Elitzur on Israel’s International Problem
Right-wing columnist Uri Elitzur of Yediot Achronot had the column, “The Ramallah Ghetto” last Friday (March 16, 2007). I have not found any English translation of it, either on YNET or on Israel National News, only the Hebrew original on the latter, so with G-d’s help I bring my translation of this worthy article. My commentary comes after the translation.
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The Ramallah Ghetto
Bishops and cardinals from Germany visited Yad Vashem this week and then Ramallah, and announced that Ramallah reminds them of the Warsaw Ghetto. According to a poll taken in Germany about two months ago, a third of the Germans believe that Israel is doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews. And Angela Merkel appeared on some forum that discussed the issue of Israel’s right to exist, and told the participants clearly that Israel has an unshakable right to exist. The editor’s column of Haaretz was very excited, and applauded the chancellor, but as for me, Merkel’s resolute announcement made me feel like the man who has a certificate from the psychiatrist stating he is normal.
There could be no situation in which the prime minister of Israel would go out with a declaration saying Germany has a right to exist. Nowhere in Israel could an intellectual debate take place as to whether Germany is legitimate. Nowhere in the world does such a debate take place, and on no state in the world does such a debate take place. Apart from Israel. And this is not just Germany. It can be understood why it is comfortable for the Germans, more than for any other nation, to believe we are behaving like Nazis, but certainly this is not just about Germany. Polls taken around the world show that Israel is considered by very many to be one of the most harmful and wicked states in the world, and that there is nothing more pathetic and ghettoish than the closing sentence of the column on Haaretz declaring, following Merkel, that “Israel’s right to exist is not up to debate”. It’s up for sure. Merkel would not need to declare what she declared if there were no serious, significant, dangerous debate on Israel’s very right to exist.
Israel as Gush Katif
How did we arrive hither? When did it happen? When did we turn into the Gush Katif of the world? I saw AIPAC’s enthusiastic and loving gathering on television this week, and it reminded me very much of the excited and powerful symposiums of the Orange Camp [those who support the idea that Jews should inhabit Judea, Samaria and Gaza. —ZY] two years ago. In Kfar Maimon, in Jerusalem, in New York, in Gush Katif itself. I was there. There were tens of thousands, there was love for Gush Katif and support and recruitment, and an appearance of VIP’s wanting to be elected and confidence that it would not be. People declared that the fate of Netzarim was as the fate of Tel-Aviv, they swore Gush Katif was exactly like Gush Tel-Mond. But everybody knew it was not. That Gush Tel-Mond has no supporting camp and no one demonstrates for it, because it does not need it.
And now the whole state of Israel is starting to turn into the Gush Katif of the world. It exists, it is prosperous, it is blooming. It has in its favor a multitude of orange ribbons and many important friends, Obama [Hmmm, that Barack “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people” Obama… —ZY] and Hillary come to have their photos taken in a demonstration for it, prime ministers and [female] chancellors declare that it is unthinkable. Even Haaretz writes that Israel’s right to exist is not up to debate. But the truth is really the opposite. Israel is the one state in the world whose right to exist is up to debate, and the debate on its existence or destruction creeps like a serpent into the intellectual, artistic and political discourse of the Western world. It is now legitimate to ask if Israel is legitimate.
And this is not because of the occupation and not because of the settlements. The opposite. In ’67, right after the conquest, we were at the top of the list of the admired and positive states of the world. After Oslo, when the occupation was reduced, we started to dive down quickly. In the last years, the more we make peace and more separation fence and more disengagement, the more our standing plummets. Then what really? How did it happen to us? Where did we go wrong?
The Direction of the Wind
The main answer is that we did not go wrong. It isn’t us. The global trend has turned around. The state of Israel was set up when the white settler, the armed pioneer, the one who fights the desert and defeats the Indians, was a positive hero. The movies that were made and the books that were written at the first half of the 20th century sang his praises. He brought light and progress and fought the forces of nature and the savages of humanity. Zionism was part of that global story, and little Srulik [A regular character on the newspaper cartoons in the earlier years of Israel. —ZY] with his tembel-cap and Uzi was actually one of its last romantic heroes.
At the end of the 20th century, fashion changed. The post-colonial discourse took the stage by the storm, and it rules with a high hand and with zero tolerance. In nowadays’ films, the Indian is the hero dancing with wolves, and the white settler is the evil one. In all of them without exception. There is no tolerance whatsoever toward any film or book or scientific study that does not obey that rule. That is the way it turns out for us to be the bad ones regardless of occupation or borders or withdrawals. As long as the direction of the wind does not change, we will stay the bad ones, even if we withdraw to the ’67 or ’47 borders. We cannot change the direction of the wind. It changes directions in a pendulum movement, and it will probably change again in our favor in the future, but that is not in our hands.
In the meantime there are two things we can still do: first, to understand that, as long as the direction of the wind has not changed, this is the worst time for withdrawals. With our withdrawals we become both more evil and weaker, and also demonstrating disconnection from the land and from the belonging to the country of dispute, which strengthens our image as the bad ones. And another thing is possible: those of us who are creators or researchers or winners of an international prize can show some personal responsibility. In the situation of the world today, bien-pensant ill-speaking of “Israel’s policies” deepens the picture of Israel’s wickedness and shakes the basis of its existence. It is desirable to restrain oneself and maybe even forgo a few applauses in Berlin.
[Translation ends here.]
What an amazing column, summarizing so many points that here are spread across several posts. I now wish to comment on Elitzur’s practical stance, his opinion that there is nothing much to do except wait until the wind changes.
I would have regarded that stance as fatalist. I would have said, just a few months ago, that it is in our hands, if but we wage the war of minds properly, to turn the wind in our favor. Or I would have said we could change strategy and ride the current wind, by portraying ourselves as the natives, indigenous, Indians of our land. Yet two posts of mine detailing the mindset gleaned from reading Daily Kos, On a Few Comments on DKos, from January 23, 2007, and Proving Jew-Hatred Internal, from exactly a month later, show that the problem is far too acute, too spiritually-rooted, to be solved by our own efforts. Not that our efforts are worthless, of course—I would not have this blog if such were my thoughts—but en masse conversion of minds, which is what “change of the direction of the wind” really means, is beyond our capability. We can convert individual minds, perhaps even many, but not enough for the whole tide to turn in our favor.
But then we cannot afford to wait for the tide to turn by itself either. Our situation is not getting better, and waiting for the nations’ favor for us to do the right thing is utter folly, not to mention that it goes against the core of Zionism (auto-emancipation, a sovereign state for the Jews). The only way forward, I hold, is to say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”, and react to every act of Islamic aggression toward us with merciless mass expulsion of the invaders away from our land. The cries of protest would be going to the roof after that, but then they already are, right now, when we are still handling the “Palestinians” with kid-gloves. In other words, as I said before: we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by disregarding world opinion entirely. Alas, a precondition of such action is a new, Jewish-minded, post-post-Zionist leadership. To that our most fervent prayers to HaShem should now be directed.