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In the land of Israel

Amazon.com

In the land of Israel—modern Israel, that is—never lived a finest man than Amos oz. As a writer; as a salt-of-the-earth farmer and warrior; as a peace-loving man and activist; as a man of his word and vision. And when he died unexpectedly from a sudden illness at the end of last year, at age 79, a voice whispered in my ear—it was him, I believe—that his optimistic outlook of Israel just couldn’t stand the disaster—cry for the ages, as we like to say in Hebrew—of the coming elections, and of what they might bring upon the country and people he so much loved.

About the latter I will write in the next month or two, just before the elections, but about the former—the man and his vision—allow me to add my humble voice to the many who spoke and wrote so appraisingly about him. To my sorrow, though he was one of the founders of the ‘Peace Now’ movement (and in a way, so was I), we never met. But that’s not exactly true, since I’d met him so often through his essays and books. One of which I’ve found in my library, in a section reserved—one shelf for fiction, one shelf for non-fiction—for the best works I ever read.

I reread ‘In the Land of Israel’ in his honor. And though his fiction was always more to my liking—The New Yorker just published his beautiful short story, “All Rivers,” from which you can learn so much about the man and his origins—I found plenty to admire, and to fear, in this book from 1982. In it, Amos Oz chronicled his interviews with everyday Israelis, which he had conducted throughout the land, and the occupied land, allowing them to speak their mind freely. It was first published in the Israeli morning paper ‘Davar,’ and later collected into this book.

He took a journey while writing it, becoming “a tourist in his own country in order to explore and record the cauldron of emotions, fears and prejudices” of Israelis. As he writes in his ‘Author’s notes:’ “Every place is an entire world and every man is a world in himself, and I reached only a few places and a few people, and even then I was able to see and to hear only a little of so much.”

In line with his words, I’ve chosen to highlight only two people who spoke to him, from two different “worlds,” though they lived so close to each other. The first person (he names no names, generally, in this book), it that of a resident of the development town of Bet Shemesh, whom he met at a Café in the center square, together with some others, all of them Mizrachim: Immigrants from Arab countries and North African countries. What used to be referred to back then as the “Second Israel.” Among so many other things, he’d said this:

“When you were on top (he meant Ashkenazim, kibbutzniks, the “First Israel,” H.D.), you hid us in holes, in moshavim and in development towns, so the tourists wouldn’t see us; so we wouldn’t stain your image; so they’d think this was a white country. But that’s all over now, because now we’ve come out of our holes. You still haven’t figured out what hit you, have you?”

And still more: “You guys, your time is past. Even after Begin (the Prime Minister then, H.D.) you won’t make a comeback in another hundred years. We are sick of you and your squabbles. Yes to the Palestinian state or no to the Palestinian state… To give back or not to give back, peace in the Galilee or not… Anything goes.”

Two things strike me here: First, the force of the hurt and resentment that existed back then; second, the prophecy ingrained in his simple words. It may be that, as to the former, the equilibrium had changed, but if so, just a bit. What used to be the “First Israel” is now centered in Tel Aviv and around it, no more just Ashkenazim but liberals, secular Israelis of all backgrounds, who emphasize democracy first and Jewish second.

The “Second Israel” is now centered in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the settlements of the West Bank, and it’s not only Mizrachim there now, but everybody who put the emphasis on Jewish first and democracy second. Moreover: As the second quote indicates, the “Second Israel” is still in power. It is actually the “First Israel” now. And the hell with the rest. The occupation is not occupation; the West Bank is Judah and Samaria; the rule of law is our law; the hell with the rest of Israel.

Here’s then is the second quote, from a veteran member of Amos Oz’s kibbutz, Hulda: “Ask them—hand on your heart, as they said to you in Bet Shemesh—whether now, when the power is in Begin’s hands, and in theirs, they really think it pays to settle accounts with us like this, the night of the long knives. And ask them another thing as well, hand on your heart: Was everything we did in this country in 50 years, or 80 years, so bad? Was it all malicious? Everything we built here at such great sacrifice, everything we created out of nothing, including the mistakes we surely made? What would the Land of Israel look like without the Labor movement?”

There would be no Land of Israel, if you ask me. Certainly not the “Land of Israel” where Amos Oz walked and wrote. He left us very poor, I’d say that, teetering on the edge of an abyss.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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Air-Bnb & Hot-Air

middleeastmonitor.com


The decision by the global home-renting company Airbnb last week to terminate its operation in the Israeli occupied West Bank—i.e. to remove the listing of homes for rent from all Israeli settlements there—has naturally created quite a stir in Israel. Mainly, it brought about a lot of accusations of discrimination, anti-Semitism, anti-Israel, and anti-Zionism. It’s all the fault, and work of the hated BDS movement. The world is against us. In short: a lot of hot air.

Let’s analyze it then, the decision and its aftermath. As for Airbnb’s decision—which yours truly believes was the right decision—it stated that after quite a number of years, and many deliberations, the company has reached the conclusion that “… we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Settlements, which the Geneva Convention, the International Community at large, and the United Nations in particular, consider illegal.

Put it in other words: Supporting settlers who are there illegally—many of them American Jews—making them profit and getting richer while being in all practicality criminals, according to International Law, is not in the best interest of the company. Furthermore, the company does not see it as a political action, but as a human rights issue; it does not punish Israel as a whole, where it will continue to operate as before.

Unless, of course, the Israeli government acts to forbid, or make life too difficult on the company to operate in Israel proper. Which is one of the sanctions proposed by this minister or that. Other threats, less severe, were mentioned too. I do believe, though, that it won’t come to be, since the only people to benefit from this operation, other than the company (San Francisco based), are the tourists coming to visit Israel, and the Israeli citizens letting them use their homes and apartments. (I myself stayed in Tel Aviv for two weeks in such a place two years ago.)

Now, as for the accusations thrown at Airbnb. This is of course not an act of anti-Semitism, nor it is an act of anti-Israel or anti-Zionism. Nothing of the sort, and the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. The company—unless the government interferes—will continue to operate, as it has done so far, in Israel proper. It has nothing against Israelis, but has a lot against occupying other people lands, seizing their property, building there illegally, and profiting from it illegally. More straightly put: by operating in illegal settlements, the company renders its operation there illegal too.

These accusations by Israeli officials are very common, especially the favorite one: It’s all the BDS movement‘s fault. And yet, it has nothing to do with the BDS movement, to which your truly is in opposition to. Again, the reason is simple—though for reasons that I will explain promptly—no one care to admit it. First and foremost: The BDS boycott is directed against the whole of Israel. It does not differentiate between the occupied territories, post the 1967 war, and Israel proper, prewar. As an example, when the BDS movement convinces an internationally known artist not to appear in Israel, most often it’s in Tel Aviv, or other places in Israel, never really in the West Bank.

Secondly, boycotting Israel is the method to achieve the three main goals of that movement: Ending the occupation, full equality to Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and granting all Palestinians refugees (some 7.5 million of them) the right of return to their homes in Israel. Which basically will end Israel as we know it, as the secure home of the Jewish people. (Hence my objection to it). Airbnb mentions nothing about that, or about supporting these BDS demands. Otherwise, why is it operating in Israel?

Now, you probably asking yourselves, why do those people raise the above-mentioned accusations? The reason is simple, if somewhat elusive: It fits their agenda. Instead of dealing seriously, truthfully with the real problems—the occupation, the settlements, the never-ending dispute with the Palestinians, the steady march of Israel toward being an intolerant society, Apartheid-like, with laws that will make it more of a totalitarian state than a democratic one—it’s easy to deflect the problem and hurl false accusations in return.

Let’s kick the can farther. Let’s accuse other people for our problems. Let’s delay the clear, preferred, obvious solution—the Two-State solution—until the messiah comes. The world hates us anyway. It’s all politics, stupid. Human rights are nonsense. Let’s go have a beer.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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