Have you heard the term, psychobabble? It means using jargon and catchwords (originally concerning psychology) so you can sound smart and eloquent without really saying anything at all. Well, psychobabble, meet politicobabble.
Given that I have been particularly annoyed of late (more than ever before) with the babbling of our floundering leftist section of the political spectrum, I was intrigued and my spirits lifted as I began to read a new piece published by Haaretz. On September 24, 2014, Ari Shavit published the op-ed clearly critical of the left, to which I once identified to a degree.
I will let his words speak for themselves:
“The conceptual world of the people supposed to be the most informed, open and critical remains dogmatic, anachronistic and ossified. Their perception of reality relates only to half of reality; it ignores everything that has happened in this country over the past 20 years, and everything that has happened in the neighboring countries over the past two years.”
I can’t tell you how much this made my heart sing. Here is an article published in Haaretz, notoriously leftist, that is expressing a balanced view asking the left to please wake up and contend with facts on the ground that belie their utopian view of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Saying things I have thought, but saying them much better than me. No politicobabble here.
Then he had to go and spoil it at the end. He gives the left a challenge: bring Abbas’ signature on Olmert’s peace plan and bring an Arab League agreement to forgo the Right of Return for Palestinians into pre-1967 borders and “we will finally be able to convince the Israeli majority that our most important national enterprise is dividing the land”. I’m not going to discuss the bit about the challenge, but just the part about needing to convince the bulk of Israelis that we need a two-state solution. Here is where he lapsed into politicobabble.
No, Shavit, the two-state solution is not supported only by the left. The political center also sees that as the only way to ensure a viable future for Israel. There may even be some realists on the right (but certainly not the far right) who, if this was put to secret ballot, would agree. It is leftist arrogance that makes them believe that they are the only ones upholding THE RIGHT WAY TO MAKE PEACE. The difference between the left and the center-to-moderate-right in this issue is that the former believe that Israelis and Palestinians can love each other, whereas the latter acquiesce because there is no other choice and they have no illusions of future love-ins, just a matter-of-fact state of live-and-let-live, . . . hopefully.
Now here is something that really made my blood boil: An op-ed, written by an Israeli-American and published online on 26 September 2014 in the NYT, brought to my attention by a friend. Zonszein writes about the violence against Israeli far-leftists that includes physical attacks against demonstrators and death threats to those who dared to raise their voices with concerns about our behavior in Gaza during the last war. I agree that there should be zero tolerance for violence and threats of violence. I believe that our democracy can cope with extreme views if they are expressed in legal fashion, regardless of which extreme they come from.
What I cannot stomach is the churning out of unfounded statements using terms that are supposedly self-explanatory. For example, Zonszein writes: “The vilification of the few Israelis who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine is not new.” Since when does disagreeing with the far left make one a member of the right wing? The FEW ISRAELIS who don’t subscribe to RIGHT-WING DOCTRINE? It is MOST Israelis who do not subscribe to right-wing doctrine, if she is referring to a desire to annex the West Bank to Israel. But, then, I don’t know what she means by the term, right-wing doctrine, because she just throws it out without telling us what she is referring to. Politicobabble!
Just below that statement, she writes: “It [the us-versus-them mentality] is based on the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace”. Let us look at that statement. Is it wrong to say that the Palestinians are our enemies who threaten us? Is it not true that both the PLO and Hamas Charters declare that Israel has no right to exist? Just what do we call someone who denies, in a legal document, our right to sovereignty, indeed, announces in Article 20 of the PLO Charter that there is no such thing as a Jewish people, just a religion? And, by using hyperbole, she is guilty of twisting the truth: “solely to blame”. Nobody is solely to blame, and only those on either extreme of the political map claim that anyone is “solely” to blame. The fact that there have even been peace talks shows that efforts are being made, in spite of PLO and Hamas Charters, in spite of the likes of “The Jewish Home” Party platforms. For me, any statement using absolute terms, such as: always, never, solely, is a statement I do not accept as it does not allow for the multifaceted weave of real-life circumstances.
Zonszein’s comment: “. . . while ignoring Israel’s failure to . . .guarantee equal rights for Arab citizens . . .” should raise loud guffaws. Since she refers to Arab citizens, she must be talking about Arabs in Israel proper. But Israeli Arabs have equal rights before the law! I agree many suffer discrimination, but it is not legally sanctioned discrimination and Israel, just like other nations around the world, needs to improve inter-ethnic relations on a personal level, something that takes time and a lot of effort. Zonszein cannot say that there is no effort to do so: there are Arab-Jewish dialogue initiatives around the country, such as Nave Shalom, Beit HaGefen in Haifa, GIvat Haviva and programs organized by schools, youth groups and community centers. But people like Zonszein apparently don’t know about these. And her raising the lie of the supposed lack of legal equality, that is not far from an accusation of apartheid, is, again, politicobabble.
She states that Israel has done nothing to “genuinely address” the fact that 20% of our population is Arab and not-Jewish. What does she mean? What would indicate for her that Israel is doing something to address that fact? How would that be different from what is happening now in the country? Her empty statement is a good sound-bite, but it is empty. Politicobabble!
“Israel has also never clearly defined its borders,” she claims. Really? Israel has been trying to figure out for years what would be reasonable and defensible borders between us and a Palestinian state, but apparently Zonszein won’t be satisfied until Israel returns unilaterally to the 1948 (or 1947 perhaps) borders. In the end, clearly defined borders will be the result of fruitful negotiations for peace between both parties adjacent to the border and not before.
She proceeds to make claims about Israeli transgressions that are not backed up. We have heard accusations that Israel steals West Bank water, indiscriminately kills Palestinians, etc etc. Certainly there are Israeli crimes and misdemeanors that need to be investigated and punished and corrected if found true. I agree with her there. But she paints Israel black and, while she bemoans what she sees as Israel’s claim that the Palestinians are “solely to blame” for the lack of peace, she promotes the idea that Israel is solely to blame.
She goes so far as to say, “Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies.” Such self-righteousness, such arrogance! And she brings in for support Professor Sternhell, who claims Israel is becoming fascist. (I critiqued Sternhell’s claims on my very first blog-post here.) She turns a complex issue into one of us-versus-them, meaning those who agree with her versus those who disagree with her, as if she and her ilk constitute the beacon of light and protector of humanity. By doing this, she helps the radical right in Israel keep their focus on opposing the extreme left, rather than contributing intelligently to discussions of overwhelming complexity, thereby drawing the extreme right-wing into the more nuanced conversations that have a chance of eventually leading to balance.
Perhaps when we will have achieved nuanced and balanced discussions among ourselves, rather than mud-slinging (that particular specialty of both far left and far right), we will be able to invite our enemies into a different kind of conversation than has been possible until now, and – dare I say it – peace.