To support Israel, must be like supporting Collingwood in a final these days, watching through the fingers of the hand. “Oh f-ck …don’t do that. What are you thinking?”
Yet, whatever the horrors of the IDF raid on the Gaza flotilla, it has certainly brought a brutal government, indifferent to the suffering of the Palestinians, to account.
I speak of course of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt.
The problem for Gaza has never been the closure of the Israel-Gaza border, but the closing of the Egypt-Gaza one, something applied by Mubarak to keep Israel sweet, and to limit the influence of Hamas in Egypt, which provides direct competition to the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.
By contrast, Mubarak will now be under great public pressure to leave the border open — both the current pedestrian one, and a larger one capable of taking trucks. Should that occur, then the Gaza flotilla has won.
The importance of the Gaza-Egypt border goes well beyond letting in dangerous items such as painkillers and roofing materials that the Israelis apply such procedural sadism to. It gives the Palestinians a non-Israeli border and turns the stateless no-zone of Gaza into a quasi-state. Indeed …
… it reverses the relationship between the West Bank and Gaza, since it is the former that remains a sequestered Bantustan, as Jerusalem is gradually turned into an Arabfrei theme park.
Yet, in defending the flotilla, as one does and must, it would be pretty foolish to give a simplistic account of the events, which appear to be wreathed in bad faith from both sides. Chief among these is a single narrative conspired in both sides, suggesting that Israel is unitary and strong, the Free Gaza, and the entire Palestinian movement, a well-regulated non-violent movement. All of that is nonsense.
If this crazy raid made anything clear, it is — as suggested earlier by the 2006 Lebanon invasion and Cast Lead — that Israel is a country whose leadership is fractured and quasi-hysterical, with many of these provocations (including the Dubai assassination) more likely to be a product of elite disunity in Israel than of any firm or collective sense of purpose of decades earlier.
Zionism has always (minor strands aside) been a chauvinist ideal, but the way that has been expressed has changed across its history. The Labour leadership from 1948 to 1977 asserted Israel’s identity as a Jewish state by the simple act of building it (and simultaneously demolishing most of Arab Palestine). The victory of the post-fascist Likud party in 1977 brought to power a terrorist (Begin), a war criminal (Sharon) and a pro-Nazi war criminal terrorist (Shamir), who simply picked up the policy of 1948 — ethnic cleansing (via housing and settlements) for the creation of a fictional greater Israel. Nevertheless, as brutal as these men were, they were capable of trading and realpolitik, veterans of the 20th century.
Now the country has made its third turn, with the drawing of the Beitenu party into the coalition. With a base of East European Jews, Beitenu has significant control of foreign policy, a manic need to assert a Jewish identity politics, and a shedload of ressentiment at the gross anti-Semitism they suffered in the southern former USSR nations — a ressentiment they appear to be dealing with by applying it to Arabs inside and outside the 1967 borders.
That would be bad enough, but Israeli society and politics is becoming increasingly coloured by a specific fundamentalism coming in with immigrants from the US — people fleeing not pogroms in New Jersey, but the anomie of American life, and bringing a cloddish, historically fictional fundamentalist Judaism owing less to Orthodoxy and more to the style of US Christian fundamentalism.
Under this style, your faith does not suffer from being an absurd contradiction with your secular knowledge — the more absurd, the more you feel an achievement of faith by believing it. Under that rule, you can even falsify the present to serve the higher truth of the past.
Take the “heritage trail” that Jerusalem’s lunatic US-born mayor is currently foisting on the city, prompting the demolition of a couple of hundred Palestinian houses. This is effectively a semi-fictional reverse Judaisation of a city that has been polycultural for millennia.