Monday, June 07, 2010

Israel, alternative history, and Helen Thomas

A lot of criticism of Israel makes me wonder about the critics.

One can of course criticize Israel's policies without being antisemitic or otherwise weird. First of all, some of the things that Israel does are either ill-advised or uncivilized and deserve criticism.

Second, even when it does something that does not IMO deserve criticism, as a country that sometimes does uncivilized things under the conditions of dire necessity it still gets criticized by perfectly normal people for perfectly understandable reasons: first of all, it's hard to determine what is necessary from for away, and dire necessity seems to be a lot less dire when it is someone else's, second of all, it's sometimes hard to determine even for Israelis themselves, and third, a lot of people tend to condemn uncivilized actions even when they do believe they were necessary.

(I am not sure what to make of the current events myself; I am not well-versed in the legalities of enforcing a naval blockade, and being both of a somewhat legalistic mindset and uncivilized upbringing, tend to think along the lines of "should've let them into the territorial waters and then summarily drowned the fuckers", which is not an actual advice that I should care to give to Israelis or anyone else.)

What makes me wonder, though, is not that some people disapprove of some of Israel's policies, but that a significant percentage of them (say, a fourth or a third) seems to disapprove of the fact that Israel has any policies at all, or indeed exists. With this kind of Israel's critics any prolonged conversation at all comes to the statement that Israel should never have existed in the first place, a new state created in 1948 (as opposed to its ancient neighbors, I suppose, who were created already in 1922, 1943 and 1946).

Or at least should never have been created where it is now. Last week I talked with a woman who said just that. I asked for her suggestion for a list of better locations; she suggested Uganda, which was indeed mentioned as one possible location at the time. I did not managed to elicit from her whether (and why) she thinks Ugandans would have liked it better than Arabs did, or whether she just thinks it would have gone down better due to Ugandans being poor Black people whom nobody cares about on a continent that has so much trouble that nobody'd pay any attention.

Not that there is anything objectionable in thinking of alternative methods and better places of establishing Israel, if one is engaged in some general talk about alternative history. One should, however, first establish: better for whom: Jews, Arabs, Ugandans, Germans? World peace in general?

In the context of talking about the current politics, however, this statement is quite striking. I can think of many countries that should probably have never been established, either from the point of view of the citizenry or from the point of view of the neighbors, or both; but you almost never hear this argument about any of them besides Israel. Besides, since talking about it now is rather obviously 62 years too late, what I almost always hear behind the "it should have never been established" is "can't we just get rid of it now?"

And sometimes the idea comes out in the open. Last week Helen Thomas, who, mind you, is not a local Ku Klux Klan leader, but a well-known American journalist and a member of the White House Press Corps covering the US Presidents since Eisenhower, has had a few drinks to many on the lawn outside of a White House Jewish heritage event and and said that Israelis should get the hell out of Palestine and go home. Lest anyone should think that she meant that Israelis should get the hell out of Hebron and Bethlehem and go home to Tel Aviv and Haifa, she elaborated that "home" would be in Poland and Germany, and added "and the United States" as an afterthought.

Oh well. I guess I can only wish that Helen Thomas's home always be as pleasant, safe and welcoming as Germany and Poland were for Jews in the decade when Israel was established. I can also hope that the woman herself goes to enjoy her ancestral home in Lebanon someday.

Hmm, Lebanon. Isn't that one of the countries whose Jewish community has in almost all its entirety moved to Israel and everywhere else? I did not see them welcoming Israelis back 3 years ago. Granted, nobody welcomes the guys arriving on the bomber aircraft, but I don't see them having welcomed peaceful Israelis wishing to buy a summer cottage, either, or even to visit as tourists. Or indeed Finnish citizens with an Israeli entry stamp in their passport.

Talking about the alternative history, sometimes I wonder: what would all those alternative history lovers say if Israel actually decided to move somewhere else? Like, the whole Israeli army and the rest of the population suddenly teleporting to Poland or Germany and saying "this used to be our land, move over"? They do have a bigger army than Poland, mind you. The idea of Israelis kicking Poland out of Pomerania, Germany out of Bavaria or Russia out of Saint Petersburg has an interesting sci-fi kind of appeal, just to see what all those people who used to say that Israel should get out of Israel would say.

10 comments:

Krabak said...

First of all, I have to admit I'm one of the people who thinks that the process which led to the founding of Israel in it's current location was a monumental fuck-up in so many levels it's not even funny anymore.

That being said: "I can think of many countries that should probably have never been established, either from the point of view of the citizenry or from the point of view of the neighbors, or both; but you almost never hear this argument about any of them besides Israel."

Not really, you can sometimes hear people saying that the establishment of post-colonial states in Africa was also a huge mistake for quite similar reasons. The reason why you hear it being said more rarely about states in Africa in comparison to Israel is (imho) because people just don't give a flying fuck about what happens in Africa in general :-)

"Besides, since talking about it now is rather obviously 62 years too late"

Not quite 62 years too late, but true, even if it were possible to force it which it obviously isn't, it wouldn't be reasonable/humane to expect Israeli just to pack up and move somewhere else after spending three generations of building the country up from scratch.

On the other hand I also understand why arabs are so miffed about Israel being where it is (just as well as I understand why Israel wants to be where it is) and hence don't see any good way out of the current mess since neither is willing/able to back down.

Anonymous said...

Helen Thomas is of Arab descent.

Israel excites hostility in part because it is the kind of "xenophobic" ethnostate that non-Jewish whites are now proscribed from having. De facto apartheid in Israel proper(Tel Aviv only 1% Muslim) and de jure apartheid on the West Bank.

And Israel is very tough on African and Asian immigrants:
http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2010/03/walking-to-promised-land.html

Lots of details on that thread.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't see your reference to Thomas's ancestral homeland in the first early AM reading.

But it would never enter her mind that she should leave the US to go back "home". That's because the US has become an anti-nation: home to everyone and no one. Notice the hysterical reaction of the rulers to the AZ immigration law. It's like they want all of the US absorbed into Latin America as quickly as possible- with (of course) the exception of some SWPL enclaves in NYC, Cambridge, DC, SF, etc.

Pekka said...

What about New Jersey? Or a few godforsaken counties from the coast of Texas? They would need, what, some 3 % of Texas, or less than 20 % percent of Helen Thomas' native Kentucky.

tyroneb said...

很喜歡你的blog哦...加油唷 ..................................................

趙佳治 said...

人類最大的悲劇不是死亡,而是沒有掌握有意義的人生..................................................

vickiekurt said...

you two make a lovely couple!............................................................

BobBand said...

How about trying to set up a Jewish state in Alaska instead of Israel (a concept that was actually proposed by Franklin Roosevelt's administration) - and on a long-term but limited lease, at that?

That's the premise of Michael Chabon's 2007 book, The Yiddish Policeman's Union. I recommend it very highly.

禎峰 said...

你不能左右天氣,但你可以改變心情.............................................................

Jackie said...

Things change as Internet is the great liberator of politics...

http://riknik.weebly.com/1/post/2010/06/politics-and-internet.html