Re-Inventing Israel

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Polakow-Suransky may have conducted interviews and pored over documents but he has little knowledge of the layered and convoluted history of the Holy Land. His regarding Israel as a colonial implant like South Africa is a willful distortion of its millennial history. His citing of the Zionist enterprise as involving the dispossession of an indigenous population pays no heed to the Jewish population already in place, dismisses the legal purchase of land, forgets about the vast influx of Arabs from the surrounding Arab nations who then, mirabile dictu, became “Palestinians,” misreads the 1948 War of Independence and Ben-Gurion’s stated intention to incorporate the Arab population as citizens of the new state, and seems to think that dispossession goes only one way.

He forgets the massacre and expulsion of the Jewish inhabitants of Hebron and skims right over the fact that Jewish East Jerusalemites were ethnically cleansed by an invading Jordanian army, just as the approximately one million Jews expelled from their homes in Arab countries do not impinge upon his consciousness. His wringing of hands over the “circumscribed existence for Palestinians” extenuates Palestinian suicide-bombings and terror attacks that left thousands of Israeli civilians dead or maimed and necessitated the construction of check-points and a separation barrier. This skewing of the larger context in which the beleaguered country finds itself can only be deliberate since the relevant information is abundantly available.

In dealing with these larger issues, Polakow-Suransky appears to have derived much of his material not from reputable sources but from Baylis Thomas’ aforementioned The Dark Side of Zionism, published a year earlier in 2009. Israel, for Thomas, is obviously the Darth Vader among nations. “The state of Israel,” he writes, “was achieved by means of a Zionist colonization of Palestine…that continues today on remaining Palestinian land.” From Thomas’s perspective, Israelis simply replaced the native population—a canard that has become widespread and reveals an insuperable ignorance of the history of the region. Thomas’ insertion of the word “replacement” into this part of the text without foundation is also an instance of standard interpellation at work, as is the guiding implication of “remaining Palestinian land.” All this is old stuff indeed, the usual anti-Israeli boilerplate we have become so accustomed to, which Polakow-Suransky, Thomas and many others do not scruple to recycle.

Polakow-Suransky is certain that Israel has suffered “moral decay,” betrayed “its founding ideals” and unforgivably “abandoned socialist Zionist principles” (italics mine). This latter accusation informs us about what side of the political spectrum the author hails from—he is, incidentally, an editor at the left-leaning Foreign Affairs Magazine—and why the writ he has composed should itself be stigmatized as emitting an haut goût of “moral decay.” He is not just another leftist junkie high on socialist crack, but part of a left-wing fifth column that has given up on the West’s most imperiled outpost. It is as if every tap on the keyboard is meant to drive another nail into Israel’s coffin. Naturally, he will affect a profound and sympathetic concern over Israel’s problematic future, which is the ostensible reason he embarked upon his project. The underlying dynamic of the book suggests otherwise. Both lack of context and a surreptitious subtext impact negatively upon the actual text so that one is tempted to set the entire performance in scare quotes.

This particular stance or attitude is maintained throughout, sometimes overtly but mostly covertly, until the author reaches his concluding pages in which he condemns Israel for its “use of devastating force against seemingly powerless civilians, most recently during the Gaza offensive of January 2009.” The “seemingly” doesn’t go far enough to acquit the author of partisanship—it is only an artful hedge against the possible embarrassment of truth. What is “offensive” is not Israel’s incursion into Gaza after many years of ceaseless and indiscriminate rocket attacks against its own civilians by Hamas operatives, but Polakow-Suransky’s erasure of all explanatory context, his obliviousness of Hamas and its genocidal Charter (Hamas is not even mentioned in the book’s Index), his winking at terror, his indifference to 7000 missiles exploding on Israeli soil since the Gaza disengagement, and his implicit endorsement of anti-Israeli bigots like Naomi Klein and Richard Goldstone who deliberately misrepresent the facts and fault the Jewish state for the temerity of existing.

Ah, but if Israel would only reconsider, “heed the criticism of friends”—where have we heard this before?—and “reinvent its foreign policy,” its image would be enhanced “in the eyes of the old left that once supported it.” The trouble is, the old left, like the new left, is precisely what weakens Israel’s unity, vigor and coherence in the face of its vastly more numerous and implacable “neighbors.” “We are tired of winning,” said former prime minister Ehud Olmert, one of the author’s heroes. But the left is never tired of appeasing determined belligerents and of twisting or leaving out facts to advance its agenda.

It doesn’t stop there. Polakow-Suransky’s proclaimed fear that Israel is in mortal danger of becoming “an apartheid social order in which a Jewish minority rules over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians” is the most arrant farrago of nonsense imaginable. Note once again the sly use of interpellation smuggled in to orient the reader in a preconceived direction. “Disenfranchised” is a groundless hypothesis presented as an actual state of affairs. Israel’s Arab citizens are not “disenfranchised”; they have the vote, send members to the Knesset and the Cabinet, profit from social security and educational opportunities, and more often than not receive favorable decisions from the Israeli Supreme Court. The word “disenfranchised” sneaks right by and lodges in the reader’s mind as a given. A false assumption is suddenly transformed into an unquestioned datum and the interpellation is permitted to stand as an “unspoken alliance” between author and reader.

Moreover, Polakow-Suransky is dead wrong about the state of current diplomatic transactions. Negotiations toward a two-state solution have long been accepted by Israel under successive administrations but constantly frustrated by an intractable and rejectionist Palestinian leadership and by the rather indigestible fact that Hamas-ruled Gaza deliberately remains outside the process, guaranteeing its failure. Additionally, Israeli Arabs number around 20% of the census and Israel has no desire to absorb the millions of Arabs in the West Bank. Thus there is no likelihood of the Palestinians “nearing an absolute majority,” as Polakow-Suransky disingenuously asserts as a warning to Israel to get its act together. Another blatant factoid. Israel may have more to worry about from its hugely fecund, economically unproductive and poorly educated ultra-Orthodox Haredi community draining the public treasury and averse to military service, but this is not a prospect that lubricates the anti-Israeli propaganda mill.

And so the argument proceeds. Interpellation supplemented by elimination of context and suppression of detail is how the textual campaign against the Jewish state works best since it operates via stealth infiltration—although this does not rule out crude slander and outright lying. (See flotilla.) It also seems evident that the pretext of ensuring Israel’s future is only the prelude to its wished-for disappearance. Whatever genuine facts are adduced are sandwiched between interpellation and misrepresentation. And whatever truths may be mustered in the pursuit of an ideologically contaminated message, the bigger picture is made to conform to an antecedent prejudice: the Israel that is must be reinvented as the Israel its enemies want it to be.

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  • Jim Johnson

    Having lived amongst the Arabs for eight years I have become acquainted with their two opinions.

    First they claim not to hate Jews but only Israel and it's supporters. That statement is for public consumption.

    In private they are intensely anti Jewish. Some of the Saudis who do not like the royal family go so far as to claim the royal family is Jewish. To re consider their claim; they blame every thing they do not like on Jews.

    These people like Polakow-Suransky do not see that no matter how nice they are to Muslims the Muslims still see a target on EVERY Jewish back.

    • philgee

      —A scholarly article which, no doubt but for brevity would have been masterful in all ways, . . .
      A-a-n-nd—partly for sheer laziness, partly for lack of maturity—the Arab types just l-l-o-o-o-o-ve to practice even so little as they may have of a cleverness with words—you know how it is in the child's world whiling away long moments with: "I said this, but you thought I said that; you should've known what I was talking about because, . . . well next time, you know to, . . .", on and on, until it's time for lunch, say. Of course, the jig is up when one or the other claims the higher authority: "No, that's not what that means—you can ask Mom. You're wrong.".
      Whether to the positive or, to the negative of definition, in have maintained in scholary dignity, "neighbor" always must be easily referenced to that classic definition—and yet standing, lo, these thousands of years—which was given in answer to the pretensive: "So, who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10).
      When children do it, it's said to be childlike; when adults promulgate in that vein, and think to rely upon the fruits of such negotiations, they're said to have involved themselves in a mere childishness, . . .

    • muchiboy

      "in private they are intensely anti Jewish. no matter how nice they are to Muslims the Muslims still see a target on EVERY Jewish back."

      We are the human family.We are all extended family including Palestinians and Jews.
      There are random and not so random acts of violence.We know them too well.We must never forget the random and not so random acts of kindness.One such act follows.Only the cynical and jaded man could qualify such an act.Muchiboy

      • MixMChess
        • muchiboy


          I would expect nothing less, MixMChess from Israelis or Jews.This type of behavior should be the default behavior of our human family.

          As it should be amongst our extended family,MixMChest.We should all promise not to dehumanize,not to demonize another group or people. Easier said then done,I know.Muchiboy

      • ziontruth

        Didn't you say you were giving up posting on FP? Can't shake off the anti-Israel addiction, huh?

        "We are the human family."

        More classical Marxist platitudes from the one who claims he's no Marxist. "We are Citizens of the World, united in Kommon Humanity." Progressivist, Communist, Utopian drivel!

        My largest family is the Jewish nation. People of other nations are members of their own families and that's how it should be. People really ought to take care only of their own. "Every man under his vine" is the ideal picture of humanity in the Bible. To care about the entire world, to see all humanity as your brothers and sisters, is contrary to human nature. It's unrealistic and leads to disaster when people try it.

        • muchiboy

          "Didn't you say you were giving up posting on FP?"

          I am weaning myself off FP,like any bad addiction,MixMChess.I thought the extraordinarily good deed shown in "Heart of Jenin" was worthy of sharing,especially given the irrational and unhealthy opinions endemic on FP and I assume elsewhere.I do not think I will argue my political views here again,rather wade in now and again on a more human(e) basis.And there is something to be said for keeping your enemies close(r).I do like the beginning stanza of Desiderata:

          "Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
          and remember what peace there may be in silence.
          As far as possible without surrender
          be on good terms with all persons.
          Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
          and listen to others,
          even the dull and the ignorant;
          they too have their story.

          Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
          they are vexations to the spirit."

          "to see all humanity as your brothers and sisters, is contrary to human nature. It's unrealistic and leads to disaster when people try it."

          Really,MixMChess?And the converse philosophy has been any more successful?If you don't see humanity as your brothers and sisters,maybe seeing them as your extended family is less threatening.Shalom,Brother.Muchiboy

          • MixMChess

            Is there a reason why you are addressing me when responding to Ziontruth's comment?

          • muchiboy

            "Is there a reason why you are addressing me when responding to Ziontruth's comment?"

            Too much sun and/or alcohol.I shouldn't type under the influence.Sorry,MixMChess.Muchiboy

          • ziontruth

            I take it that "converse philosophy" means nationalism-based imperialisms like Nazism. They only prove my point. Multiculturalists often say, "The Nazis too thought every nation had the right to decide on the ethnic composition of their state," but this is not true: the Nazis didn't want to determine the ethnic composition of merely the German state, the wanted to do so for the ENTIRE WORLD. That's imperialism. The problem is imperialism. Imperialism, and not nationalism per se. And imperialism can be based on other doctrines than nationalism: on class-warfare doctrine like Marxism, or on religious doctrine like Islam.

            Proper nationalism, free of imperialism–nationalism of the form that has every nation live in well-defined borders, every state in the role of the nation's castle–is a source of both liberty and security. Imperialism is the detriment of liberty and security. I'm a staunch nationalist, and I oppose imperialism no matter what form it takes: Nazism, Marxism or Islam. In the long run, my "parochial" view is much better for humanity as a whole than ostensibly altruistic internationalism.

          • muchiboy

            Firstly,while a strong case for linking Zionism and colonialism can be and has been made by myself and others,including on FP,there are links to imperialism ,Zionism and Israel that need be examined.

            "The primary goal of Zionist foreign policy was achieved on November 2, 1917, when the British Government made public the Balfour Declaration, recognizing the right of the Zionists to establish a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine and making a vague promise of support. It is evident, even at this early stage, that die pro-imperialist orientation of Zionist foreign policy was inherent in its aims, since Zionism could not possibly begin to carry out its plan if the ruler of Palestine did not approve. It was this internal logic that drove Zionism into the imperialist camp. It simply had no choice."

            "Consider the U.S. reaction to Israel's conquest of the Sinai in 1956 and in 1967. In 1956, the U.S. strongly opposed that action. Eisenhower and Dulles were quite forthright and outspoken about it a few days before the presidential election, allegedly a time when political considerations are paramount. Political considerations aside, the U.S. openly compelled Israel to withdraw from the Sinai, not caring about its impact in the presidential election. In contrast, the U.S. supported Israel's conquest of the Sinai in 1967 and has been backing it since that time.

            What was the difference between 1956 and 1967? In 1956, Israel was allied with France and England who were trying to reestablish some position of significance in the Middle East, believing still they had some role to play in regulating the affairs of the region. Since Israel was collaborating with rivals of the U.S. in the region, the conquest became illegitimate.

            In 1967, Israel was closely allied to the U.S. directly. As a result, the conquest was quite legitimate. U.S. government support of Israel is more or less in accord with the American perception of Israel's strength. The stronger Israel becomes, the more it is able to assist the U.S. in maintaining control of the region, so the more the U.S. will support it. Though the pretense has always been that we're supporting Israel because it is in danger, the opposite would be a much more accurate statement. American support for Israel is contingent upon its strength and ability to aid in maintaining American domination of the Middle East."

            Today,there are clear advantages as well as trends and movements towards regional political and economic communities e.g. the EU.Likely,in time,as demographics change within Israel (already with an increased Arab birthrate) Israel itself will change.Hopefully as the region becomes less hostile and the states more integrated a community will develop where economic and other links promote or force useful and beneficial changes for one and all.For the sake of the children one can only hope,Ziontruth.Muchiboy

          • MixMChess

            As I have previously proven, Zionism isn't comparable to colonialism even at the most basic level. Nor is Zionism comparable to Imperialism…

            "It was this internal logic that drove Zionism into the imperialist camp."

            Try actually reading the Balfour Declaration, it refers to "the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine" and to the "moral validity" of "RECONSTITUTING their National Home in that country." The term "reconstituting" is key, in that it "shows recognition of the fact that Palestine had been the Jews' home."

            Additionally, how can imperialism exist when the Jews PURCHASED lands (despite owning them historically) that were used to build the state of Israel?

            "Israel was allied with France and England who were trying to reestablish some position of significance in the Middle East, believing still they had some role to play in regulating the affairs of the region."

            As usual, this is just Chomsky rubbish… The Suez affair had nothing to do with Israel trying to "regulate" or establish "dominance" in the region. Egypt had instituted a blockade of the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. Additionally, Egypt trained and equipped the "fedayeen" to engage in "hostile" cross-border terrorism by infiltrating Israel "to commit acts of sabotage and murder." This prompted Israel, with backing of Britain and France, to attack Egypt in 1956.

            "In 1967, Israel was closely allied to the U.S. directly. As a result, the conquest was quite legitimate. "

            More Chomsky nonsense. Israel was not closely allied with the US in 1967. The US position in the 1967 war was NEUTRALITY. The US (as did France) imposed an arms embargo on the ENTIRE REGION (including Israel). Interestingly, "the Soviets were supplying massive amounts of arms to the Arabs." According to Chomsky its only OK for Marxists to instigate war and get involved in the foreign affairs of other regions.

            Ron, you need to seriously try thinking for yourself for once, not that it will get you much further but at least you won't be peddling Chomsky/Marxist nonsense.

          • muchiboy

            "Ron, you need to seriously try thinking for yourself for once, not that it will get you much further but at least you won't be peddling Chomsky/Marxist nonsense. "

            Years ago this very same "Chomsky/Marxist nonsense" you speak of wouldn't have been available to us,MixMChess,unless we were/are scholars.The internet,and Google too,increase our access to such information,good or bad,for good or bad.True, we need be more vigilant with such masses of readily available knowledge but to ignore it all together would be foolish.
            The trick is to know how to access the information and then apply good rules in using it.I try,MixMChess.And I am not always responsible for the outcomes or conclusions,favorable or not.Furthermore ,I don't have a problem with the sources i.e.Chomsky/Marxist but am open to revisiting them upon good reason.Shalom,MixMChess.Muchiboy.

          • ziontruth

            By definition, Zionism cannot be classed as imperialism, because it is an indigenous people's movement to reclaim its land (the Jews are the indigenous people of Palestine).

            By definition, any Arab opposition to Zionism does constitute imperialism, because it wishes to obstruct the rightful actions of the aforementioned indigenous people, and because it wishes to maintain Arab hegemony over lands to which the Arab nation is not indigenous. The Arab nation is indigenous to the Arabian peninsula, therefore any demands the Arab nation has of lands outside the Arabian peninsula constitute imperialism and are therefore illegitimate.

            (Again, preempting the counter-attack: the "Palestinians" are not a real nation, they are only the marketing front-end of Arab/Islamic imperialism to their useful idiot allies in the Western world; some samples of whom can be seen posting right here on this blog.)

          • muchiboy

            "By definition, Zionism cannot be classed as imperialism,"

            Admittedly the charge of imperialism is a stretch,but I again refer you to the sources I quoted.

            "By definition, any Arab opposition to Zionism does constitute imperialism,"

            Even more of a stretch then the Chomsky/Marxist claims,Ziontruth.The tricks one can play with logic.!

            "the "Palestinians" are not a real nation"

            Lets agree to disagree on this one,Ziontruth.

            Again,your arguments all have merit and are not readily dismissed.They are the stuff of good and fruitful debate.However,I am trying to stay true to my earlier commitment to refrain from debating such contentious issues to the point of insult.And it's been a long and busy day at the prison.Muchiboy

        • muchiboy

          "More classical Marxist platitudes from the one who claims he's no Marxist. "We are Citizens of the World, united in Kommon Humanity." Progressivist, Communist, Utopian drivel! "

          If it weren't for the perhaps unfortunate fact that Communism and Marxism don't work,they might be beautiful doctrines.Maybe man just isn't ready for such lofty and ideal concepts.Hey,maybe I am a Marxist at heart ! Muchiboy

  • Simon Wajcer

    Q. Where does J Street lead to? A. J Street merges with Himmelstrasse, in Treblinka, Poland. (Himmelstrasse/ Heaven Street, was the euphemistic name the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators gave to the short route the stripped naked, detrained Jews had to walk to their extermination.)

    It would be more than appropriate to its mission to rename J Street as Juden Strasse. That would strip it of its hip, leftist, rock bandish moniker and reveal its grinning death's head.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Muslims in the White House, leftists swinging from every tree, anti-Jewish droids
    poping up everywhere, MSM destroying the free press with leftist activists in
    charge. Anti-American zelots being trained in all of America's Universities, death
    to Israel and death to America in full swing, doesn't look to good. As for me and my
    house we support Israel. America needs a war against the left, full prosecution and
    nothing less to regain true freedom……………………………..William

  • AL__
  • Olivepit3

    The Jews have their hands full. The Arabs would be easy to defeat, but the leftist attacks on Israel from every corner of the world is another thing.
    My thoughts: The Jewish populations of the world must remain united in their resolve to stand up for Israel. They must seek friends in the Christian community to stand firm against Arab hatred. They must be ready to use maximum force when necessary to defeat their adversary despite what the United Nations says–it is just a tool of the Organization of Islamic Countries anyway.