False Dichotomies


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


Music For An Israel Trip


Every year tens of thousands of tourists visit Israel. Some come on organized trips while others travel on their own. One characteristic that the majority of visitors have in common is their desire to experience the Land of Israel and connect to its people and heritage.

Many tour organizers and guides recognize this and make an effort to include Jewish and Israeli music as part of the trip. They view Israel’s music as an opportunity to present the country’s character, emotional pulse, values and experiences. The music of Israel helps to define the country’s identity and encourages the travelers to develop a solidarity with Israelis. Some songs reflect the country’s religious or pioneer history while others indicate the emotional pulse of today’s Israeli citizens. Some well known examples include Hatikva, Old Jerusalem and a number of others found in the Israel Suit released by the Lowell Milken Archive.

A component of this identity involves the inclusion of Hebrew words and phrases that allow visitors to connect to Israel through language. Many people, including many Jewish tourists, know little Hebrew but would like to learn more. Introducing simple Hebrew songs into a group activity or while traveling on a bus is a good way to help familiarize tourists with the language of the country and give them a feeling of inclusion and belonging.

Tour leaders can use song lyrics to initiate discussions about the country’s conflicts, values, attitudes and struggles — many of which are expressed by Israeli performers. When these pieces are translated and discussed with the tour participants it is often possible to provide an overview of the “real Israel” that may otherwise be overlooked.

Finally, many groups engage in a karaoke-type sing-a-long that allows the participants to recall the traditional Jewish songs of their Hebrew schools and summer camps. The importance of these activities cannot be overemphasized because they frequently strengthen the identification that the participants feel with the Jewish Land.

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Second Aliyah Playlist: 15.3.12 – 13.8.12

1.    40 Day Dream – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (Up From Below)
2.    Minnesota, WI – Bon Iver (Bon Iver, Bon Iver)
3.    Holocene – Bon Iver (Bon Iver, Bon Iver)
4.    Towers – Bon Iver (Bon Iver, Bon Iver)
5.    Michicant – Bon Iver (Bon Iver, Bon Iver)
6.    Hinnom, TX – Bon Iver (Bon Iver, Bon Iver)
7.    Longing and Losing – Nathaniel Rateliff (In Memory of Loss)
8.    I Gave You All – Mumford & Sons (Sigh No More)
9.    Cardinal Song – The National (Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers)
10.    To Just Grow Away – The Tallest Man On Earth (There’s No Leaving Now)
11.    Lord Knows feat Rick Ross – Drake (Take Care)
12.    Big Beast feat Bun B, T.I. & Trouble – Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music)
13.    Celebrate – Common (The Dreamer, The Believer)
14.    OwNIT – DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles (KoleXXXion)
15.    Represent Intro + Represent – Elzhi (Elmatic)
16.    Volume – Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown (Daily Bread)
17.    The Otherside feat Bilal Oliver & Greg Porn – The Roots (Undun)
18.    Deepest Shame – Plan B (ill Manors)
19.    East Harlem – Beirut (The Rip Tide)
20.    Revelation Blues – The Tallest Man On Earth (There’s No Leaving Now)
21.    Palmistry – Great Lake Swimmers (Lost Channels)
22.    Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons (Sigh No More)
23.    Slipping Husband – The National (Sad Sons for Dirty Lovers)
24.    Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard (Every Kingdom)
25.    Breaking Hearts – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
26.    Down The Burning Ropes – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
27.    Early in the Morning – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
28.    Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
29.    Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
30.    If I Had a Boat – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
31.    Walk Right Up to the Sun – The Delfonics (The Definitive Collection)
32.    Mastered Craftsman – Percee P (Perseverance)
33.    Body Work feat French Montana, Meek Mill & Juicy J – Pusha T (Fear of God II – Let Us Pray)
34.    JoJo’s Chillin – Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music)
35.    Mind Your Business – La Coka Nostra (Master of the Dark Arts)
36.    Holla At Me – Tupac (All Eyez On Me)
37.    Lucky Pressure – Roni Size & Reprazent (In The Mode)
38.    I Know This Game – Sadat X (June 12’)
39.    Stay Fly – Three 6 Mafia (Most Known Unknown)
40.    Hold Me Back – Rick Ross (God Forgives, I Don’t)
41.    I Got This – Big K.R.I.T. (Live from the Underground)
42.    The Brouhaha – Beastie Boys (To the 5 Boroughs)
43.    Excursions – A Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory)
44.    Daughters – Nas (Life is Good)
45.    Breakdown – J. Cole (Cole World: The Sideline Story)
46.    Old Pine – Ben Howard (Every Kingdom)
47.    Wind and Walls – The Tallest Man On Earth (There’s No Leaving Now)
48.    Criminals – The Tallest Man On Earth (There’s No Leaving Now)
49.    Moving Pictures Silent Films – Great Lake Swimmers (Great Lake Swimmers)
50.    Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons (Sigh No More)
51.    Awake My Soul – Mumford & Sons (Sigh No More)
52.    The Believer – Common (The Dreamer, The Believer)
53.    Word Iz Bond – DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles (KoleXXXion)
54.    Tao Te Ching – Apollo Brown (Clouds)
55.    Pirates – Rick Ross (God Forgives, I Don’t)
56.    This Old Dark Machine – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
57.    Sparrow and the Wolf – James Vincent McMorrow (Early in the Morning)
58.    Lal Meri Pat – The Legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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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


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