We're all Israelis Now***Just the way he chooses to spell his name tells me he is ashamed of his Jewish origin. "LeVine" as if he was French or something.
By Mark LeVine, History, University of California,
****That like Israelis, Americans would never face the causes of the extreme violence perpetrated against us by those whose oppression we have supported and even enforced,"
For me, however, the attacks suggested a more troubling
scenario: That like Israelis, Americans would never face the causes of the
extreme violence perpetrated against us by those whose oppression we have
supported and even enforced, and engage in the honest introspection of what our
role has been in generating the kind of hatred that turns commuter jets into
cruise missiles. Instead, my gut told me that we'd acquiesce to President Bush's
use of the war to realize the long-held imperial, even apocalyptic visions of
the neoliberal Right, ones that find great sympathy with its Israeli
Right. We declared war on the entire Arab world; we bomb pizza parlors and target rockets on school buses, etc. The Palestinians have no one but themselves to blame for the plight they're in, and anyone who lives in Israel--even the radical Left--knows just how much restraint Israel has demonstrated against the continuing attempts of our "peace partners" to eliminate Israel altogether. When Prof. "LeVine" comes to live in Israel, then maybe I'll listen to what he's saying--if he's still saying it when he has to deal with reality and not just spout the Big Lie put about by the Palestinians.
As I watch George W. Bush celebrate his reelection I realize I never could have***"in Israel, the majority of Jewish citizens support the policies of Ariel Sharon despite the large-scale, systematic (and according to international law, criminal) violence his government deploys against Palestinian society, despite the worsening economic situation for the lower middle class religious voters who constitute his main base of support, "
imagined just how much like Israelis we would become. Think about it: in Israel,
the majority of Jewish citizens support the policies of Ariel Sharon despite the
large-scale, systematic (and according to international law, criminal) violence
his government deploys against Palestinian society, despite the worsening
economic situation for the lower middle class religious voters who constitute
his main base of support, despite rising international opprobrium and isolation.
Ah yes, the terrorist actions of the Palestinians against the civilian population of Israel are just self-defense then? This is the "it all began when he hit me back" theory of the intifada: Israel is the aggressor because they didn't passively run away when we attacked them. BTW, if Sharon had really acted in a large-scale and systematic way against the Palestinians, the terror against us would have ended a long time ago. It is precisely because the most minimal measures possible have been taken--such as targeted killing of major terrorists instead of wiping out the entire neighborhoods they choose to hide themselves in--that has cost Israel a lot of unnecessary casualties amongst her soldiers. Believe me, it's a lot easier simply drop a lot of bombs, "and let the chips fall where they may".
As for the worsening economic situation of the "lower middle class religious voters" (who are NOT his main base of support, btw--those kind of voters support Shas, Mavdal and the other religious parties which are largely to the Right of Sharon's Likud), the intifada is largely to blame for that also, with the collapse of tourism and tourism-related industries which have caused a general contraction in the Israeli economy (along with the coincidental bursting of the high-tech bubble, which couldn't have come at a worse time for Israel)
The majority of Israelis support Sharon because every other way to deal with the Palestinian problem has failed. Barak offered Arafat 98% of what he wanted--far more than most Israelis, even the Left--were comfortable with--and Arafat's response was to unleash the second intifada, which showed Israelis quite definitely that the Palestinians were NOT interested in an independent state unless Israel ceased to exist.
As for the country's "liberal" opposition, it's in a shambles, politically and
morally bankrupt because in fact it was a willing participant in creating and
preserving the system that is now eating away at the heart of Israeli society.
Aside from occasional plaintive oped pieces by members of its progressive wing,
the Labor Party can and will do nothing fundamentally to challenge Sharon's
policies. Why? Because they reflect an impulse, nurtured by the Labor movement
during its decades in power, that is buried deep in the heart of Zionism: to
build an exclusively Jewish society on as much of the ancient homeland as
possible, with little regard for the fate of the country's native
If the above passage were true, how does Prof. "LeVine" explain that most Israeli Arabs vote Labor? They have their own parties, which rarely manage to get more than 2 or 3 representatives in the Knesset. The truth is that Labor is led by an octogenarian with some fairly ditzy ideas, a massive ego, and a stranglehold on the party apparatus. All the Labor wannabes can't oust Peres because he's politically very agile and they are all warring against each other.
Israel can be faulted--and regularly is, by Israelis--for not doing enough for its Arab citizens. Yet by just about every parameter you choose, from women's rights, to education, to health statistics, Israeli Arabs are in a far better position not only than the "Palestinians" but in most of the Arab world. Prof. "LeVine" chooses to ignore this, and claim that Israel has "little regard" for the "country's native inhabitants" (another lie, btw. He should read Joan Peter's "From Time Immemorial" in which she quotes the UN's own statistics regarding the origin of the "Palestinians" and the length of residence one has to have in order to be called a "Palestinian")
As any native American will remind us, America was built on a similar holy
quest. So it shouldn't surprise us that the parallels between Israel's
mini-empire and America's Iraq adventure are striking.
***Boy, I wish Israel had a mini-empire. We have the same amount of space as Vermont does. We are getting very crowded.
In Israel most citizens know full well the realities of their occupation; even
right-wing newspapers routinely publish articles that describe its details with
enough clarity to make any ignorance willful. This dynamic is in fact why
Israelis have responded to the civil war with Palestinians by increasing the
dehumanization of the occupation, accompanied by a fervent practice of getting
on with life no matter what's happening ten or fifteen miles away in "the
Territories." The alternative, actually working to stop the insanity of the
occupation, would lead to much more hatred and violence within Israel and
between Jews than Palestinians could ever hope to inflict on Israeli society
from the outside. The situation is almost identical vis-à-vis the American
perspective on Iraq. Abu Ghraib?
***No, it's not. Not at all. How about the Palestinians working to stop the insanity of attempting to annihilate Israel, hmmm?
"LeVine" doesn't know what he's talking about. From where I live, the PA isn't even 5 miles away. I live in Jerusalem, and Bethlehem is only about 2 miles from my house. The streets of Jerusalem are filled with Arabs; so are the shopping malls and the open-air market, and not all of them are Israeli Arabs. More than 60% of the patients treated at the two Hadassah hospitals are Arabs (if they are not Israeli Arabs, and don't have the comprehensive semi-national health care Israelis do, they pay cash, which is very welcome to Hadassah, as the health funds take their own sweet time paying their bills) Until the Palestinians made it too dangerous to do so, many Israelis did a lot of their shopping in towns like Bethlehem (better prices). It can't be stressed too much that the chief victim of the two intifadas was the coexistence and level of trust between the Israelis and the Palestinians that was present before the first intifada. No one who comes to Israel for the first time now can believe it, but when I first came to live in Israel there wasn't any "occupation". It wasn't perfect coexistence, but the country was awash with tourists, spending money freely in Arab towns as well as Jewish ones, and everyone was benefitting, and there was a real hope amongst the Palestinians themselves that they would be able to attain the living standards of Israeli Arabs. Oh, there were those who wanted the whole enchilada, and Arafat's siren song sounded sweet to them. The terror the "Palestinians" have been subjected to is not Israeli terror, if truth be told, but Arafat's terror. More Palestinians have been killed as "collaborators" by Arafat's "security police" (30k-strong personal army) than by Israel. I wonder if Prof. "LeVine" knows this)
The numbing acceptance of large scale and systematic violence perpetrated
by the state as a normal part of its exercise of power and the willingness of a
plurality of the electorate to support parties and policies which are manifestly
against their economic and social interests
***What, I wonder, does Prof. "LeVine" have to say about the flight of Christian Arabs from areas that came under Israeli administration in 1967 but reverted to Palestinian domination, such as Bethlehem. It was a Christian town when Israel administered it; now it is a Moslem one. Most Christian non-Israeli Arabs are leaving the region entirely--go to the American consulate any day and see just how many are trying to get visas for the US. A considerable number have quietly become Israeli citizens, so they can go on living here and have some protection against kidnapping for ransom (a favorite activity of one of Arafat's henchmen, Rajoub Jibril, who rules Jericho like a Mafia boss)
(as demonstrated by the increase in poverty and economic insecurity across
the board in Israel
***Poverty is a very relative term. Your average Israeli who feels "economically insecure" has a standard of living which is much more that of the developed world than of the countries around Israel or the Third World generally, and considering how old the modern State of Israel is and how slender its resources, it's an amazingly high standard of living. I feel economically insecure--I cannot, for example, at this point in time be sure I'll have the funds to come to the Malta Siege--but I've got all the appurtenances of modern living, minus a car) What IS true about Israeli life, and Israel isn't alone in this, is that the gap between the lowest income groups and the highest is huge and becoming ever larger. There was a time, in Israel's first years, when everyone was equally poor. Now some are and some aren't. But we don't have people sleeping on hot air vents, or dying of hunger.
In the meantime, the international community, especially the EU,
most assert a defiant tone against US and Israeli militarism and perform the
novel but fundamental role acting as a counterweight and alternative to
America's imperial vision
Associate Professor of History
Department of History
Murray Krieger Hall
Irvine, CA 92697-3275
***Oh, so he does know how to spell his name? That's nice. Levine, if you're out there--come visit me. After all, you do say "Next Year In Jerusalem" on Passover each year, don't you? Try writing a piece from the perspective of knowledge instead of ignorance, huh?
I'm waiting. Meanwhile, while you're talking about history, Levine, we're making it.:-))