It sucks to be Israel [Updated]

When the internet and I were both somewhat younger, I learned what a "blog" was when I stumbled across an Israeli writer's website where he posted daily dispatches from Jerusalem, which, I soon learned, might as well be another planet. 

I engaged with this guy in the comments section and in email to try to get a handle on his version of conservative Israeli politics, and, although our exchange was civil and detailed, I don't think either of us managed to shift the other's attitudes about Israel's place in the world and the best way to address that country's unique problems.

I came to the conversation with a liberal bent, but I have to state clearly that my liberalism did not contain any prejudice about Israel per-se. It's fair to say that I inherited my politics from my liberal parents, and if you subscribe to the conservative worldview, you might say I was further indoctrinated by liberal higher-education institutions. During all this hippy-dippy neo-marxist brainwashing, however, I never received a brief on the correct attitude towards the state of Israel. (It might have been on the curricula. I must have skipped that day.)

What I did bring was a core faith--probably criminally under-examined, but currently still retained--in the core principles of the United States, some of which go back to its founding, including:

* Freedom of religion
* Equal rights for all people, regardless of ethnicity

And this was the cornerstone of my disagreement with my Israeli interlocutor. In retrospect I was naive and uninformed, but at the time I was astonished and somewhat shocked at his commitment to an ethnically pure democracy. All of the approaches I could suggest to his problems were grounded in my own ideals of post-ethnic statehood that--even though we're still struggling with it--my own country represents. 

It still seems now, as it did then, that there are only two ways to preserve a Jewish democracy in Israel. Either they must shrink by giving away land to the Palestenians, or they must resort to war crimes and/or institutional racism to keep the land under Jewish control. I'd like to think there's a third way, but I don't see it. 

But, personally, I have nothing invested in the existence of an ethnically pure state, of any type, anywhere in the world. It's just not something of value to me. And while I am fine with other's valuing it, I am not fine with my own country supporting war crimes or institutional racism to prop up such a state. 

And that's where I think you'll find most Americans my age or younger. And that is not good news for the Israeli project. 
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UPDATE: Mere minutes after posting that, I came across the following post by Kevin Drum.

In David Petraeus's famous phrase, How does this end? Unless something dramatic happens, it ends with Israel as a nuclear-armed pariah state. Where else can it go? Hamas and Hezbollah are never going to stop attacking, Israel's responses will continue to get deadlier and more hysterical, the West Bank will never be freed because no Israeli government can any longer cobble together the public support it would require to take on the most extremist elements among the settlers, and like it or not, Israel eventually becomes a permanently armed camp and an apartheid state. Israelis may have hated it when that's what Jimmy Carter called it, but even if it's arguably not quite accurate today there's very little question that it will be before long.
Unless something changes. But what? I guess it's possible that a crisis like this can prompt both sides to get serious in a way they haven't been for a long time, but there have been crises like this before and they haven't prompted anything of the sort.
So help me out here. Is there any glimmer of hope on the horizon at all? Or is despair the only rational response to all this?

1 comment:

  1. It would appear that the racists and war mongers have already won. There is more appetite in US politics for marijuana legalization than there is for holding Israel responsible for its treaty obligations.

    The IDF would rather conduct raids in international waters than enforce Israeli and international law in the occupied territories.

    Ultra-orthodox groups, who make up a large and growing number of settlers, see settlements as fundamental to their brand of Zionism and necessary for the Eretz Yisrael.

    I fear that there's really only one possible outcome at this point: A politically isolated, bellicose Israeli state, besieged on all sides. But isn't that what the right-wingers in Israel and America want?


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