Thursday, January 10, 2013

The right-ward drift in Israeli politics

Here's four more links on this, three of them h/t TNC.

  • Israel's shift to the right will alienate those it needs most by Jonathan Freedland. Extract: "...That Haaretz writer rightly declared that "American support, anchored by US Jewry, is the strategic asset which makes all other strategic assets possible". But that support has chiefly been for the ideal of a democratic, peace-seeking Israel. If Israelis vote for those who display contempt for both peace and democracy, for those set on the path of Israeli self-destruction, they will one day find that essential bedrock of support cracking beneath their feet..." 
  • Why Israel Has Shifted to the Right by Jonathan S. Tobin. Extract: "...Whereas in Israel’s past it could be asserted that the Likud represented Israel’s right-wing constituency, it has, to the shock and dismay of many in the left-wing Israeli media, become the center. That is not because more Israelis are supporters of increasing settlement throughout the West Bank. They are not. Rather it is due to the fact that the Israeli center as well as even many on what we used to call the Israeli left have given up on the Palestinians. They know that neither Fatah in the West Bank nor Hamas in Gaza will ever recognize Israel’s legitimacy no matter where its borders are drawn. So they have abandoned those parties that hold onto the illusion of peace in favor of those with a more realistic vision while those on the right are now embracing parties like Habeyit Hayehudi in order to hold Netanyahu’s feet to the fire and prevent him from making concessions that will neither entice the Palestinians to the negotiating table nor increase its popularity abroad..." 
  • Dynamic Former Netanyahu Aide Shifts Israeli Campaign Rightward by Jodi Rudoren. Extract: “...The religious Zionists in Israel, they have many, many debates — debates about education, debates about the religion itself, political debates,” Professor Cohen said. “Naftali changed it. I don’t know if it’s a trend or one time. The ability of Naftali to hold all these factors together, it’s not simple — it will be the main mission after the elections..." 
  • Netanyahu the Palestinian by Alex Joffe. Extract: "...The Palestinians initiated a zero-sum game that has given him the upper hand. By using the Palestinians’ own strategy, [Netanyahu] has cornered them. After all, genuine peace efforts by the Palestinians – based on a two-state solution with no “right of return” for post-1948 refugees – would enrage Hamas and revive factional violence, adding another self-defeat to an already long list..."

17 comments:

The Contentious Centrist said...

Oy, Bob. Who, on the Israeli left, can speak to the little person in the street in a way that will reflect and engage with his or her deepest concerns and anxieties? When I was in Israel last summer I got into a terrible quarrel with my father because I had planned to travel from Petach-Tikva to Habimah theatre in Tel Aviv in the evening. It meant I had to go through the central bus station in Tel-Aviv twice, on the way to and from the theatre. My parents were afraid I'd be mugged or killed by Somali infiltrators who converge on the place after dark. My father who is over 80 years old and no longer feels confident enough to drive at night insisted he would drive me to Habimah and wait outside until the play was over to drive me back. Of course I didn't go. This is just an example of the kind of problems that regular Israelis have to deal with. These Israelis who, as their quality of life is greatly diminished, who do not answer the door if someone rings the bell rings after 10 pm, can expect only insults hurled at them for being "racist" by the so-called "Left".

There is a Decent and Realistic Left in Israel, represented best by the jurist and journalist Ben Dror Yemini, but his is a voice in the desert; among the vocal barkers on the "Left" he is considered a Right wing nut, no less.

The Israeli "Left" is not really an authentic Left. An authentic Left would have dealt with the lingering disenfranchisement of the Mizrahim, those who were forgotten and pushed to the peripheries of Israel, who live in slums and development towns, whose children cannot expect the same quality of education or future possibilities as those "European" (the irony is devastating) Leftists' children take for granted. Why? Because it is so much more prestigious to act, and talk and bash the riffraff (Israeli working class mostly made up of Mizrahim) on behalf of poor Palestinians.

It is a disgrace. A dereliction of the first principle of compassion, of good sense, of genuine decency.

So, as long as there is no dominantly-authentic Left in Israel, dealing with the hardships and problems of Israeli society's weakest members, I have very little interest in anything they have to say.

Paradigm Shift Enterprises said...

I hope those with higher positions will be blessed with wisdom to whatever their decision is may lead to the right decision and help their people unite for their country.

bob said...

I understand and relate to your critique of the Israeli left, CC, and understand how this helps drive the right-ward drift.

Three questions, the first two slightly argumentative, the third purely out of curiousity.

Is your father's fears about the "infiltrators" grounded in any real threat?

Does the right which benefits from the failure of the Israeli left to engage with the (especially Mizrahi0 little person offer any real response to the the lingering disenfranchisement of the Mizrahim?

TNC and I have both read contradictory accounts about the haredim and religious settler movement, about whether they are converging or diverging; do you have a take on this?

bob said...

e.g. this review talks about a convergence http://meretzusa.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/t-mitchell-reviews-book-on-israels.html

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Is your father's fears about the "infiltrators" grounded in any real threat?"

In my estimation, there is a real
threat, though I don't share my father's hysterical anxieties, I share his concerns. I've read enough about the deterioration of what used to be normal life (never though a place where I would want to bring up my children, given a choice) in Hatikva neigborhood to have lots of sympathy for its residents.

Can you advance any solution to these hard working, under-educated, people, how they should restore order and safety to their streets when nobody even acknowledges their pain?

"Does the right which benefits from the failure of the Israeli left to engage with the (especially Mizrahi0 little person offer any real response to the the lingering disenfranchisement of the Mizrahim?"

What do you mean by "The Right"? Shas schools at least offer the students who attend them in increasingly greater numbers, a hot meal and some after school activities to keep them from being out in the dangerous and mean streets until their parents come home from work.

The "Right" (Netanyahu's kind) also treats Mizrahim with some respect, which I believe is genuine.

"TNC and I have both read contradictory accounts about the haredim and religious settler movement, about whether they are converging or diverging; do you have a take on this?"

These are two distinct communities with different visions for their respective worlds. The Haredim are not really political; they are only looking inward, to preserving their particular brand of rigid adherence to Jewish law, the conduct of their own members and securing the funds for continuing to do so. The settlers are religious nationalists, with great ambitions for their view of the future of greater Israel, inspired by past Jewish history. They are very motivated, the best military units are populated by young men and women who were born behind the Green Line.


Now I have a question for you:

How do you explain this indifference and condescension on the part of what you call Israeli Left to such a large segment of Israeli society? And what is the justification for someone like Amos Oz, who made a great show of solidarity with Palestinians when he went to help them pick olives a few years ago while I have heard nothing about him going to Sderot to read a story to the traumatized children there?

What's more prestigious with the European, British, left, picking olives with Palestinians or reading a story to the children of Sderot?

Roland Dodds said...

Not sure I agree, but here is Michael Singh's take...
http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/patience-not-panic-on-israeli-palestinian-peace

Aloevera said...

It seems to me there is yet another dimension to this whole matter--namely, the position taken by some Jewish/Israeli leftists positing that the Mizrahim and the Arab world make up one "multi-religioned" Arab/Middle Eastern culture. These are the people who use the label "Arab Jew" to describe Mizrahim. I believe this term was not widely used historically by Middle Eastern Jewry as a label for themselves, but is largely a modern invention to counter "Ashkenazi hegemony" in Israel by making common cause with other people of Middle Eastern origin of whatever religion. The idea behind all of this, as some of you probably already know, is to understand both Muslims and Arab Jews (and Arab Christians) as beleaguered indigenous people struggling together against the alien culture (Israel) imposed by foreign European imperialist/colonists (Ashkenazis). This stance is taken by some Mizrahim, but also by some sympathetic Ashkenazim (such as the American university professor, Judith Butler). But--at least in theory--these people, usually left-wingers of some stripe--do care about the well being of the Mizrahim--at least in their guise as Arab Jews. (I am not endorsing this position--I think there are a lot of misconceptions with it--but it does include a certain left-wing concern with Mizrahim). However--I don't know how much support--or not--this stance enjoys in Israel

bob said...

Thanks for all the interesting comments. Sorry I've been away.

1. On Hatikva: I have read several articles on the deterioration of the neighbourhood, and don't question a certain level of concern. I have also, read, though, lots of statistics on crime, including violent crime, and different rates from different groups, with the consensus being there is no evidence of higher criminality in the migrant population, unless you count immigration offences, and that Tel Aviv still has an extremely low murder and violent crime rate compared to other cities.

2. "what you call Israeli Left". I don't think I've used that phrase much!

3. How do I explain this indifference and condescension on the part of the Israeli "Left" to such a large segment of Israeli society? Well, I buy some version of your explanation. Most of what passes for a left in Israel, as far as I can tell, is middle class and Ashkenazi, just as most of what passes for a left in the UK is middle class and white. What passes for a left in the UK is riddled with class condescension and low-level racism, and infinitely prefer to focus on the distant suffering of romantic victims rather than the proximate suffering of white working class people - and I guess it is some version of the same thing in Israel, but with an ethnic dimension (is racism the right word for Ashkenazi attitudes to Mizrahim?) too.

bob said...

On Arab Jews, re Aloevera, we discussed this I think twice before:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10131050&postID=6768500873075595460

and more recently

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10131050&postID=8930416742741570270

My sense is that this "Arab Jew" identification has some basis in historical fact, in that the historical sources on Levantine Jewish communities and to a lesser extent North African Jewish communities do show that this is roughly how many Jews did identify pre-1948; that it has been taken up by a very small segment of the Mizrahi population, mainly in academia and among activists, largely (or at least partly) for the anti-Zionist reasons Aloevera refers to; that it has very little resonance with the majority of (especially working class) Mizrahim in Israel.

I was in Greece a few times year, and historically the most ultra-nationalist (and violently antisemitic and anti-Muslim) Greeks were the Anatolian ones - some of whom in the early years after population transfer didn't even speak Greek but rather Turkish. (Mark Mazower talks about the main pogromchik in Salonika, I forget his name, who never learnt Greek while leading the most Greek nationalist party.) In Northern Ireland at the moment, we see the flair-up of the bitter anti-Catholic nationalism of working class Loyalists, who feel completely abandoned by the UK - and most English people don't see them as British. Their stronger than ever attachment to the flag at the time when the mainland would rather they float off into the Republic of Ireland. I think these, and working class Mizrahi support for both anti-Russian (as in the Shas electoral campaign), anti-African and especially hawkish anti-Palestinian nationalism are all connected somehow. And in most of these cases the middle class left has at least some complicity in having abandoned these "little people" for more romantic causes, and dismissed them as bigots, etc.

The Contentious Centrist said...

" (is racism the right word for Ashkenazi attitudes to Mizrahim?)"

I used to reject this term in this context very forcefully but I am seriously wondering about it now. My blog was removed (I hope to have it restored, but who knows?) so I can't link to some of Ben Dror Yemini's articles I translated which indicate that racism is beginning to look like it is more plausible. For example, a TV presenter asking his guest something like (from memory): You have blond hair and blue eyes, you look such a good lad, yet you support(such and such)! implying that only browner skinned Israelis with black hair and brown eyes would do that. Ironically, the person who seems enthralled to an Aryan model as a moral model, was accusing him of ... racism (towards Palestinians, of course).

It is one example that stuck in my mind.

BTW, if you have the time and are interested in learning something about how Jews regarded themselves in Othoman Palestine, I strongly recommend you read some from the author Yehuda Burla and contrast it from readings from (or rather, about, as he was not translated into English, as far as I know) Itzhak Shami. For a look into the complexities after 1948 you can try Sami Michael (Refuge) and Sami Chetrit.

Here are two articles I found on the Internet about Shami, a very little known Israeli author who had culturally almost totally identified with the Arabs of Palestine, though he wrote about them with terrible irony:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14032733/Yitzhak-Shami-Ethnicity-as-an-Unresolved-Conflict

http://www.jerusalemquarterly.org/ViewArticle.aspx?id=122

bob said...

Noga, what's happened to the blog? It was there yesterday! Did AbuKhalil threaten legal action?!

Thanks for the thoughts and links. I've read those articles about Shami, but don't know anything about Yehuda Burla.

The Contentious Centrist said...

I don't think it has anything to do with AK. It may have gotten caught in the spam net as it probably looks for certain locutions and has no sense of irony. In my last post I wrote about "Little Jewish babies", in relation to AA's post about Jews being compared to apes not being antisemitic because we are all descended from apes (har, har, that's the level of his sense of humour)so maybe that was the culprit. I still have not heard anything from blogspot. I may start CCII on Wordpress. But I've got a lot on my hands right now.

I don't think the prof. has any legal grounds for complaint. I'm always very respectful and remind my readers that he is a bona fide prof in an American university of a good standing.

Aloevera said...

Thanks for the references above to Bob about previous discussions on this matter and to Contentious Centrist for the Yizhak Shami articles. I already knew something about Shami, but was unfamiliar with the details in the links you gave.

The so-called "Liberal Ashkenazi Left Elite" of Israel is a phenomenon that has a certain particular salience within the limited context of Israel--but viewed in a wider context, I think it has another association: one connected to the "Great Shift" that occurred in general, international left-wing thought in the wake of the 1960's when attention turned from economic inequalities to Identity inequalities.

I understand "being-on-the-Left" (in any left-wing position on the traditional political spectrum) as meaning that one promotes equality of (1)-something in (2)-some way and in (3)-some degree with a concern for (4)-emphasizing "universalism" of some sort over "particularism". What has always distinguished the different positions on the Left has been their different takes on (2), (3) and (4). But up until the 1960's there was a broad agreement among all on the Left regarding (1): that is, the "thing" that needed to be equalized was the economic circumstances of society. After the 1960's that "thing" to be equalized became "identity" (or, as many political philosophers put it--"redistribution" was replaced by "recognition").

For many on the more "Romantic Left" (to put it charitably), those having beleaguered identities--the famous "Other"--became the reference group(s) with whom they had to identify in order to achieve the moral purity that the more romantic-minded ideologues always seem to be seeking. How well I remember the attempt by so many of my fellow white (and often Jewish) college students in the US in the 1960's to "be Black". (By contrast, Right-wing romantics assign special significance to preserving their "own" identity--in its presumed mythical Golden Age integrity--in order to counter the supposed onslaughts of emerging "Others"--hence we have the white suprematists of our day). In the increasingly growing global/international context of our time--"identity" concerns have been extended to include "anti-imperialism"--thus the great focus on that topic among today's Left-wing thinkers and activists who are so immersed in trying to insure the well-being of beleaguered "Others" who have been colonized by the West.

And so--the Ashkenazi Left in Israel--like any "Left" today--has to be concerned (at times very "romantically")--with the "Other" including the "Colonized Other". And Mizrahim Israelis are just not seen as being "Other" or "Colonized" enough. But Arabs are "Other" and "Colonized" enough. That may explain at least some of the reasons why the Left-wing Ashkenazim ignore the more mundane economic difficulties of the Mizrahim among them in favor of the more dramatic (and "with-it") difficulties of Palestinian and Arab identity.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Blog is back! Haleluja!

Aloevera said...
















Brief announcement--the Guardian's "Comment is Free" section has just posted an opinion piece by Rachel Shabi entitled "The Left in Israel is its Own Worst Enemy" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/21/left-israel-own-worst-enemy). Shabi remarks, among her other communications in that piece, that:

"…the Israeli left has never really been leftwing. Labour has long been the elite, establishment party, dominated by Jews of European origin who monopolised power and discriminated against Jewish communities from Muslim and Arab countries (labelled "Mizrahi" or "Eastern"). Such discrimination – the lopsided allocation of resources, such as land or education; the cultural negation – was so bad that ethnicity is now too often synonymous with class."

I note this opinion piece, both because of its topicality in relation to the upcoming Israeli elections and to its connection to the discussion on this thread--I don't mean this as a (total) endorsement of the author's point of view (In general, I am not a great fan of Shabi's)--but thought other readers here may be interested.

bob said...

Glad to hear it CC.

Aloevera, thanks for comments. I broadly agree with your Great Shift analysis, but probably with the big caveat that this is not in any sense true of the whole left; there happily remain plenty of exceptions.

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