allowed to keep to their traditions, while being taxed higher. The landlords may have changed, the peasants never did. What changed was that in the 20th century Jews - mostly European - evicted Arab peasants from their lands.

I don't see this as about religion - Jew against Moslem - but about race - European Jew against darker skinned natives. The fact that Americans treated the Cherokee the same way doesn't justify ethnic cleansing.

Why have Jews flourished? My perception is that in Jewish culture a good Jew is one who knows the Law and the commentaries. In other words, they put a high value on literacy, education, and analytical skills. They also have been harried from one country to another and have learned to invest in human capital that can be transported easily rather than fixed capital. This gives them an edge over the less literate and less educated people.