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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Whither Israel? « Previous | |Next »
March 18, 2003

The revolving doors of diplomacy have stopped turning. We are all slouching to Baghdad and trying to forget about the monster of history. As we do so we become aware that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presses itself increasingly into the foreground. This provides both Israeli and Palestinan comment on the recent power sharing in the Palestinian Authority and so it offers a different from the war talk of say Silent Running

In Australia Ken Parish has posted on this Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his Middle East Dilemnas post here Ken says:

"To the extent that Israel's legal system fails to protect the property rights of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, and instead protects Jewish settlers who seize and retain their land by force, it cannot claim to be a liberal democratic state (as its apologists are in the habit of proudly boasting). Instead, it is a state which condones and practises serious institutional discrimination based on race and religion. That fact doesn't in any sense justify suicide bombings of innocent Israeli men, women and children, but it does help us begin to comprehend the bitterness and despair that lead to such desperate acts of callous butchery."

That post is five months old. Since then the elections within Israel have witnessed a shift towards a nation-state based on ethnicity and religion. This is a good and informed description of the political shift, as signifed by the electoral shift in support for political parties. This event supports Ken's claim that a question marke needs to be placed next to Israel claim to be a liberal democratic state.

There are four things highlighted by this report that indicate the historical movement of Israel away from a liberal democratic state. First we have the acceptance of the forced movement of a people from the nation state.

"All settlers vote in their settlements: they are citizens of Israel, and their settlements are part of the Israeli democratic state. They voted en masse for the Right, of course, mainly for the parties that solicit 'transfer', which is the term for the expulsion of the Palestinians."

Secondly, it is blind to the effects of occuption or colonization:

"Israelis, in general, are deaf to Palestinian suffering - this isn't just a 'tactic' and a 'strategy', but a way of life. Mainstream Israeli literature was never militarist or chauvinist, but except for a few rare cases it never dealt with the Palestinian tragedy."

This deafness----the non-existence of the Palestinians in the Israeli consciousness----is part of the Israeli view that the Palestinians are a danger. So they have to be excluded from Israeli territory. This turn towards a form of separation now involves is a process of apartheid which is becoming more entrenched:

"....if one travels to see those parts of Palestine already 'separated' by the fence (the town of Qalqilya), one can see how it separates Palestinian towns and villages not only from Israel but from the rest of Palestine as well. And of course the separation is one-sided. Israelis have the right to enter the Palestinian side, but Palestinians cannot enter our country. The same logic works everywhere here. The 'separation roads' have always meant separation not between Israel and Palestine but between Palestinian and Israeli destinations. And now, as the process of apartheid becomes more entrenched, Palestinians cannot drive on those roads or indeed on many other roads in the West Bank. The 'separation roads' create a real continuity between Jewish settlements, while simultaneously destroying any form of Palestinian territorial continuity."

Third, ethnicity is primary form of identification and political ethnicity is no longer deemed to be unacceptable:

"Since 1967, Sharon, and before him Binyamin Netanyahu, and before him Menachem Begin, have been offering the 'new Israelis' a simple way of identifying with the state: by hating the Arabs. This requires a brief explanation. The East-West divide is deeply traumatic for us. There is no part of Israeli life where this tension does not threaten to erupt. Jews from Iraq, or Egypt, or Yemen, or Morocco, in order to be Israelis, must first become 'Eastern Jews' - that is, have a common 'Eastern' identity which did not exist prior to their being Israelis. Then they have to become 'Israelis' - i.e. having become 'Easterners', they immediately escape this definition. The hatred that the state - and even more so the Right - offers them has always been the hatred of one minority for another."

And lastly there is no seperation between church and state:

"This is a state where no one can marry outside the religious establishment. But will Shinui bring about a change in the legislation? Of course not. Most laws have a political, even racist, objective: to define Israel as a Jewish state, and to define Judaism in religious terms. Not one Jewish party supports a real democracy, where the state is the state of all its citizens."

Israel is in transformation away from its roots in western liberal democracy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:40 AM | | Comments (9)


You I live in a multicultural nation of fairly like-minded citizens. We have our Pauline Hansons and Michael Branders,etc preaching intolerance and perhaps hate, but they are a miniscule minority, which can be laughed off and tolerated as largely irrelevant. They dont threaten the mainstream core values of society(although the sudden rise of One Nation certainly caused some consternation in political circles)Should their views start to approach electoral majority, some of us might begin to clean our rifles and stock up on the ammunition however. Look out civil society then.In this respect I am accutely aware that it is sometimes a tenuos thread that binds us, when I read about the Middle East's problems.

What you allude to, is simply more confirmation that civil, democratic societies cannot exist in a state of civil war. Truth and decency vanish with constant hatred and bloodshed. How will bloodshed and hatred stop and civil society begin? IMO in only 2 ways- either the protagonists tire of war and start reasoning with each other, or some circuit breaker begins the process. Let's assume the Middle East protagonists haven't totally tired of war yet, what could break the cycle of war for them?

Have you considered seriously my suggestion that Palestine be partitioned along the democratic choice lines, I outlined? Could this policy be sold to the protagonists as an appropriate circuit-breaker to war?

It seems to me that IF it could, then the protagonists may very quickly have to mend their more obnoxious views and ways, in order to appear attractive to prospective citizenry. Could open hostility toward each other dissolve into more peaceful and productive rivalry for hearts and minds?

I must confess the attraction of this as a valuable circuit-breaker has been growing on me. I tire of all the hand wringing and name calling. These people desperately need civil societies like ours.

ta for the salon link to "sleepwalking to baghdad" - says it all so well

I responded to your partition possibility in PM's national Press Club Speech.

It is a circuit breaker. I argued that it has been dispalced by the Sharon Israel Govt. It will not buy the option. An independent Palestine is not on. I will dig around for more material on the geopolitical strategies of the Sharon Govt.

As I currently understand it is crush the Palestinians, take out Iraq, then move onto Iran then Syria.

Its a big game plan.

I've been thinking a bit more on the subject Gary.

You see I grew up with a fledgling state of Israel, fighting for its survival. As I said it was founded by the mass migration of post-war refugees seeking a new life in the land of their forebears. They were fleeing the aftermath of tyrrany and the sheer volume of these refugees would inevitably cause friction, although they were joining some of their brethren in Palestine.

What drove them to seek a new life in Palestine, who knows for sure, but they probably felt at the time that there was no future for them in Europe.They had to fight immediately for the fledgling state of Israel when the British pulled out, in a battle they and the rest of the world thought, would probably be their last. They won a piece of what they considered their birthright and stayed put. I guess many at the time admired their courage, considering what they had been through. I certainly did when they were attacked by most of the Arab world later in the sixties and defeated them in the Six Day War. They were the underdogs then and perhaps we all secretly admire such. Again they were fighting for their very existence.

You have to understand that they were democratic idealists, fighting for a homeland. You may know that they were quite left wing in their outlook, with their cooperative Kibbutzim, which appealed to many young idealists of my generation who visited them and worked there, in the 60s and 70s. We certainly didn't view them as oppressors of minorities as you do today.

If you are correct, that such a dispossessed people now harbor thoughts of dispossession of others, the irony of their situation would not be lost on them in their quieter reflective moments. Clearly they have been badly mauled psychologically by war and bloodshed. I am sure however their democratic idealism would shine through again if given the chance. Back to thoughts on my circuit breaker here.

How could two peoples who share common histories of dispossession be convinced to accept my peace plan? Well simply by stressing the importance of this commonality.You have both experienced dispossession and no-one better than you could understand each others plight. You have both proved to the world and each other, that you are prepared to fight to the death in your own ways, to achieve nation-hood. Are you prepared to fight in another way to prove it. If you are, are you prepared to put your self beliefs to the test in a true democratic test of their strength? A mighty battle for hearts, minds and souls, rather than bodies.

If not, then neither of you are true believers, but merely worthless animals fit for your slaughterhouse. The rest of the world will see you both for what you really are- two of a kind- peas in a pod(the irony shouldn't be lost on them) Murderous,dictatorial mind controllers, with a philosophy that says believe as I do or die. It's time to get pissed off with them if they dont want to take the democratic test. Who would be prepared to refuse first?

Enough of this. You get my point Gary. Now on to the democratic test stage which I've been giving some thought to. During elections in our country I have noticed a marked preponderance of would be suitors to be very nice and politically correct to me during election times. They go out of their way to be attentive and listen to my needs and not upset me in any way. This is not exactly the case once a Mark Latham or a Tony Abbott have their bums on seats in Parliament, but they certainly watch their ps and qs when they want my vote. Would this be any different in a 12 month touting for business phase in the Middle East? I doubt it.

Now while this 'be nice to the punters' phase is going on, wont the protagonists be heading in the direction they need to go? They will find that once they start along the path, there is no going back without a huge loss of international credibility.

Ok,Gary. I was adding this before I read your reply. I guess if you're right I'm pissed off with the both of them. A pox on these peas in a pod then.

Sorry about the crossing comments. I dont know why but I've noticed my home computer doesn't always have the latest blog site updates,compared to my office one. With this problem in mind I'll make the following general observations.

I, like you have a feeling that The Anglo-alliance has a larger plan in mind than just Iraq in the Middle East. I have also been struck by certain similarities and styles of the leaders involved.

Bush has basically stated that he believes that the issue of Palestine is on his agenda and must/will be resolved. I think he has soul-mates in Blair and Howard on this. IMO they fully intend to resolve it.

Now these men are no political fools(nor are their advisors). As experienced as they are, they must be acutely aware of the quicksand that has swallowed all before them. In this regard, they must be confident in a well thought out plan and their own abilities to carry it through to completion. I believe they are seizing the moment.

Think about it- no Cold War enemies to worry about, no half hearted allies(they've already discarded all political baggage), just a triumvirate of committed Anglophiles with the same resolute plan. These 3 are going to be statesmen in the Middle East, come hell or high water.They are going to show the world how it's done Gary, and you better believe it.(well that's where I think they're coming from)

One thing you have to appreciate about them is this- they are all dogged performers, and great political managers. They look, learn and listen from the experts around them and when their gut feelings tell them it's time to act, their performance is crushing. As great political managers they command an awesome level of respect among their colleagues.(If you dont believe me look at the current solidarity among Howard's colleagues)

Q: are these 3 headed for the history books or the quicksand? The only thing I'm certain of Gary is this- they wont ditch the Palestinians in their plan, their values wouldn't allow it, it wouldn't feel right.

It's time to stick my neck out and have a punt on their plan. I reckon they'll go back to their historical roots and partition Palestine like India. Just like the British Raj, they'll have the authority(post Iraq) and the power to do it, but this time, with the lesson of history, without the bloodshed. This region needs these strict headmasters, and you know what Gary, their fractious pupils will do as they're told if they know what's good for them. There wont be any answering back. They wont need my circuit-breaker, although they might already have considered something like it.

I concur with your historical narrative.It was not a fiction.

Butsomething happened along the pathway to freedom. The people fractured into different groups.

The enlightened democratic Israel you refer to is now one kind of Israel; they are still there fighting for their liberal democratic state. But hey are now confronted by those who believe in a very different kind of Israel.

So I guess we can no longer talk about Israel as a unified people.

I take your point on the schism among Israelis. I hope the idealists still outnumber the troglodytes on both sides.

On my growing belief that Bush Blair and Howard have a bigger plan than Iraq, why is it I keep hearing louder and louder, more of the following: Advertiser 9th March P9 headed "Giant leap to the new world order" by Samantha Maiden in Canberra and David Hughes in London. They quote Blair with the following in his address to the Commons-
'I do not believe there is any other issue with the same power to re-unite the world community(and here he is referring to the Anglo-alliance falling out with France, China and Russia)than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine.And that should be part of a larger global agenda' After the usual motherhood mentions of democracy, human rights,poverty and sustainable development, etc, he goes on to say-'That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance.'

You get my drift Gary? These guys are on a mission and it's to solve the Palestinian problem. The question I'm asking myself now is- what is their Grand Plan?

sorry- substitute Germany for China