Monday, March 31, 2008

Q & A

Recently, my publisher asked me to do a short interview to share with various media. The result seemed to me of sufficient interest to share also with readers of this blog.

Q: It has been over twenty years since your first book, The Tragedy of Zionism, which was quite controversial when it was published. After all these years, what compelled you to write THE HEBREW REPUBLIC? Do you expect the book to elicit the same heated response that you received with The Tragedy of Zionism?

BA: When my first book came out, a number of its admirers said it was ahead of its time. I have since learned, after many years in management consulting, that this was not exactly a compliment. When you are saying something new, you are naturally going to be criticized, but it’s important to find a way and time for new ideas to be heard.

The Tragedy of Zionism
focused on how Israel’s crisis grew, not only out of Arab enmity, but out of certain failures in its own democracy: that the settlement movement, for example, was not simply the result of post-1967 intoxication with the land, but that settlement was inspired and materially supported by residual Zionist institutions that should have been retired in 1948; that Israel’s state apparatus was only doing outside of the Green Line after the Six Day War what it had been doing inside the Green Line after the War of Independence.

I argued, in effect, that the State of Israel had been founded as two states: a democratic state encasing a revolutionary Zionist settler state, the former developing a Hebrew civil society, the latter privileging rabbinically defined Jews over non-Jews. This contradiction was systematically alienating Israel’s substantial Arab minority, while advancing the interests of Jewish orthodoxy. There could be no advance to peace, I concluded, if Israel did not get past the anachronistic Zionist theories and institutions that crimped the evolution of its democracy. These were very difficult things for people to hear in the 1980s. By now, a great many informed people take them for granted.

My new book THE HEBREW REPUBLIC, builds on and updates these arguments. The process of at once integrating and alienating Israeli Arabs is a generation more advanced. The same can be said of ways Orthodox Judaism has been established as a state religion. One quarter of Israeli first-graders are now Arab, and another quarter are rigidly orthodox, devoted to the idea of greater Israel. You don’t have to be a prophet to see where the children of Israel are heading.

But something important has changed in Israel since my first book, and this is the integration of the country’s elites into global markets and the culture of globalization more generally. More and more educated Israelis are coming to understand that you can’t have an economy like Singapore’s and a nationalities war like Serbia’s.

So my new book is in many ways a more hopeful book than my first, even though the dangers and the violence are much more extreme today than in 1985. Back then, the culture heroes were the West Bank settlers. Today, the culture heroes are global entrepreneurs. The people who have the growing political power, global vision, and inherent interest in bringing about the necessary reforms are at least identifiable.

Read the rest of the interview here.

6 comments:

bar_kochba132 said...

Having read the interview here and the previous excerpt, I get the feeling that this is a more "fleshed-out" version of Shimon Peres' "New Middle East" of the Oslo 90's. That was when Peres wanted Israel to join the Arab League and he stated that the "Arabs had no choice but to make peace because they don't want to miss out on globalization".
The basic premise, is, as I understand it, that if Israel makes itself less "Jewish" and more "Hebrew", it will become less offensive to the rest of the Arab Middle East. Bernie, to his credit, says he is not taking a "Canaanite" line and saying the Jews should transform themselves into something else, but Jewish values and tradition would be restricted to the realm of private religious observance and cultural expression, but "national" expression would be more culturally neutral (although "Hebrew"). The basic premise is that while the Arabs find "Jewish nationalism" offensive, an Israel without the "Jewish" national identity and in which the Arabs are seen as full partners (as they are not today, due to Israel's definition of itself as a "Jewish state"), they would eventually reconcile themselves to this "Hebrew" entity in their midst.

Like so many ideas "progressives" fall in love with, it may sound fine in theory, but the reality is quite different. In reality, such a state would be far MORE threatening to the Arabs than the current "Jewish state" they have so many problems. In spite of what Peres said about the "inevitability of globalism", the Arabs (along with many "progressives") FEAR globalization and certainly don't want this Hebrew state in their midst spreading its influence. The Arab states organize their economies not around maximizing economic growth and increasing the standard of living of their people, but rather, preserving the economic and political control of the various families and clans that have that power today. Also, Islamic groups that wield varying degrees of power in the different Arab countries FEAR the cultural tide that comes in with the "globalized" economy and culture. Bernie has stated that he is convinced (based on polls of unknown reliability) that most Israeli Arabs really want to adopt the culture of the secular Israeli Left. This scares the heck out of traditionalist elements in the Arab/Islamic world....bringing with it things like pornography, feminism, disrespect for elders and authority figures. These things are very important in the Arab world and yet Bernie is promising that having a Hebrew state spreading these values will NOT spark even more Arab opposition to Israel.
The Arabs also fear Israeli economic domination. I have quoted Alon Liel of Israel's Foreign Ministry, (a close friend of Yossi Beilin) state that Egypt, for example, opposes any more normalization of Israeli's relations with the Arab world since they view it as damaging their position in the Middle East for this reason.
In reality, the Arabs would have an easier time accepting a MORE Jewish state...a state more based on Jewish tradition because traditional Jewish life is much closer to that of the Muslims/Arabs than Bernie's secular Hebrew state. It will be easier for an Israeli gov't run by what Bernie considers to the "settlers and Ultra-Orthodox" to reach true peace with the Arabs than his secular Hebrew state.
By tempting the Israeli Arabs with his vision of a globalized secular Hebrew state, Bernie is trying to tear these Arabs away from their brother Arabs and Muslims. This is, in the eyes of the Arabs, simply another Crusade aimed at converting the Arabs/Muslims to another "religion" or culture. Traditional Judaism is not a "missionary" religion, so it poses much less of a threat to the Arab world.

The bottom line is that if Israel were to convert itself into Bernie's "secular globalized Hebrew State", it would lead to GREATER antagonism and hostility from the surrounding Arab/Muslim world. Only by Israel returning to its Jewish roots can a true modus vivendi (even without formal peace treaties) ever be reached.

bar_kochba132 said...

I have been puzzling for a long time about the polls Bernie has mentioned several times about how Israeli Arabs supposedly want to integrate into Israeli society, or rather, become "full Israelis".
There was specifically the poll that mentioned that 75% of young Arabs want to do national service. The following excerpt from Ha'aretz shows that this figure is misleading. This article makes me believe more strongly than ever that Bernie's plan for a "globalized secular Hebrew Republic" will be interpreted by the neighboring Arab/Muslim states as even a bigger threat than the currently existing "Jewish state" and is, in their eyes, a recreation of the old Crusaders State....meant to grab the Middle East in order to convert it to a new religion and culture:

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Last update - 02:36 08/04/2008
Opposition to national service in Israel's Arab sector is bitter
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

A few weeks ago, pandemonium broke out at the University of Haifa while it was hosting a conference on the subject of a state-sponsored national service program for Israeli Arab youth. Inside, at the conference, Israeli Arab academics lashed out at their colleagues who carried out a survey polling the willingness of young people from the sector to participate in the program.

Speeches for and against were made, while each side accused the other of misinterpreting the poll's data. Meanwhile, Arab young people from both sides of the debate almost came to blows outside the building, and university security rushed to the scene to separate them.

The battle of Israel's Arab citizenry for equality is being waged on a number of fronts. But in the past few months, it seems attention has focused on one major issue - the state's national service program.

The state says the program is aimed at offering Israel's Arab citizens, who for security reasons are exempt from military service and the benefits it entails, an alternative way of contributing, while at the same time making them eligible for boons equal or similar to those received by young people serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

Every national service volunteer receives NIS 500 a month. At the end of the service, they are eligible for tax breaks as well as NIS 8,000 in grants - similar to grants given to non-combatant IDF soldiers when they are discharged.

But Israeli Arab leaders claim the program is a method of undermining the Israeli Arab sector's sense of unity. They warn that the plan will cause the "Israelization" of Arab youth at the expense of their Palestinian Arab identity - though state institutions participating in the program, such as hospitals, vehemently reject claims the program is part of a sinister plot to undercut Arab leadership. Also, Arab leaders say volunteers will be indirectly assisting the "Israeli war machine" at times of conflict.

As a consequence, all the Arab political parties have come out against the program and an ad hoc committee has been formed to coordinate their struggle.

"We're not against volunteering - the opposite is true," says Iman Udah, of the Hadash party. "We call on all Arab youth to volunteer and give to society, but why under the aegis of an entity associated with the security establishment?"

Udah has campaigned long and hard against the program, visiting 40 high schools in recent months. "I persuaded all those who were undecided not to join," he says. Other Arab groups and individuals have also campaigned against the program, including the popular Israeli Arab hip-hop group DAM.

Statistics regarding the success of the program are highly disputed. Only one survey attempting to determine Israeli Arab youths' willingness to participate in the national service has been conducted. Over 75 percent of the 200 respondents said they would be willing to participate in a volunteer program that would give them benefits similar to those who serve in the Israel Defense Forces. However, when asked if they would still be willing to participate in the program if it was opposed by family members, the number of youths who said they would take part dropped to 27 percent.

Data regarding the number actually joining the program is also open to interpretation. In the past year, that number more than doubled, from 280 in 2007 to almost 600 in 2008. Considering, though, that each year 19,000 Israeli Arab citizens graduate from high school, then the numbers of those who elect to join the program pale in insignificance.

In any case, pressure by the Arab political leadership has yielded results.Only one of six participants in the national service program interviewed by Haaretz was willing to be photographed. The rest, though willing to speak about their experience, were not interested in having their friends know what they do.

Ali, who refused to use his real name, has been volunteering at a hospital for over six months. The 20-year-old man distributes medicines, assists in patients' discharge procedures and runs errands. His motivation, he says, is not altruistic: He wants to get benefits promised to those in the program and be admitted to nursing school. "They know I work at a hospital," he says of his extended family and friends, "but not under what program. In my village, they say whoever takes part in the program is not an Arab; that he's a traitor. Only my parents know what I do."

----> cut rest of article

Anonymous said...

I have taken a simple moment to gander at a few of the articles and can conclude with reasonable certainty that the author is quite detached from reality. The basics are there but the thesis seems to digress, as the former post mentions, into a Shimon Perez mentality of anti-Jew ineptness and sheer Noam Chompsky “progressive” ignorance. I'd agree that there are cultural and religious clashes between Muslims and Jews but that is quite simply understood when one takes the time to study Islam: Qur'an and Hadith. One cannot compare Judaism and Jewish History with that of Islam and Muslim History, apples and oranges and near polar opposites. The problem, as I understand it to be, is the enlightened and intellectually detached International Socialist "Jew" minority heading Israel is utterly closed minded to the base problems as they force their un, or anti-Jewish views onto the rest of the populous. There is no question that Zionism has had its problem but the truth is not "Zionism" but Labor Zionism aka "Jewish Socialism" in an attempt to develop a nominally Jewish Communal Utopia in the Lands of their ancestors. It is such a tragedy that these Jews, like the author, do not afforded as much respect or admiration for their own people-culture-faith-history-entire being as they seem to afford toward any and all anti-Jews that wish to see every last one exterminated from the face of this Earth. In closing with a quote from a Jew who has been proven far more correct as hindsight always being 20/20: "Ignorance and arrogance are the poisons of the Liberal mind." - Rabbi Meir Kahane

Anonymous said...

Naivety? No just blatant anti-jewish.
Don't buy. Not worth reading.
Just read Chomsky. Chomsky's credentials are better!!((::

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