Thursday, 5 March 2015

ISRAEL'S EVER DECREASING CIRCLES (WITH STANDING OVATIONS)



I don't know if anyone else noticed it, but there was a hint of desperation in the tone of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech to Congress. It was as if he could sense a chill wind blowing through the Middle East, and see what it portended for his precariously perched state.

To many, the speech may have looked like an act of imperiousness or paranoia, America's "Jewish overlord" accepting the fealty of his AIPAC-trained minions – US Congressmen, no less – while calling for the same kind of American (and allied) overkill that reduced Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan to basket cases.

But the "Almighty Jew," a figure beloved of a certain self-ghettoizing type on the vantard right, while not entirely a myth is something of a gross exaggeration. Israel may possibly have contributed to much of the chaos that environs its borders, and the apparent antipathy between Bibi and Barack may even be cooked up to provide a convenient puppet show, but the fact is that Netanyahu is right to be worried about a nuclear Iran – although by no means justified. Also, it might be somewhat churlish to accuse a country and its leader of paranoia when literally most people within a circumference of several hundred miles would like to see them dead.

The boy who lives up Shit Creek has come to ask for a bigger paddle.

With its main enemies of the past – Egypt and Syria – tied down with complex internal problems, and with an impressive nuclear arsenal of its own, Israel may seem regionally invincible, but Israel carries with it a stench of doom, diminishing prospects, and narrowing options. Like a very unfortunate chicken, it has succeeded in placing all its eggs in one basket, with the result that – standing ovations notwithstanding – that basket is starting to look just a little rickety on the arm of its benefactor.

None of this may be apparent to those who get their view of long-term historical dynamics from the evening news or Jew conspiracy sites, but for anyone familiar with Israel's not particularly long past, there is plenty to mull on.

Kibbutz life.
Back in the 1950s, soon after it had established itself, following a successful war against the original inhabitants of the land, the state of Israel was quite a different entity from what we see now. The most noticeable difference was that the emotional, cultural, and ideological polarization that now exists between Israelis and the populations of every single country in the surrounding region was much less marked. Indeed, it was comparatively latent compared to the near toxic levels of polarization that exist now.

Early Israel was dominated by Leftist, secular Jews, who de-emphasized their Jewish identity, while also embracing it; and who were prepared to accept Arabs and Muslims within their state. The main Arab states in the region were under regimes that, although less democratic, were not entirely dissimilar in outlook to Israel. Islam had not yet been mobilized as a polarizing and identitarian force, and the form of Arab nationalism then in the ascendant was secularist and loosely-defined in cultural and racial terms. The concilliatory impulses on both sides were much stronger than they are today, as both Jews and Arabs were, after all, part of the same greater Semitic family. While there was bitterness from the 1948 war, it was not deeply ingrained and reinforced through three or four generations as it is now. For a time, it seemed that anything was possible. 

Bens Hur and Gurion


An idea of how Jews saw themselves and Israel in those days can be gleamed from as unlikely a source as Ben Hur, the 1959 Hollywood blockbuster starring Charlton Heston. The movie deals with the story of a Jewish prince from around the time of Christ. Heston's character is unjustly arrested, sent to the galleys, freed and adopted by a Roman nobleman, after saving his life, and then returns to his country, where he revenges himself on the Roman he wrongly believes is guilty for the death of his mother and sister. He also experiences Jesus first hand, but (at least in the 1959 version) remains unconverted.

Produced and directed by Jews, the movie is notable for many things that are pertinent to the Jewish experience – dual identity, an erroneous account of deaths, etc. – but one of the most striking is its attitude to Arabs, who are presented in what now seems an anachronistically positive, sympathetic, and friendly way. The Arab Sheik Ilderim, prominently played by the Welsh actor Hugh Griffith, is shown as the main ally of Heston's character against the Romans. These, of course, as with almost all Hollywood Roman epics, are impeccably played by English actors.

Arabs and Jews: feel the love.
This more positive attitude towards the Arabs was actually in line with Israeli attitudes and aspirations at the time. While existing in a de facto state of enmity with Arabs, early Israelis, like David Ben-Gurion, the founder and first leader of the new state, placed great hopes for the future in peaceful coexistence with the Arabs, and saw them as possible allies and auxillaries rather than eternal enemies. Indeed, some of this impetus can be seen in the kibbutzim movement, which was often presented as a form of colonization that did not displace the previous inhabitants, but instead focused on reclaiming barren and deserted land, such as parts of the Negev.

Up until 1977 and the victory of Menachim Begin's more explicitly Jewish nationalist Likud party, Israeli politics were dominated first by the hard-left Maipai Party, led by David Ben-Gurion, and then by the social democratic Labour Party, which was formed by the merger of Maipai with some other leftist groupings. Maipai made a point of working with small Arab parties that were also elected to the Knesset, because Ben-Gurion wished to demonstrate that "Jewish Israelis" and "Arab Israelis" could work together.

Ben-Gurion not addressing Congress.
In addition to presenting an image of Israel as a secularist state that just happened to have a majority of "cultural" Jews, Israel in the 1950s and 60s also took a more balanced approach to international politics. Rather than relying solely on America, like Israel does today, the state spread its diplomatic weight more evenly and widely, seeking support from other important states, in particular the Soviet Union. There was even an unusual friendship between Ben-Gurion and the North Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh. This outreach towards the Soviet Bloc and the non-aligned world, was something of a necessity for young Israel, as alienating the USSR, the main backer of anti-colonialist movements at this time, would not have been a smart idea.

Egg Basket 


While Israel played its hand cleverly in the first few decades of its existence, the contradictions inherent in its position became ever more apparent. Over time, these resulted in ever greater polarization and division between Jews and non-Jews within Israel, between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and between the few countries that were prepared to support Israel (increasingly just the USA) and the much greater number of countries that initially viewed the fledgling state with sympathy but then edged away. Israel's foreign policy became increasingly hollowed out and reduced to a crass reliance on America, combined with a preemptive and zero-tolerance attitude towards its neighbours.

Preemptive strikes motivated by fear.
But this aggressiveness, rather than denoting strength, hints at fundamental weakness. The fact is that the Arabs (and other Muslim entities like Iran and Turkey) can lose any number of wars against Israel, and yet remain in the game. Israel, by contrast, has to lose just one war in order to disappear or enter terminal decline.

Even without a clear defeat, it is always in danger of being caught up in a draining war of attrition, especially as groups like Hezbollah or even Hamas have evolved reasonably effective methods of asymmetric warfare to counter Israel's lead in conventional weapons. Such asymmetric wars also have the drawback of revitalizing the dormant but still potent traces of anti-Semitism that exist throughout the rest of the world, including in the West, further isolating Israel.

Just as Israel can be undone by a single defeat, so it can also be defeated by its own successes. This is because, even though it exists in a multi-player situation that includes potent rivalries between the various Arab states and sects, all of the other players are nevertheless united in having a common grudge and deep resentment towards Israel. Even if Israel's actions happen to favour one of these states over the others, rather than creating a friend or an ally, it simply succeeds in raising up a new enemy against itself.

For example, back in 2002, Netanyahu was in front of Congress advocating for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. But even though Saddam strutted his stuff as an enemy of Israel – mainly for consumption on the Arab Street – his subsequent removal by Israel's dutiful ally simply opened a corridor of Shiite power from the Iranian Islamic Republic, straight through Iraq and Syria, to the Lebanon, where Hezbollah sticks into Israel's side like a thorn.

But there is even more to this picture of isolation and encirclement. The Iranian Islamic Republic, the polity that Netanayahu routinely calls a "terrorist state" and lobbies for America to bomb or invade in the name of "preventing nuclear proliferation" is not only much bigger than Iraq or anything else that America has dealt with in the past, but it is also backed up by Russia, which views Iran's integrity as essential to its geopolitical position. 

One of the great prophets of Israel in action.
War with Iran would involve a magnitude of messiness and pain that America, even in its post-Cold War heyday, would be reluctant to sign up for. Also, as Siryako Akda's recent article here pointed out, the West seems to be entering on a period of retreat and disengagement. Israel, as its most far-flung outpost, stands to lose the most from this general trend.

Much as it may appall Netanyahu, Obama's policy of gently nudging Iran to nuclear cooperation is the only feasible one at the moment, but it is also one that – as Netanyahu rightly points out – threatens the very existence of Israel. But this is not because of any special malice of the Muslims, but mainly because Israel is an artificial entity that has been forcibly grown in an environment that refuses to naturally sustain it.

At some point, Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. That is almost inevitable. The only conditions under which it would not, would be if Israel destroyed its own nuclear arsenal and made major peace efforts with its neighbours, peace efforts that would of course see land traded for what would probably be only a temporary peace, and which would undermine the defensibility of Israel's borders.

To lose security represents a negation of the actual essence of Israel, as its whole raison d'etre was to exist as a place where Jews could be safe from anti-Semitism and the threat of danger. But Israel, by its very nature – at least in its present ill-chosen locale – can never achieve this, because it can only remove the threat to its existence by a paradoxical mixture of absolute strength and absolute peace that cancel each other out. 

The more strength Israel has, the less peace it has; the more peace it has the less strength it can have. In its earlier decades, it tried to mix strength with peace, adopting the more conciliatory stance mentioned above with a finely trained military, but around about 1967, the state of Israel abandoned this balanced – but ultimately contradictory – approach, and swing towards a more simplistic and one-sided reliance on strength and the humiliation of its enemies.

But, in a region where Israel is essentially on its own, this approach does nothing more than shuffle the pack of its enemies, involving Israel in an unwinnable whack-a-mole game, while its enemies continue to evolve. In place of the amateurish Arab League of the 1940s, you get the Soviet-equipped Syrians of the 1970s, and the distant chest-thumping of Saddam of 1990. But keep playing the game and you end up with a nuclear Iran starring at Israel down a corridor of Shiite power, and an Egypt that could go full Islamic-retard at any moment, along with dehumanizing asymmetric warfare on its borders. This just reminds your retreating lackeys in the West that you're more trouble than you're worth, "but hey, here, have another standing ovation!"

Now, if only the early atheistic Zionist movement had accepted any one of the better offers for a Jewish homeland – Patagonia, Crimea, Madagascar, or even a bit of jungle from Ho Chi Minh – then Israel might have had a long-term future. Situated where it is – in the worst example of geopolitical feng-shui ever – it is ultimately doomed. If Bibi were a true statesman, he would be having another look at that map of Madasgascar, but I guess it's a little too late for that.



Connected Articles: 
Iran Throws a Curveball
The Uses and Abuses of Arab Nationalism
Why I am Anti Anti-Zionist and Pro Anti-Semite

The End of Conservative Zionism, Too

No comments:

Post a Comment