False Dichotomies


Archive for the 'Israel' Category

Why Unilateral Withdrawal Isn’t the Answer

“Perhaps inevitably, it took satire to get to the heart of the matter. With two Bibis before him, Eretz Nehederet’s Eyal Kitzis asked the real one if he was serious about the two-state solution. The prime minister insisted that he was. Unconvinced, Kitzis asked Bibi what he would do if Abu Mazen agreed to all his demands. “Bring it and we’ll see,” Bibi replied, prompting a knowing smile from the show’s host. “Are you worried about a bi-national state?” was his next question. “Yes, but I’m more worried about this state remaining secure forever.”

While there is talk about a one-state solution on the fringes of the right and the left, a strong majority of the Israeli public supports a two-state solution, even if there is no agreement on the details. And yet, since the failure of Camp David in 1999, and barring one or two diplomatic initiatives since, every Israeli government has been content with the status quo, despite the fact that every passing year and every new home built in the settlements makes it harder for Israel to separate itself from the Palestinians and risks making the country an international pariah. Why do successive Israeli governments not show more urgency on this issue?” Read the rest at Times of Israel.


Movement to Nowhere: Tzipi Livni vs the National Interest

In response to the claim that, in forming ‘The Movement’, Tzipi Livni had put her ego above the national interest, a friend wrote the following: “I think you are wrong about Livni – she isn’t about ego but issues. She looks around the centre-left and sees Lapid who will rush to join the next government and refuses to consider dividing Jerusalem and Shelly who essentially has no qualms with Bibi’s diplomatic policies. If nobody wants to talk about the Palestinians then she should go alone. Finally someone worthy to vote for.”

First, I think this is unfair on both Lapid and Yachimovich. The latter has almost single-handedly resurrected Labour from the dead – this has undoubtedly been an impressive achievement. Nevertheless, she faces a similar problem that Livni once faced; namely, that she is a woman with no security experience (this is the result of chauvinism and an over-reliance on ‘security’ types, but it remains a reality to be contended with). And when the electorate looks at the Labour list they don’t see many candidates with strong security credentials. As a result, taking a dovish stance or putting the Palestinian issue to the forefront would be suicidal. This is why she has done everything in her power to ensure that Labour isn’t seen as a left-wing party (thus losing my vote in the process) and why she seemed to be trying to out-right the right-wing in her vitriol during Pillar of Cloud. But this doesn’t mean that her Palestinian policy would be the same as Bibi’s, or that she would be less likely to join the coalition than Livni.

Lapid seems more likely than Labour to join the coalition, which is another reason why I won’t vote for him, but that’s another consequence of Israel’s absurd system, where a party with 10 seats can emerge from an election with more power than a party with 20. My main issue with Lapid is that he’s vapid, and there is little to distinguish him from an already crowded field. But I don’t see why he’s any more likely to join the coalition than Livni.

Even if my friend’s claims were true, however, I still don’t think ‘The Movement’ would be justified. And it’s partly because I agree with my friend that the Palestinian issue is so pressing that I think this way. We are on the verge of a situation where the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history will be replaced by an even more right-wing coalition, and where Yisrael Beitenu’s list may turn out to be more moderate than the Likud one. Far from confronting Israel’s existential problems, a Bieberman government will only make them worse. All that matters is beating Likud Beitenu. And, although the polling has been consistently discouraging, there remains one way in which the tide might be turned: a grand centre-left coalition led by the most popular centre-left politician. Currently that person seems to be Shelly Yachimovich.

If this wasn’t a possibility, Bibi wouldn’t have needed to team up with Lieberman. The only positive to come out of that decision was that it offered the possibility to simplify Israel’s bloated political arena. There may be differences between Yesh Atid and Labour and Meretz and The Movement, but are they any more significant than, say, the differences between the left and right of the Labour party in the UK? It’s easy to forget that Israel’s system rewards extremism; the only solution to this problem is the formation of two blocks, one left and one right, to slug it out for supremacy. If Livni had accepted Yachimovich’s offer and had become her number two, and if Lapid had followed suit, this would have been a possibility. As things stand, all she has done is take votes from Labour and Yesh Atid, while the right-wing majority remains unthreatened. Given the circumstances Israel currently finds itself, circumstances which have been made significantly worse by the government’s inept response to the Palestinians’ statehood bid in the UN, this is inexcusable.

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My people, who say yes to lies

In an article that I thought was rather hysterical, my friend Benjamin Kerstein wrote the following: “Many of Israel’s critics are, in fact, making a very simple claim: Arabs have earned the right to murder Jews…One people (the Arabs) can slaughter another (the Jews) with justice and morality on its side; while any resistance on the part of the latter (the Jews) to the designs of the former (the Arabs) is a monstrous crime.”

That is, I thought it was hysterical until I read an article by Yuval Ben Ami on +972. Entitled “My people, who say yes to death”, it was as if he had read Benjamin’s article and then set out to prove its thesis was correct. Ben Ami begins by telling us that a survey conducted in September showed that a majority of Gazans would vote for Fatah and not Hamas if elections were held in the Strip. An innocuous enough start. Then: “What could Israel do in light of this but start a war? Israel can’t deal with peace. It has become a war machine…its citizens [are a] blinded mob that always support violence.” That’s right – the cause of Operation Pillar of Defence had nothing to do with the rockets fired from Gaza every year, or Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel, but was instead the response to…an opinion poll! Read more


The Leaky Tap, the Wolf and the Tail: Gaza for the Umpteenth Time

The rocket fire from Gaza can be compared to a leaky tap that can’t be fixed no matter how skilful the plumber searching for a solution. And if I were a Gazan I hope that I would say ask why are we are pulling the wolf’s tail when we’re not capable of killing it. Read more


Zionism and Social Justice

After last week’s horrific suicide bombing in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Netanyahu wasted no time in appearing before the camera to point the finger of blame at Iran and state his determination to respond forcefully. “All signs point towards Iran…This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.” While we await confirmation that Iran was behind the atrocity, his determination to do something about the wanton targeting of Israeli tourists is to be applauded. Contrast this with his reaction to Moshe Silman’s self-immolation: “We are speaking of a great personal tragedy. I wish Moshe a full recovery. I have asked the Welfare Minister and the Housing Minister to look into the matter.” Read more


Sharing the Pie and the Burden

In a devastating piece of satire, Sayed Kashua (sadly behind a pay-wall) exhorts his fellow Palestinian-Israelis to head straight to their nearest recruitment office, arguing that joining the army is the best way to say thank you for the wonderful conditions that most minority groups in Israel find themselves living in. He describes their tremendous infrastructure, first-class art venues, and plentiful options of employment; the joke being, of course, that most Palestinian-Israeli towns have no such benefits, and that they remain underfunded and marginalized. Read more


Means of Suppressing Mondoweiss

I hadn’t intended reading Shani Boianjiu’s Means of Suppressing Demonstrations in the New Yorker, but when I read Phil Weiss’s demented response to the story (“a piece of propagandistic fiction…that must be categorized as Israeli army literature.”), I knew that it would be worth looking at. The third-person narrator in the story is close to the perspective of Lea, an officer nearing the end of her army service. She spends her days bored at a checkpoint on Route 799 (the road, like the story, is fictional), and her nights having meaningless but not necessarily unpleasant sex with a fellow soldier, Tomer. The premise of the story is that three local Palestinians approach her, demanding that she and Tomer suppress their ‘demonstration’ as brutally as possible, so that it will make the papers. They come back every day, trying to convince the soldiers to up the ante from tear gas to rubber bullets to live fire. It’s a clever conceit, and it’s executed brilliantly. The story is droll and ambiguous, at once a satire of the life of an IDF soldier and the Palestinians they meet on a daily basis. It is only propagandistic fiction if you don’t understand how fiction works, if you think IDF soldiers in the West Bank spend every day murdering people, or if you believe that the purpose of fiction is to be pro-Palestinian propaganda. Read more


We the (Israeli) People

In a recent article on +972, Larry Derfner argues that the anti-asylum seeker violence that has swept South Tel Aviv over the last few weeks is more reprehensible than similar attacks in Greece. His reasoning? “Greece’s economy is in ruins. The whole society is panicking, and for very good reason. Such conditions, of course, have routinely produced xenophobia and strains of fascism in societies, so what’s happening in Greece is actually normal and predictable.” In the Jewish State, however, “Netanyahu is right: Except for the haredim and Arabs, Israel’s economy is in great shape compared to just about every other country in the world. Terror has never been less of a threat; Israelis have never been so safe.” His conclusion? “The better our quality of life, the more decisively we triumph over our enemies, the meaner we become.” Read more


From London to Hope

This is a guest post by Andrew Hughes

I didn’t hear the blast. In fact, I didn’t know there had been one until my dad called.  It was the last day of his visit to Tel Aviv, and he had been told by a cab driver that there had been a suicide bomb and that many of the roads were closed.  He was going to be late back.  Now I understood why my two-year-old daughter was on the balcony calling, “Daddy, helicopter”. The sky was full of them.  I spent the next hour issuing assurances via phone, text and instant messenger that we were all safe.  We lived less than one kilometre from where the attack had taken place.

I had met my Israeli wife in India. After three years of living, working, getting married and becoming parents in London we decided it was time for a change. In January 2006 we left for Tel Aviv.  Our decision to leave was met with a variety of reactions ranging from puzzlement to horror.  The seeming absence of any good news stories from Israel ever appearing in the UK media leaves many with a pessimistic and inaccurate vision of the place.  I found myself continually quoting the minuscule number of Anglo-Israelis who had been victims of terrorist attacks during 2005 as if to justify our decision. In the meantime, my wife’s Moroccan Israeli family were thrilled. Read more


Back to the Globe

This is a guest post by Nick D

The other day, I wrote a review for this blog of the Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre, performed by the Habima theatre company (who receive state funding from the Israeli government). Review is maybe inaccurate, because the core focus of my article was on the protests that accompanied the performance. One commenter responded fiercely to the article, accusing me, in effect, of being a shill for Zionism and a “useful idiot”, among other epithets denigrating the shallow nature of the piece. While I condemn the ad hominem nature of his attack, viewing it as part of the problem, and utterly reject his characterisation of my politics, I accept that the vicious nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is bound to generate intense anger, as banal as that statement is. There are some serious issues embedded in his attack which merit a response; moreover there is an element of hypocrisy in my description of the protesters as hate-ridden which deserves further comment. There is also truth to his charge that my article was not analytical enough. I hope in the following remarks to open up discussion about a range of issues that we have both touched on. Read more


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