Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Great Delusions of Yair Lapid.




When national leaders delude themselves about issues of the day things often turn out badly. If we look back at the carnage of the 20th century, and its Great Illusions, false assumptions and delusions played no small part.

Here's what Netanyahu said to the World Zionist Congress in Tel Aviv on October 20, 2015:
"[A]ttacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, 'Burn them.'"
The intended implication of this morbid and entirely fabricated fantasy, observes Noam Sheizaf, is that Palestinians can not be negotiated with or talked with reasonably today. The only solution this delusion leaves is permanent enmity, bloodshed, and tears.

The delusion is widespread. The pernicious libel spreads by osmosis. It is shared by much of the American Jewish community. The other day I received a message from a Jewish American friend,  the nicest young man you'll ever meet:
"It is a ridiculous notion that if Palestinians were not caged like animals, restricted from traveling in Israel, that there would be peace. All you have to do is examine history.  Israel was attacked the day it became a country. The problem is simply that it exists.  If Palestinians could kill more Israelis, they would, regardless of the occupation status. I don't see how that can be a contested point."
It's the great delusion that blocks any peaceful way forward.

Yair Lapid helps spread the delusion. He is leader of Israel's Yesh Atid party (11/120 MK's) and wants to be prime minister.  For now, he considers himself a "shadow foreign minister." So he is making appearances in the West; his great delusions in plain view. 

In June Lapid  told Jeffrey Goldbeg of the Atlantic that "we need to separate from the Palestinians... we don’t want what [former Israeli President] Shimon Peres used to call the ‘new Middle East.’” Lapid means he does not want a Middle East at peace, with regional economic cooperation expanding, and democracy taking hold. "There is a reason I'm not using the word 'peace,'" he told Goldberg. He means peace is not possible with the Mufti of Jerusalem. Never mind that the Mufti has been dead 40 years and, as Daniel Seidemann says: "I know many of his family, and they are as wonderful as he was despicable."

Lapid's vision, like that of my young correspondent, is higher walls and more separation, not peace.

From the Goldberg interview:
"I’m advocating ... a regional summit.... We have to do something, because time is not on our side. We can’t absorb 3.5 million Palestinians. If we won’t do anything in the next two years or three years, they will come to us and say, “OK, we realize there’s not going to be a Palestinian state. Let’s vote!” If we say no, we’re not a democracy. If we say yes, we’re not a Jewish state. I want to live in a Jewish state."
I'm not sure about that 3.5 million number.  Total Palestinian population between the Jordan river and the sea is 6.2 million: 1,719,000 citizens of Israel, 2,754,000 in the West Bank, and  1,730,000 in Gaza. According to Bloomberg, today there are nearly 600,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. These are spread across "123 government-approved settlements and 100 unofficial ones." Approximately 200,000 Israelis live in 12 neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope to make their future capital, and an additional 380,000 settlers live in the rest of the West Bank.

Nobody is going anywhere, says Noam Sheizaf, "so the fundamental political question is how can we live together. [But] Netanyahu rejects the premise of that question. He talks of total war. Of Nazis." The great delusion means shirking the challenge to find a way for Jews and Palestinians to live together. We must abandon the delusion.

Lapid is not willing to take risks for peace, to let go of the great delusion. "I want my country to have a policy, and it should be proactive," Lapid told Goldberg. "I want it to be Zionist, I want it to be security-oriented.... We understand the two-state solution is the only solution," he said, "and we will be for it if push comes to shove. After all the necessary warnings such as, 'We want security arrangements to be as tough as possible.'”

In the meantime, settlement activity continues apace (see, e.g. here, here, and here), Israel has no declared borders, and Netanyahu has vowed never to leave the Jordan Valley.

Evacuating 750 Jewish settlers from Hebron would be "Horrible. Horrible. It's biblical" says Lapid to Stephen Sackur in the video, above. He claims to recognize that some settlements will have to be evacuated. He mentions Itamar, a far flung settlement of 1,200 near Nablus. But he doesn't say he would evacuate Hebron. What he says to Sackur in the video above is "we're going to keep all of Jerusalem," because it belongs to the Jews like London belongs to the English [video above at 16:10].

Sackur asked Lapid whether he accepts that in order to make the two state solution work, hundreds of thousands of settlers will have to leave their homes and withdraw. "Well, hundreds of thousands is way exaggerated," said Lapid. "And yes, we're going to keep the blocs." 

No, this man is not serious about two states.

"I've been saying it's not in the best interest of Israel," said Lapid, to try to absorb 3.5 million Palestinians," repeating the number he told Goldberg. Lapid is implying that when a deal is made (after how many more settlers?) most of the settlers will remain just where they are and higher walls will be built around the Palestinians. That's his "two state solution." It's a delusion.

"Separation from the Palestinians is necessary for us, as Jews, for maintaining the Jewish character of Israel, for keeping us as a Jewish state," says Lapid [at ~20:00]   "We should push for a regional agreement that will eventually allow us to build a higher wall between us and the Palestinians, to have a two state solution," he says [at 22:40]. 

In the meantime, it is evident Lapid lacks any introspection or insight into the "knife intifada." 

"These are Islamic assassins who want to kill Jews because they are Jews," says Lapid. Like the Mufti of Jerusalem. Sackur was incredulous: "Are you suggesting the stabbings coming from the Palestinian side.... has nothing to do with the realities that Palestinians have to live with?" Correct, says Lapid.  "I'm telling you, these people are Islamic fanatics who are going there to kill Jews because they are Jews." It has nothing to do with a national struggle, he says. He doubles down on the Mufti of Israel as the originator of irrational hatred of Jews, suggesting today's Palestinians are the same. [At 11:40] "Let us remember," says Lapid, "that the founding father of the Palestinian movement went to visit Hitler, to talk to him, about what are the best ways to kill Jews, long, long, before the settlements, the occupation, the '67 war, and all those things people are now saying 'this is the reason the Palestinians are behaving the way they are.' The reason the Palestinians are behaving the way they are is because they want the Jews to be out of Palestine, ... or better off, die." 

As a consequence, says Lapid, it's OK for police, the military, and vigilantes to shoot to kill anyone who pulls out a screwdriver, or a knife as part of Israeli deterrence. [at 5:12] In practice this is extended more and more to rock-throwers.

These are remarkable statements. Lapid's lack of insight or introspection borders on the delusional. Israel is losing the world over the occupation and it's shoot-to-kill-as-deterrence policy, and Lapid's delusions are not helping. 

Here is Bernard Avishai in the New Yorker (10/23/15), articulating some of the reasons behind this "knife intifada" that should be painfully obvious to Lapid and Netanyahu... but sadly are not: 
Today’s attacks may appear “random” and “unpredictable,” but an increase in their incidence and intensity is entirely predictable. In 2012, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel found that eighty-four per cent of Arab children in East Jerusalem fell below the poverty line. The unemployment rate among Arabs in the city was about forty per cent among men and eighty-five per cent among women, Haaretz reported in 2012. 
Three hundred and twenty thousand Arabs live in East Jerusalem... and constitute about thirty-eight per cent of the total population. Arab residents of East Jerusalem have no Israeli citizenship, only permanent-residency cards, which means that they are eligible for medical insurance and also have to pay Israeli taxes. They do not vote in national elections, though Israeli governments have claimed the united city as the country’s capital. Then there are the open provocations: not only the public agitation by government ministers for equal Jewish access to the Haram al-Sharif but also the encroachment by rightist archeological organizations on the neighborhood of Silwan, and the marches by tens of thousands of radical nationalist yeshiva students through Nablus Gate on Jerusalem Day. 
But the statistics and political encroachments, however dramatic, do not fully capture the ambient pressure on Arab families—the humiliating limitations that steer most Jerusalem Arabs, no matter their intelligence or ambition, to the counters of delis and the steering wheels of delivery trucks. A number of highly educated Arabs find medical positions in Jerusalem’s hospitals or management positions in its hotels. They testify to the possibility of coexistence. They are also anomalous. A 2013 United Nations report found that more than half of employed Arabs work in “services, commerce, hotels, and restaurants,” and another quarter in construction and agriculture. 
In 2008, I told the story of Abed, who stayed in Jerusalem to marry, and hoped to start a business during the heady days of the Oslo peace process. He ended up running the meat department of our local supermarket and, after twenty years, had saved enough to build a stately home in a northern suburb. But then the separation wall, begun in 2002, put his new house beyond his reach, in so-called Palestinian territory. If Abed occupied it, he would lose his Jerusalem residency and health insurance; he had less than a week to move his family of five into a two-room apartment. (“It is a home for the birds now,” he told me, adding, “Bless God,” his eyes welling with tears.) Abed’s brother then tried to expand his home in the mixed neighborhood of Abu Tor, but was denied a permit, again and again. He put on an addition anyway, as Jews often do, and Jerusalem authorities demolished the entire house. More recently, Abed considered opening a fish store on the commercial street where he has worked for a generation. (I helped him with the business plan.) But he soon determined that an Arab could not hope to get kosher certification or a loan from Israeli banks—and no Arab banks are permitted to operate in the city. I have not seen Abed’s son, who is now a teen-ager, since he was a toddler. But I can only imagine the sting he has felt watching his father go off to work each day. Multiply such a sting by many thousands.
Right-wing violence in the West Bank, Big Surprise! also is one of the causes of Palestinian terror, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told a court on Thursday. Haaretz.  

In the meantime, Lapid and Netanyahu, and many, many others on both sides are inciting racism, hatred, and vigilante justice. The American Jewish community is under the spell of the great delusion. All they can see is more of the same: more settlement, more separation, higher walls, an undivided Jerusalem forever, and, perhaps, if pushed, abandonment of Itamar. But don't hold your breath.

The only thing this great delusion promises is a future of blood, sweat and tears, and very little hope, says Chemi Shalev.



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