June 3, 2016


Israel's Real Enemy Isn't Iran or the Palestinians. It's the Idea of Crisis Itself. : Steeped in constant anxiety, Israeli leaders, left and right, offer no real vision for the future (Liel Leibovitz, June 2, 2016, The Tablet)

The most important news story out of Israel last week had nothing to do with Moshe Ya'alon's resignation as minister of Defense, or the controversial appointment of Avigdor Lieberman in his stead, or any of the other political reindeer games that regularly frustrate and amuse Israelis. Instead, it was a brief report that was forgotten as soon as it was published: Because of budgetary constraints, the Israel Defense Forces cannot afford to replace asbestos-ridden parts used in tanks and armored personnel carriers, putting the men who serve in these vehicles at risk of exposure to known carcinogens outlawed elsewhere in the country.

Don't expect anyone to resign over this outrage anytime soon. Don't hold your breath waiting for pundits to pontificate on national TV about ministerial responsibility, and don't wait for politicians to deliver speeches promising change. In Israel these days, serious indignation is reserved only for the one true topic worthy of attention: The Crisis, a perpetual feeling of imminent doom that dominates the hearts and minds of leftists and rightists alike.

If you're one of the few who still vote for the ultra-liberal Meretz, or among the thinning crowd that supports whatever the old Labor party is called these days, or even a supporter of the Willy Wonka of Israeli politics, Yair Lapid, your version of The Crisis is as follows: Consumed by constant war, Israel is sliding into fascism, with strongmen ever ascendant and with the foundations of democracy shaken daily by the goose-stepping of the nationalists and the religious. If you're anywhere on the right, you take the same constant war as your point of departure but worry instead about the Palestinians, the Iranians, the Lebanese, the Syrians, and any number of neighbors wishin' and hopin' to bring the Jewish experiment with self-governance to a swift and bitter end.

Invisible from both these viewpoints are the soldiers in the asbestos-ridden tanks; the young Arab women and children in Umm al-Fahm, pushed by stupid neglect right into the arms of Islamic fundamentalists; the barely functioning police; the medical interns who are struggling with 26-hour shifts when their colleagues in Europe and America typically work between 12 and 16 hours at a time; the students down south who, unlike their peers in wealthier communities elsewhere in Israel, are repeatedly falling behind in math and other core subjects; the 150,000 toddlers who attend unsupervised day-care centers and receive abysmally unhealthy lunches; the residents of Jerusalem, many of whom are Arabs or fervently Orthodox Jews, more than half of whom are currently unemployed; the tens of thousands of Arab and Bedouin children in the Galilee and the Negev who benefited from three mobile libraries that the Ministry of Culture, for some reason, chose to shut down; and many other victims of tiny domestic dramas, all unseen, all eclipsed by The Crisis.

Posted by at June 3, 2016 3:29 PM