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on Israeli identity « Previous | |Next »
August 16, 2006

Yitzhak Laor's article on the Israeli military You are terrorists, we are virtuous in the London Review of Books is important as it comes to grips with Israeli identity. I'.m not referring to the right wing or neo-con Israeli's of the Israeli Lobby. It is Jewish identity per se that I find puzzling and difficult to understand.

This identity led Israeli's--- and the Jewish supporters of Israel in the Jewish diaspora--- to support the destruction of Lebanon and to remain indifferent to the suffering of the Lebanese. That identity is more than the standard account recently articulated by Philip Mendes in New Matilda: an idenity based on both history ---a high number of Holocaust survivors or children of survivors--and the fear that Israel is threatened by destruction.

I have highlighted some passages from Yitzhak Laor's important article.

This passage goes to the heart of the matter:

Israelis identify with the IDF, and even after the deaths of many Lebanese children in Qana, they think that stopping the war without scoring a definitive victory would amount to defeat. This logic reveals our national psychosis, and it derives from our over-identification with Israeli military thinking.

Laor says that the army is assigned the dual role of hero and victim. And the enemy? In Hebrew broadcasts the formulations are always the same: on the one hand ‘we’, ‘ours’, ‘us’; on the other, Nasrallah and Hizbullah. There aren’t, it seems, any Lebanese in this war.

Then we have this:

There is no institution in Israel that can approach the army’s ability to disseminate images and news or to shape a national political class and an academic elite or to produce memory, history, value, wealth, desire. This is the way identification becomes entrenched: not through dictatorship or draconian legislation, but by virtue of the fact that the country’s most powerful institution gets its hands on every citizen at the age of 18. The majority of Israelis identify with the army and the army reciprocates by consolidating our identity, especially when it is – or we are – waging war.

He says that the mainstream Israeli left has never seriously tried to oppose the military. The talking points--- that we had no alternative but to attack Lebanon and that we cannot stop until we have finished the job--- are army-sponsored truths, decided by the military and articulated by state intellectuals and commentators.
Military thinking has become our only thinking. The wish for superiority has become the need to have the upper hand in every aspect of relations with our neighbours. The Arabs must be crippled, socially and economically, and smashed militarily, and of course they must then appear to us in the degraded state to which we’ve reduced them. Our usual way of looking at them is borrowed from our intelligence corps, who ‘translate’ them and interpret them, but cannot recognise them as human beings.

Something sure has gone wrong when Lebanese civilians are not seen as human beings by Israeli's. Laor says:
The truth behind this is that Israel must always be allowed to do as it likes even if this involves scorching its supremacy into Arab bodies. This supremacy is beyond discussion and it is simple to the point of madness. We have the right to abduct. You don’t. We have the right to arrest. You don’t. You are terrorists. We are virtuous. We have sovereignty. You don’t. We can ruin you. You cannot ruin us, even when you retaliate, because we are tied to the most powerful nation on earth. We are angels of death.

Angels of death---it captures the contradiction in Jewish identity doesn't it.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:48 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
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