Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Day In the State of the Jewish People, a "Light Unto the Nations"

       What can be said any longer about Israel's occupation and repression of the Palestinians?  What may still be less known is the extent to which the poison of the occupation has inevitably and inexorably spread into Israel itself, into its political system and throughout its society and its institutions.  Read Haaretz for a couple of weeks, and you will learn about the rapid growth of domestic Israeli authoritarianism, violence, racism, religious fanaticism, various forms of corruption and criminality, attacks on dissent, civil liberties and the judicial system, the accelerating decline in liberal and scientific education--and more.

      For example, here are the headlines, summaries, and a few quotations from news stories and commentaries in just one day's edition of Haaretz (November 30, 2011):

"IDF freezes implementation of report calling for gender equality"  "Publicly, the IDF announced support for recommendations drafted by special military committee, but in practice it has done very little to implement them....[because of] the religious establishment's opposition."

Sefi Rachlevsky:
"It's not for nothing that several leading rabbis prefer a firing squad than hearing women sing. From Jewish law they draw the assertion that the most severe of all transgressions is the useless spilling of seed. This is compared to murdering one's children...The demons responsible for tragedies are born from Jewish seed that was wasted. This is the reason for the hiding and silencing of women, so as not to excite the men, which might lead to improper ejaculation." 

"Those who believe this are not a fringe group. Nearly 53 percent of first-graders classified as Jews now study in religious and ultra-Orthodox schools, and the prevailing theology in most of them teach these things as fact."

"NGOs say Police Ignoring Sinai Human Smugglers' Accomplices in Israel." "Organizations say smugglers have contacts in Israel demanding ransom payments by relatives and friends in Israel to free fellow migrants from Sinai detention camps.  Hundreds of would be migrants seeking to make their way to Israel are being held by smugglers in Sinai. Some have been the targets of extreme violence....In a report on the problem issued earlier this year based on the testimony of migrants who had made it to Israel last year: According to some of the testimonies, several victims were either murdered by the traffickers or were starved to death. 18 men were forced into slave labor.... The victims report not just physical abuse, but also psychological torture and humiliation. ... Seven of the victims reported that the traffickers threatened to sell their organs for transplant. The police have not responded to Haaretz's request for a response."

"Ground Breaking survey shows 1 in 5 Israelis don't have enough to eat."  Income of 19-20 percent of the families places them under the poverty line.
"Report Offers Chilling View of Israel's Working Poor." "More than half of the poor families in Israel have jobs, and that number has increased in recent years...[but] poverty among working families has deepened.  Couples with more than two children will also be unable to escape poverty, even if both parents work - one full time and the other part-time - and receive minimum wage."   [According to one worker about to lose his home]: "It's something that's happening all over Israel, not just here. It feels like the state is giving up on people. They gave up on me."
"'Talkback law' passes first reading in Knesset." Under the bill, Internet service providers could be forced to reveal the identity of the author of the offending content.

Zvi Bar-el: "Israel's take on Arab Spring may undo peace with Egypt."  "The way of life in the Arab countries does not interest Israel.  Peace, in its Israeli version, is made with leaders, preferably autocratic ones, and not with peoples. The leaders, so it is believed, will force the people to love Israel [despite] Israel's policy in Jerusalem and the territories.  If Israel wishes to 'warm up" the peace, [demonstrators said], it will have to pay the price in Palestinian coin.  This was not an "Islamist" demand....those who made this demand were completely secular.  As usual, Israel is beginning to get ready the no-Egyptian-partner. He will be an Islamist, radical and anti-Semitic, who does not understand the doctrine of winking that Mubarak employed. Because of this no-partner, peace will collapse. After all, everyone understands what an Islamist threat is."

"How Israel stigmatizes and mistreats AIDS sufferers."  "While AIDS sufferers in the West are treated with miracle drugs and can live normal lives, in Israel, those with the disease are stigmatized and given medicines that don't work. While until three years ago it was possible to say that Israel stood at the forefront of science and treatment, I am sorry to say today that this is no longer true. And since AIDS patients in Israel are anonymous, they will not go out into the streets and won't erect protest tents. It is our obligation as human beings, as a country, to change this policy. As Nelson Mandela said, our approach to AIDS reflects who we are as people."  (Dr. Itzhak Levi, Chairman of the Israeli Association for AIDS Medicine and director of the AIDS and sexually transmitted disease clinic at the Sheba Medical Center.)


One day's stories.  I must admit I have been a "liberal Zionist," a supporter of the right and possible need for the Jewish people to have their own state.  Just not this one.  Can we start again?



Larry May said...

Not to disagree with your premise but just to point out how the current state of affairs in Israel is influenced by the ultra Orthodox. In order for any government to form, it needs a coalition representing members of the far right wing parties like Shas. It's clear that their influence greatly affects any compromise with the Palestinians and respect for basic rights for women and the non-Orthodox as well.

Jerome Slater said...

Agreed--but that's just another way of saying that religious fanaticism is growing in both numbers and power.

Anonymous said...

Jewish fundamentalism may be a growing problem, but it certainly can't be blamed for all of the problems alluded to in Jerome's one-day sampling. The general lurch towards the far right involves many kinds of Israelis. A big part of the problem is that the Israeli ruling elite is drinking its own koolaid. The propaganda and other kinds of fear-mongering pouring forth from high places is astonishing.

It will be interesting to see how many ex-patriots respond to this current campaign to return to Israel. If I were an Israeli lucky enough to be living in the diaspora right now, I would certainly be reading that campaign as a frightening, repulsive, and desperate cry.

Anonymous said...

I mean to comment weeks ago, but forgot. I'm not a Zionist myself, but I sympathize with your feelings. Cultural Zionism along the lines that Judah Magnes supported might conceivably have worked out well, though in real life (judging from what Tom Segev writes in his book about the Mandate period) the Palestinians were suspicious of his motives. Understandable given the background,but one wonders if it could have been different.

Zionism might also have worked out well if Palestine really had been a land without a people for a people without a land. Since that wasn't the case, it's not surprising that the actual history looks like a replay of early US history. Hopefully the two sides will somehow manage to thrash out a mutually acceptable solution, but it doesn't seem likely in the near future.

But hell, right now I'm more worried about the direction the US is taking, with one of the political parties being completely insane. And the Democrats are no prize either.


Jerome Slater said...

Donald: Full agreement on all points.

Anonymous said...

FYI, Jerome.......

is this genuine?

I'm rather leery of putting much trust in Palestinian Media Watch.

Jerome Slater said...

The link that Anonymous is referring to is a purported statement by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza:

"The armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel]... We won't relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine."

There are reasons to be quite cautious in interpreting this statement, not least because Anonymous is quite right to be "leery of putting much trust in Palestine Media Watch," which is obviously a rightwing Israeli propaganda site.

Still, I would not be surprised if the quote is an accurate one, for Hamas leaders have certainly said such things in the past.

Even so, though the statement (if accurate) is dismaying, not to mention remarkably stupid, but for two reasons not too much should be of it. First, for every statement along these lines, you can find ten statements by Hamas leaders in which they say they are now prepared to reach a settlement with Israel based on the 1967 lines--that is, the same two-state compromise settlement strongly favored by Abbas and the PA government,whose sincerity virtually no one doubts.

No doubt the hardliners will seize on Haniyeh's stupidity to say that his is the REAL Hamas position, not the many more rational ones. But they can't know that to be the case: why aren't the rational statements, far more detailed and numerous, the real Hamas position, whereas the occasional hardline statement is just standard demagoguery for the recalcitrants? Nobody can prove either proposition, but for what it's worth, my reading of the matter is that the evidence for growing Hamas moderation--if only a consequence of their grasp of the power realities--is far greater.

Moreover, even if some Hamas leaders sometimes succumb to the old dreams, it matters a lot less what they secretly wish for than their total lack of power to attain such preposterous goals.

After all, if the mouse (that roared) proclaims that his long-range strategic goal is to replace the lion as the King of the jungle, does the lion lose sleep?