January 14, 2009

WE'RE GENERALLY DUBIOUS ABOUT THE GREAT MAN THEORY OF HISTORY...:

What is Israel’s End-Game? (Seyla Benhabib, 1/13/09, Reset)

Israel’s military attack on the Gaza Strip, home to a million and a half Palestinians, was launched on December 28, 2008, the last day of Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights.” Hanukkah tells the story of how the ancient Hebrews, led by Judah Maccabee, in the second century BCE rose up against Antiochus IV Epiphanus. During the rededication of the Holy Temple, when the Maccabee revolt had succeeded in liberating it from Antiochus, legend has it that there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one night but that it had burned for eight instead! In launching its attack on Gaza, the Israeli military command knew the resonances this timing would have on the Israeli public: once more, it is the story of resistance against an enemy of the Jewish people. The threat to collective survival is heroically defeated by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the new Judah Maccabee!

These potent memories of Jewish survival and resistance, together with the post-Holocaust determination that ‘Never again will the Jewish people be subject to destruction,’ provide the emotional well-springs of collective sentiment into which Israel’s leaders tap whenever it is under attack. Yet the strategic and Realpolitik considerations of the present Gaza military action are clear enough: no state, it is said, can accept that its citizens would be subject to continuous and unpredictable rocket attacks and is obliged to defend its borders and inhabitants! Those who dig a little deeper, however, point out that the Gaza operation is attempting to restore Israel’s seeming military invulnerability, lost in the wake of the 2006 Lebanon War. Furthermore, general elections will be held in Israel and in the Palestinian territories in the coming months and the current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni from the Kadima Party, as well as the current Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, from the Labor Party, are candidates for the position of Prime Minister. None of this though accounts for the ferocity and disproportional brutality of the Israeli action, its violation of international humanitarian law, and possible engagement in war crimes. Why?

Israel has lost its political vision and military might without a clear political sense is now dominating its actions. Military power, freed from subordination to political goals, is blind and brutal. No one in the Israeli leadership has a political vision, and I don’t mean a strategy of long-term goals squeezed in between two election cycles and revisable according to circumstance, but a political vision, the way founders of republics are supposed to have. How will this commonwealth endure? What lasting institutions can it bequeath to its children and grand-children in which they will be free to flourish as individuals and citizens? Who today has this kind of vision of the political to offer in view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?


...but it is certainly the case that Israel has been adrift since Ariel Sharon was tragically felled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2009 6:10 PM
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