Hitchens ponders Israel

That's what he is doing here is called: Pondering..

I find that no other question so much reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his aphorism about the necessity of living with flat-out contradiction.
Do I sometimes wish that Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann had never
persuaded either the Jews or the gentiles to create a quasi-utopian
farmer-and-worker state at the eastern end of the Mediterranean? Yes.
Do I wish that the Israeli air force could find and destroy all the
arsenals of Hezbollah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Yes. Do I think it
ridiculous that Viennese and Russian and German scholars and doctors
should have vibrated to the mad rhythms of ancient so-called prophecies
rather than helping to secularize and reform their own societies?
Definitely. Do I feel horror and disgust at the thought that a whole
new generation of Arab Palestinians is being born into the
dispossession and/or occupation already suffered by their grandparents
and even great-grandparents? Absolutely, I do.

The questions of principle and the matters of brute realism have a
tendency (especially for one who does not think that heaven plays any
part in the game) to converge. Without God on your side, what the hell
are you doing in the greater Jerusalem area in the first place? Israel
may not be the rogue state that so many people say it is—including so
many people who will excuse the crimes of Syria and Iran—but what if it
runs the much worse risk of being a failed state? Here I must stop
asking questions and simply and honestly answer one. In many visits to
the so-called Holy Land, I have never quite been able to imagine that a
Jewish state in Palestine will still be in existence a hundred years
from now. A state for Jews, possibly. But a Jewish state …

What do you think? 

0 comment on Hitchens ponders Israel

  1. Lena
    May 14, 2008 at 8:44 am

    I think that he overlooks one very crucial point, and that is that this little piece of land has Jewish history extending back roughly three thousand years. It isn’t solely an issue of belief in God and being handed this land by divine decree. What about all of the archaeology performed here in the past 60 years, uncovering ancient Jewish communities and structures 2,000-3,000 years old? And what about the continuous presence of Jews here (yes, even in Jerusalem) throughout that entire period?

    He also fails to define the difference between “a state for Jews” and a “Jewish state.” Firstly, anyone who attempts to derail the legitimacy of just the concept of a Jewish state needs to look to Pakistan or to Saudi Arabia or to Iran – are these states not run on religious grounds? Are they not Islamic states? If they are, and no one objects to this, then why object to the idea of a Jewish state?

    Furthermore, I’m not sure that I understand the concept of a “state for Jews” here rather than a “Jewish state.” I harbor no disrespect or hatred toward the Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims in general – none at all. Yet if he is referring to the concept of one binational state here, I would have to assert that this concept is not workable. There are thousands more of “them” than there are of “us” (though in general I hate such polarizing terminology, I use it here for simplicity’s sake). In such a democratic state, the results of elections would be obvious. I don’t yet believe that the Jews here would not be at the worst massacred en masse or at the least badly mistreated as a result. It would not continue to be a safe place for Jews.

    Reply
  2. Nominally Challenged
    May 14, 2008 at 9:12 am

    If by “Jewish State” he means a religiously Jewish state, then there isn’t one here now, and there is no reason to believe that there will be one here in 100 years’ time.

    If, on the other hand, he means a culturally and nationally Jewish state, i.e. a state with a Jewish majority, which is what Israel currently is, then that is the only viable way in which any state in the Middle East could ever, in the current or in any past context, be considered a “State for Jews”. The Arab world certainly, and the broader Muslim and Christian worlds no less, have proven to us that we simply cannot rely on them to govern us benevolently in the absence of a Jewish national home. So quite frankly, if there is no (cultural and national, not to mention religious) Jewish state in Israel, then there will also be no State for the Jews. And then, I’m afraid that I would be forced to query the status and freedoms of Jews elsewhere as well given the past, say, 2000 years or so of history …

    Reply
  3. Pentimental
    May 14, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Uh, pack ‘em up, move ‘em to Poughkeepsie or Piscataway, build replicas of the holy sites, harness solar and wind energy, and let the theocratic, totalitarian regimes implode upon themselves as they always do. Otherwise, the Evil Empire, the Great Satan (sarcasm), will implode upon itself. Theocracies can only sustain themselves when propped financially and militarially. People do desire freedom. Every historical theocracy in Europe is now unabashedly secular.

    “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” – Vizzinni, Princess Bride

    If only the Shrub were intellectually curious enough to watch a chick flick.

    Reply
  4. Abdelrahman Eliwa
    May 14, 2008 at 2:56 pm

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    Reply
  5. dick
    May 14, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    I think his point about educated central european jews “vibrating to the mad rhythms of ancient so-called prophecies rather than helping to secularize and reform their own societies” wildly misses the point. Israel was formed in 1948, at a time when such guys had just come close to being exterminated by the very societies Hitchens would have had them reform. You can’t effect much reformation from the gas chamber.

    Moreover, the zionists probably wouldn’t have succeded in creating a jewish state in palestine absent adolf hitler. There wouldn’t have been the same powerful emotional case for it, certainly among gentiles, or I suspect among many of those jewish scholars and doctors to whom Hitchens refers. The genesis of israel is more about the perceived need for jews to defend themselves militarily than it is about religion.

    But he’s spot on in feeling ambivalent about the moral issues involved here. I wonder if he feels the same ambivalence towards the native americans who were evicted from their land on which he currently resides.

    Reply
  6. karen
    May 14, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Has Christopher been talking to the lunatic in Iran?

    Jews belong in the Middle East, if we so choose, because that is where we are from. Simple as that.

    Reply
  7. Sophia
    May 14, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Karen’s right.

    What’s to ponder?

    Reply
  8. Mike Nargizian
    May 15, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Uh, pack ‘em up, move ‘em to Poughkeepsie or Piscataway, build replicas of the holy sites, harness solar and wind energy, and let the theocratic, totalitarian regimes implode upon themselves as they always do.
    I don’t know if you’re referring to the PLO, Hamas, Syria, Hezbollahstan, Jordan, Egypt and especially Saudi Arabia… but if you are I almost in a theoretical utopia agree…. a little chaudenfraude to see the misery that would befall the Palestinians without Israel to work in, get electric, sewer, universties and money from… no more UN billions either…. Tibetans and Sudanese suddenly step to the front of the line where they should already be…. and watch the Arab house of cards crumble….

    The genesis of israel is more about the perceived need for jews to defend themselves militarily than it is about religion.
    [....]
    If by “Jewish State” he means a religiously Jewish state, then there isn’t one here now, and there is no reason to believe that there will be one here in 100 years’ time.

    both are completely true… anyone thinking about a ridiculous “”bi-national”” state… take a look at Lebanon… lol….

    If, on the other hand, he means a culturally and nationally Jewish state, i.e. a state with a Jewish majority, which is what Israel currently is, then that is the only viable way in which any state in the Middle East could ever, in the current or in any past context, be considered a “State for Jews”.

    Hitch knows full well that Israel isn’t a religious state… so what the F is he talking about?
    And what are Jews doing in Jerusalem? How about he cite censuses in the 1800′s by none other than the anti-semitic Marx. Or how about the population in the 1900′s even before 1920? what were the Jews doing there before any Israel? stupid question by him takes away from what could have been a decent article.

    Finally -
    100 years is a lonnnnnnnnnng fing time. Take a look at the map of the world 100 years ago.
    I’d like to know if these states will still be either around or with the same land boundaries they have today in 100 years -
    1) Turkey
    2) Iraq
    3) Kurdistan
    4) Iran
    5) Saudi Arabia
    6) Syria
    7) China – Tibet – Taiwan

    Everyone of those states are either fake states with other ‘peoples’ within them held together by force or occupying someone else’s land and/or peoples… the biggest house of cards there surprisingly is probably Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Mike

    Reply
  9. Mike Nargizian
    May 15, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Uh, pack ‘em up, move ‘em to Poughkeepsie or Piscataway, build replicas of the holy sites, harness solar and wind energy, and let the theocratic, totalitarian regimes implode upon themselves as they always do.

    I don’t know if you’re referring to the PLO, Hamas, Syria, Hezbollahstan, Jordan, Egypt and especially Saudi Arabia… but if you are I almost in a theoretical utopia agree…. a little chaudenfraude to see the misery that would befall the Palestinians without Israel to work in, get electric, sewer, universties and money from… no more UN billions either…. Tibetans and Sudanese suddenly step to the front of the line where they should already be…. and watch the Arab house of cards crumble….

    The genesis of israel is more about the perceived need for jews to defend themselves militarily than it is about religion.
    [....]
    If by “Jewish State” he means a religiously Jewish state, then there isn’t one here now, and there is no reason to believe that there will be one here in 100 years’ time.

    both are completely true… anyone thinking about a ridiculous “”bi-national”” state… take a look at Lebanon… lol….

    If, on the other hand, he means a culturally and nationally Jewish state, i.e. a state with a Jewish majority, which is what Israel currently is, then that is the only viable way in which any state in the Middle East could ever, in the current or in any past context, be considered a “State for Jews”.

    Hitch knows full well that Israel isn’t a religious state… so what the F is he talking about?
    And what are Jews doing in Jerusalem? How about he cite censuses in the 1800′s by none other than the anti-semitic Marx. Or how about the population in the 1900′s even before 1920? what were the Jews doing there before any Israel? stupid question by him takes away from what could have been a decent article.

    Finally -
    100 years is a lonnnnnnnnnng fing time. Take a look at the map of the world 100 years ago.
    I’d like to know if these states will still be either around or with the same land boundaries they have today in 100 years -
    1) Turkey
    2) Iraq
    3) Kurdistan
    4) Iran
    5) Saudi Arabia
    6) Syria
    7) China – Tibet – Taiwan

    Everyone of those states are either fake states with other ‘peoples’ within them held together by force or occupying someone else’s land and/or peoples… the biggest house of cards there surprisingly is probably Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Mike

    Reply
  10. brooklynjon
    May 15, 2008 at 4:28 am

    I think Hitchens, who is a professional atheist, is viewing **Jewish** as meaning a strictly religious identity. But **Jewish** is a national identity, and Zionism is just another nationalist movement. Like all nationalist movements, it can impinge on the activities of those of other nations. But it does not necessarily have anything to do with religion.

    So will Israel survive as a state for Jews? The answer is pretty much the same as if that question were asked of any other nation-state. Will Bangladesh survive as a state for Bengalis? Who knows? 100 years is a long time.

    Reply
  11. Cedric
    May 15, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Hitchens is spot-on.

    At first, I thought the sole legitimate criticism of Israel came after 1967 and Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the territories it illegally occupies.

    I did not question the infinite wisdom of the United Nations in 1947.

    But, just as a philosophical exercise, if we step back and look at the very decision to build a “Jewish State”, it raises serious problems with modern values.

    First: what, exactly, is a Jew, according to Israel ? Someone who practices Judaism ? Someone whose parents or grandparents were Jews ? But then it’s a tautology: who decides if/how these grandarents were Jews ?

    Second: defining people ethnically on their passports is an anachronism in the 21st century, by definition cosmopolitan.

    3d: Giving unequal rights to a category of the population based on their ethnicity/religion (example: Aliyah), is contrary to the principles of any democracy, and to the standards of Universal Human Rights

    4: what is the problem with a secular state, disconnected from any reference to ethnicity or religion, which is the ONLY way to guarantee the rights of all ?

    BROOKLYNJON, when you say “Jewish is a national identity” you haven’t said much. All Jews don’t necessarily recognize themselves in Israel, and much less in a “nation” other that the one they’re brought up in. First you have to define “nation”. Last time someone equated “nation” with “blood” or “ethnicity” was in Germany in the 1930s.

    If I understand him well, he’s all for a one-state solution where all Jews and Arabs can live in peace.

    LENA, yes Jews were always present in the “Holy land”, so were Philistines (canaanites). Why would it mean that one has to rule over the other ?
    You mention Pakistan, Saudi and Iran, and yep, you’re right to put them on the same list as Israel, as favouring one religion over the rest.

    Who says a binational State is “not workable” ? Has the Two-State solution proven “workable” in the past 60 years, or does it seem anywhere near completion in the next 50 ? Nope.

    DICK A binational state was deemed unworkable in South Africa 15 years ago. It takes social engineering, busing, mixed schools, common history books, etc. This social engineering has been done before, in secular societies (i.e the United States after segregation)

    DICK, you say “You can’t effect much reformation from the gas chamber.” Wrong. ONe example: Susan Kozma, 82, a holocaust survivor, said she does not understand the reason to implement unequal and discriminatory policies in a state-dividing two nations, Jews and Arabs that lived together in peace for centuries. Primo Levi also thought that Jews can and should live a dignified life among other religions, not behind fences and walls.

    Finally, many have mentionned the partition of India. Not bad. Look at India today: it has a muslim President. Would you accept a muslim President ? And look at Barack Obama, for Christ’sake (or Yahve’s sake / Allah’s sake)

    Jewish Historian Tony Judt is right: Israel, created as a monoethnic state in 1948 was an anachronism. All the more today. Unless you are in favour of the partition of Belgium between Flemish and Wallons, and unless you think monoethnic partitions in the Balkans are a progress for peace and stability in Europe.

    More on my blog:
    http://babeldebate.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  12. Lena
    May 15, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Cedric,

    1. “First: what, exactly, is a Jew, according to Israel ? Someone who practices Judaism ? Someone whose parents or grandparents were Jews ? But then it’s a tautology: who decides if/how these grandarents were Jews ?”

    This is a good point, and one which is much-argued in Israel.

    2. “Jews were always present in the “Holy land”, so were Philistines (canaanites). Why would it mean that one has to rule over the other ?
    You mention Pakistan, Saudi and Iran, and yep, you’re right to put them on the same list as Israel, as favouring one religion over the rest.”

    a. That the Palestinians are Canaanites is a myth. Palestinians are Arabs; a people who did not migrate north from the Arabian Peninsula until the mid-seventh century CE.

    b. You cannot compare countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia to Israel. The former are theocracies – totally and completely; countries in which it is dangerous (more so in Saudi Arabia) to practice a religion other than Islam. Practicing any religion – any at all – is entirely legal in Israel.

    “Second: defining people ethnically on their passports is an anachronism in the 21st century, by definition cosmopolitan.”

    There is no indication of religion on my Israeli passport.

    Reply
  13. Cedric
    May 15, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    LENA Thanks for the precision about religion. I talked about ethnicity though, and you seem unaware that it is mentionned on Israeli Identification (Teudat Zehut), and also the Hebrew date of birth still differentiates Jews from non-Jews. Ethnicity (le’om) can be:
    Jewish
    Arab (includes Christian and Muslim)
    Druze
    If someone is not Jewish but immigrated from another country, that country’s name would appear (for example, Ukrainian, Canadian, Ethiopian)

    This indication stigmatizes the bearer at checkpoints and in many aspects of everyday life. For one, it allows the authorities to know who is Jewish for the purposes of marriage. In Israel, marriage is by religion. There is no civil marriage so only Jews can marry Jews, Muslims marry Muslims, Christians marry Christians. If two different want to marry, they have to leave the country.

    That, my friend, is an anachronism.

    more on:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teudat_Zehut#Document_contents
    http://en.allexperts.com/q/Israel-211/Israeli-Identification-Card-teudat.htm

    Reply
  14. Cedric
    May 15, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    That Philistines are not Canaaites is a fascinating subject on which I confess I know next to nothing, but the point is, there were always a multitude of peoples in the region, who all migrated at some point.

    You seem to imply many hypotheses:
    1. that none of those people got mixed other over the centuries, and they all stayed “pure”
    2. that the first ones who got there were the Jews
    3. that “therefore”, this land belongs to the Jews

    That’s a lot of assumptions. I understand if you base them on irrationality and religion. It’s your right. But in terms of pure logic, it’s nonsense.

    The discourse is outdated, since Herodotus actually. but more importantly, this logic is also quite flawed. It implies that the Jews were what biology calls a “spontaneous generation”, and that there were no human living there before them. If not, they migrated from somewhere, let’s call it EdenX.

    So, unless Neanderthal was Jewish, the real homeland of the Jews would be “EdenX”.

    A bit outlandish.

    Reply
  15. Roman Kalik
    May 16, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Cedric, nationality hasn’t been registered in the Israeli ID since 2005, and anyone can request to remove the Jewish birth date due to prevalent errors in them. Though a record of your nationality isn’t at all uncommon worldwide – unless your “world” includes merely Western Europe and North America.

    Oh, and the Hebrew birth date for Jews was included for a simple reason: the Hebrew calendar is an official one here, and Jews make use of it – though the Gregorian calendar is often used for everyday purposes. You can’t include the date for everyone because it isn’t relevant for everyone, and you can’t exclude it for everyone without annuling the Hebrew calendar as an official calendar which the state has to use for official purposes.

    As for “aliyah”… Cedric, allow me to ask you a simple question. You received your citizenship because your parents had it, whether you liked it or not? Simply due to parentage? Israel views Jews in the same manner – with one prevalent complication, the fact that Jews are essentially a Diaspora, a nation-in-exile. So Israel views any Jew as someone who already has a citizenship, but who must venture towards the nearest embassy to get the bit of paper to finalize it. The legal definiton (often under internal debate) is to have at least a single Jewish parent to inherit the right to citizenship.

    Reply
  16. Roman Kalik
    May 16, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Also, Cedric, Israel was in part founded with the idea of being a refuge state for the Jewish people. Unless you wish to claim that the world is all nicey-nicey now and the Jews won’t see a repeat of the past 2000 years, we’d much prefer to retain our state. And if you *do* wish to make such a claim, then pardon me for smirking at your naivete and blind idealism.

    Reply
  17. Patrick
    May 16, 2008 at 2:06 am

    What do you mean, Karen, “jews are from the middle east”?? Do you consider Askenazi Jews to be “from the Middle East?” It’s not even set in stone that most Jews are genetic descendants of the ancient Hebrews. So we can’t even assume that or base any judgments on it. Furthermore, let’s say they were, do you still have a right to land you left two thousand years ago? In nine hundred years can the Seminoles rightfully take over Florida and call it their own, expelling white AMericans?

    Reply
  18. Roman Kalik
    May 16, 2008 at 2:06 am

    By the way, regarding historic presence… Your equating Philistines with Canaanites was quite amusing, seeing as how the two were completely separate groups. The Philistines (Plishtim in Hebrew, root P.L.SH, meaning ‘invaders’) were seafarers from Crete who, after raiding the Levant and Egypt coast (ancient Egypt had numerous records of them), decided to found a colony in modern-day Gaza, roughly (the geography isn’t exact).

    The Philistines were pretty much eradicated in the major regional wars, their strip of land becoming a battleground between Egypt and Assyria, Egypt and Babylon, Egypt and Persia, and finally Persia and Alexander of Macedon. Alexander’s army pretty much rolled over them as it passed through.

    The Canaanites, if we take the Biblical history of the Jews being desert invaders as accurate, predate the Hebrews as the dominant populace. The Hebrew conquest of the land saw their decline, but it was ironically the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests that saw their disappearance – both empires liked to shuffle conquered people around to destroy their old national ties. It didn’t quite work out with the Hebrews, though, and the Persian era saw the Hebrews’ active return to the land.

    By the Greek era, the non-Hebrew presence of Judea (the remaining Hebrew kingdom) was remnants of the Babylonian reshuffling, along with some random migrants. The Roman era saw the end of Judea and the birth of the Imperial District of Palestine – an active attempt to destroy national ties following the violent putting-down of the Hebrew revolt (and genocide – six out of every seven were the recorded death estimates of the time). The Romans found it amusing to name the place after an old enemy of the Hebrews.

    The rest, for the Jews, is modern history. A history of exile, living as third-rate citizens, and being told that their identity and religion are outdated and futile. Violence was often used to support such arguments. In the end, many Jews became quite tired of waiting for either death, total assimilation, or a future Messiah to change the world order and restore their own country, and decided to actively try to restore a sovereign Jewish state in the one place with which all Jews share an affinity. Not all Jews may approve of the result – some prefer a country founded on pure secularism and lack of nationality (an internal contradiction, in my view, and pure secularism doesn’t mean equality – it just means that “progressive” pure secularists have it better. See France or, better still, the late Soviet Union). Others may want a theocracy. Others still simply feel comfortable with staying abroad, quietly disappearing in assimilation – which makes the people claiming that the Jewish people are an ancient relic better gone just a little happier.

    What’s my final point? The majority of Jews share an active affinty with Israel, seeing it as their homeland – regardless of the shape of the current state. Jews would also like to survive and retain the current sovereignity (by and large). Deliberately focusing on a particular subset of Jews who want to create a state in the West’s purest image (not that the West has a clear and present system, but I digress).

    You mentioned Belgium. A fine example! The country’s sole reason for existing is its royal house and the pencil used to mark its borders back in the day. It is essentially two separate nations with two incredibly separate identities. Scotland might want to restore itself in the near future, as Ireland did – minus the violence.

    You see, Cedric, my problem with your take of what’s “modern” (and what’s “primitive”) is that you seem to believe that universal humanism is the Great Leap Forwards, and that any form of identity (with the exception of the kind you retain in your own individual house) should be treated in past-tense. Hate to break this to you, chum… but humanity’s isn’t that simple.

    Reply
  19. Patrick
    May 16, 2008 at 2:06 am

    Roman, Jews are safe in 95% of the world. The safest Jews in the world are the Jews outside Israel. Do you think Jews in AMerica are unsafe? Give me a break, stop playing the victim.

    Reply
  20. Roman Kalik
    May 16, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Patrick… in the late 17th century the Jews of Europe hailed Germany as the paragon of liberalism and safety. They said pretty much the same thing in the early 20th century.

    The first got expelled. The second got massacred. It was merely a matter of… time. Times change, you see, people change. The Soviet Union was relatively safe for Jews, if they but gave up their religion. Today the Russian Jew is told to “go home” by the Russian Skinhead, and there are more of them. Far more, and they’re a lot more violent. The Jews of Spain once had a great life… then they got the Almohadean Dynasty (the Moorish invasion, to those less familiar with history) from one end, and later the Spanish Inquisition from the other – an organization whose original primary goal was to make sure that Jews forcibly converted to Christianity stayed that way.

    Patrick, recent history saw the Jews going through genocide (in Europe), and mass expulsion (in the pan-Arab middle-east). Should I take the US or, perhaps Europe, as the paragons of liberalism and safety? Throughout most of Europe religious Jews tend to prefer to avoid wearing any identifying markings if they can. It avoids a certain kind of person with a certain kind of beat-em-up mindset.

    The US is safer? For how long? And since when? The 20th century saw Jews being attacked by white racists, black racists, and (the new trend) Arab racists.

    Jews aren’t safe in Israel? I’m likelier to die in a car accident than I am from a bomb or bullet. No one’s likely to beat me up in the street because he doesn’t like my taste in headgear, killing his Christ, or the all time biggie – trying to take over the world. Around here, I damn well feel at home, and that my security is something in my control and not dependent on the continued benevolence of the majority.

    Reply
  21. karen
    May 16, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Patrick,

    Yes, if you go back far enough all Jews are “from” the Middle East. Where do you think we are from, Sweden? I am technically Ashkenazi, but Europeans never considered us as European and we are not.

    And if 2000 years of EXILE (not just leaving) isn’t a good enough reason to return home, what is? And speaking of expelling people and expropriating their land, don’t forget the 800,000 Jews that were kicked out of Arab countries. Do they have a right to justice, Patrick??? Do they have the right to return and claim what is theirs or is it only Arabs that can “legitimately” do that?

    Reply
  22. Rock Heddad
    May 16, 2008 at 7:06 am

    I wonder why that of all the countries on earth, I am told it is 192 on last count, only Israel is held to explain the rationale for it’s existence.The range of excuses used as justification for this range from the sublimely naive-”Rights of the displaced Palestinians!”- to the downright idiotic-”It’s an anachronism”.

    I wonder if the same people who cry about the anachronism that Israel is raise the same concerns about the Vatican-could anybody tell me the number of non-Catholic citizens of that country?. Since the democracy entails the rights of a people to govern themselves, and the majority of the citizens of Israel have decided to make that country a “Jewish State” as opposed to a Muslim State or Christian State or Secular State, and they seem to be in no hurry to effect a change in that status, and a wide majority of the “anachronism” camp have no qualms against democracy(unless they themselves are anachronisms) the only reasonable assumption that one can draw from their opposition can be traced to (forgive me for using that cliché; but if it quacks like a duck…………) anti-semitism.

    Reply
  23. Lena
    May 16, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Cedric,

    I misread your comment about identity on passports; I think because I consider Jewish to be both religious and ethnic. The word “Jewish” – in either meaning – does not appear on my passport nor on my teudat zehut. However, I have been told that the presence (ore not) of the Hebrew birthdate is supposed to give away someone’s ethnic/religious identity.

    I will mention this, though – you attempted to assert that Jews feel safe in the streets of Western cities. I will say – having grown up in America – that at least in the United States, it is fairly safe to be a Jew. This is more or less true. However, I will also add this: I have Jewish friends in Europe – in Germany, in Holland, Hungary, and elsewhere – that will not wear signs of their identity in the streets for fear of being attacked. This was told to me by the same, in person – firsthand sources.

    You can’t take anti-Semitism out of the discussion of Jewish/Israeli perceptions and tactics. Yes, Jews may be safe in America for the moment, but this is not something that many of us feel we can count on as a perpetual situation. Remember, the Jews in Europe at the beginning of World War 2 could never have imagined what was to befall them. How could it have happened in Europe? – or so was the thought. But it did.

    Don’t underestimate the commonly-held Jewish perception that security without sovereignty is merely temporary.

    Reply
  24. avi (jerusalem)
    May 16, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    What do I think?

    I think Mr. Hitchens needs to take himself a little less seriously. Jewish political independence in the Land of Israel is an aspiration deeply rooted in the Jewish religion and culture. The generation of 1948 proved that two thousand years of exile hasn’t extinguished the hope, and I dare say that even angry British journalists won’t succeed where Hitler failed.

    In Israel the Hebrew language was revived, Jewish secular and religious education and culture is thriving like never before and despite all the petty political problems and military setbacks the state is stronger and more prosperous than what the its founders could have imagined in their wildest dreams.

    The Jewish faith and the Tanakh are an integral part of what Israel is and what it is going to be in the future. Hitchens apparently has a problem with this. Some Israelis on the far left share his sentiments, but the vast majority of Israelis live comfortably with the fact that the idea of Israel doesn’t belong only to the secular or to the religious. It belongs to both.

    And anyone who doubts that the Israelis love their land and will fight for it even against all odds doesn’t have a clue about what this country is about.

    Reply
  25. Loulou
    May 16, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    palestinians are Arabized Arabs. This is what those of us who have adopted Arabic language and some aspects of Arab culture following the Islamic conquests of the 7th century. Arabized Arabs are not Arabs by blood I’d national identity – only by culture and language. The concept of Arab nationalism was invented by Nasser in the 50′s and failed spectacularly because there is not and there has never been a unified Arab national identity. Now the concept of the Arab nation is well and truly dead. The fact is in the 7th century the Arabs did not invade an empty Palestine. They invaded a Roman province with a largely Christian population that was descended from the successive settlers of Palestine including the philistines, the canaanites, the ancient Israelites, the greeks, the Babylonians etc….most of these invaders also conquered Egypt and probably there was some mixing but this does not change the fact that Egyptians today consider themselves descendants if the pharoahs that this is at the core of the Egyptian national identity. Palestinians consider themselves Arabized descendants of canaanites in the same way the Egyptians see themselves as arabized descendants of the pharoahs and the Lebanese if ancient phonecians. More to the point other Arabs also see PAlestinians as a distinct and seperate ethnic/national bloc which is why Palestinians face discrimination in Arab countries. As an Arab i can easily tell a palestinian from an egyptian or morrocan or gcc arab. We may look all the same to outsiders but we can tell each other apart and we know we’re not all one people ethnically.Palestinians also love their land and would fight for it against all odds. If 2000 years wasn’t enough to make Jews forget it’s a mystery to me why anyone thinks 60 years would be enough to make Palestinians forget.

    Reply
  26. leo
    May 16, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Cedric,

    I do not want to entrust my wellbeing and my future to you regardless how decent of person you might be today.

    To the rest.
    Why are you even trying to justify your right to be who you are?
    If Cedric so desires he is welcome to justify his own right to exist.

    Reply
  27. Roman Kalik
    May 16, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Assault guns in the streets, checkpoints at every corner, Cedric? My, oh my, you’ve never been to Israel, have you? Never in your entire life. You honestly think that we live in some kind of Hell here. I think you want to believe it, as it would make you feel better with yourself.

    And as for hate crime, you yet again fail to realize the point – many Jews have just about had it with living with hate crime, regardless of how they’re not the only ones suffering from it. Israel is where they can be sure to feel at home in that sense. Ask the incredibly rich French Jewish community why they’ve been moving here, to name one particular example of modern-day Europe.

    And Kant’s perpetrual peace, eh? I could discuss the End of History with you, about how group-identity reforms time and time again and how it actually becomes stronger following a period of static void a-la EU, which is only supported by the growth of “ethnic” (how easily you dodge language, culture, shared norms and ideals, trying to reduce the feeling of shared destiny to mere racism) groups demanding independence within the EU framework – which may very well end with its undoing in the long run, as history never ends, and voids are merely an absence that end up being filled. But this isn’t the topic at hand, is it?

    The Soviet Union also aimed to act against group identity and create a large “humanity” framework of mutual dependent humanism. It did this by violently destroying the groups within its borders, and it *did* destroy them, in people’s minds. And yet all of them made an incredible comeback as the Soviet ideals crashed down – the nations, the religions, the political idealism divides… The void yearned to be filled, and history got a violent jump-start…

    As for your comparison of Belgium and Israel, quite amusing. One is a country with two completely separate national groups being saddled up with a monarch because… well… because. They can’t quite understand *why* they should stick together in their multi-national, secular state as the monarchy becomes more and more irrelevant. And you compare this to Israel, where the people themselves sought to restore their ancient homeland, getting the self-determination everyone else around them had but which they didn’t deserve, apparently (these being “modern times”), without actually claiming that they have a divine or ethnic right to the entire strip of land, and being quite willing to share it (or did you forget the UN partition? I thought so). I’m quite a firm supporter of the right of every national group (that is, a group of people who share a culture, history, language, and a sense of shared destiny) to self-determination, and I’d be delighted to see a truly independent Kurdistan rather than more deconstructionist, post-modernist theorization on how humanity should Move Forward…

    Regarding the international Jewish support (or lack thereof) for some kind of independent Jewish state, the majority does view the concept in a positive light these days. Particularly amusing to me is those Jews so actively criticizing and wanting to change Israel, that they don’t even realize that by doing so they show that they *want* it to represent them, just also to suit their own concepts and ideals. Those who don’t… simply don’t care about the Jewish state one way or another. They ignore it and go on with their lives, and that’s that. Instead most Jewish communities (from all the major groups) show sympathy towards Israel… and each tries to tell Israel how it should run itself.

    As for your circle arguments of what constitutes a Jew, I quite like utterly abstract debates that mix in the word “race” without it having anything to do with the matter. We could just as easily ask who’s Scottish. Who’s Jewish? The traditional definition used by Jews is parentage. It assumes that parentage entails an education that results in shared culture, language, norms and beliefs. In short, a sense of shared group destiny, and the wish to retain and expand on this shared set of ideals, ideas, and norms. Simply going back in time in a computer-type “1″ or “0″ recursive logic doesn’t work. People aren’t machines, and nor do they define themselves as such. Race is, frankly, quite an overrated argument in such a debate – it is one of the most simplistic forms of self-definition, and easy to turn into a straw-man.

    Note the following, please – self-definition and shared destiny is NOT limited to race. Arguing that race-based identity is wrong does NOT translate to arguing that all shared group identity is wrong… unless your goal is to deconstruct humanity in its entirety, destroy all “man-made identity constructs” and “build a new moral framework for humanity”.

    If so, welcome to the Soviet Union. Enjoy your stay. I myself have had enough of that Hell of destroying mankind to rebuild it in Clone Army format, and I have had enough of destroying culture, language, religion, etc. to make sure that humanity doesn’t have anything to argue over – in case it turns violent.

    My future world is built on mutual acceptance of a myriad of ideas, cultures, and countries – rather than trying to clone them in a single format that would flow together to form some kind of World Union and the total assimilation of everyone into a meta-society. I’ll stick to my arrogant concept of independent statehood, shall I? That way, maybe, my people won’t become a mere historic relic. Or a memorial.

    Reply
  28. Lynne T
    May 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Because he is a brilliant man, Hitchens has an amazing capacity to find occupation and dispersal a bad thing for everyone except Jews. Last Hanuka, he wrote a stupid piece in Slate about how the Jews should have been grateful to the superior, cosmopolitan non-monothiestic occupiers that the Macabees revolted against all those years ago. More recently, in an interview (can’t recall if it was in the Atlantic), he said he wished the Romans had done a better job as conquerors, as it might have saved the world from Judaism and the faiths that grew from it (although I believe he only referenced Christianity).

    Just imagine if someone suggested to Hitchens that the non-Jews living in Palestine at the time the first Zionists arrived (there were Jewish communities that had continued from Roman times, primarily in holy places like Jerusalem, Safed and Hebron), should have received these cosmopolitan democratic socialist-progressives from Europe cheerfully and followed their lead by throwing off the absentee landowners and theocrats of the Ottoman Empire. Hitchens would probably have a seizure.

    Reply
  29. leo
    May 17, 2008 at 2:33 am

    “Last Hanuka, he wrote a stupid piece in Slate about how the Jews should have been grateful to the superior, cosmopolitan non-monothiestic occupiers that the Macabees revolted against all those years ago.”

    From time to time I think of Roman conquest of Judea and eventual dispersal of Jews are blessing in disguise. Had Jews stayed would they survived? Look around ME. With exception of Persians and Jews majority of MEerners believe they are Arabs. Then this treatment of Jews as outcasts to ensure that Jews would not stop being Jews. Then WWII as a signal to come back home en masse. May be there is a hand that wields it all, who knows.

    Reply
  30. Marwa
    May 17, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Apparently Jews don’t feel that safe in Israel. This big wall is not for nothing, nor the filtering machsoms, when you go out of trendy neighborhoods of Tel Aviv and travel on roads… go to Jerusalem, then to Nablus, and of course to settlements all over the West Bank. Settlers are still totting machine-guns in the streets.

    No Katioushas in Europe, despite a much easier border crossing.

    I followed Roman’s argument that even leftisit-secular Jews “want” Israel to become secular because they want Israel to represent them. I’m not sure it’s the case. But as long as Israel claims to have an affinity with all the Jews, and claims to be their only possible political incarnation, it’s inevitable that all Jews have the right to criticise it. Israel’s policy plays a big part in contemporary antisemitism.

    All secular states are respectful of identities, by protecting them all equally and making sure that “one is not more equal than the others”, in Orwell’s words, and that law does not mix with religion. The Soviet Union was not a secular State, it had a religion: Communism. It destroyed identities. But in North America, South America, Western Europe… identities are preserved within secular states, and you find very happy, thriving Jewish communities.

    Reply
  31. Lena
    May 17, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Marwa,

    Read what you’ve written over and take into consideration a couple of points:

    1. “Israel’s policy plays a big part in contemporary anti-Semitism.”

    This may be so for many people, but do you notice a disconnect here? The range of opinion within world Jewry (and even inside Israel itself) as to Israeli policy is wide. No one should be taking out their frustration about a nation’s policy (which is formulated by a small group) on all of the individuals of that nation/ethnicity. Is it right to conjure up anti-Semitic sentiments (ie. anti-Jewish sentiments) in general in regards to Israeli policy? Is it right to discriminate against Americans on an individual level because of Bush?

    2. “But in North America, South America, Western Europe…identities are preserved within secular states…”

    In South America? South America has historically not been kind to its ethnic minorities – nor, for that matter, to any outside the ruling elite. I beg you, go to an Andean nation (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador…) and speak to any of the indigenous Quechua and Aymara-speaking peoples and ask them if they feel that the “state” represents them. See what they say.

    Reply
  32. Roman Kalik
    May 17, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Marwa, I live in the not-so-trendy city of Lod, and somehow I haven’t noticed roadblocks and gun-totting citizens around… though there are some drug-dealers here who might be more armed than I’d like them to be. The thing is… Israel isn’t just Tel-Aviv, never has been. Israel, though quite small on the map, isn’t that sparsely populated. From Haifa to the north, and winding down to Be’er-Sheva and even the tourist-fakery of Eilat, we live. Quite pleasantly, at that.

    And no, Europe doesn’t have katyushas. It does have people who blow up buses and trains at times, though, but let’s just ignore those unfortunate aspects of the End of History, shall we? Under the rug with ‘em. They don’t fit the public image of secular humanist Utopia. We can ignore the good old days of Communist terrorists, IRA terrorists, or just rather pathetic yet violent idiots like Carlos the Jackal who we really only successfull at mass-murder when running away. Current Islamist terror can also be ignored, and Basque terror groups are really a myth. Really, they are.

    As for Europe protecting people’s identities, please tell that to, oh… half the Irish, the Basques… maybe even the people of Scotland. Not everyone in Europe is pleased with the current individual states, or the EU in general. But don’t let things like the relatively recent huge riots in the suburbs of Paris change your mind on that issue, or for that matter, though it sure cut down on the number of cars on the roads… and don’t let a religious person in France protesting his inability to wear the traditional items of his faith when, say, studying in France’s education system, change your mind. Nor is Europe that kind to Kosher or Halal butchers, but that’s just part of secular humanism, eh? Or that time when one of the larger political parties of the previous government in Sweden tried to ban male circumcision… because, see, that’s how you fight Female Genital Mutilation, by gross generalizations and other such crap.

    Europe isn’t perfect, or as safe as some would like to pretend. And I daresay that some people don’t find Europe to be a pleasant home that protects their cultures and faiths.

    Reply
  33. Marwa
    May 18, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Look out for the new leviathan that will all destroy us: it’s not nazism,
    not totalitarianism, not religious fanatics, not terrorism, it’s… it’s….

    SECULAR HUMANISM !

    I didn’t see it coming :) It’s so deceiving. I mean… Europe is not at war,
    is it ? Isn’t multicultural, secular Europe doing a better job at
    protecting its huge territory from terrorists that Israel does on its very
    small territory, with an ugly wall and, yes, checkpoints that you’ve never
    seen, but I assure you, do exist ?

    Rowan, I am sure that there are quiet places in Israel. Just not Hebron and
    a few more.

    I don’t know what your point was: to say that Europe is a
    totalitarian dystopia that killed all regional identities ? That is very,
    very far cry from the truth. The examples are particularly badly chosen.
    Europe leaves lots of room for peaceful religious and regional identities to
    thrive, be it Irish, Scottish, Catalan, Basque, etc. There are even
    revivals, thanks to Europe. By the way, Irish segregation war is over.

    Of course, there will always be a handful of fanatics who are not happy with
    coexistence.

    A minority of white supremacists, of antisemites, or of fanatical basques in
    Euzkadi (that’s the Basque country) who plant bombs because they want a
    separate independent state based on ethnicity. But they’re a minority, and
    the Basque people does not support them, far from it. They’re happy in
    Spain, kept their language and even have their own, peaceful, police.

    There are plenty of Kosher and Halal butchers in London, Madrid and Paris.
    Plenty. I don’t know how you missed them ???
    http://www.mangercacher.com/liste-boucherie.php
    http://www.annuaire-musulman.com/index.php?cat=67
    http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/265_directory_of_kosher_.htm
    http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/directory/1310.php
    ..

    Sweden has the right to discuss the ban of male circumcision, based on the
    individual right to physical integrity. It does not mean that Sweden is
    antisemitic and does not tolerate religions. Every country bans certain
    practices when they conflict with another individual liberty (ex: chopping
    hands in Sharia). And Sweden did not ban circumcision in the end.

    The riots in Paris in 2005 had nothing to do with religious or cultural
    identity. They were social riots, and the Muslim community spent lots of
    efforts not to be stereotyped and associated wit the looters and rioters who
    burned cars.

    In France’s education system, you can wear whatever you want. If you want to go to a school funded by taxpayers’ money, you should remove all religious
    signs when you enter the premisses, and put them back on outside, much like
    the uniform in many countries. If you want to be educated in a religious
    way, you can go to a private religious school, also subsidised with
    taxpayers’ money, but to a lesser extent (only the teachers are paid by the
    State, not the premisses).

    If Europe attracts so many migrants (highly positive balance) from otherwise
    religious countries, it’s because it guarantees the protection of religious
    freedom, by promoting equal rights, along with a number of other liberties.

    Lena points out South America, because she knows that in North America and
    Europe identities are very well preserved in secular states. What she does
    not know: in the two years I’ve lived in Peru I’ve visited three synagogues,
    and even shook hands with the indigenous President Toledo, a Quechua fluent
    Indian. Bolivia also has an Indian President, so does Venezuela. And in
    Brasil, President Lula da Silva has been especially careful to promote the
    rights of minorities. So if your parallel was with the Palestinians, Israel
    should elect a Palestinian President to be at least as tolerant as Peru or
    Bolivia…

    Secular humanism is not the horrible monster you think it is. It’s the
    result of a long, painful evolution, toward the “least worst” system. Europe
    is not perfect, it’s just better off.

    I notice and wonder about your blind silence on occupation of the West Bank and settlements.

    Reply
  34. Roman Kalik
    May 18, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Marwa, did I say that Europe was evil and despotic? No, I did not. I simply countered the premise that the political systems within Europe today are the top of human achievement, and that they satisfy everyone so much that they really should be emulated everywhere.

    The examples taken were to illustrate that Europe of recent history (and yes, Irish separatism and Communist terrorism are recent history) had its fair share of people who object to the current establishments due to identity or political reasoning. As for the Basques today – you truly underestimate their sentiments. I suspect England followed a similar underestimation of Ireland.

    As for Halal and Kosher butchers, talk to them. Kosher butchers and Jewish religious leaders feel that they have to be constantly on the defensive – being reviewed and re-reviewed all the time, mainly due to the major focus of animal rights groups against them. In certain countries (the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Spain) bans on such slaughter exist. Norway and Switzerland ban it utterly, with Switzerland going as far as to consider banning Kosher meat imports as well.

    Indeed, it’s going to be fun being Jewish or Muslim in Switzerland – religious Jews and Muslims will effectively have to become vegetarians.

    As for the West Bank, how does it relate to countering a gross generalization? Perhaps you would claim that Israel is Tel-Aviv and some settlements?

    Reply
  35. Lena
    May 18, 2008 at 11:56 am

    I know who Toledo is and I know of the various indigenous leaders across Latin America. But these are relatively new developments. And if I recall, Toledo wasn’t exactly a shining light and ended up with something like a 4% approval rating…

    Reply
  36. The Raccoon
    May 20, 2008 at 12:51 am

    It’s simple, really – we are Jews because we are Jews. This is our home because it is and always was our home. If you don’t like it, fuck you.

    I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why and whether I should be in my home. The very notion that I should excuse my existence in my home is a grave offense – so Mr. Hitchens can continue repeatedly plunging his head into his own arse. Same goes to anyone who’s even thinking of questioning my right to life and self-determination.

    Oh, and should anyone try to take these rights from me I’ll kill them and their families. These were very, very long 2000 years – and I will not have my beautiful home ravaged by invaders again, be they Greeks, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Europeans of all stripes or the Maoris. Can’t even see why it’s a discussion, really.

    Reply
  37. Lynne T
    May 20, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Leo:

    Did Jews survive because they were dispersed all over the globe instead of being Arabized like all the other middle eastern peoples who didn’t descend from the tribes from the Arabian Penninsula, or did they survive because there were just enough of them who kept their faith, to go on.
    The Zorastrians (Parsees) who originated in Persia haven’t been quite as lucky, but that may have more to do with how many Zorastrians were left after the Muslim conquest of Persia.

    And while Farsi still exists, and the “non-Arabs” of Iran are still a slight majority, there are elements high up in the government who would like to get rid of the Persian identity and Farsi, as it isn’t helpful to their ambitions of being defenders of the faith.

    Reply
  38. The Raccoon
    May 20, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Heh.

    “I notice and wonder about your blind silence on occupation of the West Bank and settlements.”

    Next time someone invades my country with genocidal intent, I’ll just roll over and die, shall I?

    I know you were hopeful, but I was just joking. And I can’t believe Palestinians are STILL bitching: “we only tried to genocide you a few times, you filthy Joooooz! Give us more stuff while we’ll continue with the genocide attempts, even if now it’s just mostly fucking us up!”

    Sheeeeesh. Disgusting sore losers.

    Reply
  39. Secularbeliever
    June 4, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Hi all,

    Roman, the tranquility of Lod comes at a cost a few miles down. On your other topic of slaughtering, it’s true that animal rights groups try to change the slaughtering of sheep for Eid el Kebir: they say the sheep should be knocked unconscious before their throat is cut.

    I don’t see what is the problem with trying to kill animals with less pain. Doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian.

    Reply

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