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June 28, 2002
7:42 PM   Subscribe

The far right's success in setting the national agenda is provoking an identity crisis for Israel. Radical settlers are effectively in the driver's seat and are redefining Zionism in terms that threaten the future of a Jewish state. Meanwhile, demographics is a hotter issue than ever in Israel, as Israelis on the right and left struggle with the questions "Can Israel be a Jewish and democratic state? Is there any such animal?" [More inside.]
posted by Zurishaddai (20 comments total)

 
Even President Bush acknowledges that "Permanent occupation threatens Israel's identity and democracy." But together Bush, Sharon, and Hamas have endorsed radical settler ideology, says Ze'ev Sternhell in his account of Zionism's present struggle to differentiate itself from the basest kind of colonialism. (Particularly disturbing: settler schoolchildren learning values of indiscriminate killing that make them an existential threat to Israel in human form, no less than the suicide bomber.)

Demographics: Is the drive to annex 219,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem compatible with the future existence of a Jewish state? The second article reports signs "on every empty wall throughout the country" renewing the dreams and policies of the 1948 expulsion with the demand "Transfer Now!"

The issue here is the ideas "democratic" and "Jewish" under threat as perceived through Israeli eyes. "Democracy" buckles as tax-paying nurse Adel Kaadan quixotically dreams of living in a bit of suburbia that falls within then 93% of Israel on which an Israeli Arab cannot legally dwell. And the conscience-stricken IDF reserve officers are drawing their red line not only because of the incompatibility of the IDF's missions "of occupation and oppression" and "to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it," but also from the standpoint of Judaism itself.
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2002


I am not confident enough in humanity to say that a peaceful solution is possible. In the absence of a peaceful solution, there must be war. And a war will turn out in one of two ways: the Jews murder all of the Palestinians, which would provoke the rest of the Arab states, which would crush Israel and in turn be crushed by the USA and the rest of the world, or the Palestinians murder everybody with a nuclear bomb in Jerusalem.

This is my gloomy prediction: by 2008, there will be nothing where Jerusalem now stands but a radioactive crater. And the world will have received yet another object lesson in the virtues of religious and patriotic fervor.

I hope I'm wrong and it fizzles out over a generation as the elderly radicals all die off and the young people of both sides intermingle, intermarry, and build a single Palestine/Israel state together. But I don't like the chances.

Ash.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:18 PM on June 28, 2002


An interesting bit I heard on the BBC the other night: apparently, many of the settlers are very poor. The only reason they were able to move into the area (and own their own homes) was due to heavy government subsidy. Now they can't leave even if they want to: they simply cannot afford it.
posted by TurkeyMustard at 8:56 PM on June 28, 2002


I also heard a TV report tonight I can't pull up online, about a Jewish family from Atlanta who have already sent one son to fight with the Israeli army, and are now taking advantage of a generous offer to move into the Israeli settlements.

Another excellent report on TV tonight that I can't find on the net, about a young Palestinan girl who is missing summer vacation due to the curfew. She's having big arguments at home because she becomes enraged when her mom sends her out into danger to buy bread.

Nice photos at Bloghop. "Woo-hoo! Model wanna-be's? Singles on the prowl? Future parents of an even more insanely hot next generation? Nope. They're all dead from Palestinian suicide bombers.

An Israeli and a Palestinian mother, both angry and exasperated by the other side and putting their kids in harms way, make friends on the Internet.
There are at least a million people living in Israel and Palestine who are not pundits or suicide bombers, and are not named Yasser Arafat or Ariel Sharon. It might make a big difference if we got to hear from the other million people for a change instead.
posted by sheauga at 9:01 PM on June 28, 2002


Are the practices described in the Adel Kaadan article really true? That's awful. How do enlightened Israelis reconcile this with their claims of democracy?
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2002


(That story about the two mothers brought tears to my eyes. If only more people came together like that.)
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:16 PM on June 28, 2002


Donkeyschlong: Are the practices described in the Adel Kaadan article really true? That's awful. How do enlightened Israelis reconcile this with their claims of democracy?

Same as everyone else does. They pretend it doesn't happen.

Ash.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:15 PM on June 28, 2002


the Jews murder all of the Palestinians, which would provoke the rest of the Arab states, which would crush Israel

The rest of the Arab states have tried this before, you know. Several times, in fact. What makes you think that they'd have any more luck this time around?

And why would the Israelis want to murder all of the Palestinians when they could just drive them all into Syria, Jordan, and Egypt?
posted by jaek at 10:18 PM on June 28, 2002


Yeh, honestly the arab states won't be able to defeat isreal alone. It would take someone like the US, Russia, China, or maybe india to do it properly. Maybe pakistan.


Of course, given the USs pledge to use Nukes to defend israel, that probably won't happen.



Its very annoying how the US is basicaly Israel's bitch.
posted by delmoi at 11:30 PM on June 28, 2002


Oh, and what do they plan to do after 2020? Start sterilizing their own citizens?
posted by delmoi at 11:40 PM on June 28, 2002


good post zurishaddai. a very interesting issue. And thanks sheauga for the other info. Also: donkeyschlong, a lot of 'enlightened' israelis don't and can't reconcile this with their claims of democracy. There are many good israeli jews who are opposed to these kinds of practices. Not enough, alas. I remember reading somewhere that some 90% of the land in israel is owned / administered by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) or the World Zionist Organization (?) whose charters state that any land owned by them can only be leased to jewish people. This seems to correspond to the kadaan article pretty well.
posted by jnthnjng at 11:46 PM on June 28, 2002


Jaek: The rest of the Arab states have tried this before, you know. Several times, in fact. What makes you think that they'd have any more luck this time around?

I have doubts about Israel's ability to resist a coordinated and committed simultaneous attack. Why do you think otherwise?

And why would the Israelis want to murder all of the Palestinians when they could just drive them all into Syria, Jordan, and Egypt?

Because killing the enemy is often easier, and always more permanent, than making them run away. Because in the real world, wars are not fought with morality and niceness and honor. In wars real people kill and die, horribly, for reasons that make no rational sense at all. Because historically whenever uniformed and disciplined armies have faced guerrillas who fade in and out of the local population, the armies end up either withdrawing (which isn't an option here) or massacring civilians. Do you think a push-out wouldn't turn into a massacre?

Don't mistake me, I hope that the situation is resolved peacefully. I doubt that it will, and I doubt that the status quo can continue indefinitely. With that in mind, I'm suggesting two possible war outcomes. By all means suggest others, or continue to poke holes in mine.

Ash.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:54 PM on June 28, 2002


I have doubts about Israel's ability to resist a coordinated and committed simultaneous attack. Why do you think otherwise?

History. There have been several wars fought between Israel and the Arab nations, and Israel has won them all. The Arab nations have not made dramatic changes to their militaries since then, so there's no reason to expect the outcome to be any different this time around.

Furthermore, the other Arab countries don't really give a shit about the Palestinians, and would rather see them continue to suffer than risk having their capitals nuked into oblivion. Which is a likely outcome of an attack on Israel that appears to be suceeding.
posted by jaek at 12:20 AM on June 29, 2002


Why do I always get the feeling that some people have a hard-on when they talk about various mideast states nuking Israel and vice versa? Most unfortunate.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:31 AM on June 29, 2002


I'm glad that jnthnjng said the obvious: while Israel's politics is obviously falling under the same pressure from religious groups as that in the US (I'll say that as neutrally as possible) the influence is only obvious because of the particularly heightened tension. Of course, it raises an interesting disparity: governments like those of Turkey and Algeria have been praised for cracking down on populist Islamic parties, for fear that they'd advocate anti-democratic principles when in power. Whereas the inevitable fragmentation of Israeli politics into religious and ethnic sectarianism -- if I'm right, the de facto settlers' party is pretty Orthodox, while other parties take most of their support from Russian immigrants -- is part of a functioning democracy.

(donkeyschlong, agreed, though no less unfortunate than when writers at various websites and serious publications go in heat at the thought of 'nuking Mecca'.)
posted by riviera at 5:48 AM on June 29, 2002


Donkeyschlong: Are the practices described in the Adel Kaadan article really true? That's awful. How do enlightened Israelis reconcile this with their claims of democracy?

Ash: Same as everyone else does. They pretend it doesn't happen.

On the contrary, my time in Israel led me to believe that the hardcore Zionists have no interest in a true democracy at all; they want an ancient Greek styled democracy, where the voting is done only by a certain type of people, in this case, Jews.
posted by bingo at 6:32 PM on June 29, 2002


I visited Israel in 1995 and went to a settlement. A lot of the people I met were pretty normal, but there were definitely those who, as a way to justify the obvious, in-your-face injustice of the situation, saw the Palestinians as basically less than human. Fit to work on the settlement, but not to have the basic human rights that most people take for granted. The rest of the people seemd like they were just trying to live their lives and ignore the obvious issue. Keep in mind that this was a 'normal' settlement pretty close to Israel, I heard that the more remote ones have the real fanatics.
posted by chaz at 7:39 PM on June 29, 2002


Ever since Israel began building settlements, the settlers were given increasing amounts of power over the Palestinians. More specifically, in the absence of soldiers the settlers themselves were allowed to run demeaning checkpoints. Imagine the psychological effects on both sides of this gross balance of power. It is no wonder the settlers see the Arabs as less than human.
posted by MarkO at 8:22 PM on June 29, 2002


Here's a NYT graphic that makes pretty bluntly evident the size and shape of this phenomenon ("settlements") we're used to hearing about, but which few of us have a concrete idea of (part of a good article). You can see from the chart that in the past 20 years the population of settlers in the occupied territories has multiplied tenfold, from about 20,000 to about 200,000.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:32 PM on July 3, 2002


Here's an update on the Kaadan case (which sought to vindicate Israeli Arabs' right to pay to live in communal settlements on public Israeli land, more than 90% of Israel):

Even though the High Court ruling in Kaadan's favor was looking meaningless and unlikely to be enforced, the Israeli government is now backing a legislative measure to definitively ban non-Jews from being "apportioned" (i.e. living on) state land.
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:08 AM on July 8, 2002


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