Sunday, March 13, 2005

Words of Warning from Ben Chorin

My friend, Ben Chorin, is one of the most astute observers of the Israeli scene that I know. It is for that reason that I decided to share his latest posting:

Westerners tend to imagine that non-Westerners are just like them only less so. For example, they imagine that Muslims couldn't possibly take their own religion so seriously that they wouldn't give up some of its rough edges on behalf of the promise of prosperity and freedom. Another example, even closer to home, is the inability of American Jews -- including many American olim -- to appreciate the many ways that Israeli politics is more similar to Soviet politics than to American politics.

One example should suffice. Both the media and the law enforcement agencies in Israeli are highly centralized. Both remain in the control of an old guard with a very specific agenda and are used to promote that agenda. And most importantly, the two are completely in cahoots -- none of that "watchdog of democracy" crap around here. Let me give a few examples.From time to time, the old guard wishes to weaken mitnachalim and strengthen Palestinians. Here is how it is done. Law enforcement agencies create minor events that portray mitnachalim as dangerous and subversive. This is done, for example, by having provocateurs say or do weird stuff. For instance, they have GSS-agent Avishai Raviv take responsibility for murders of Arabs or perform some bizarre swearing-in rite in a cemetery. Or they get some kids to shout some inanity at a politician (most recently, Bibi Netanyahu and Limor Livnat). Or they take crank letters that have been systematically sent to politicians for many years and announce a major right-wing threat to the safety of our intrepid leaders. Or they issue reports detailing how mitnachalim pillage the treasury by receiving funding for fully-authorized "unauthorized" construction (beats me). The non-story is then fed to cronies in the press and gets pumped up into a major event. The morning headlines blare, the late morning talk shows follow up and the nightly news drives it home. In response, politicians pass laws targeting opponents of the agenda, the law enforcement agencies harrass "suspects", more provocateurs are planted, and the cycle begins anew.

At the same time, Palestinian terrorist activity is downplayed, if not concealed entirely. Tactical lulls in terrorist activity or the failure of terrorists to reach their targets are deliberately and falsely portrayed as strategic shifts. (I remember one classic incident at the height of Oslo, when a terrorist plowed a car into a crowded bus stop near French Hill killing several people. Aryeh Amit, a Jew-baiting polemicist then masquerading as a police commissioner, took to the airwaves to announce that it was a traffic accident at the very same time that his uninformed detectives on the scene were describing it as an obvious terror attack.)I know, I know.

If you're American, you're probably thinking that this sounds paranoid and that in fact all that is happening is that like-minded people with no agenda and no coordination are acting according to their own independently-arrived-at understanding of events. Just like everywhere. If that's what you think, you are wrong on two counts. That's not what is happening here and it's not what happens everywhere. That's how it works in the U.S. with its decentralized media and law enforcement. Here it is coordinated and utterly predictable. Any oleh from Russia can vouch for the familiarity of it all.Here is a prediction (written with a trembling hand). If and when the withdrawal is about to happen and resistance to it needs to be quashed, the shooting of an Israeli soldier by a mitnachel will be arranged. I pray that I'm wrong and you get the chance to say I-told-you-so.

Ben Chorin is no crackpot. If he is fearful of this kind of scenario (which we all pray won't happen), it says alot about the nature of the Press and Public discourse in Israel. For Americans: Think about the Iraq War without Fox News as an alternative.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fox News is Your God?
Why not a post on how the Bushies are dissing the Yad Vashem celebration-close to 20 heads of state-Prime Ministers or Presidents showing up. The US represented by the Mayor of NYC.
Do you believe Fox News is making a bid deal about it-had it been a liberal US Prez-everyone would be complaining. Did you see the Presidents Conference complaining no? Is that because in last years conventions Hoenlin attended a Republican party reception and not a Democratic one.

Anonymous said...

Fox News is Your God?
Why not a post on how the Bushies are dissing the Yad Vashem celebration-close to 20 heads of state-Prime Ministers or Presidents showing up. The US represented by the Mayor of NYC.
Do you believe Fox News is making a big deal about it-had it been a liberal US Prez-everyone would be complaining. Did you see the Presidents Conference complaining no? Is that because in last years conventions Hoenlin attended a Republican party reception and not a Democratic one.

jhw said...

how true...and how sad.

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Nachum said...

Oh, come on. You actually think that's a serious issue?