We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The intractable mess that is the Middle East

I suppose it was predictable that I would get a wide range of e-mails regarding my article about Israel called The Palestinian Götterdämmerung. One reader seems to feel I am a “crypto-authoritarian supporter of Jewish racism” whilst another accuses me of regarding Israel as ‘evil’ and yet another claims that by holding Israel in any way responsible I am “indifferent to the possible annihilation of all Jews in the Middle East”. Still others have written to me in such a manner that I can only speculate they read some different article altogether. Although this is actually one of my least favourite subjects, I will clarify and expend a few of my views seeing as so many people seem to take exception to them or want clarifications on what my views are.

I do not think Israel is ‘evil’ just because I feel there is a section of Israeli society that is far from blameless. Neither am I a crypto-authoritarian because I believe that Israel is entitled to defend itself. I think the state of Israel has been led by a series of people who have pursued disastrous policies derived from their collectivist mind sets rooted in the complex reasons and events that lead to Israel’s founding, the consequences of which are all too obvious today. The conflict within Israel between socialist collectivism, religious collectivism and capitalist (and sometimes even religious) individualism has, as in so many other western societies (for that is what Israel really is), resulted in a schizophrenic mess.

However I think Israeli society does indeed have the right, in fact the moral duty, to do what it has to do to defend itself. However that fact does not absolve the leaders of Israel who allowed this situation to come about of guilt, any more than any Israeli provocations absolve the morally deranged Palestinian extremists from what they have done and are still doing. I do not make any moral equivalence, far from it in fact, for a damnable litany of mistakes on one side may explain a torrent of evil on the other without at the same time justifying and excusing it. My sympathies are with Israelis for whom a visit to a pizza parlor can end in being blown to bits by the young girl standing next to them… and also with ordinary Palestinians who cannot build on their own property for fear of Israeli soldiers with bulldozers enforcing discriminatory ‘planning regulations’… and yet if they sell that property to an Israeli, houses will spring up there like mushrooms.

Yet my big problem with Israeli policies is not so much settlement, which if handled differently might not have been so provocative, but that regardless of the letter of the law and claims to the contrary, it has been made clear that there is no genuine wish to treat non-Jews as equals economically or judicially. Policies should have been aimed at fragmenting, factionalising and de-collectivising the Palestinians, co-opting them economically and culturally and pointing out that Western style Israeli institutions are vastly superior to their corrupt counterparts in surrounding Arab countries, rather than ghettoising the Palestinians and then using them as a nice source of cheap wetbacks. Every time the state of Israel made life harder and harder for entire communities of Palestinians with heavy handed policing, every time entire communities found themselves unable to travel to work in Israel or even the next town in the occupied territories because of the actions of a few, in fact every time they came in contact with the official face of the Israeli state, individual Palestinians discovered that they are not being discriminated against because they supported Fatah, Hamas or Hezbollah personally, but because they are Palestinians. Not surprisingly more and more of them started to see no reason not to support Fatah, Hamas or Hezbollah.

That is the ‘forcible collectivisation’ process of which I wrote, driven by the collectivist strain of thought that was present at the very foundation of Israel and which has been in conflict with the more rational individualist/capitalist ethos also present in Israeli society ever since… and then to make it so very much worse, Israel makes sure that the psychopathic Arafat ends up the uncontested leader, rather than bending over backwards to encourage rational economically oriented moderates to oppose him. I think that absorption and co-option of a significant chunk of the Palestinian population, giving them a genuine stake in Israel’s secular capitalist future, rather than leaving them with (on the West Bank) a GDP per capita of $1,500 per year, was the way to undercut the toxic forces represented by the ghastly Arafat. I realise that many within Israel understood that but for every rational Nathan Sharansky, there was a bigot like Rehavam Zeevi working to very different ends. A visible measure of the utter failure of Israeli policy is that Palestinian Christians, surely a natural factional ally of Israel and once a marginalised and often despised Arab minority, are now united with their Muslim confreres by their collective loathing of Israel. Likewise the stark example of the fate of pro-Israeli Lebanese Arab militias inside the former buffer zone showed what can happen when the going gets tough to those who throw their lot in with Israel.

Now people who do believe that these are all grossly unfair characterisations of the reality of the state of Israel’s policies will never be convinced otherwise and I do not propose to even try to change that. I do not purport to have my own unimpeachable sources of news from the region but I have known many Israelis and a few Palestinians and feel my grasp on what has gone on is reasonably sound. But at least I hope some people who feel the need to write long strident e-mails will try to see that my dismay at Israel’s policies over the last few decades springs not from hostility to Israel so much as dismay that things could have gone so terribly terribly wrong for what is clearly in many ways an admirable western society with which I share much in the way of meta-context and values.

But of course now, none of the sort of policies I wanted to see over the last 30 years are even an option any more and I realise that. That is why I wrote ‘Israel must do terrible things to survive’. The errors have been made, compounded and have now come due. To quote Talleyrand (or Joseph Fouché, I have seen it attributed to both), it was worse than a crime, it was a mistake. That is why I want the people responsible for those compounded mistakes ‘to be damned’ when the time to tally up the final toll comes.

However if I was an Israeli right now, I would be more concerned about personal survival but eventually the inevitable consequences of the influence in Israel of those with a profoundly collectivist ethos are going to have to be faced by every single person in Israel. Israeli society is going to have to decide just what living within ‘The Jewish State’ actually means and what it should mean in the future. I wish them luck for I do not envy them that task.

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