|By: Gideon Spiro|
14 November 2012 (English translation published 18 November 2012)
Obama’s victory was received enthusiastically or at least with satisfaction by most people in the Left-liberal sector of Israeli society. Sometimes it seemed that more than being happy about Obama’s victory, they felt satisfaction that the Netanyahu’s favoured candidate Governor Mitt Romney lost. There was not much awareness in Israel of the disagreements within the American Left over whether to vote for Obama or for someone else on the list of candidates to the Presidency whose positions were much closer to the Left, but had no chance of winning. Faced with public-opinion polls that predicted a close battle, the feeling that this time every vote counts prevailed this time.
Most on the Left were not willing to have a Romney victory on their consciences, so they voted for Obama as the lesser of two evils. What are the American Left’s main criticisms of Obama? That he keeps lingering in Afghanistan, repeatedly inflicting harm on civilians, including more than a few children, in the process; that not only did he not repeal the undemocratic laws from the George W. Bush Administration, he added some of his own; that despite his explicit promise, he has not closed the prison camp at Guantanamo in Cuba where prisoners are held for years without trial; that he adopted the practice of targeted assassinations – that is, extra-judicial executions, thereby violating a code that is embedded in the American DNA, according to which there must be no punishment without trial, and that he channeled billions of dollars to companies and banks that caused the grave economic crisis he inherited from Bush. But despite all that, he is preferable to Romney, because his outlook that draws on the principles of the European welfare state, according to which a basis of social solidarity must be conserved.
And what about Israel? The commentators are divided between those who think that now, in his second term, since Obama will no longer be dependent on Jewish votes, and that due to his dislike – to put it mildly – of Netanyahu and his anger at him due to his intervention in favour of Romney, he will find a way to put Israel in its place, and those who believe that heads of state don’t conduct their affairs that way. Peace-lovers and human-rights-proponents will be very happy if Obama compels Israel to end the Occupation and the oppression. He has the ability to do that, like as he has the ability to shrink the Israel lobby in Washington, AIPAC, down to the dimensions of a marginal organization that is nothing but a paper tiger. The question is: does he have the will? Is he truly as critical of Israel as the Right loves to represent him?
Another conflagration between Israel and Gaza
Another of the periodical rounds of conflict between Gaza and Israel is flaring up as these lines are being written. There is a repeating pattern here: an Israeli aircraft fires missiles at “a cell that was on its way to carry out a terrorist attack” – in the words of the IDF Spokesman’s official announcement – and in response the Palestinians return fire from Gaza by means of Kassam and Grad missiles. Israel then returns that fire with combined tank and air-to-ground missile fire, and the result is dead and wounded among the Palestinians, including children, in numbers that always exceed the number of casualties in Israel, for the fire from Gaza is imprecise and mostly lands in uninhabited areas. This goes on until the Egyptians come along and initiate a ceasefire that holds until the next round. Every casualty is to be regretted, and as a resident of Israel I feel full solidarity with the civilians who live in communities within shooting-range of Gaza; at the same time, I am sad that the number of casualties in Gaza is so high. Whenever this kind of violence breaks out, voices are raised in Israel calling for “Cast Lead 2”, as if Cast Lead 1 did not exhaust its full potential for war-crimes and so more must be added. The government and the army responded to the demands and began a new operation, which has been named “Pillar of Cloud” (sometimes being called “Pillar of Defense” in English ). Israeli aircraft began a series of bombings of Gaza, the targeted assassinations were renewed as well, and Israel registered a success with the liquidation of the Hamas chief of staff, Ahmad Jaabari. Hamas promises revenge. If there is a lesson, which to my dismay has not been learned, it is this: force and more force and closure and more closure and more bombing and more assassinations will not produce the desired results, and alternative means must be found.
There is much talk here about the suffering of the children in Sderot, and that of children in other communities in the area, and indeed their suffering is great. But as a believer in human rights I cannot forget the suffering of the children of Gaza. Children, both here and there, are paying the price of the Israeli government’s rejection of peace, to which can be added the refusal of Hamas to recognize Israel, although there is no full symmetry here, just as there is no symmetry between a horse and its rider. Both sides are shooting at a civilian population, and are thus stained with war-crimes.
There is no alternative to talks – even with Hamas. Nor is there an alternative to Israel’s giving up on its imperial dreams.
The educational television channel is a branch of the Ministry of Education. Every day for an hour the channel broadcasts a programme of news and commentary on the news. Thirty-five years ago I worked for a time on the educational channel, and one of my duties was to prepare employees for journalistic work in advance of the introduction of the news programme. What goes on there is therefore close to my heart. As part of the process of the takeover of the Israeli media by the Right, the team of journalists who put on the news programme at the educational channel has changed.
In addition to the long-standing presenter, who himself is no leftist or liberal, young journalists from the Right of the Right have been brought in, including a religious settler and a right-wing knitted-kippa-wearer (as opposed to a left-wing knitted-kippa-wearer, of whom there are a few). On the eve of the US presidential election the knitted-kippa-wearer hosted in the studio a card-reader, who claimed to be able to predict the future from cards, and he asked her who would win the election. That lady passed cards from one hand to the other, and said, with the seriousness of a professional diagnostician, “Romney”. He would beat Obama.
That religious journalist is called Arel Segal. Why do I mention all this? Because the invitation of a card-reader to a news show on state-owned television is highly instructive about the idolatrous nature that the Jewish religion has taken on in Israel. It is religion that venerates stones and tombs. For example, settlers seized upon the grave of some Arab sheikh in Nablus and decided that it is the tomb of Joseph, and then they wage a world war over ownership of that “holy place”. Education Minister Gideon Saar has converted the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, another grave, into a pilgrimage-site for Israeli schoolchildren. And of course there is every kind of cult around “graves of saints”, prostration before which is supposed to make all kinds of wishes come true, from pregnancy to marriage, and there are always those who make a pretty penny from it. Not to mention the cult of the stones of the Western Wall, which has gone from being a religious site to a national symbol and an economic venture as well. In such an environment it is no wonder that a religious broadcaster on the television channel of the Ministry of Education brings a card-reader to the news studio. All this is nothing but distortion and trivialization of Judaism, which sees this as nothing but paganism and idolatry.
Anatomy of a national suicide
That is the headline over Professor Daniel Blatman’s review of the latest book by Ian Kershaw, The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945. (Haaretz books section, 31 October 2012)
Blatman quotes Kershaw to the effect that no state has ever fought a lost war for as long as Germany towards the end of Hitler’s regime, and Blatman adds that “his conclusions are relevant not only for the Third Reich”. Professor Blatman, a scholar of the Holocaust and the head of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University, knows what he’s talking about. His review is instructive of just what a dangerous Israel is in. In an article Professor Blatman published in Haaretz, he stated that the level of racism in Israel, the incitement against Arabs and asylum-seekers from Africa and the undemocratic laws passed by the Knesset are placing Israel at the stage Germany was in in 1932, a minute before Hitler’s rise to power. (“1932 is already here”, Haaretz, 25 December 2010).  In other words, the foundation for the creation of a fascist regime exists in Israel today.
The warning-sings are many. Here’s one of them: in his review, Blatman writes: “in the middle, between the leaders of the regime and the Party, the generals and the civil society, stood millions of rank-and-file soldiers – young Germans many of whom had spent their school-years and formative years in the educational system of the Nazi State; certainly those who were mobilized in the last years of the war, and who were in primary school in 1933”.
When I read those words I am reminded of the process of indoctrination that Israel’s schoolchildren are undergoing at the initiative of Education Minister Gideon Saar, from the removal of textbooks that convey a democratic message and represent the conflict with the Palestinians in a somewhat balanced way, through encouraging schools to organize tours to the Occupied Territories, all the way to the latest innovation: allotting budgets to schools based on the number of their graduates who join the army. This is the militarization of the educational system. The Minister and his right-wing government want to raise generations of soldiers who have been brainwashed in school with nationalism, religious extremism and racism and so be fit to serve the Occupation and apartheid with no pangs of conscience.
On the issue of comparisons between the Israeli Occupation and the Nazi regime, we would do well to recall Professor Amos Funkenstein (RIP), an Israel Prize laureate who held the Joseph and Ceil Mazer Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science at Tel Aviv University, who said 25 years ago in an interview with Haaretz: “Between 1933 and 1937, until Krystallnacht, the situation of the Jews of Germany was better, in some ways, than that of the Arabs in the Occupied Territories”. (Haaretz, 9 December 1988).
The State of Israel is in the process of committing national suicide.