To be Israeli today is to organize your thinking around the enemy. Without the enemy, you can’t understand the world or your place in it. Without the enemy, you don’t know what you want – except more money, which is the default goal of the whole human race.
What else do Israelis want? We want security! We want those bastards to leave us alone! We want the enemy to go away! Fear and aggression toward the enemy – that’s all that drives us anymore, that and the desire for more money.
And even if we make more money, what do we want to do with it? Invest it in improving the country, in improving the world? Is that what the start-up nation stands for?
When we think of the economy, we think of “me.” But when we think of “us,” we think first and last of “them.” Of course, there are loads and loads of generous, public-spirited Israelis doing great things individually or in groups. But when we’re all together as a nation, all we see is the enemy. Stopping the enemy is the only national project we have left. It’s the only issue that gets people’s attention for more than a day.
As for the Jewish part of being Israeli, Judaism in this country is overwhelmingly tribal, to the point of belligerency. Israeli-style Judaism feeds this us-against-them mentality like nothing else except, maybe, the national cult of the military. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Andrew Sullivan writes:
The Netanyahu government has all but declared war on the Obama administration and then openly disses a vital ally, Turkey. The slow cultural shifts in Israel – toward ever more arrogance, more fundamentalism, more Russian immigrant racism, contempt for the Muslim world, military adventurism, and the daily grinding of the Palestinians on the West Bank and pulverization and inhumane blockade of the people of Gaza … well maybe some others can explain it.
All I can say is: it saddens me, as a longtime lover of the Jewish state. It does not represent the historic mainstream of liberal Jewish society, it is a betrayal of many Jewish virtues that goyim like me deeply admire, and it seems designed for war as some kind of eternal and uplifting state of mind. I hope Israel shifts soon. For Israel’s sake.
It’s good that Sullivan is helping pull the issue of Israel into mainstream American discourse, but is he really as perplexed as he presents himself? Is the history of Palestinian dispossession really so murky that he must depend on others to explain what’s going on here?
He sounds like an aging aunt bemused about the downfall of a nephew she used to dote upon: He used to be such a nice boy but then he started taking drugs. I just don’t know what happened to him.