Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TEL AVIV—This correspondent is sick of ideologues and absolutist thinking, completely disgusted with a mindset that sees nothing wrong with making massive generalizations; with attitudes that in most circumstances would be seen and recognized as hateful. Are there circumstances in which it is justifiable to ignore human morality for the sake of survival? Are we under constant existential threat, or are we the dominant peerless military power in the region? These are not trivial questions.

My thinking, at this point, is that it is oxymoronic to believe that the reality is just a matter of different definitions and-or perspectives while also demanding that there is an ultimate truth, that this is real and that is not real. It is simultaneously contradictory to hold a view in which The Other is a fundamentally dangerous, murderous Enemy which only understands the language of force, and giving ourselves the image of a virtuous light unto nations, with the highest moral code. Or that, and this is quite an oddity, it is both the case that some things really are black-and-white but, when push comes to shove, Hey, it is quite complicated and it is irrelevant to talk about right or wrong. Applying the moral code we see in ourselves in our mirrors, even in a judicious way, may put us in a bad light. Hence we become extremely defensive and disbelieving. No, we cannot do things like that, it’s not what you see or hear, they are agents of evil, etc. I believe that Israel faces real security problems, there are people not too far away who want to do Israelis lethal harm, and self-defense is good and right. That is not moral confusion.

I’m feeling passionate right now because I’m tired of feeling like I’m being deceived, that I cannot know anything because I’m not Israeli but just a Jew who happens to be living here (for the next five months; expect occasional reports). Ironically, this is my state in essence, it is legally defined as the state of my people, by my very ancestry and heritage. Therein lies another contradiction, a very absurd one at that: my word on what Israel does is totally null, but this place is supposed to belong to me, my birthright. And, perhaps it is needless to say, by the fact of being American it is also my client. I do not intend to show any disrespect; quite the contrary. I love this place and the people, wonderful, intelligent, full of life and determined to just go on.

Here’s a question to ask myself, and of course toward others: when it is a genuine reflection of what is really happening (or what was happened) and when is it actually defamation and propaganda? Why is it that every serious, legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and actions is completely dismissed as a manifestation of antisemitism, another arrow to the heart of the Jewish people? Take the infamous Goldstone report and the incredible responses it has elicited as an instructive case-in-point, but just one aspect of a larger war on dissent that appears to be going on.

Israeli democracy is being threatened, according to credible reports that have appeared in the press, a serious threat to the health and future of the Hebrew commonwealth. Fundamentalist thinking is increasing, war drums are being beaten over the Iranian dilemma, and a flood of hasbara information desperately attempts to tell us, with all requisite seriousness, that we are not only under threat, real enough, but the notion of our own wrongdoing, no matter how big or well-corroborated and not inspired by ideological preconceptions, is outrageous and defamatory. More as things develop.

(Above: Bethlehem from a vantage point in Gilo. Most say the general purpose of that gray structure there is for security; others, silly radicals and dangerous types, claim it is meant for annexation or even apartheid, not necessarily my claim on balance. So who knows?)

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