August 5, 2014


With Gaza war ostensibly over, Israelis ask what's next? (RAPHAEL AHREN, August 5, 2014, Times of Israel)

On the ninth of the month of Av, Jews traditionally mourn the destruction of two Temples, among a laundry list of other calamities that befell the Jewish people throughout the ages.

This Tuesday, many Israeli Jews, especially those leaning to the right, added Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to agree to a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas to that long tally.

Once more, many will undoubtedly wail, Israel is caving to international pressure, holding its fire and withdrawing its forces without having "finished the job." The government again wasted an opportunity to root out terrorism, once and for all, from Gaza, they lament.

"It's a real disgrace that we're withdrawing; we gained nothing but dead soldiers," an IDF reservist told Ynet Monday as his battalion was withdrawing from Gaza.

"If they let us go and pull out, this will all be for nothing," said another soldier. "We'll go back for another war under a different name; it's only the names that change."

A Channel 2 poll published Tuesday showed that 42 percent thought Israel had won the war, versus 44% who said it had lost.

The tragedy is that it was all so predictable.


Gaza Crisis: 'The Real Danger to Israel Comes from Within' (Interview Conducted by Julia Amalia Heyer, 8/05/14, Der Spiegel)

SPIEGEL: There was widespread support in Israel for the operation in the Gaza Strip, despite the huge numbers of civilian casualties and the deaths of hundreds of children. Why is that?

Illouz: Where you see human beings, Israelis see enemies. In front of enemies, you close ranks, you unite in fear for your life, and you do not ponder about the fragility of the other. Israel has a split, schizophrenic self-awareness: It cultivates its strength and yet cannot stop seeing itself as weak and threatened. Moreover, both the fact that Hamas holds a radical Islamist and anti-Semitic ideology and the fact that there is rabid anti-Arab racism in Israel explain why Israelis see Gaza as a bastion of potential or real terrorists. It is difficult to have compassion for a population seen as as threatening the heart of your society.

SPIEGEL: Is that also a function of the fact that Israeli society has become increasingly militaristic?

Illouz: Israel is a colonial military power, a militarized society and a democracy all folded into one. The army, for example, controls the Palestinians through a wide network of colonial tools, such as checkpoints, military courts (governed by a legal system different from the Israeli system), the arbitrary granting of work permits, house demolitions and economic sanctions. It is a militarized civil society because almost every family has a father, son or brother in the army and because the military plays an enormous role in the ordinary mentality of ordinary Israelis and is crucial in both political decisions and in the public sphere. In fact, I would say that "security" is the paramount concept guiding Israeli society and politics. But it is also a democracy, which grants rights to gays and makes it possible for a citizen to sue the state. [...]

Illouz: I think Israelis have lost what we can call a "humanitarian sensibility," the capacity to identify with the suffering of a distant other. In Israel, there has been a change in perception of the "Palestinian other." The Palestinian has become a true enemy in the perception of Israelis, in the sense that "they are there" and "we are here." They ceased having a face and even a name.  [...]

SPIEGEL: How do you explain this paradox -- the hate on the one hand and Israel's emphasis on its liberal values on the other?

Illouz: Israel started as a modern nation. It derived its legitimacy from the fact that it had democratic institutions. But it was also building highly anti-modern institutions in wanting to create a Jewish democracy by giving power to rabbis, in creating deep ethnic inequalities between different ethnic groups such Jews of Arab countries vs. Jews of European descent; Arabs vs. Jews; Jews vs. non-Jews. It thus blocked universalist thinking.

SPIEGEL: Would you say that the Jewish character of the country has subsumed the democratic character?

Illouz: Yes, definitely. We are at the point where it has become clear that Jewishness has hijacked democracy and its contents. It happened increasingly when the school curriculum started getting changed and emphasizing more Jewish content and less universal content; when the Ministry of the Interior expelled foreign workers because Shas party members were afraid non-Jews would inter-marry with Jews; when human rights are thought of as being left-wing only because human rights presuppose that Jews and non-Jews are equal.

Posted by at August 5, 2014 2:46 PM

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