Why Israel Didn’t Win

Adam Shatz has a superb piece in the LRB, the best analysis of the changing regional dynamic I’ve read so far. Two passages in particular stand out:

That Netanyahu stopped short of a ground war, and gave in to key demands at the Cairo talks, is an indication not only of Egypt’s growing stature, but of Israel’s weakened position. Its relations  with Turkey, once its closest ally in the region and the pillar of its ‘doctrine of the periphery’ (a strategy based on alliances with non-Arab states) have deteriorated with the rise of Erdogan and the AKP. The Jordanian monarchy, the second Arab government to sign a peace treaty with Israel, is facing increasingly radical protests. And though Israel may welcome the fall of Assad, an ally of Hizbullah and Iran, it is worried that a post-Assad government, dominated by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brothers, may be no less hostile to the occupying power in the Golan: the occasional rocket fire from inside Syria in recent days has been a reminder for Israel of how quiet that border was under the Assad family. Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever.It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.

[…]

The Palestinians understand that they are no longer facing Israel on their own: Israel, not Hamas, is the region’s pariah. The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behindJabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.

Jewish American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads

My friend Adam Shatz moderated this debate between Norman Finkelstein and Anna Baltzer at The New School in New York. For the record, I’m with Baltzer.

The New School for Public Engagement is a division of The New School, a university in New York City offering distinguished degree, certificate, and continuing education programs in art and design, liberal arts, management and policy, and the performing arts. | http://www.newschool.edu/public-engagement

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Adam Shatz on Claude Lanzmann

Adam Shatz has a superb piece in the latest issue of the LRB on Claude Lanzmann, the maker of Shoah. I highly recommend it to readers. (It requires a subscription, which I highly recommend since LRB is by far the world’s best political-literary publication).  Here’s an excerpt:

‘Everybody is somebody’s Jew, and today the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis,’ Primo Levi said after the massacres in Sabra and Shatila. The bitter ironies of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – all too evident to Levi, who had seen men and women in Auschwitz reduced to ghosts ‘who march and labour in silence’, known in the camps as ‘Muslims’ – are invisible to Lanzmann. He is fond of quoting Emil Fackenheim’s remark that the murdered Jews of Europe are ‘the presence of an absence’, but refuses to see that the Jewish state was also created ‘in the presence of absence’, as Mahmoud Darwish wrote. Only a few years after the war, Holocaust survivors found themselves living in the homes of another people who had been driven into exile, and on the ruins of destroyed villages. The Ben Shemen forest, where Lanzmann spoke with survivors of the Sonderkommando in Shoah, is only four kilometres east of Lod, where tens of thousands of Arabs were forcibly expelled in 1948. The Nakba – Arabic for ‘catastrophe’, or Shoah – has yet to end […]

Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the French Jewish community has been swept by a wave of communautarisme, or identity politics. Anti-semitism is one reason: clannishness is understandable in the face of incidents like last month’s killings in Toulouse. But anti-semitism alone can’t explain the Jewish community’s turn inward, or its drift to the right. A few years ago, troubled by the increasingly bellicose tenor of Jewish politics in France, Jean Daniel published a striking little book calledThe Jewish Prison. This prison, unlike anti-semitism, was self-imposed, and made up of three invisible walls: the idea of the Chosen People, Holocaust remembrance and support for the state of Israel. Having trapped themselves inside these walls, the prosperous, assimilated Jews of the West were less and less able to see themselves clearly, or to appreciate the suffering of others – particularly the Palestinians living behind the ‘separation fence’. Over the last four decades, Claude Lanzmann has played a formidable role not only in building this prison but in keeping watch over it. That a chronicler of the Holocaust could become a mystical champion of military force, an unswerving defender of Israel’s war against the Palestinian people and a skilled denier of its crimes, is a remarkable story, but you won’t find it in Lanzmann’s memoir.

Is Palestine Next?

Adam Shatz has an excellent essay in the London Review of Books, a survey of the Palestinian situation in the occupied territories, inside Israel, and in exile. This essay is available free of charge at the LRB website. I strongly recommend subscribing to the LRB, Britain’s best publication by far. Subscription gives you a print edition fortnightly and access to the enormous online archive.

“The Arab world may be impatient for the Palestinians to rebel,” Shatz writes, “but they are not. When they are ready to mobilise, they will; meanwhile they will continue to prepare, and to wait until the time is right, as they have for the last 63 years. This waiting should not be mistaken for passivity; it is a deeply political act.”

No one in the Arab world was watching the news more closely than the Palestinians during the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The first emotion they experienced was disbelief; the second – particularly when they saw Palestinian flags being raised in Tahrir Square – was relief that they were no longer alone. Arab lethargy has been a virtual article of faith among Palestinians, who felt that their neighbours had betrayed them in 1948 and had done nothing to help them since. The Palestinian national movement, which rose to prominence under Yasir Arafat’s leadership in the late 1960s, was defined in large part by its belief that Palestinians had to rely on themselves. Mahmoud Darwish was not the only one to note that during the siege of Beirut in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon in an attempt to crush the PLO, tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv but the Arabs were too busy watching the World Cup Final to take to the streets.

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