It has been a busy few months for Benjamin Netanyahu. He has had to contend with calls from Hamas for a third intifada and anti-Semitic incitement from our alleged “peace-partner” Mahmoud Abbas. Waves of terrorism and violence have spread across Israel as armed Arabs threw rocks (the size of building bricks) and brandished knives; he has had his authority questioned and his handling of Muslim incitement and violence on the Temple Mount challenged across the Israeli political spectrum.
Forty-five stabbing attacks in the last month have resulted in more than 100 Israelis being wounded, and 10 murdered. Muslim children as young as thirteen years of age have viciously attacked identifiably Jewish children in this latest escalation of anti-Semitic violence. Bibi’s reputation as a man who can deliver on security lies in tatters. His reputation as a prime minister who can bring prosperity to all Israel is based on the memory of his time as Minister for Finance from 2003-2005, during the government of Ariel Sharon. Since then, the average Israeli has not prospered. In fact, the average Israeli has suffered consistent, annual reductions in his standard of living. It is five years since major gas deposits were discovered in Israeli territory and still he dithers over exploiting those energy deposits.
His Wikipedia entry describes him as being born to secular Jewish parents. His problem is that his identity is based on history, but not on an understanding of what drives people to maintain and nourish a healthy identity (more about that later).
On the event that marked the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of “those among us that challenge our democracy” and yet, he has done nothing during his tenure to strengthen Israeli identity or to lesson the incitement of the Muslim and greater Arab world against Israeli identity or Israel itself. During his tenure as prime minister we have all witnessed the growth of the international anti-Semitic Left and the progress of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement as it progresses, relentlessly, into the mainstream of Western thought.
In a New York Times article, Pankaj Mishra opined that “the new can emerge only within a tradition”. Israel is a ‘newish’ secular society swimming in a sea of religious superstition, cant and, biased history which is weighted towards Arab conquerors and their descendants. If the current reality fails to be consonant with past narratives, then it is ignored, or worse, attacked.
For example, there is no doubt that Jerusalem is central to Jewish history, Jewish racial memory and Jewish religious thought (as well as having significance for Christianity). Jerusalem is mentioned over 600 times in the Tanach, the Jewish Bible, and it is mentioned in countless Jewish prayers. Not even once is it referred to in the Koran. When Mahmoud Abbas a.k.a. Abu Mazen, President for Life of the Palestinian Authority tells us to keep our filthy (Jewish) feet off the Temple Mount, that is more than just incitement to violence, it is anti-Semitism. When he falsely accuses Israel of “executing” a thirteen year old Muslim boy who is being treated in an Israeli hospital, (having been disarmed after he stabbed a thirteen year old Israeli riding on his bicycle, eleven times) that is also incitement, but also the kind of lie that travels around the world in a few hours even when Israel later, proves otherwise by showing the wannabe child murderer comfortably propped up in an Israeli hospital bed, surrounded by more food than he can possibly eat.
National identity is about history and culture; it is about ritual and comfort, what we refer to as our values. In the case of Israel, those values encompass Jewish and democratic principles as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. Because Bibi Netanyahu and most of Israel’s politicians are secular and Jewish, we have today a crisis of identity because instead of being universal, as most of those founding principles are, we have sectarian identity politics preached in opposition to the spirit of the founding declaration. The Arabs who want to be Israeli are attacked by the fascist Left, as well as by fellow Arabs who have nothing of equal substance to offer the Jewish citizens of Israel, because their identity is specific to being Arab. Bibi and his ilk are so alienated from their shared identity they are incapable of arguing for an Israel that unites all of its citizens: Jew, Christian, Muslim, Israeli and Arab.
In “Israelism, Arab Scholarship on Israel, a critical assessment” Hassan Barari refers to the “inevitability syndrome” where Israel is and can never be acceptable and will eventually ‘disappear.’ He declares Israel to be an outpost of Western imperialism although Arab imperialism is never mentioned. He says: “three ideological currents have produced dominant discourses. The pan-Arabist, the Marxist and the Islamic discourses have provided the overriding framework that conditions much of the understanding and interpretation of Israel.” Israel with its intellectually active past and present has nevertheless left the scholarly debate on identity to the activist enemies of peace and co-existence.
The Zionist vision of one nation for all of the people, irrespective of race, religion or color has been abandoned to the hysterics who fear adulteration of ideology, political power base and religious purpose. Histrionics and humbug are part of the debate on both sides of the identity debate. As Israel’s second longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu could be expected to present some kind of vision for a unified nation that leaves the extremists on the periphery of society, instead of allowing them to take center stage.
As shown by Hassan Barari’s academic examination of Arab attitudes towards Israel, Arab literature and its communications are wholly ethnocentrically mono-cultural and mono-racial in outlook. The secular Arab and Islamic world does not and cannot accept a multi-ethnic state unless it is its own Arab empowered version of one; one in which we are all victims of their ongoing and comprehensive, cultural and ethno-religious colonization. What is at issue is the destruction of Jewishly identifiable history, its physical presence obliterated and its religious significance extirpated from cultural memory by constant denial at home and abroad.
When Abbas spits out his epithetic “filthy Jewish feet” he is simply expressing Arab ideas about the other. Surely, drawing attention to the disgusting rhetoric of Palestinians and Islamists (along with age-old antecedents in Arab thought) is something we can work with in order to unify the nation. Surely, we can use this hate to highlight the basic corruption of anti-Zionism in Western thought. Israel is a country in which all of its citizens, minorities as well as the Jewish majority may live within its borders, in peace. There is no other place like Israel in the Near East or in the Muslim World.