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The War on Bullshit

Jon Stewart 2


Pardon my French, but that’s what Jon Stewart – whom I enjoyed tremendously the last sixteen years, and whom I consider the brightest star of American Televising of the new millennia – commanded us to do. Here are some of his last words from his final program: “First, bullshit is everywhere. Institutional bullshit, design to obscure and distract. Second: hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit. And finally, it’s the bullshit of infinite possibility. The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. If you smell something—say something.” Well, I smell something, so I’m going to say something. And the hell with the consequences.

So here’s my take on the situation in Israel. The latest Palestinian outburst of violence, I’m talking about. The Teenage Intifada; the Month of the Long Knives; the Wave of Terror. Call it what you will. But before I do that, here’s a full disclosure: Most of my family live in Israel, where from young to old – indeed, like most Israelis – they have to do more thinking, and take extra precautions before going out the door into the streets these days. Second, I tried to restrain myself from commenting the last month and a half, as long as people were being killed daily. But, since it doesn’t look – unfortunately – that it’s going to end any time soon, I find it necessary now to try and clear the clouds of dust (and bullshit) that are still being thrown in the eyes of Israelis, and Jews around the world, in an attempt to obscure the true nature of this uprising.

First cloud: The Palestinian outburst of violence is all because of the threat, true or perceived, that Jews will seize control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the Temple Mount. This is akin to saying that the cause of the Six-Day War of 1967 – a war I proudly participated in as a young soldier, both in the Egyptian front and the Syrian front – was all about capturing the Western Wall and East Jerusalem. Not so. That war was a war of survival for Israel, par excellence. But with a big problem on our hands, following the big win: What to do with all these captured territories: Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and, of course, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Big problems all; so much so that, more than 48 years later, they are still vibrating all the way to the present day and the latest outbreak of violence. It’s easy to forget, and it’s fun to continue “sipping cappuccino on the edge of the volcano,” as I heard it being said in Israel, rather than admit to the cause of the problem, and fix it once and for all. But more about that later, as we have more clouds to clear first.

Second cloud: It’s all Facebook’s fault, let’s sue them. One wants to lough, if it wasn’t so sad. Instead of treating and healing the wounds, let’s get some monitory compensation because we are injured, or at the very least put a stop to free speech and unrestrained exchange of ideas. This cloud is akin to killing the messenger, since we are unable to deal with the message. Or rather, don’t want to deal with it. Because, dealing with it will demand courage of us; will demand perseverance of us; will demand tough decision of us: and will demand of us to face the mirror of truth and reality, and admit to what we are causing with our actions – since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin twenty years ago – not only to the Palestinians in the West Bank, and to the Arabs in Israel, but also to us Israeli Jews, and World Jews as well. To the street, everybody, let’s blame the social network and media for the occupation, and for children being born and growing up surrounded by separation wall and barber wire, checkpoints and army night-raids, with guns in settlers and soldiers hands pointing at them from roads and rooftops. Let’s do that, why don’t we. But wait, there’s another cloud coming.

Third cloud: The cloud of hate and of no other choice. The Arabs, both in Israel proper and in the occupied territories, hate us. Full stop. It will never change. It will never improve. There is no other choice but to fight them. To be stronger. There is no other option but constant war; no other future but blood and tears forever. As if we have nothing to do with the fact that they hate us. As if we don’t share the blame for it, to no small extent. Moreover, as if we don’t hate them (help me here, ‘Beitar Jerusalem’ fans). As if only they are educated from infancy to hate the Jews, and the Jews are not educated to hate the Arabs (help me here, religious zealots everywhere, including ultra-orthodox Jews). It is a blame game – nothing else. But it is tragic, nonetheless. A tragic loss of lives, for the Israelis and the Palestinians alike. For Jews and Arabs, the victims of violence on both sides. And it will continue, no doubt, unless we clear the clouds of bullshit and face reality head on. And do something about it.

There are other clouds, of course, but I’m sure you get the picture. And the picture is clear, just look how “pretty” it is, how “magnificent” are all those biblical white-stoned, red-roofed buildings mushrooming on almost every hill in the West Bank. Aren’t they beautiful, all these settlements, built (mostly) with American dollars, for (mostly) American Jews who can afford to buy them, and live there without doing too much working? Leave it to the Arabs to work and build. Build all these settlements; solidified the occupation; the rule over other people for almost fifty years now. These kids and young men with knives were born into this reality, and grew up with it, so how do you expect them to feel, and behave otherwise? It’s the settlements, stupid! It’s the occupation, stupid! Don’t bullshit us anymore!

Here are some quotes: “Palestinian officials say Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and settlement construction are the triggers of violence,” it was reported in Haaretz. “Some of the motivation of the Palestinians to carry out terror attacks is due to the violence of right-wing elements in the West Bank,” the director of the IDF operations directorate, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, was quoted as saying in the same newspaper. And also there: “… this is not an intifada,” wrote Asher Schechter in the only article I’ve read that hit the nail squarely on the head. “This is something far more sinister: A terrifying preview to a binational, one-state Israel that already exists to a large degree on the ground.”

There you have it. The settlement endeavor leads to an ongoing occupation; the ongoing occupation leads to a binational state; and a binational state leads to an apartheid state. And occasionally, to outbursts of violence from the oppressed. If you prefer clouds of dust, wrapped yourself in them. If you prefer to look away from the mirror and lie to yourself, go ahead and do that. But as long as it continues – settlements and occupation – so does the war on bullshit. And so do desperate acts of resistance with knives and slingshots. You can find it in the bible.

* Published originally on “The Times of Israel.”
** The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

Political Quiz



Dear readers: For a while now I’ve been posting long, serious – hopefully, thought-provoking – articles on the situation, both in Israel and in America, and in between too. It is high time now for a short, comic-relief post, in the hope that it will provide a moment of alleviation from the emotional tension of the violent conflict, and the political drama both here and in Israel. I do hope, though, that at its core, this quiz will provide also a moment of truth and reflection. As is my habit, also, as long as the outbreak of violence in Israel continues, and until the killings stop and the smoke clears – even if temporarily – I try to refrain from direct commentary on the situation.

Here goes the quiz, then. First, the setup: Imagine two American men, one named Rob, the other named Tom. (BTY: It can easily be two Israeli men, or two Israeli-American men.) Both are middle-aged, family men; both are equally educated and successful in their chosen profession; both are Jewish, and have visited Israel in the past. They are proud to have a relative or two there, and consider their support of Israel paramount. Both belong to the same Jewish congregation in town, and are equally active and supportive of the congregation. No criminal record to mention, in either man, no major infidelities to report, and no embezzlement on record. Quite the model citizens we have here in Rob and Tom.

The one major difference between the two, other than the different body stature and facial features, is that one is a right-leaning Republican, a conservative; the other is a left-leaning Democrat, a liberal. As well, when it comes to Israel, and the eternal conflict with the Palestinians, one of them thinks that A is the right way to go; the other thinks that B is the right way to go. (Hold on, don’t ask me yet what A and B represent. We’ll come to that later.) Now, this you need to know: Both Rob and Tom believe deeply, sincerely, wholeheartedly that their point of view on the situation in Israel is the correct one; and – even more importantly – should Israel’s leaders, with the support of the American leaders, will choose their solution as the way to go, it will secure the future of Israel, and Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. And with that, they also believe, it will secure the future of the entire Jewish people.

Here’s the big difference between them, however: When Rob voices his opinion on the matter – i.e. solution A – Tom respectfully disagrees with him. But, when Tom voices his opinion – i.e. solution B – Rob has the tendency, on occasions, to accuse him of hating Israel, of being anti-Jewish and even anti-Semitic. Sometimes, even a worse accusation than that (think Germany here, Holocaust, you know).

Now to the quiz: Please tell me, if you would, which one of these two men, Rob or Tom, is the right-leaning Republican/conservative, and who is the left-leaning Democrat/liberal.

If you think you solved the puzzle (not so difficult, is it?), post it as a comment here. While I cannot offer monetary prizes, bestselling books, or tickets to rock concerts, I will acknowledge those getting it right. Good luck!

* The “Leave a comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.


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