Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's Not Even Past #21 - Israel - The End of the Politics of Freedom? - Still Still More

I have no idea what to say about Israel except that I fear the very worst is upon us. All the adults have been removed from their ability to supervise and in their wake this corner of the world has been left in the hands of dangerous and savage children.

It seems a bit like this every time, and who knows, maybe it will end just with one major bloodbath rather than thirty. But it must be said, this time feels very different. There is no Obama, no Rabin, not even so much as a Bush or a Sharon on hand to let cooler states of mind prevail. It's as hard to believe that Hamas won't continue to throw protestors drugged by propaganda straight into the bullets of the Israeli army as it is to believe that the Israeli army won't be all too gleeful to use them. This happens every few years, and the death tolls are usually somewhere around two-thousand. Roughly sixteen hundred in the 2006 Lebanon War, 1400 killed in the 2008 Gaza War, somewhere around 2200 killed in the 2014 Gaza War. The death toll in such conflicts is almost entirely Palestinian, and lately at least, has been almost completely Israel-inflicted. No Palestinian army can possibly hope to equal either the firepower or the manpower of the Israeli army. This does not, however, account for Hamas's tactic of using civilians, often women and children, and as human shields near weapons depots, using children for paramilitary activity and suicide bombing against Israeli soldiers.  

But that does not mean that there isn't also a lethal inter-Palestinian Civil War, and which Hamas depends upon going underreported. Between 1987-1994, well over 1000 Palestinians were executed by Hamas for suspected collaboration with both Israel and with the Palestinian Liberation Organization - which doesn't exonerate the PLO either, who killed well over 100 suspected collaborators with Israel. At the end of the 2008 Gaza War, Hamas killed a combined total of roughly 100 Fatah members and civilians around them, and shot a bunch more in the legs so that they could not tell the Israeli authorities until the operations were over. Untold Fatah members afterwards were taken to detention centers where they were tortured and blinded. And we're not even going to touch the Syrian and Lebanese Civil Wars, the Lebanese Civil War claimed somewhere between 120 and 150 thousand lives, the Syrian Civil War, now in year 7, has claimed somewhere between 350 and 500 thousand lives. Yet in the Lebanese Civil War, the most reported on massacre was Sabra and Shatila, merely for the partial collusion of Israelis but Israelis did not perpetrate, Israelis simply looked the other way while the Lebanese Christian Kateeb party did the dirty work. And in a single day, an Israeli massacre of somewhere between fifty and sixty Palestinians has claimed more attention than anything in the Syrian Civil War since Aleppo. Whatever is true about Israel, it can't be denied that their real estate is in one of the world's toughest neighborhoods, and yet for its missteps, it is forgiven nothing at all. 

But for the moment, this time gives the sense that the next war, be it now or in a few months or a year, will be astronomically higher, and since there is no way to remove Hamas, the consequences will be unstoppable until such time as Netanyahu, indeed the whole Likud party with all their cabinet ministers whom given the chance would be still more toxic than Netanyahu, is removed from power. If Netanyahu can still remain Prime Minister after the last nine years, who the hell knows what his removal could possibly take - not just untold thousands of casualties on the Arab side, but untold thousands of casualties within Israel. All it takes is one missile with radioactive material on it, one chemical weapon from Syria strapped to a missile and detonated in the air, one small container of bioterror. 

And the truth is, there is only one person to whom Netanyahu owes the entirety of his continued reign, and he knows it. It's driving him insane, because that person is only an arch-nemesis in his mind, for his arch-nemesis was not Khaled Mashal or Ayatollah Khameni, nor any of the Leaders of Avodah - the Israeli Labor party. You know who I'm going to say before I say it, his arch-nemesis was Barack Obama. Period.  To the fanatic, the heretic is a much greater enemy than the non-believer. The man who occupied more of Netanyahu's headspace over his second Premiership was not the enemies who could lead to Israel's destruction, nor was it any rival who could unseat him, it was the man who had the potential to show that it was possible to be moderately critical of Israeli policy yet also be a very proud Zionist. Netanyahu categorically rejected that, and as such, so now he faces a left-wing whose Anti-Zionism is much, much larger than it ever would have been. 

When I lived in Israel on an ulpan - one day I'll have to explain what that is, though even now I'm not quite sure I know what an ulpan is, I had a politics teacher who made a sweeping declaration on the night Ehud Olmert was elected Prime Minister that The Age of Netanyahu was now over. What an idiot... I have not been to Israel since 2008, the year before Netanyahu returned to power. Everyone I know who's been back has told me the same thing - Israel is prosperous on a level never seen before in its history. The standard of living is higher than Austria, Finland, and France. 

Right-wing Jews can say that Obama stabbed Israel in the back all they want, but President Obama gave Israel more money than any president in history. Even in 2016, Obama was willing to let America sign a 10-year deal to fund the Israel to the tune of thirty-eight billion dollars! That is a twenty-seven percent increase over the deal the Bush Administration negotiated in 2007. Who was truly the more pro-Israel President?

During the Bush Era, Israeli unemployment was in the double digits due to the impact the Second Intifada had on investment and tourism - in one quarter of 2002, the economy shrank by 4%. But think of it this way - The Great Recession shrank America's economy 4.6 percent, but during the recession, Israel's shrank a total of 0.2 percent! It registered positive economic growth in 2009, the worst of those years. During the Obama Presidency, Israel was allowed its long-denied rightful place in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Anybody who thinks that Israel is capable of those economic numbers without American help is as delusional about the extent of Israeli power as any Anti-Zionist who thinks Israel is capable of anything more than the most minimal influence on American foreign policy. Jews think Obama negotiated a bad deal to get rid of Iranian nuclear capability, but if the deal is bad, then Obama gave Israel all the tools they could ever want to fight Iran - including the bunker busters and the iron dome even George W. Bush kept from them. Anti-Israel leftists always accused Obama of an accusation so low that surely such a slur could not possibly be true - that Obama is a closet Zionist, and yet they were exactly right. 

People complain that Israel's military aid is oppressive, but Israel cannot fund its military and science simultaneously. The military aid is what allows Israel to have enough money left over to rank #2 in innovation by the World Economic Forum and start up 1,000 tech companies every year! It's thanks to Israel that the world has modern desert irrigation, the USB stick, micro-robotics for surgery, water desalination technologies, digital firewalls, geothermal powerplants, heart tissue made from algae, bird migration radar for planes, solar windows, the cherry tomato, baby monitors that measure breaths to help prevent crib death, electronic hair removal, steel security doors, Waze - the GPS that gives you up-to-the-minute traffic and speed trap information. Try boycotting all that and see where it gets the world. 

Israel is the second-most educated country in the world, 78% of its education money comes from public funding, and 45% of Israel's citizens have post-secondary education. The average life expectancy in Israel is apparently somewhere between eighth and eleventh overall in the world. Israel has universal health care with a semi-public option, in 2013 Bloomberg Magazine ranked Israel as having the fourth most efficient health-care system in the world and the most efficient of any country that is not a relatively small East Asian country - though many estimates have ranked Israel's health care system as low as the high twenties. But all of these statistics include the 1.66 million Arabs who are in Israel proper and not the Palestinian territories. Even if three-quarters of Israeli Arabs object to Israel being a Jewish State, 60% of Arabs within the State of Israel define their personal situation as 'good' and 55% consider themselves 'proud citizens' of Israel. There is no question of the existence of structural disadvantages for Israeli Arabs, many of which are clearly due to racism, but no matter what the anti-Zionists say - Israel, for all its messiness, or even perhaps because of it, is an extraordinary little country. 

All Obama ever asked from Israel was that Israel pursue policies that allow it to thrive, because in the 21st century, the policies that allow Israel to thrive are the same that will give its neighbors the opportunity to do the same - should they ever, unlikely though it seems, be wise enough to take it. 

But too many Israelis, too many Jews, have demanded far more than that. They demand a lack of accountability for their actions, they demand they be allowed to chase a national security utopia in which all threats to Israel's security be eliminated, and so delusionally convinced are they of their potential invincibility that they refuse to see the truth that is obvious to anyone whose two eyes have not been taken in an eye-for-an-eye: that their actions endanger Israel all the more. There is no such thing, nor shall there ever be, as an Israel that is not permanently endangered. Israel's choices are these:

1. It must learn to live with daily terror.

2. It will die.

Enraging as it is, there is no third option. What? You say that no country can live with such terror? Perhaps you're right, but when has being Jewish ever meant anything but living with the possibility of daily attacks on our persons? This is what it means to live as a Jew, it is sometimes what it means to die as a Jew, and it has never meant anything else. The eternal insecurity of the Jewish position, eternal upstarts, newly prosperous in every civilization, means that the double standard will forever be applied to us. Seventy years into Israel's existence, the full span of a biblically allotted lifetime, it becomes ever more clear that the return from the Diaspora will never eliminate the threat of Jews getting killed, it only minimized the threat. To riff on an Eric Hoffer saying about Israel, the world expects Jews to be the only real Christians. As there have always been a disproportionate number of Jewish high achievers in civilizations that have always belonged to somebody else, there is also greatly disproportionate scrutiny, and, one might controversially add, also slightly disproportionate opportunities for us to sin before we are sinned against in manners far disproportionate to our sins. 

It was always a given that the Left's current pathologies would eventually take a bullseye aim at Israel. It doesn't take a genius to connect Israel's policies to the policing tactics of American cities, or to tie Israeli prosperity to what they perceive to be the evils of capitalism and imperialism - which they obviously see as totally interconnected with each other, or to ally themselves with Hamas and Iran in precisely the way they ally themselves with self-parodyingly evil hard left leaders like Chavez, Castro, and once upon a time, much more famous dictators of the Left still far more evil than they.
When people who continually put their lives on the line tell you what’s needed to police a place, what authority, intellectual or moral, have you to dispute them? What statistics? What experience of the fog of violence?

Israeli wars are always overdramatic events, with the stakes always feeling nothing short of existential when they're just the same teacup tempests as ever before. But I can't deny the sinking feeling that this is the long-delayed moment the hard left has been longing for when they purportedly unmask the Zionist enterprise for precisely the imperial/capitalist/police state abomination they think it is. I know, in my head, that this won't be anything like an historical moment in which a Hitler discovers he can whip people up into a frenzy by blaming it all on the Jews, but my protruding gut certainly feels that way. To know that many friends of mine in the next six months may fall for all this shit hook line and sinker, and to know exactly which ones of them it will be, and knowing, that as a Jew with no better options, that you to have to put your head down and not pretend like you don't think that this is indicative of an unspoken evil in the hearts of people you try to keep loving, is but a small part of the role we all must play in the ongoing slow burn of tragedy that is the eternal Jewish story. 

I'm not interested in rehashing the same old Israel/Palestine arguments for the fifty-thousandth time which every member of my generation has heard a hundred thousand times already. But I do want to emphasize, in case it's not clear, just how much Israel's presence has meant to the Jewish psyche. You cannot expect that a people who are, again and again, subjected the very worst of Western brutality by mere virtue of their proximity to the West for longer and harder than any colony will suddenly change on a dime just because the West decided on a dime that nationalism was evil the very moment when their most oppressed minority finally got a nation of their own. For two-thousand years, you didn't let us define the terms of who's the sinner and who's the saint, and we're sure as the hell you introduced to the world not going to let you define the terms of that debate from now on.

Israel is everything to us. It is worth dying for, it is worth killing for, it is worth hating for, precisely because you all have demonstrated, in literally every single era of recorded human history, that you are willing to kill us to a man, woman, and child, for the crime of being among you. There was once a place where we were relatively safe from your evil, and there is now a place where we are relatively safe from your evil again. You will have to kill us all yet again before we ever give that up, and we have clearly demonstrated that we will kill some people without overly much remorse to keep it ours.

But that word, some, is the key, the sum total, of the hypocrisy, the crocodile tears, the fanaticism and the dangerously diseased idealism that never stops infecting people from age to age.  The demand for all wrongs to be righted, the demand for the world to be free of contradictions, the demand that the crooked timber of humanity to be made into something straight. The only direct line that seems to exist in the world is the line from believing that the world can be made into something peaceful and to embracing those people who would kill as many people as it takes to make some version of a peaceful world possible.  Again, the enemy to the fanatic becomes not the heathen but the heretic. it is no longer the conservatives who are the primary enemy, but the liberals who have failed to prevent conservatism's onslaught. In one of language's more sinister maneuvers, they group conservatives and liberals together under the rubric of 'neoliberalism.' And instead of preaching the peace and love which they swear is their end goal just as Communists and Christians before them once did, add their voices to the hateful echo chamber that Putin exploits and brought us Trump and Netanyahu and Brexit and Orban and Erdogan. True believers demand lives completely without indignity when every indication shows that the world is a prison, tailor made to humiliate us all.

Israel is but one indication that the world our grandparents built, the postwar era, the 50's and its surrounding years, that supposed age of conformist horror that so many so decry, gave us the greatest conditions the world has ever seen, and as our Bubbies prepare to pass from this world, the world revolts against everything they stood for for a second time. Yes, unimaginable poverty is everywhere, but for the first time in human history, there would be a fair fight to eradicate poverty and racism and sexism and homo-and-transphobia if ever the left-of-center forces united with one another instead of silencing heretics who say 'Maybe we can't do it all at once...'

Such people once exploited the newly won gains of the American Civil Rights Movement to launch the '68 protests, and their great achievement? Fifty years of Right-Wing dominance of American politics and to stomp out the gains of Civil Rights in their infancy before they could grow into anything remotely resembling equality. Meanwhile, they had no solidarity at all for the protests across the Iron Curtain in ‘68 Prague, and issued no warning about the tens of millions of deaths in Mao's regime (perhaps more than a hundred million). Their spiritual children have now perverted the gains of Obama into... today's certainly not the day for that...

In every era and every generation, a new guise comes about for this unwillingness to demand anything short of perfection from the world, this perversion of ‘Social Justice,’ this ‘National Pacifism.’ And in every age, this demand for a world without contradiction at all costs leads to wars so much worse than those which would have occurred had they made some peace with the fact that the world will resist being improved upon with all its might. 300 years ago, it was the belief in the divine right of feudal lords to be masters over their peasants, and the result a lifetime later was the French Revolution and Napoleon. 200 years ago, it took the form of believing that American Southerners and Russian Boyars had a divine right to slavery over inferior humans, the result a lifetime later was the American Civil War, and a lifetime after that, the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War. 150 years ago, it took the form of accommodating the extreme imperialism and social Darwinism that led to World War I, and the result was two world wars, a Communist takeover of half the world in the name of anti-imperialism, and a death toll of over 200 million. Today, do not be fooled, it is merely a similar inverse pathology to Communism that takes the form of extreme anti-imperialism in all its various guises. Inevitably, just like in those former times, these fashionable opinions are drossed up in fashionable language of the day. Seventy years ago, George Orwell, no friend of Israel quite admittedly, had quite something to say about them:

“The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …”

Substitute ‘Israel’ for ‘Britain’, and you have a perfect definition of a large swath of the modern Left. All tactics are completely acceptable, or at least unable to be censured, so long as they act against the monolithic evil that is the United States and all those wicked normative standards for which it stands, and all the evil neo-imperial projects which their involvement overseas inevitably represent, so that all the various theoretical systems can be advanced of intersectional and totalist thought - and who knows if it could become totalitarian in fifty years? - which every one of you who believes this shite is required to buy into, to replace your personality with an ideology, and to surrender all critical thought to the causes to which it demands your fealty. Privilege and identity become not just two indicators among the infinite complexity that is the interactions of human personalities, but total, all-consuming expressions of a person's individual character. To the hell to which your ancestors consigned us to you all!

And yet, look at us, the Jewish people in 2018. What has unprecedented privilege in Jewish history wrought in us?

No comments:

Post a Comment