Arnon Grunberg



On the past and the future – Adam Shatz in LRB:

«That Israelis cannot see, or refuse to see, their own responsibility in the making of 7 October is a testament to their ancestral fears and terrors, which have been rekindled by the massacres. But it also reveals the extent to which Israeli Jews inhabit what Jean Daniel called ‘the Jewish prison’.
Zionism’s original ambition was to transform Jews into historical actors: sovereign, legitimate, endowed with a sense of power and agency. But the tendency of Israeli Jews to see themselves as eternal victims, among other habits of the diaspora, has proved stronger than Zionism itself, and Israel’s leaders have found a powerful ideological armour, and source of cohesion, in this reflex. It is hardly surprising that Israelis have interpreted 7 October as a sequel to the Holocaust, or that their leaders have encouraged this interpretation: both adhere to a theological reading of history based on mythic repetition, in which any violence against Jews, regardless of the context, is understood within a continuum of persecution; they are incapable of distinguishing between violence against Jews as Jews, and violence against Jews in connection with the practices of the Jewish state. (Ironically, this vision of history renders the industrialised killing of the Shoah less exceptional, since it appears simply to be a big pogrom.) What this means, in practice, is that anyone who faults Israel for its policies before 7 October, or for its slaughter in Gaza, can be dismissed as an antisemite, a friend of Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah, of Amalek.”


“It isn’t surprising that on the student left the word ‘Zionist’ has become an epithet for those who oppose equal rights and freedom for Palestinians, or who, even if they claim to endorse the idea of a Palestinian state, persist in thinking that the desires of Israeli Jews, by virtue of their ancestors’ persecution in Europe, outweigh those of Palestine’s indigenous Arabs. But, as Shlomo Sand reminds us in Deux peuples pour un état?, there was another, dissident Zionism, a ‘cultural Zionism’ that advocated the creation of a binational state based on Arab-Jewish co-operation, one that counted among its members Ahad Ha’am, Judah Magnes, Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt. In 1907, the cultural Zionist Yitzhak Epstein accused the Zionist movement of having forgotten ‘one small detail: that there is in our beloved land an entire people that has been attached to it for hundreds of years and has never considered leaving it’. Epstein and his allies, who founded Brit Shalom, the Alliance for Peace, in 1925, imagined Zion as a place of cultural and spiritual rebirth. Any attempt to create an exclusively Jewish state, they warned, would turn Zionism into a classical colonial movement and result in permanent warfare with the Palestinian Arabs. After the Arab riots of 1929, Brit Shalom’s secretary, Hans Kohn, denounced the official Zionist movement for ‘adopting the posture of wounded innocents’ and for dodging ‘the least debate with the people who live in this country. We have depended entirely on the force of British power. We have set ourselves goals that were inevitably going to degenerate into conflict.’”

“The birth of a global movement in opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza, and in defence of Palestinian rights, is, if nothing else, a sign that Israel has lost the moral war among people of conscience. While the Palestinian cause is wedded to international justice, to solidarity among oppressed peoples, and to the preservation of a rules-based order, Israel’s appeal is largely confined to religious Jews, the far right, white nationalists and Democratic politicians of an older generation such as Joe Biden, who warned of a ‘ferocious surge’ in antisemitism in America following the protests, and Nancy Pelosi, who claimed to detect a ‘Russian tinge’ to them. When the Proud Boys’ founder, Gavin McInnes, and the House Speaker, Mike Johnson, descended on Columbia’s New York campus to defend Jewish students from ‘antisemitic’ protesters (among them Jews holding liberation seders), they looked as though they’d convened a 6 January reunion. For all their claims to isolation in a sea of sympathy for Palestine, Jewish supporters of Israel, like the state itself, have powerful allies in Washington, in the administration and on university boards.”


“It only adds to the unreal quality of the debate in the US that the threat of antisemitism is being weaponised by right-wing Evangelicals who have otherwise made common cause with white nationalists and actual antisemites, while liberal Democratic politicians acquiesce.”


“‘What is antisemitism if it is no longer accompanied by oppression?’ Magid asks. ‘What constitutes antisemitism when Jews are in fact the oppressors?’”


“The future of Gaza looks still more bleak, even in the event of a long-term truce or ceasefire. ‘Gaza 2035’, a proposal circulated by Netanyahu’s office, envisages it as a Gulf-style free-trade zone. Jared Kushner has his eye on beachfront developments and the Israeli right is determined to re-establish settlements. As for the survivors of Israel’s assault, the political scientist Nathan Brown predicts that they will be living in a ‘supercamp’, where, as he writes in Deluge, a collection of essays on the current war, ‘law and order ... will likely be handled – if they are handled at all – by camp committees and self-appointed gangs.’ He adds: ‘This seems less like the day after a conflict than a long twilight of disintegration and despair.’”


“Today it is difficult to imagine an alliance between Palestinians and progressive Israeli Jews of the kind that flickered during the First Intifada. Groups pursuing joint action between Palestinians and Israelis still exist, but they are fewer than ever and deeply embattled: advocates for the binationalism sketched out by figures as various as Judah Magnes and Edward Said, Tony Judt and Azmi Bishara, have all but vanished. Nonetheless, one wonders what Ahmad would have made of Hamas’s spectacular raid on 7 October, a daring assault on Israeli bases that devolved into hideous massacres at a rave and in kibbutzes. Its short-term impact is undeniable: Operation Al-Aqsa Flood thrust the question of Palestine back on the international agenda, sabotaging the normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, shattering both the myth of a cost-free occupation and the myth of Israel’s invincibility. But its architects, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, appear to have had no plan to protect Gaza’s own people from what would come next. Like Netanyahu, with whom they recently appeared on the International Criminal Court’s wanted list, they are ruthless tacticians, capable of brutal, apocalyptic violence but possessing little strategic vision. ‘Tomorrow will be different,’ Deif promised in his 7 October communiqué. He was correct. But that difference – after the initial exuberance brought about by the prison breakout – can now be seen in the ruins of Gaza.”


“Whether Palestinians will be able to hold onto their lands until that day, in the face of the settler zealots and ethnic cleansers who have captured the Israeli state, remains to be seen.”

Read the article here.

History is unless you are a hardcore Hegelian not an inevitable process. There is no direct line from 1948 to 2023.
But Shatz’ assessment is largely accurate. Israel lost its moral standing, a loss that started a while ago, I would say in 1982, after un unnecessary and disastrous Lebanon-war. At least felt ashamed for the mismanagement of that war.
For the youth Palestine might be what Vietnam was in 1968, but just take a look at the ’68 generation to realize that the commitments of the rebellious youth don’t last very long.

Asl both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders are clueless or absent, which is another way of describing cluelessness.

The future of Gaza is bleak but the future of Israel and the Jews living outside Israel is uncertain as well.

To be perceived as a the favorite minority by more or less incompetent rulers might be catastrophic. We cean learn from the past, it’s not the first fzme that Jews have been perceived as the favorite minority by kings and other rulers. The Jews paid have a heavy price for this.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, only in Dutch alas, you can read it here.

It’s very well possible that in the future we will see an alliance of fundamentalist Jews and fundamentalist Sunnis in the region. Alliances change, necessity can turn enemies into friends.

Tomorrow will be different, but not necessarily better.

In the meantime it remains an open question whether the birth of the state of Israel was Hitler’s final victory, or just a belated outburst of 19th century nationalism, the idea that your own nation state will solve most if not all problems.

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