Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Hebrew Republic

The Hebrew Republic will be published several weeks from now. I thought readers of this blog might like to peruse the opening pages.

You can order the book (at a pre-publication discount, apparently) here.


bar_kochba132 said...

Bernie-Thank you for posting the excerpt. I have read it. Of course, I have not read the entire book which is not yet available, but based on what I read, a cardinal principle you hold by is that the clear majority of Israeli Arabs, deep down, want to adopt the values and lifestyle of well-to-do secular Israelis. You quote Prof. Smooha's poll as evidence of this. You also talked about your interview with Azmi Bishara and claim that what he told you was not in sych with his public pronouncements and actions, which ultimately brought a police investigation against him and his subsequent flight from the country.

The question I have is this: Is this truly a reflection of majority Israeli Arab attitutdes. There is no doubt in my mind that Israeli Arabs know that they are better off living in Israel than they are in any Arab country...but this doesn't mean they don't hate Israel all the same. Another example of this apparently paradoxical thinking was reflected in a poll taken in Iraq some months ago. As I recall 60% of Iraqis opposed a quick withdrawal of American forces. At the same time, 60% supported attacks on American troops....thus we see that there was a sizeable group of people who wanted the Americans to stay and yet for there to be attacks on them.

In spite of Bishara's apparent "moderation" in your presence and the poll results, we see that the Arab Knesset members fall over themselves being as extreme as possible. They must think that this will win them votes (I am aware that many Arabs don't vote for the Arab parties but this still doesn't explain what seems to be the increasing radicalization). Now, as I posted in a comment about your piece describing Ehud Olmert's conversation with you at the New Year's party, anything a politician tells you in person should be taken with a grain of salt. They are generally not telling you what they really think, they are trying to get you to do something for you case, give them good publicity in the circles of what you call "the elite".

This is the key question for your whole discuss Israelis like Shulamit Aloni and others who are trying to create an "Israeli" national identity. You claim that the Israeli Arabs want this, and want to adopt this identity. I am very skeptical about it. I believe the bottom line is that there is NO Israeli national identity, there are only Jews and Arabs, both of whom identify with their fellow Jews or Arabs outside the country, more than they do with each other. I would even ask the 15% of Israeli Jews who identify themselves only as "Israelis" and "not Jews" how much contact they have with like-minded Arabs. For example, writer and Ha'aretz columnist Sayed Kusha (an "integrationist Arab") pointed out that there are almost no Arabs working for Israeli television outside of the special Arabic language section. Now, ITV is one of the bastions of what you would consider "enlightened, globalized, secular Israeli identity", yet they apparently have not welcomed Israeli Arabs into their ranks. So it seems Israeli national identity is confined to a small group of Israeli Jews.

It seems to me that the whole crux of your argument about what Israel should become ("The Hebrew Republic") hangs on what the ultimate goals of the Arab minority in Israel is. If Smooha's findings and your core assumptions about Israeli Arabs wanting to assimilate and become "Israelis" by national identidy are wrong, then your dream of a "Hebrew Republic" which would serve as an exemplar of "progressivism" by the way it treats its Arab minority can never come about. If, as I believe, the Israeli Arabs are hopeless torn between their desire to have a better life in Israel and their desire to be part of the international Arab/Muslim front that seems to be on the march today against Western culture, then nothing can be done to permanently end their angst, and they will continue sputtering on as an embittered minority.

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