Razorwire over the Wadi

Shakhaf returns home from school. Daddy, who recently returned from his reseve duty, asks how was her day. Shakhaf, who is in the first or second grade, says she has homework to do: answer the question whether Israel has a right to exist. Daddy, and you can see how much it costs him (“if it has a what?” “a right to exist”), keeps his cool and asks what she thinks of the question. Shakhaf says it’s a simple one; he asks for the answer. She says “yes, it does”; he asks “why?”. Shakhaf is stuck: “I don’t know”.

Here comes the expected Zionist answer: a house which we’ve abandoned and yet remains ours, the 2,000-years exile and all of the usual mythos. But, daddy says, when we’ve come back, we’ve forgotten other people have lived here in the meantime – “and these people are right, and these people are right as well, and because of that we’re entangled with ourselves for a 100 years already”.

And perhaps the recognition of tragedy, the collision of two sides in the right, is a bit too much for a seven year old child. Especially in a reality where this collision takes the form of terrorist attacks and unfocused assassination strikes.

[] Touching every open sore

The new movie of the brothers Tomer and Barak Hayman, “A Bridge over the Wadi”, tells the story of the mixed school for Jewish and Arab children so named, residing in Qafr Qara. The school is supposed to promote coexistence among Jews and Arabs – and the movie takes a good look at every pothole on that road.

It begins well: excited kids go to school. An Arab mother says she grew up hating Jews and she doesn’t want her son to grow up like her. Asaf, a Jewish boy, goes to school with mixed feelings: he is afraid of a terrorist attack, the school is in an Arab town. The year is 2004. The children reach school, balloons go up, and everything looks fine. The teachers teach the children trust-games: one child closes his eyes, and the other leads him throughout the school grounds, guiding him so he won’t fall or harm himself.

Then Hanukah comes along. All of the children, Jewish and Muslims, sing holiday hymns. They light “eight candles of light and love”. Some of the Muslim parents feel ill at ease – which is noticeable when their own children sing “[and we thank thee] for the salutations, and for the wars You fought for our forefathers”.

The first flashpoint comes during Ramadan: A Muslim child leads all of the children in a holiday prayer, and the children bow and pray. This is too much for Moni, who takes her son out of school. She claims to be an atheist, but says Jews have, over the generations, have preferred death to bowing. It’s very hard to blame her for this.

A short while afterwards comes the suicide attack in Be’er Sheva. Asaf is hosting his friend, Bashir, in his grandmother Bruria’s house. During lunch, Bruria cross-examines Bashir: Are you sad when Jews are killed? Did your parents teach you life has intrinsic value? Asaf is trying to defend his friend (“they don’t speak to them about it, so they won’t be afraid”); the grandmother carries on with the crucifixion. When the two finally escape towards the video games, she fires at the camera: “we educate the people who will kill us”.

The Hsymans aren’t going easy on themselves, do not act as toy leftists, and don’t pretend the occupation is the source of all the problems in the universe. At a campfire, after Shakhaf and her friend are taken by the friend’s father, Farouq, to the Luna Park, she asks Farouq about love. Farouq says there are no such things among them, it’s forbidden. Shakhaf, amused and curious and detecting bullshit a mile off, asks what would happen if her friend would tell Farouq she was in love. Farouq, noticeably agitated, repeats his reply. Shakhaf asks, wondrous: what do you mean? There are no rules in love, if she falls in love she falls in love. Farouq does not reply. The director intervenes, and repeats Shakhaf’s question. Farouq finally answers: “If this happens, I’d shoot her and turn myself in, I’d go to prison”. Shakhaf, terrified: “You’d kill her?”

And all this is a bit too much. It’s not clear why kids in second class have to learn about Land Day. It’s not clear why the school, which always makes certain all lessons are bilingual (which, as the teacher Yasmin justly notes, means in practice that the Arab pupils are losing their mother’s tongue, because they speak Hebrew with their friends), is split particularly on Independence Day. Some learn about Independence Day, some of the Naqba. And what will they say to each other, when they return to school after two days?

The movie is well edited, the directors’ involvement is minimal (aside from the question directed at Farouq, they asked no other question), and it leaves the viewer with huge despair, huge fear. After all, this school was established by the more tolerant people of the two groups, and if this is the result when their children meet, what would be the result in the general public, where xenophobia is a central ingredient of identity?

The last scene is a conversation among the children. One child, Jewish, all children, even civilians, will have to be soldiers at one point. Another Jewish child is trying to soften the message: no, not everyone. Yes, everyone, the first child insists; it’s either the army or the prison. The second speaker, defensive, says: but you don’t have to serve in a position which forces you to kill Arabs. The first speaker replies: it’s your commander who decides what you’ll do, not you.

One of the Arab children blows a fuse: if you kill Arabs, I will come to your house and blow you up. The second Jewish children gives it his last shot: but maybe, by the time we grow up, there’ll be peace. The first speakers nods dismissively: I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

And if this is the level of pessimism among second graders, and second graders who know the “other side” intimately, maybe it’s time to close up shop.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz for Nana Culture, published November 4 2007, translated into English today, November 6.)

The Offensive that Dares not Speak its Name

Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war – Donald Rumsfeld

 

Two days ago I happened to meet an Iran-affairs expert, who, to the best of my knowledge, was supposed to be in London. We discussed the morning’s headline. He was in despair; he estimated we are on the threshold of war with iran. “That’s not what you told me back in January,” I said; he was much more optimistic then. He nodded sadly.

 

It is quite possible Bush has already decided to attack Iran. The escalating rhetoric – “Third World War” is not, to be understated about it, a phrase frequently used by a head of state – points to it. The storage timing of the declaration of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization last month, a bill pushed by the neo-conservative Senator Joe Liebermann, may signify that the administration is looking for a reason, a cause, some semblance of a congressional approval for such an attack. Should that happen to be the case, Hillary Clinton’s vote for the amendment may haunt her much more than her vote approving the Iraq war.

 

Leaving aside the future politics of 2008, the public ignoring of a certain point is astonishing. Let us assume that American planes, taking off on a bombing mission in a country as large as Germany, France and Britain combined, do find their underground targets and destroy them. That’s where public imagination halts: Mission accomplished, threat removed; the hero lands, takes off his flying gear and lights a cigar. Credits begin to roll. The end.

 

This scenario assumes utter passivity on the part of Iran. It assumes a country which justly considers itself a regional superpower will simply avoid a response after its sovereignty has been violated, a military attack has been carried out on its territory, a project which cost it untold funds and which around which the population is gathered has been destroyed. This assumption will not stand the test of reality.

 

Iran has a complete array of response options, none of them nice. The most likely of which are a Hizbullah attack on israel’s northern border, an unprecedented Iranian missile attack on Israel (which is, justly, considered the cause of the attack), and a full Shi’ite assault against the American forces in Iraq. The Mahdi’s Army, Muqtada Al Sadr’s militia which enjoys Iranian support, has more men on the ground in Iraq than the US military. And the Shi’ites take – very sensibly, from their point of view – a very dim view of the American-Sunni rapprochement in Anbar Province.

 

American forces will find it hard to get out of this trap – especially when you take into account the fact that Turkey (which threw the US’ Iraq invasion plan out of joint in 2003) may do so again following an attack on Iran, and may prevent American supplies and reinforcement from entering Iraq from within its borders.

 

And these are just the expected military outcomes. It’s perfectly possible the mullahs hold some surprises up their sleeves, such as a sleeper terror network in Europe and the US, which would be activated upon an attack.

 

But the direct military response pales before the diplomatic one. The anger in the world against the US, already at an all-time high, will rise sharply – especially if the Bush administration will give up on a UN approval of the strike, an impossibility given the veto power of Russia and China. And the rage will find its boiling point in the Middle East.

 

A fifth American attack on a Muslim country in 15 years (Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Iran), is expected to lead to an explosion in the “Muslim Street”. In a much less combustive situation, at the beginning of the Second Gulf War in 1991, King Hussein of Jordan hastened to grow a beard and spout Islamic slogans. A strike against Iran, whose pro-Israeli motives are so transparent, combined with an Iranian military response, could lead to a meltdown of the Middle East.

 

Israeli experts are already speaking openly about the expected collapse of Jordan. Mubaraq holds to his throne by the skin of his teeth, and the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys a majority among the Egyptians. Syria may be dragged, following Iran, into a war with Israel, if only to prevent radicalization of Islam within it; Assad Junior is not strong enough to repeat his father’s Hama Massacre. An attack on Iran may finally push Turkey to the Islamic side, and may serve it as an excuse for an invasion of Kurdistan. Only God knows what would happen to the Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Principalities.

 

The attack may well strengthen Iran. The mullah regime has trouble ruling, it fails in supplying its subjects with livelihood, and Iran is a revolution-prone country. A large segment of the population abhors the regime, and the only thing which may bring the people together around the mullahs (thereby postponing the oh-so-necessary reform) is an attack by a foreign power.

 

In short, the concept that an air attack on Iran will rid us of the “danger of a Third World War” is a dangerous fantasy, since it gleefully disregards the counter-offensive which is certain to come. The very attack is the most likely catalyst, at the moment, for such a war. The counter-reaction will cause massive damage to the US’ standing, may bring about a military defeat in the Middle East, and may trigger an isolationist response of the voters in November.

 

The counter-reaction may, on the other hand, wipe out Israel off the map. For some reason, Israeli thinking, too, stops at the great image of Natanz in flames, and does not look five minutes further into the future. Anyone who thinks the IDF may defend him, is hereby cordially asked to take a second look at what happened in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

 

Such introspection won’t take place, of course. We will continue to support war with Iran, because “everybody knows” there is no other option. And when everything will go up in smoke around us, we will ask (as we do ever since that shining moment in 1967): how did this happen to us?

 

And anyone who will remind the public that this question has to end with “again”, will be termed a traitor, a person who thrusts a knife at the nation’s back.

 

Again.

 

(Written and published in the Hebrew blog today. Translated by Yossi Gurvitz)

Wandering in the Fog: Israelis and History

A pamphlet is going around by email and forums, which warns Israelis of the dangers of celebrating the Sylvester (*). The pamphlet is replete with gross inaccuracies: for instance, it claims Sylvester I was a pope, while a more proper term would be Bishop of Rome; the papacy did not acquire the power we are used to until the 11th century.

Even should we leave aside this error – which a layman, unfamiliar with church history, could make easily – we hit upon a blood-curdling claim: according to the pamphlet, “the first organized pogrom” broke out  simultaneously in Germany, England and France on 31 December 1400.

Leave aside the fact that the propagandist does not know that such a coordination between the three realms (even assuming Germany was a realm at the time, which it was not) was simply impossible, due to communication problems and the lack of a common calendar. Let us even leave aside the fact that the pamphleteer is repeating the blood libel – in reverse; But how could the writer, who purports to be a believing Jew, not know there were no Jews in England and France in 1400?

And how about a friend of mine, who re-tells a well-known story about Rabbi Akiva, and finishes it with “and then Cossacks came and burned down the town” – without seeing the problems in seamlessly incorporating the second century rabbi, a leader of the Bar Kochva rebellion, in the tapestry of Eastern European Jewish life in the 1700s.  

Israelis are ignorant of history. This seems to be a designated effect. To begin with, the Israeli education system withdrew Jewish history away from the rest of history: it divided history lessons into “Jewish history” and the history of everything else. And then, they transformed the entirety of Jewish history into Historia Lacrimosa, a history of tears.

The lessons focus on the destruction of the Second Temple – but not on the unique beliefs and cultures which thrived while it stood; on the destruction of the Rhine Jewry during the crusades (what are crusades? What is Christianity? Unimportant; Christians are people who kill Jews); on the expulsion from Spain and the Spanish Inquisition (which, contrary to myth, did not persecute Jews). And between these two events, of course, Europe experienced nothing but endless blood libels.

The reason, as usual, is Zionist theory. The concept of Shlilat Hagola, negation of the Diaspora, ignores the salient fact that most of Jewish history took place in the Diaspora; that even prior to the destruction of the Temple, most of the Jews chose not to live in Palestine. The desire for a “normal” history, one with blood and kings and wars, made Zionist historiography – at least in its school version – leap over 2,000 crucial years.

Add to that rampant and ancient xenophobia, and the concept that things that interest non-Jews ought not to be of interest to Jews, and you get a society lacking any historical anchors. I have heard, with my own ears, an Israeli tour guide explaining, by Titus’ victory arch, that the Flavian emperor was in fact a pope (he misunderstood the meaning of the inscription pontifex maximus; and how he to know that the popes have borrowed this title from the emperors?). I have heard yeshiva boys who believed Plato lived after Maimonides; after all, many of his claims resemble those of Maimonides. Some people are under the impression that the Hasmoneans have triumphed, of all people, over the Romans; and who have no clue whether the Greeks came before, or after, the Romans.

And why should they? After all, does it really matter, in that endless chain of “on every generation they rose against us to destroy us, and did a remarkably good job”, whether the Egyptians came before the Nazis? And is the precise timing of the Byzantines in that chain essential? And so, we have people ignorant of all culture – even Jewish culture; people who are not certain on the time of the First Temple (the one, as everyone knows, destroyed by the Greeks), or the Second; or who were the Hassidim, and what in God’s name did they want.

There is no vaccum, and where there is no history, myth steps in. In our case, the myth of “the entire world is arrayed against us, always, a priori”; a myth which enables a propagandist to turn the blood libel inside out, and blame all of the Christians living in 1400 in a conspiracy against the Jews living among them; the myth which whispers that wherever there are Jews, there are also Cossacks; that the Holocaust is but the pinnacle of some mystic chain, and that another Holocaust is just around the corner. A long chain, unbound by causality, because it needs no causality.

Nietzsche once asked “how does history aid and harms life”; we can see the damage wrought by an absence of history at any time we look at the frightened herd which is the Israeli public.

(*) For unknown reasons, the Gregorian New Year is called the Sylvester in Israel; this probably has to do with German Jews and the traditions they brought with them.

(Written and published in Nana News in December 2004.  Translated by Yossi Gurvitz, October 2007).

Circling the Schools with Tanks

Anyone who remembers Avigdor Kahalani from that most embarrassing period of his life – when he served as Minister of Internal Security – wasn’t all that surprised by his latest schtick. The teachers’ strike threatens harm to the commemoration project Kahalani planned for himself while still living; and therefore the former division commander, who forced the Golan Druze to accept Israeli citizenship, struck out once more against Israeli democracy.

We are informed by Kahalani that the Security Ministry (where Kahalani holds the shudder-inducing title of Chief of the Security-Social Dept.), will send buses full of officers, who will take the place of the striking teachers, and take the students – I’m sorry, I meant “the future soldiers” – to those old battlefields.

Personally, I am of the opinion that Kahalani somehow manages, in every minute he draws breath after that battle, to besmirch the memory of one of the most impressive battles in history. While Kahalani may not have “saved the State of Israel” in October 1973, as he tends to brag and as the panic-stricken General Staff believed at the time, he did inflict a stunning defeat on the enemy, suffered relatively few losses, and demonstrated admirable coolness under fire and tactical verve.

A normal man would have retired after the Battle of the Vale of Tears, would have understood there were no mountains left to climb; but Kahalani insisted on planting himself in Israeli memory even 34 years later. There’s a reason why old soldiers are expected to fade away: they are, almost without exception, a serious embarrassment to themselves and others when they take off their uniforms. And Kahalani does not break the mold.

Kahalani did not, in all likelihood think through his act; and would not, in all likelihood, understand why replacing striking teachers with officers paid by the State is problematic, even if someone tried to explain it to him; furthermore, all this is done so that the students will get a concentrated dose of Kahalani’s bio.

But why pick on Kahalani? After all, he’s not paying for the buses out of his own pocket; the Security Ministry does. He did not handpick the officers, they did not come because they heard it on the grapevine; they’ll board those buses as per orders. They will be sent by a Security Minister who has recently declared “there is no one who is unfit to serve in the IDF”, which was the latest step in his incitement campaign against people his own ministry disqualified from serve.

The involvement of officers in education did not begin with Kahalani, after all. Education Minister Limor Livnat embraced a “colonel for every high school” plan. There was no public outcry at that; the plan came on top of the planned “checkpoint classes”, which would have taught students – sorry again, I meant future warriors – how to behave at a checkpoint in the Occupied Territories. And when some students protested the arrival of a general at their high school, their fellow students threw stones at them.

The basic purpose of the modern school, an institute dating to Napoleonic France, is to qualify young people to serve in the military, to educate them to loyality to the State, and to qualify them for the work market. Israel, which looks more and more like a neglected branch of the IDF, had it backwards for quite a long time.

The government is encouraging an entire segment of the population not to work; soldiers are considered to be “children”, whose blood is redder than that of civilians; the army is much more important and much more influential than the democratic institutes; and, accordingly, the Education Ministry is considering abolishing the civics matriculation exams.

Kahalani’s mini-putsch will not cause a public debate; there will be no protest. In Israel, the Green Beast is the Golden Calf (and it costs accordingly), and woe to the person who will criticize it. And so, the next time a ruthless senior minister or prime minister – say, Binyamin Netanyahu; say, Ehud Barak; say Ehud Olmert – will wish to break an annoying yet legitimate strike, the flag-wrapped Kahalani shall serve them as a precedent, as a justification.

The Battle of the Vale of Tears shall be reason enough for tears; and the question whether in the end Avigdor Kahalani, rightful owner of the rare Bravery Medal, did more good or harm to his country, shall remain open.

(Published October 7th in the Hebrew blog, written and translated by Yossi Gurvitz. Avigdor Kahalani is a former Brigadier General [Tat Aluf] in the IDF, who played a major part in the victory over the Syrian forces in the Yom Kippur War. His later military career is, to be charitable, less noteworthy; his political career was an unmitigated disaster).

How I Became an Enemy of the Race

(Note: This article, a polemic whose original and pretentious name was “Apologia pro fide sui”, was published in December 2006 in Nana News, after an Orthodox commentator charged me with anti-Semitism. He replied, and I replied again – I plan to translate the second reply later.)

(For Dena Bugel-Shunra)

Ariel Lavi, who writes Parshat Ha’Shavua columns in these pages – caveat: I edited most of them – wrote yesterday a somewhat confused and emotional column, in which he blamed of anti-Semitism. And that’s about it. Even though he wrote that “the full refuting for Gurvitz’s claims could be detailed here”, and even though he was offered a podium precisely for that purpose, Ariel has, lo and behold, declined to do so.

I was skeptical whether the strange mishmash written by a person who supposed, for some reason, that the [Jewish] Hellenizers were an obstacle in the war against, err, the Romans, and who has in the past claimed that Plato learned his wisdom from the Hebrew prophets, actually merits a reply. Normally, I’d say no; but, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to a polemic with the opponent you have, not the one you’d wish for.

Anti-Semitism? Bullshit

Lavi’s first accusation is that I am anti-Semitic. Crying anti-Semitism has become, of late, the ultimate excuse for dodging debate on troublesome ideas. There’s no point in arguing with an anti-Semitic. I guess I got off lightly: Lavi did not claim I’m a holocaust-denier.

The accusation is false, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, it should be noted that the labeling of someone as anti-Semite is not a refutation; were I to consider all Jews the descendents of apes and pigs, and to hold decidedly unkosher debauched feasts on Yom Kippur which happened to be a Saturday, while listening to Wagnerian operas – that would still say nothing about the value of my arguments, and would not refute them.

Anti-Semitism is the claim that all Jews are guilty of something. Classical, which is to say Christian, anti-Semitism was of the opinion that all Jews are eternally, mystically, guilty of the murder of the son of God – a guilt which could only be expiated through the waters of baptism. Modern anti-Semites claimed that Jews are, by nature and without power of change, loathsome creatures.

I reject with disdain the claim that a “set nature” can be decided for over 13 million people, different in one another by ethnicity, character, education, social position and residence. Anti-Semitism is yet another prejudice, another sub-category of the disease which is xenophobia. I believe that the word “Jew” has only religious significance: a Jew is someone who accepts a certain set of beliefs.

I find that set of beliefs to be detestable – more on that in a minute – but it’s interesting to look and see how Lavi sees things. The results may be interesting.

Reverse Anti-Semitism

According to Lavi, the Jewish people is entrusted with a heavy burden of “Tikkun Olam”, fixing the world. It is not, by any means, a new concept, and it is brought ad absurdum by Jewish law: there is a correct Jewish way to lace your shoes, and a Jew who deviates from it is harming Tikkun Olam. The Kaballah, which lurks like a malignant tumor behind many Jewish customs, whispers that incorrect lacing of the shoe creates demons.

Lavi hastens to enlist me, due to my mother’s lineage, in the ranks of his devil-banishing legion. He believes I have no choice but to play the part he and the rabbis set for me in their divine farce. And, since I refuse, he is left with no option but declaring me a race traitor.

Which is to say that, according to Lavi, my function in life is set by my blood. When I renounce the part others want me to play, he decides that my behavior is irrational and is only intended to provide me with excuses. By the same logic, the Venerable Peter – one of the most influential churchmen in the Middle Ages – reached the conclusion that Jews are irrational creatures: they have, after all, rejected by various excuses the self-evident (according to Peter’s thinking) truth of the Gospel, and by so doing denied their divinely-allotted part.

So who, precisely, is the anti-Semite around here? I report, you decide. Does it mean I have no issues with Judaism – and let us be exact: Judaism and not Jews? Not at all. But it requires an explanation, and it won’t be short.

A Religion suffering from PTSD

The historical development of Jewish thought is the result of a dreadful paradox: Jews believed they were the chose people, but, how should I put it, God was on the side of the Roman legions. The Temple, which was the center of Jewish life, was destroyed in 70 AD. The defenders of the Temple were betting Jehova won’t let His name be besmirched. They were wrong.

And as if to add insult to injury, a small and cheeky cult which broke the tribal limits and believed God has expiated the Original Sin, by sacrificing himself for the sins of the world, has taken over the Known World. The majority of Jews, with no need for pogroms or persecution, went over to Christianity; within a century after “the realm turned heretic”, St. Jerome could crow that “Not one in ten remains of Judea”.

The trauma among the survivors was horrible. It is expressed in the anti-Christian curse uttered by Orthodox Jews three times a day unto this day: “Let the heretics be deprived of hope…”. The heretics are the Christians. During the Middle Ages, under pressure of censorship, the curse was changed minutely – Minim turned to Malshinim­ – and is now ostensibly directed at snitches. Pious Jews are familiar with this story.

Ever since then, Judaism was hanging between two polar points: the proper status of Jews facing their actual status. The pressure was particularly jagged in Ashkenaz – western and northren Europe – where Jews sometimes lived, literally, under the cross: the Jewish quarter was often built around the cathedral.

The result was a wild hatred, unlimited because it was powerless, to the people among whom the Jews lived. In one vengeance hymn the word “blood” appeared 77 times. (And this, as far as we can tell, is also the cause of the Blood Libel. The Christians knew the Jews hated them, and they made a logical deduction: the Jews hate us so much, they are willing to murder their own children so they won’t become Christians; what, then, shall they do with our children?).

This relationship became more and more poisoned as time passed. And as if that wasn’t enough, Judaism kept bleeding: in a desperate attempt to circle the wagons, it became anti-intellectual. The Jewish world closed more and more, and the very act of peeking outside became an offense. The philosophical writings of Maimonides were handed over to the inquisition for burning in 1232, and that was a price the rabbis were willing to pay in order to prevent Ashkenazi Jews from learning of the world beyond the walls. This turning inwards, towards the Talmud page, beget degeneracy.

And degeneracy, among a people accustomed to a high level of critical culture, led to escape – assimilation. During the Renaissance, Judaism was already an empty shell; Jews had nothing to contribute to the most stirring period in the history of the western world. Nothing – except the curse of the Kabballah, for which it was its hour of greatness; night is darkest just before dawn. The last crisis came when Orthodox Judaism, losing its wits under the waves of Enlightenment which swept the Middle Ages away, has declared that “the new is forbidden by the Torah”.

And when that happened, anyone who could, anyone with sense, fled. The 19th century saw the demolition of the legal walls between Jews and Christians, and almost any thinker of importance made the short, odious trip to the baptismal font – or merely declared himself an atheist. Once more, not one in ten was left in Judea.

Judaism reached the 19th century as a wreck. Like Islam, it crashed on modernism. It dragged a poisoned baggage with it to the century of the Enlightenment: Kill the best of the gentiles, smash the brains of the best serpent, all non-Jewish women are prostitutes, you are called man and they are not, it’s a law that Esau hates Jacob. The world outside the ghetto – and the ghetto, it should be remembered, was almost always the result of Jewish choice – was so scary.

Internal Tension and its Results

The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam mentioned by Lavi brought about a significant branching: A large number of Jews decided, during that terrible and beautiful century of Enlightenment, to indeed fix the world. They became revolutionaries and communists and reformers. Many of the descendants of the persecuted decided no one should be persecuted any longer. They were prominent in the political, literary and scientific movements – in a time when it was taken as dogma that science will save humanity – with no proportion to their number in the general populace.

The century of Enlightenment, between the end of the Napoleon Wars and the First World War, was also the century of the Jews. Marx, Einstein, Freud, and many others – by breaking the world into which they were born, they created the world in which we live today.

(And some of them, indeed, when chasing the highest good, when love of humanity overcame love of man, when they decided to demolish the old world to its foundations, became the worst of killers. Trotsky, Kaganevich, Frenkel, Yagoda – these are names no longer mentioned).

But Tikkun Olam has two versions, and while the Enlightenment Jews chose fixing the world, and accordingly became more and more distant from Judaism, those left behind, those who kept the fire-spitting ember of Talmud and lawgivers, Kabbalah and legends, saw Tikkun Olam as something entirely different: as the restoration of things as they should be – the control of others by Jews, the Messianic times according to Maimonides. They had no interest in the world, but they had one hell of a grudge against it.

And Zionism, who created this country, was torn between these two poles. Whose heart will not bleed at Shaul Tscharnikhovski’s roar, “My sword! Where is my sword!” – when he knows well there is no sword? And, when he dreams – lying prostate before the statue of Apollo – about “the conquerors of Canaan by storm” – only someone who does not know oppression and occupation will mock the feelings of the oppressed. But Tscharnikhovski was also capable of singing the praises of human brotherhood; few Zionist could do likewise.

Yet following the Uganda Debate, after Zionism has given up its ambition of a normal state, first and foremost a shelter, when it became addicted to the bad old necromancy of messianism, based on mystical “Eretz Israel” – then the tension was discharged. Zionism became the refuge of those who chose to see the concept of “chosen people” as Herrenfolk. This attitude is not new; contrary to the claims of the Zionist left, it did not spring into being following the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Ehad Ha’Am, visiting Palestine in the 1900s, complained that the “pioneers” were treating the locals – who may not have occupied the place by storm, but did live in it for centuries – abominably. Zionism became a magnet for the racist among the Jews.

By thy Sword Shall thou Live

And so, when we look at the list of Nobel Prize winners, note the large number of Jews and the pitiful number of Israelis – even though Israel contains almost half of the world’s Jewry; when we see the achievements of American and British Jewry, and compare it to the lamentable state in Israel; when we stare into this mirror, we see, staring back, the difference between implementing Tikkun Olam as responsibility for the world, and Tikkun Olam as a wild, desperate quest of vengeance against history.

There are millions of people in Israel, whose soul is still that of the refugee, and whose minds are consumed by that old hatred, that 2,000-years old hatred, against the world. Such a situation will always be loaded – and in Israel we have given those people, who credo is “the whole world is arrayed against us”, advanced weaponry. Isolationist, Orthodox, human-hating Judaism is the variant that reigns in Israel.

And it has some frightening parallels with the Nazi movement. The attitude of Nazis towards homosexuals, women, and foreigners is dangerously similar to that of Orthodox Judaism towards them – a religion which has never abolished slavery, whose males pray daily that they were born neither woman nor slaves, whose laws do not punish the Jew who kills the gentiles, whose Chief Military Rabbi has concluded a POW must not be given medical treatment, unless it brings about some intelligence benefit, or there’s fear that his death will cause harm to Israelis.

Nazism was an attempt to cancel out modernism, to leap backwards to an imagined Middle Ages – much more violent than the real one was; and all of the faculties of Orthodox Judaism are employed in an attempt to avoid confronting the modern world, a desperate attempt of flight from recognizing that its basic thesis – that the Jewish male is the center of the world, the pinnacle of creation, above the inert, the plant, the animal and man – has crumbled 200 years ago.

But this is probably too much history for a person who keeps mixing the Greeks and Romans – hey, what’s the difference, they’ve both persecuted Jews – and way too much philosophy for a person who still believes, for reasons beyond human ken, that the Greeks worshipped statues. This demands too much thinking. Better call it anti-Semitism.

Because, as everyone knows, there is no point in arguing with anti-Semites. There’s nothing to argue about. What a nice, easy solution.

Won’t Fall Twice in the Same Hole

Knesset Member Zahava Gal’on (Meretz) wrote the Attorney General today, asking him to force the Prime Minister to report to the Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Security Committee on the IAF’s activities in Syria two weeks ago.

This demand for a parliamentarian oversight of the on the activities of the executive branch, which would be par the course in any normal democracy, made all of the “Proud Jews”* crawl out of their lairs: they don’t want to know what happened, and they don’t want the legislators to know, either. They trust the good fellows in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Security** Ministry.

This deep yearning to take the cameras out of the IDF’s face is perfectly understandable: after all, when the camera are on, they show a pitiful, pathetic picture. Those same people now worshipping Olmert’s sphinx-like silence, have forgotten that just a few months ago he was grasping at two percent of public approval, a result of his demonstration, a little more than a year ago, of his deep military thinking.

The people acclaiming the silent figure who replaced Amir Peretz, forget the series of failures which ended his tenure as Prime Minister, forget his tendency to cheat the public, forget his tendency to bring everything into a crisis.

The air is full of rumors whose truth is questionable and which contradict each other. Israel has attacked a weapons shipment intended for Hiabullah; or it has attacked nuclear equipment which, as in a bad espionage movie, came to Syria all the way from North Korea; or, perhaps, it did nothing at all.

The talks of a Syrian nuclear project are particularly worrisome, especially when you look at their source. One of the main speakers is John Bolton, a former senior official in the State Department, a former ambassador to the UN, and a former, present and in all likelihood future extremist hawk. He stands out as one of the opponents of the recent deal with North Korea – which he now essentially blames of proliferating nuclear materials and, indirectly, of breaking the deal. Bolton is supported by State Secretary Rice – and these are two members of the same team which so successfully sold us that earlier deception, that of Saddam Hussein’s WMDa.

Then as now, they are supported by an attendant choir of Israeli intelligence. The same American sources which identify the alleged Syrian target as a nuclear one, tell us that it was Israeli intelligence which identified the target as such.

Let us put aside for the moment the monumental series of blunders by our hush-hush men: the failure to predict the wars of 1956 and 1967; the claim that Saddat’s visit to Jerusalem is an attempt to conceal a surprise Egyptian attack; that flighty entanglement in the Lebanese Civil War; the estimate which claimed in 1980 that the Iran-Iraq War will end in three weeks, and in 1988 confidently predicted it will carry on for three years more; the failure to predict the First Intifada; and I’m yet to say anything about the Yom Kippur War.

Let us put aside for the moment the fact that a special report of the Foreign Relations and Security Committee called for the smashing of AMAN (military intelligence branch) and for depriving it of its status as “national estimator”; let’s focus instead on what that “national estimator”, the traumatized troll [Major General] Amos Gilad (who, according to his superior officer, misrepresented AMAN’s estimates) had to say on the eve of the Second Gulf War. At the time, Gilad boasted that “once Saddam’s arsenal will be exposed, the world will be shocked”. Israeli intelligence briefs were used by the American army prior to the war.

Needless to say, the world was indeed shocked – when it found out there were no WMDs, and that Condi’s “mushroom cloud as a smoking gun” speech turned out as fear-mongering bullshit from beginning to end.

Now, they’re trying to convince us that Syria has, well, not nuclear arms per se, but nuclear weapon “programs”. We’re hinted that the North Korean regime is so ga-ga, it would deliver to Syria an already-made nuclear bomb. And given the bullshit we’ve been fed by AMAN during the last year, it would seem these rumors are meant to pave the way for a war with Syria: a justified war, the most justified war of all, intended to remove a nuclear threat from Israel.

Am I the only one with a sense of deja-vu? Haven’t we watched this movie, with Iraqi subtitles?

Most respected gentlemen of the government: I do not trust your judgment – damn it, I’m not even sure you possess judgment, seeing as you went to the last war after a 20-minutes debate – and I will not have you play war games which just might suck me in. Since we are still a parliamentary regime, kindly turn over all of the information in your possession to the Knesset, who just remembered it’s supposed to provide oversight over you. Maybe in this way you’d be less tempted to go out on adventures. Thank you.

Honorable Knesset Members: Overseeing the government is your duty. The army, in particular, doesn’t like it, which is why oversight over it must be increased. Please remember that, prior to the Second Gulf War, Congress held lengthy debates over the issue. Please, do not be blinded by fear-mongering and the claims of “secrecy” and “intelligence sources”: study the material, ask difficult questions, and if you think you and the public are led by the nose, say so loud and clear. Each and everyone of you will, after all, have to face himself in the morning, and going to war based on erroneous or false intelligence is a heavy burden. You can avoid us, but you will not be able to tell yourself “our hands did not spill this blood”.

Dear Israeli public, if you still exist: Please remember how did all our wars in the last 40 years began, and how they ended. Remember how the gorilla-like chest-beating were replaced by mournful whimpers. You’d better turn off the TV and wake up before it’s too late.

And if I may just quote President Bush: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…. That’s not going to happen”.

* – Proud Jews: a common nickname among ultra-nationalistic, ultra-xenophobe, often Orthodox Israeli talkbackers.

** -  Israel does not have a Defense Ministry, it has a Security Ministry (Misrad Ha’Bitakhon). The two terms are similar but not exact translations: the original meaning of Bitakhon was trusting God. And while an army can certainly defend, it cannot assure security – which is an Israeli obsession.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz and posted in the Hebrew blog on September 17th. Translation by Yossi Gurvitz)

Judeo-Nazis

Gevalt! A gang of neo-Nazis was discovered in Petah Tikva. Why, oh why did we import those anti-Semite Russians? So what if, in all likelihood, they came to the country as small children and grew up here - they’re truly bred anti-Semites, just like all gentiles (spit!) are.

Just what don’t you get? They’re not Jews! Gevalt! They have only a Jewish father, or a Jewish grandfather; maybe a father and two grandfathers, and one grandmother, but they lack a Jewish mother! Maybe their mother has a Jewish father and grandfather, but she doesn’t have a Jewish mother! To make a long story short, somewhere down the line, one non-Jewish mother cropped up. That’s how it is, when you grow up without a worrying Jewish mother: you wind up a Nazi.

These Nazis, they’re not Jewish enough. They may be half, quarter, or three-quarter Jews, but they’re not full Jews. They don’t have the pure Jewish blood, which is why they lack the spark of Jewish soul, the spark which connects them to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Why did we bring these goyim here anyway? So they’d get mixed up with pure Jews and cause assimilation?

They should be kicked outta here, and in the meantime, they should be reminded – every day, every hour – that they’re not one of ours. They’re not Jewish enough for us – and what is it to you, if we go to the discos on Saturdays and drive to smoke a few joints in Sinai during Yom Kippur? When it comes to the purity of the Jewish race, we’re all Satmer Hassidim, and anyone who has just a Jewish father is beyond the pale, and we won’t let him forget it.

Which is right and proper, and here’s the thing: when those little goyim grew up, turns out they became Jewish-haters. What more proof do you need?

(Hebrew original posted on September 10 2007 by Mad Max, translated by Yossi Gurvitz. The police have arrested several members of a “neo Nazi” gang; the prisoners are all Russian immigrants, and a racist outcry as to their “Jewish purity” and demands for their expulsion – picked up by the Minister of the Interior – took over the Israeli news sites. This is, of course, a parody).