[News] Israeli Intellectuals Love the War

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 7 15:00:17 EDT 2006

Israeli Intellectuals Love the War
Ran HaCohen, Electronic Lebanon, 7 August 2006


No intellectuals here: Israeli left wing activists attend an anti-war 
demonstration in the center of Tel Aviv the capital of Israel, 5 
August 2006. (<http://www.maannews.net/en/>MaanImages/Moti Milrod)

Dedicated to the too few Israeli intellectuals who do dare speak out 
against this war.

All generalizations are wrong, except this one: Israeli liberal 
intellectuals are against war. They have always been against it, and 
they even suffered greatly for their critical views, as they stress 
proudly. They were against the previous war, they will be against the 
next war, they are against all wars. There is just one minor 
exception, though: the present war, every present war, which they 
always support. Because the present war - well, that's something 
totally different from all those other wars! How can you even 
compare?! The present war is always inevitable, and necessary, and 
just, and worthy of support.

For those who imagine Israel's intellectual elite as a sane oasis of 
rational, moderate, peace-loving liberals, here are a few snapshots 
of Israel's intellectual cheerleaders on their current patriotic 
march supporting the devastation of Lebanon.

 From 1984 to 1948

Rhinoceros King Ari Shavit, journalist for Ha'aretz, once a "Peace 
Now" activist and senior member of the Association for Civil Rights 
in Israel (ACRI), writes,
"Israel is currently waging the most just war in its history. [...] 
Therefore, anyone who yearns for Israel to withdraw in future from 
occupied territories to recognized permanent borders must stand by 
Israel in this war. Anyone who wants peace, stability, and an end to 
the occupation must back up Israel in its just war." (Ha'aretz, July 18, 2006)

To put it briefly, then, War is Peace and Peace is War; and Israel is 
devastating Lebanon just in order to give the Palestinians their freedom.

If Shavit's intellectual inspiration sounds literary (George Orwell), 
historian Prof. Yosef Gorny of Tel Aviv University would rather go 
back to History - in the upper case. In a short article titled "The 
Second War of Independence" (sic!) he writes:
"In a reality in which Iran threatens the free world, this struggle 
against its proxy in Lebanon is a war for the existence of the State 
of Israel in the future. In this respect, though under completely 
different circumstances, the struggle to create the State itself in 
the War of Independence about 60 years ago and the war nowadays have 
a common denominator. And here lies also their common justification: 
the struggle for our national existence." (Ha'aretz, July 30, 2006)

Gorny's formulation is just a little more pathetic than others', but 
the endlessly recycled notion of Hezbollah being an existential 
threat to Israel's existence has brainwashed the minds of so many 
Israelis. Playwright Yehoshua Sobol, for example, describes the 
Hezbollah attack (as well as the Qassam missiles from Gaza) as "an 
announcement that our very self has no right to exist" (Ma'ariv, July 
21, 2006). Insane as it may sound, people have been persuaded that 
having a good part of Israel within the reach of Hezbollah missiles 
is an existential threat. At the same time, the fact that every spot 
in the Middle East - and far beyond - is within the reach of Israel's 
conventional and unconventional weapons is not conceived as an 
existential threat to anybody: after all, Israel is a responsible 
country that just wants peace ...

Writer A. B. Yehoshua, the self-designated "man of peace," says it 
all in his typical, more primitive manner:
"At last we've got a just war, so we shouldn't gnaw at it too much 
till it becomes unjust." (Ha'aretz, July 21, 2006)

Kill Them All

"At last," says Yehoshua frankly: the old "peacenik" had indeed been 
yearning for war for a long time. Israeli fascist leader Affe Eitam 
once admitted that the one thing that thrills him is "the sight of 
men going to war"; for Yehoshua, purification is the desired effect. 
Two years ago, he was dreaming of bloody Israeli operations in Gaza; 
his dream has now come true, though it hardly gets to the media 
thanks to the events in Lebanon:
"After we take out the settlements ... we would use force against an 
entire population, use force in a total manner. ... We would cut off 
the electricity in Gaza. We would cut off communications in Gaza. We 
would stop fuel supply to Gaza.... It won't be a desirable war, but 
definitely a purifying one." (Ha'aretz, March 19, 2004)

Rafi Ginat, editor-in-chief of Israel's highest-selling daily, has 
even more plastic fantasies. On the front page of his newspaper he 
urges the government to "wipe out villages that host Hezbollah 
terrorists" and "wash with burning fire the Hezbollah terrorists, 
their helpers, their collaborators, and those who look the other way, 
and everyone who smells like Hezbollah, and let their innocent people 
die instead of ours." (Yediot Ahronot, July 28, 2006)

Poetic Interlude

Popular songwriters and singers like the orthodox Amir Benayon are 
seldom liberals, so nobody raises a brow when he dresses the same 
thoughts in more poetic robes:
"My haters urge to kidnap me, to wipe me out,
And inject me with poison...
The cruel enemy murders yet another child,
And the enemy must die... must die...."

The Israeli intellectual, however, would shrug his shoulders at this 
as typical "Eastern primitivism." We liberals have our highbrow 
poets, with refined taste and overwhelming erudition. Like Ilan 
Shenfeld, who claims he has "always been a leftist" - which is why, 
like every true poet, he suffers so much in this war: "It's not easy 
for me to write a poem that supports war and urges to invade a 
sovereign area of another state and devastate it." Shenfeld overcame 
this difficulty, and his poem, alluding to "the national poet" 
Bialik, shows once again that true agony always yields the best poetry:
"March on Lebanon and also on Gaza with ploughs and salt.
Destroy them to the last inhabitant.
Turn them into an arid desert, an uninhabited, turbid valley.
Because we yearned for peace and wanted it, and our houses we destroyed first,
But they were a wasted gift for those murderers, with beard and Jihad bands,
Who shout: 'Massacre now!,' and who have neither love nor peace,
Neither god nor father. [...]

"Save your people and make bombs,
and rain them on villages and towns and houses till they collapse.
Kill them, shed their blood, terrify their lives, lest they try again
To destroy us, until we hear from tops of exploding mountains,
Ridden down by your heels, sounds of supplication and lamentation.
And your pits will cover them. Whoever scorns a day of bloodshed,
He should be scorned. Save your people, and make war."
(Ynet, July 30, 2006)

Amos Oz Prepares for War Crimes

Ironically enough, Shenfeld's poem was posted on the day of the 
(second) massacre in Qana - a coincidence that left even the poet 
himself somewhat embarrassed. The bloodbath wouldn't have embarrassed 
a much more experienced Israeli propagandist: Amos Oz, AKA the 
Zionist peace camp incarnate. Having supported PM Ehud Barak long 
after he started the murderous crushing of the Intifada, Oz now 
counts on his readers' short memory when he writes, under the 
Orwellian title "Why Israeli missiles strike for peace":
"Many times in the past the Israeli peace movement criticized Israeli 
military operations. Not this time. [...] This time, Israel is not 
invading Lebanon. It is defending itself[...]. The Israeli peace 
movement should support Israel's attempt at self-defense, pure and 
simple, as long as this operation targets mostly Hezbollah and 
spares, as much as possible, the lives of Lebanese civilians." (Los 
Angeles Times, July 19, 2006)

And here, lest he be embarrassed by some future massacre of 
civilians, Oz remembers to add the following standard propaganda 
theme, for any eventuality:
"(This is not always an easy task, as Hezbollah missile-launchers 
often use Lebanese civilians as human sandbags.)"

The Enemy Within

Hezbollah is not Israel's only enemy: global intellectuals are always 
a favorite target of our patriots too. Commenting on their open 
letter against the war, prominent literary critic Ariana Melamed puts 
Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Jose Saramago, Howard Zinn, and Naomi 
Klein on par with the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger (Ynet, July 
24, 2006), no less. What the hell do they have in common? Well, they 
are all intellectuals who were mistaken.

But the worst of enemies is the one from within. Jerusalem Hebrew 
literature scholar Prof. Gershon Shaked accuses "the [Israeli] left" 
of "a desire to please the Europeans" to the extent of "losing all 
moral criteria, not to mention a minimum of patriotism." Similar, 
though somewhat more detailed is the explanation of senior journalist 
and analyst Dan Margalit, who openly accuses "the radical left" 
(referring to the liberal-left Zionist Shulamit Aloni) not only of 
"unprecedented moral abyss," but also of "love towards its master in 
Beirut, Damascus, and Tehran." (Ma'ariv, July 26, 2006)

Great Analogies

Haifa sociologist Prof. Oz Almog all of a sudden discovers an 
"appalling similarity between 1933 and 2006," with Iran's president 
as the new Adolf Hitler, "Islamic fundamentalism" as the new Nazism, 
and all those who dare criticize Israel's atrocities as the offspring 
of European anti-Semites (Ynet, July 30, 2006). Such banal historical 
analogies are, of course, always at hand. In the past, writer Yoram 
Kanyuk, repeatedly boasting of his peace activism somewhere in the 
previous millennium, expressed his support for the then-Likud leader 
Ariel Sharon by comparing him to Winston Churchill - in the bloodiest 
days of the Intifada, during "Operation Defense Shield" (Ha'aretz, 
May 15, 2002). Now, Kanyuk can hardly stop short of turning PM Ehud 
Olmert into a new Napoleon, or is it Julius Caesar?
"In spite of the massive killing, I support this war and I support 
Olmert, who is running an important, principal, perhaps even mythical 
war. In a brief moment, he became a great commander." (Ynet, July 23, 2006)

When the American invasion to Iraq had to be justified, Kanyuk 
compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler (Ha'aretz, Oct. 8, 2002). On his 
flight from Kanyuk's sharp feather, Hitler has managed to move a few 
hundred miles eastward, convert to Shi'ite Islam, and even grow a 
beard - but failed to fool our literary detective, who develops WWII 
plus Armageddon into a WWIII made in Israel:
"The Iranians and the Hezbollah say precisely what they think. They 
want to put us in a hard crisis and them find a way to eliminate us. 
When Hitler spoke this way, people were laughing at the clown. The 
left is still laughing. But one can say to its credit that in those 
days too the international left was laughing. Europe with tens of 
millions of Muslims living there, not a few extremists among them, 
will get the blow, because the new world war starts in a small step 
in Bint Jbeil." (Ynet, Aug. 4, 2006)

The Silence of the Doves

As in every atrocity, there are notorious bystanders: those who 
support evil just by doing nothing to stop it. Not a surprising 
position for a mainstream novelist like Shulamit Lapid, whose great 
wisdom and modesty produced the following pearl:
"I don't want to say anything, because everything is very dynamic and 
what's true today won't be true tomorrow [...]. It would be insolent 
to express any opinion on the subject." (Ha'aretz, July 21, 2006)

More disappointing, however, is pop singer Aviv Gefen, for many 
Israelis the incarnation of a left-wing protest singer:
"I am a man of peace, dissident, pacifist, you know. But they simply 
imposed war upon us, I don't see any other way to avoid it [...]. I 
oppose the occupation in the clearest way, but today, I think, one 
has to keep silent a little." (Walla, Aug. 5, 2006)

Related Links
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Dr. Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in 
Israel. He has a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative 
Literature, and his PhD is in Jewish Studies. He is a university 
teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from 
German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli 
daily Yedioth Achronoth. Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely 
in Israel. "Letter from Israel" appears occasionally at 
<http://www.antiwar.com/>Antiwar.com. This article, which first 
appeared on Antiwar.com on 7 August, is republished with the author's 

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