Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It's Not Even Past #21 - Israel, Gaza, The Impossibility of Dialogue? - Complete Rough Draft

When I began this podcast I made a very specific decision that it was going to be only me, all me, me, glorious me, because we are living in an age when so many people think that problems can be solved if people can just sit down, realize each other's humanity, and come to an understanding. Well... how's that workin' out for us? Not every person's opinion is equally valid, and dialogue is never a replacement for knowledge. If you want to have an opinion, demonstrable knowledge - statistical knowledge, conceptual knowledge, and perhaps especially historical knowledge, is the ante to taking your opinion seriously. Until then, meaningful dialogue is impossible for what should be an obvious reason. 

We have a very different attitude in our time to a similar concept. Nobody in my generation seems to accept the old notions of political bipartisanship that the objective political truth is simply the middle point between two poles, and both sides of American discourse claim that the other side became extreme while their side continually capitulated; and yet there's just as little evidence that dialogue will inevitably lead to a solution that works, and yet so many millions of people in our time persist in that notion. If there's any solution on which either side is not willing to move, it then seems that people simply gravitate toward a greater extreme, with ever more grievances about how they're humiliated, ever more validation for louder and more bellicose voices, ever more forceful tactics against their opponents. There are certainly times when dialogue can yield dividends beneficial to us all, but the belief in dialogue as a means that will inevitably create greater results is an unsupportable belief by evidence, requiring its supporters to simply believe in it rather than judge according to fact. 

The world as ever turns in its orbit, too vast to even be remotely apprehended from one point of view, no matter how broad-minded. In an era like the late 60's when intellectuals who asked for mutual understanding and tolerance was the exception rather than the rule, with so many of the older generation having their mentalities created by Munich and the breakdown of the League of Nations and the failure of interwar pacifism, such radical notions that people might be able to work through their differences were kind of exciting precisely because hardly any intellectuals believed in them. But soon enough the United States and the Soviet Union started to negotiate seriously and understand each other a little better: in the wake of that came the SALT agreements, the opening of dialogue with China, the Rejkjavik summit between Reagan and Gorby, and the Oslo Peace Accords for Israel and Palestine. Pretty soon after Oslo, the idea on the Left that dialogue will inevitably resolve conflict began to gain enormous traction. 

Now, please understand, it's absolutely true that without any dialogue between conflicting parties, there is an infinitesimally smaller chance for any kind of resolution. But at least if there is no dialogue, it is much easier to uphold the status quo. There is much less excuse to back away from the table and say, 'well we tried to negotiate with them, and that didn't work, so now let's try something far more violent.' 

All throughout the Cold War, it was a widely shared consensus that dialogue is an incredibly risky undertaking. The reasons for that were plainly obvious to them, they lived through two World Wars - the First World War was brought on by diplomatic alliances between countries that were much too strong and therefore compelled countries to fulfill their diplomatic commitments, even if it meant decimating their countries. The Second World War was brought on by Germany, who engaged in dialogue with other countries in extremely bad faith and betrayed their major promises, and felt justified in doing so because they believe that at the end of World War One, other countries negotiated in bad faith. 

It's pretty much de rigeur among politically active left of center people to believe that any and all dialogue with people who disagree has a good chance to end constructively - the Obama candidacy practically hinged upon that idea. But so much evidence in the last generation exists to disprove that notion. Do I really need to list a litany of the events we all lived? The problem with believing that conflicts can be resolved through dialogue and mutual understanding is that mutual understanding requires people to literally adapt parts of each other's mentalities which both sides find offensive. That's a literally almost impossible task - for people whose beliefs trend Left as well as for people whose beliefs skew Right. Try telling the average intersectionalist that if they want to neutralize the threat of reactionaries either here or abroad, they will have to understand and accept why some people feel justified in racist beliefs. 

Furthermore, the belief, a mostly Leftist belief, in the constructiveness of dialogue is predicated on the idea that an exchange of ideas is what sophisticated, educated people do, and that the more dialogue one engages in, the more those who are against dialogue will come around to the ideas of those who are pro-dialogue. That doesn't seem to work nearly as constructively as people think either, because whether or not that's what people who believe in conflict resolution truly believe, that is usually the sense which people who do not believe in the automatic constructiveness of dialogue come away with. When people of the Left get correctly indignant about racist or sexist or imperialist ideas in what's supposed to be a dialogue, people of the right say that this is not a true dialogue, and they're absolutely right. 

What works in real life would not seem to be dialogue, what seems to work, at least middlingly well, sometimes, is compromise; the idea that nobody gets anywhere even close to everything that they want, but if a new problem presents itself urgently enough, a solution that factors enough of the new concern in to make this existential problem something less than existential lets just about everybody live on tolerably until the next existential problem presents itself. It's not much, but it's what seems to work. I wonder if there even is such a thing as conflict resolution. Perhaps there is only conflict delay, and the more you risk by trying to end the conflict, the more terrible the conflict will become when it eventually turns bloody again.

So this is a way of saying that 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. I sometimes find myself wondering if the closest anyone ever came to solving the Israel/Palestine conflict was Arik Sharon, the uberhawk and supposed great champion of the settlements, who unilaterally made a decision to forcibly remove the settlements in Gaza. Had that 330 pounds, near-80 year old man not had a series of strokes that put him into a seven year coma, perhaps he would have done the same in the West Bank, and thereby laid the beginnings of a Palestinian state, should Palestinians have found the wherewithal to embrace something other than a party that demands some other foundational goal than genocide against Israeli Jews, which is in the Hamas charter.   

It seems a bit like the stakes are existential every time. For obvious reasons, we Jews have this Pavlovian reaction. and who knows, maybe this conflict 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. Something like 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.  

And there is 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. 

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 seems 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. 

These were, of course, the fears which propelled the Bush administration to their suspensions of civil liberties, and arguably to the Iraq War as well - and it can't be denied, there is something extremely Bush-like about Bibi's beliefs and decisions. Right down to the fact that he wanted to command a people without providing them the economic support system to flourish rather than succumb to chaos. Bibi is a far more articulate man than Bush in both Hebrew and English, but in his decision points he has no more spine when faced with right-wing nuts who whisper in his ear. Like Bush, Bibi comes from something approaching right-wing royalty in his country. Bibi’s older brother, Yoni Netanyahu, was the commander of the Entebbe Raid that rescued 102 Israeli passengers from an Air France plane hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and brought to Idi Amin’s Uganda. Yoni was the only Israeli soldier killed in the raid, and only four of the 106 hostages were killed. Bibi’s father is the historian, Benzion Netanyahu, perhaps Israel’s most important ultraconservative intellectual from its founding until his death just this year at the age of 102. For three generations, Benzion Netanyahu was a  living link to the original circles of ‘Revisionist Zionism’ which advocated the forcible removal  by any means necessary of all potential enemies of a Jewish Israel whether British or Arab. Even after turning 100, Professor Netanyahu continued to warn in public pronouncements of the coming nuclear threat from Iran and the necessity of bombing their nuclear facilities. Bibi’s uncle is a famous mathematician, and his aunt is a former Israeli Supreme Court Justice.

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. 

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. 

People complain, ad nauseum, about Israel's military aid, seemingly without any consciousness whatsoever about how it sounds like the old antisemitic canards about Jews controlling governments or secretly siphoning off the world's money, but it wasn't too long ago, the era of Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, that liberals thought fostering a special relationship between the US and Israel's would be one of the world's great liberal triumphs. America is only 13th in per-capita foreign aid. The funding to Israel shouldn't be withdrawn, 20 other allies should be funded by the US the way Israel is.  

Furthermore, let's remember at least some of what the Israel partnership has also allowed. Israel can't fund its military and science simultaneously, and for all the money Israel's borrowed from America, it is still a net lender nation.  If Israel gets a disproportionate investment from the United States government, then the money has paid off spectacularly in all manner of ways. 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! Israel has easily more startups per capita than anywhere in the world, the highest number of scientists, engineers and technicians as percentage of its population, 10 times as many scientific articles published percentage wise as its population percentage to the rest of the world population. 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. 

The massacre this past Monday, and yes, it was indeed a massacre no matter how many Hamasniks were involved, was not the result of a protest against America moving the embassy to Israel. It was about, as it's been every week in Gaza since March, the State of Israel's very existence. Hamas won an election in Gaza in 2006 and for twelve years has done everything within its power, including mass murder, to make sure that Gaza never has an election ever again. The mass genocide of Israeli Jews is in the very charter of Hamas, and Hamas's various bombings in both Israel and any future Palestine have killed very nearly 1800 people. Hamas bans abortions and the honor killing of women is still a fact of life in Gaza. It's banned the celebration of Christmas and homosexuality is punishable by death. As has happened so many times in the past, whether Hamas or Fatah or the PLO was calling the shots, the higher ups wanted a bloodbath to coincide with a moment when the eyes of the world were on Israel. To do this, Hamas deliberately spread the lie in mosques that the fence into Israel had already been breached and that Israeli soldiers were fleeing so that thousands of people would crowd the fence, knowing that Israeli soldiers would mow them down because if there were a breach in the fence, hundreds of potential militants could escape into Israel and be virtually untrackable. Even after the massacre, one Hamas cleric bragged that a full 50 of the murdered sixty-three were members of Hamas. It would be fully in Hamas's interests to point up as many civilian casualties as possible, so even in these situations, the Israeli army was careful enough that five out of every six people murdered were militants, not civilians. Once aid was sent by Israel, Hamas set fire to the main road and turned trucks with aid away. Unlike what many pro-Palestine supporters alleged, there was no eight-month old who died from tear gas, and yet, once these memes are shared, as they always are by people willing to blame Israel for everything, they can never be retracted. Sixteen years after Jenin, many people still think there was a massacre when it's been proven over and over again that there wasn't. So with regard to this massacre, even though Israel bares far more blame for this than they ever did for Jenin, bloodbath though this situation may be, my sympathy is 75% with Israel. What the hell is Israel supposed to do in a situation when they are facing a totalitarian dictatorship who is deliberately keeping their population as deceived about reality as possible? 

But in the larger scenario of perpetual encampments of Gaza, the story is very, very different, and Israel has to take an enormous portion of the blame for the fact that an organization as insane as Hamas is in power at all. The laws in Gaza seemed almost tailor designed for maximum humiliation, and because Israel never gave Gaza the opportunities to be independently prosperous, Israelis can't be too surprised when Palestinians embrace a theocratic party that promises victory by genocide. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not yet apartheid like South Africa, but it draws ever closer to the same circumstances, and if Israel's governance doesn't change in the next few years, it may very well get there. It grows less defensible every year, and the already controversial arguments that Israel was worth liberals' defending it in the 90's or 2000's grows ever harder to defend. I believe that a boycott against Israel is a potential disaster for Jews everywhere, but if Israel does not don't shift left or at very least to the right-of-center in future circumstances that currently seem unlikely at best, Boycott, Divestment and Sanction is an eventuality nobody can prevent. 

Israel claims that it's insecure in a manner that only people who are secure ever believe themselves to be. The more prosperous Israel grows, the more paranoid they become and the more reactionary their political beliefs. Israel still believes that its prosperity can disappear overnight, and they're exactly correct about that, but not about how it's most likely to happen. Once a boycott against Israel begins to attain success, a critical mass of money will eventually disappear from Israel, and so then do economic investments both from private investors who won't see as good a return on their investment, and public funding from the US government due to the pressure of their citizens.  

There is a long overdue Democratic wave coming to America, all the more progressive and perhaps even socialist for having been so long delayed. Anti-Israel sentiment will be red meat to them. Israel as anything but an underdog cannot ever exist without enormous American help. If Israel's aid package has to be renegotiated by a progressive President and Congress in ten years and Israel is still under a Netanyahu-like Prime Minister; and all of Netanyahu's potential successors at this point are, believe it or not, to his right, then Israel's funding from the United States could be cut to nothing. Once Israel's money for innovation in science, tech, and business, disappears, so eventually does the money for Israel's national security. When that happens, there might be five million Palestinians released on Israel who've been fed antisemitic propaganda for eighty years and could be out to claim land from Israelis with an army no longer sufficiently funded to stop them, and crazy as their demand for right of return might be, their grievances are not completely without justification. If Israel one day finds that it can no longer control the territories and Palestinians can break out into Israel proper, there is very little chance that their return will be peaceful. It will be war, and it will be bloody on both sides past imagination unless Israel finds a way to give Palestine a functional state of its own before that happens. 

Israel may think it's alone, but Israel is thriving precisely because it's anything but alone. The price of Israel having the world's sympathy as it did when it was the small social democracy that could was for its very existence to be threatened every day. Jews may long for a a time when Israel had the world's approval, but nobody in their right mind would want to live as a Jew in early Israel vs. Israel now. Perhaps Israel could earn the world's sympathy again if they were perpetually endangered, but they've become villains to the world precisely because they are not anymore. 

It's true, we Jews are notoriously sensitive to criticism about Israel, and in a sense, it's completely undeserved. Contemporary American Jews are perhaps the most prosperous minority in the history of the entire world - what the hell do we have to be so ticked off about? But those who do find it enraging that Jews see antisemitism in criticism of Israel have to be a lot more sensitive to our narrative if they want us to be sensitive to theirs. The problem for us is that, unlike with Palestinian history, there is rarely such a thing as a mere catastrophe. There are very few historical episodes in which a couple thousand Jews being murdered without the catastrophe being a prelude to many thousands more being murdered too. History shows that it's generally been a hundred Jews, or a hundred thousand, or many more. When Jews react with oversensitivity on the issue of Israel, it's not because Jews are much too oversensitive to what fashionable parlance terms 'microaggressions' (or at least not just because of that), it's because we're worried that one wrong move means that we will die, our families will die, and everybody we've ever met will die. 

But if it's truly an apocalypse that modern Israelis are worried about rather than the usual incredibly irritating double standards that come from being a Jew in the world, one would think they would be cooler headed and formulate better, more creative, more long-term strategic thinking in their policies toward Palestinians. The fact that the Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories is so unchanging and monotonous, completely the opposite from the manner of Entebbe or the Six-Day War or the attack on Degania or the battles of Har Tzion and Tzfat and Katamon implies complacency, that Israel realizes that this is not a life-or-death issue for them, and that the Israeli government is simply mad that things allowed other countries are not allowed Israel, and is therefore determined to show that Israel is allowed everything that every other country would be allowed to do. 

When you realize the plethora of opportunities Palestinian militants have taken to terrorize Israelis, one can sometimes even forgive Israel's warrentless search and seizure, and if you really squint, you can understand why Israelis don't allow certain young Gazans to leave for certain education purposes if the Israeli army thinks certain Gazans are leaving to be educated so they can return with new weapon technologies. But how does the Israeli government really not realize that by doing it as a matter of common practice, they've created a ticking time bomb that is all the worse? By not allowing for the possibility of a reformed Palestine, they can only create a still much more radicalized Palestine. 

Israel has to blame itself for the fact that the situation got this terrible to begin with because they never gave Gazans incentives to change their behavior. Even in the most dangerous of circumstances, it's completely counterproductive to cut off water and food and medicine supplies as often as Israel does, and if the Israeli government counters that Hamas would cut off the water and food supplies to blame it on Israel anyway, Israel could have always tried harder to airlift them in. Gazan fishermen have been cut off from the best fish supply. And the fact remains, these protests would not exist as they currently did if Israel didn't enforce a fence with a 100 to 500 meter buffer around the whole of Gaza, which comprises a third of Gaza's arable land. With Israeli camera technologies and radar, the army should be able to monitor border activity very well. And you can't believably tell anyone that the Israeli army can't rapidly respond to rocket attacks... 

Literally everything has to be done through the permission of the Israeli government. Israel may have a very dangerous government to deal with in Hamas, but they have provided just about no incentives to make Palestinians in the territories believe that life for Palestinians would be better if they didn't support a government which sponsors the genocide of Jews. Every time Israel conducts a war in Gaza, they do a financial level of damage that is quite a bit more expensive than Gaza's yearly GDP. Gazans responded by building tunnels out of Gaza that as so many articles in so many publications documented, were mostly used for economic necessities and occasionally by Hamas for terrorism. You would think that of all things that might make Gazans think about something other than their humiliations at the hands of Israel - real or imagined, a functional Gazan economy would be the very top of the list, but Israel responded by blowing the tunnels up and provided nothing in its place. 

I would be tempted to beat the shit out of any non-Jew and frankly many Jews who made this next point, but once upon a time, there was a not-very-nice word for forcibly concentrating a religious minority into a highly-overpopulated, underfunded, and unsanitary place from which they cannot leave and are forced to remain in poverty while arbitrarily murdering some every once in a while with no legal recourse for their families,  So let's not mince words, that word was 'ghetto'. Should any person opposed to Israel's existence or to its right to defend itself make that point  I would be tempted to respond to them in the balls because that point is usually followed by the idea that the obvious next step is a kind of genocide, which I still have an impossible time believing that anybody but people significantly to the right of even Netanyahu would ever accept, but the real assholes among these anti-Israel people who never miss a chance to bring up the worst crime in history as a way of remonstrating Jews for being similar to Nazis. But just about every society Jews ever lived in put us at one point or another into a kind of ghetto. And one does not have to reference the Holocaust or Auschwitz to show that a Jewish state perpetrates something not unlike a lesser horror of our worst period. Militant Israel hawks can respond all they like that they were only enacting military necessities to prevent the spread of terror in their own country, but if you stick up your middle finger at the world's opinion often enough, the military necessities will eventually be imposed on you rather than them.  

Too many Israelis, too many Jews the world over, have demanded a lack of accountability for these supposed military necessities, but every year, these necessities look less like necessities and more and more like idolworship of a national security utopia in which all threats to Israel's security be eliminated, and so delusionally convinced are they of Israel's 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 the possibility of daily terror.

2. It will die.

Yes, the double standard is horrific and outrageous, but it always has been. This is what it means to be Jewish. 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. 

There is an authoritarian virus spreading through the Jewish world. It’s present in the politics of Israel, it’s present in the politics of supporting Israel, and it’s present in every other aspect of Jewish life. It would have us reject the conversions and marriages of any Jew that was not performed by an orthodox rabbi. It would have Israelis not privileged enough to believe in Hashem 150% die for the Israeli army while the orthodox get paid exemptions to study Torah. It would have us believe that settlers in Arab Majority land are pioneers and heroes instead of fanatics. And in a stunning reversal of feminist triumphs, it would have women slave away at work while the men do nothing all day but study torah. It’s also present in all of the people who accommodate these beliefs as though it were merely a charming quirk of people who are fundamentally on our side. It is present in the Orthodox community, it’s present in any secular or non-orthodox Jew who still believes in ‘Greater Israel,’ it’s present in anyone who believes that Muslim life is cheap, it’s present in anyone who believes that assimilation is the greatest evil to beset the Jewish community, it’s present in any Jew who would choose faith over enlightenment, it’s present in any Jew who still believes that we can negotiate the dialogue between faith and enlightenment without choosing one over the other, it’s present in any Jew who believes that there can ever be either peace or security without considering negotiation, it’s present in any Jew na├»ve enough to believe that Israeli security is simply something we Jews can take by ourselves as though we have a natural or divine right to it, and it's present in anybody who thinks that the rights of Palestinians are something they only deserve as a gift from us, a reward for good behavior. 

It grows stronger with every passing election and debate, and has ever less regard for the decencies of human interaction and the necessities of geostrategic thinking. It rewards bellicosity and stupidity, it regards all change as a threat. It allows the worst elements of Israeli society to feed on the body politic, and it’s growing to allow the worst elements of fanaticism as unchecked a rein among Jews as it currently has among Christians. It refuses to acknowledge that the world has changed since 1967, and does everything in its power to keep Israel and the Jewish religion precisely as it once was when the evidence of an overwhelming change in both is all around us. It allowed the exit of practical politicians to Kadima thirteen years ago to rejuvenate the Likud Party and drive out any elements from Israel's dominant party which insisted on rational considerations. It's dependent upon American money yet distrusts anything that smacks of American (aka liberal) weakness, and secures its policies through the ever-swelling ranks of the ultra-orthodox religious parties who demand sums which bankrupt the Israeli coffers. This virus may yet kill Israel and lead Judaism back into the dark ages of pogrom, proscription, and persecution.

Israel’s best and brightest seem to leave the country in droves and the statistics for it are staggering, Meanwhile, the birthrates of the ultra-orthodox increase exponentially. The vast majority of those who remain are fundamentally cut off from any international discourse and see the rest of the world as hostile to everything Israel is – in many ways, they’re not wrong. But if Jews engage rational critics of Israel while dismissing irrational ones, it will be Jews who control how Israel is viewed in the world. If Jews dismiss all criticism of Israel, it will be the most irrational and strident anti-semites who control worldwide discourse about this most important subject to us.

The world since the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 has changed immeasurably. And yet many if not most Jews still pretend we live in 1967 – the year when the Jewish idea of a prosperous secure Israel lined up best with the world opinion’s image of a secular, semi-socialist state that took no side in the Cold War. By the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, both images were shattered. Within the next six years, it became clear that Israel would be insecure for the duration of its existence, and its survival could only be ensured by the backing of American military and financial power’s most distasteful elements. Since 1973, Israel underwent an eighteen-year quagmire in Lebanon and assumed an endless series of ground assaults in Gaza and the West Bank. Whatever one’s feelings about the morality of these actions, you would have to be blind to the present realities to still believe in the idea of an Israel that remains secure, secular, and democratic. Many if not most Israelis have chosen the first at the expense of the latter two, and while one can’t blame them, one can still question whether or not they’re ensuring the impossibility of their security by not concentrating on the two elements simultaneously. 

The era when Israel was seen as an important liberal cause is a half-century in the past. And yet we address the Israel problem to the larger public as though the Holocaust still means what it did to public memory in the 1960’s, as though Israel is still a plucky little quasi-socialist state with little infrastructure or foreign investment. Every time we allow this discussion to proceed as though we’re still living in 1967, we allow authoritarians who live in 2018 to get away with whatever they wish. Ze’ev Sternhall, chair of the Political Science Department at Hebrew University and a worldwide expert on fascism remarked, “The last time politicians holding views similar to theirs were in power in post-World War II Western Europe was in Franco’s Spain…a crude and multi-faceted campaign is being waged against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order.” In 2008, an extremist set off a pipe bomb in his house.

Israel has, Jews in general have, to face the fact that as much as Putin or Erdogan, Netanyahu was a rough draft of right-wing populism of Trump and Brexit and Orban and the Polish Law and Justice party - all manner of political reactionaries around the world who are knee-deep in antisemitism on the one hand and use a benediction from Netanyahu to give them cover as much as political progressives can use Netanyahu's nationalist rhetoric to give them cover. Opinions on Jews have always been an advance scouting report on the state of the world, be they philo-or-anti-semitic. The world now exists in a bizarre cocktail of the two in which certain traits of certain Jews are inevitably OK to others, while wishing to cleanse us of other traits. If antisemitism becomes the majority of world opinion, you can bet that worldwide violence is the next easy step. 

No matter how nationalist Israel continues to grow, the Left doesn't deserve to be exonerated for its anti-semitism. 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 operations in the Palestinian territories to the policing tactics against African-Americans in American cities, or to tie Israeli prosperity to what they perceive to be the evils of capitalism and imperialism - which they obviously see as completely interconnected with each other, or to use Israel's misdeeds to defend Hamas and Iran in precisely the way they allied 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. The Syrian Civil War should have been well over enough to show what happens when you exonerate a dictator who is supposedly anti-imperialism. And yet, when you see the world as a simple syllogism that blames all violence on the West and capitalism, there's no need for nuance or to hold anybody truly accountable.

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 of who has a right to the land 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, European gentiles didn't let us define the terms of who's the sinner and who's the saint, so now that we have a modicum of power over our destinies, we're sure as the hell you introduced to the world not letting 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 after literally millennia of suffering from you, 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. 
True believers demand lives completely without indignity when every indication shows that the world is a prison, tailor made to humiliate us all. And that, to a fanatical believer, is ultimately much more threatening than a different kind of fanatic. Again, the enemy to the fanatic is inevitably not the heathen but the heretic. And in the case of the Left, the real Left and not the Left that includes liberals and moderates the way modern conservatives allege - who are invariably their own form of fanatics - 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 the Communists and Christians of the old school once did, they feed off their indignance to add their voices into the fanatical echo chamber that Putin exploits which brought us Trump and Netanyahu and Brexit and Orban and Erdogan and now the Polish Law and Justice Party and, in Italy, the first coalition of our time that unites the League, the far right populists, and the Five Star coalition, the far left populists. I've already heard it told me that it's hilarious that anybody could consider the Five Star coalition a far-left party. But inevitably, when the agendas of far-left parties are exposed to a modicum of air from reality, their principles of peace and universality seem to fold when they realize that the only way their agenda will be pushed through is through the same force and violence which the far right always encourages. I doubt the coalition will last for very long, but I can't imagine some far leftist won't pick up a few lessons along the way about what it takes to achieve power.

It's all very dispiriting for a liberal. And Israel is but one indication that the world our grandparents bequeathed to us, 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 laid the groundwork for all the social progress and justice that came later, but 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 left-of-center forces united with one another in pragmatic approaches that depended upon statistics and long term strategy instead of silencing heretics who say 'Perhaps a sweeping immediate change might turn out counterproductively...'

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 real 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... well, today's certainly not the day for that...

Inevitably, this kind of need for the world to be simple will find in Israel contradictions that drive them insane because there was no way that Israel was ever going to conform to any notion of ideological purity. This is the pendulum of demand for solving the general problems of life that led to problems of death that were all too easy to solve. The demands of Martin Luther led to the many European wars of religion. The demands of the French Revolution led to the Napoleonic Wars. The demands of the Russian Revolution that eventually led to... well, I suppose it's debateable, but I know that I believe it led straight in an almost straight line to both Stalinism and Fascism. Perhaps the demand for much greater is inevitable and what keeps people going, but if it's inevitable, then so are millions of deaths that are much earlier than they would have been. 

And both Protestantism and Communism turned out to be apocalyptically lethal for Jews, because Jews have always lived in a world of ambiguity - how that is is for another podcast, and they have never been entirely this nor entirely that, and anyone who subscribes to any absolute moral dogma runs into enormous tensions with Jews. And this goes for both Black Lives Matter and the people behind Women's March, both of which clearly have Jewish problems. In truth, we are neither white nor people of color, and our resemblance to one and the other seems to change multiple times in every country and every century. For our security we require (and it is very much a requirement) safe haven in a country whose practices can at times resemble colonialism because once upon a time European colonialism kicked us out of it - and now have to entertain the idea of a boycott from the grandchildren of the colonialists who boycotted our immigration in the face of the worst, yes, the worst, mass slaughter in the history of the world. Just as the ideological purity of the Likud party has radicalized so many into anti-Zionism, by being so obsessed with the idea that Israel is a kind of ethno-nationalist state at its core for which it's impossible to reconcile with liberal or social democracy, the Left has helped radicalize Israel in exactly the same way that Israel radicalized them, and exactly the same way that neglecting Arab suffering once helped to radicalize the Arab world. The Left doesn't realize it because their definitions of antisemitism are as dinosaur-like antiquated as their definitions of racism are current. It's one thing to criticize Israel, it may even be one thing to have sympathy with terrorists against Israel if you see them as trying to defend their people in the same manner that Israelis do, but to oppose the very existence of the country, to call Zionism itself racist when you perceive the normative state of the entire rest of the world as being imposed through blood by White Christianity - for which Jews were the primary target for 1500 years, is a shameful, racist abomination. Once upon a time, you did nothing to help us when we most needed you, now you do everything to hurt us when we no longer need you. The only lesson Jews can take from this is that you have no problem sympathizing with Jews, so long as we're already dead.

In country after country, we seem the most prosperous minority who has little reason to complain when so many groups suffer worse than us, until the moment we're slain in the span of a year at numbers that more obviously oppressed groups don't equal in a hundred. The fanaticism of the Likud party has brought us to the most familiar position in all Jewish history - the most protected minority by rulers brought to the height of achievement, who then earn the perpetual envy of the underclass, and therefore can most easily be blamed when circumstances get particularly dire. We've seen this movie hundreds of times, and while we don't know how long the movie is, we know its ending. I beg you Eretz Yisrael, find the wisdom and fortitude to change now, or we shall perish yet again. 

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