Shimon Peres — king of bombast

“You write history — I have to make history,” Shimon Peres says at the end of an interview with the Israeli historian Benny Morris.

At times in the interview the Israeli president almost sounds deranged.

The main reason for war was that people earned their livelihood from land. People wanted either to defend their land or conquer more land. From the moment people live from science, force can’t do [anything]. An army can’t overcome science. All these borders will be blurred. The main reason for classic wars has disappeared. What will remain are fanatical religious groups, irrational groups, dangerous to the whole world. They will be destroyed in the end, out of self-defense. There won’t be wars. There will be great rivalry. Football will be more important than war, and science more important than football. There will be a contest to develop nature’s riches. What importance is there today to land?

So I guess Israel, with its fuzzy borders and expanding settlements, is not as it appears to many of us on the outside, a state engaged in old-fashioned colonization, but rather it heralds a future in which land is no longer of any importance.

And what’s Peres’ transcendental perspective on the most contested piece of territory, Jerusalem?

Original Jerusalem, the Sacred Basin, is all told one square kilometer — the Old City, the Temple Mount, that’s the whole story. It’s small, but it’s not territory; it’s a flame, and it is difficult to divide fire, to fence in flames. What can be done? Let’s set aside [the idea of] national sovereignty and let’s look at religious sovereignty. Give each religion responsibility for its own holy sites.

So Israel’s ready to relinquish its claim of national sovereignty with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital and return to the UN’s original proposal for the holy city, internationalization?

All that will do is perpetuate the conflict, but with the involvement of more parties.

Leaving Jerusalem aflame, let’s turn to what for me was the most entertaining part of the interview — where Peres vents some good old Anglophobia (at least there’s one thing Israelis and Iranians see eye-to-eye on) and then reveals that he only watches TV broadcast from Mars.

How do you explain the rise in the delegitimization of Israel in the world in recent years? Do you agree that this is happening?

Let me give you a contrary picture: Israel is the most popular country in the world. [Peres’s media aide giggles. “Benny, you won’t leave here depressed,” she says.] For 2,000 years there was friction between the Vatican and the Jews. There are, what is it, 1.3 billion Christians? Now we have excellent relations with the Vatican. This is no small thing. And we have good relations with India, also hit by Muslim terrorists. And that’s together 3 billion. And [we now have] excellent relations with China.

Right. But why the delegitimization, especially in the West?

Firstly, there is a problem in the Scandinavian countries. They always want to appear like yefei nefesh [the Hebraism roughly translates as “bleeding hearts,” with an undertone of hypocrisy]. And I don’t expect them to understand us. Sweden doesn’t understand why we are at war. For 150 years they have not had a war. There were even Hitler and Stalin, but they kept out of the picture. As did Switzerland. So, they don’t understand why we are “for war,” as if we really like wars. It’s like Marie Antoinette didn’t understand why the people didn’t bake cakes. The same logic.

But it goes a bit beyond [Sweden and Switzerland]?

Our next big problem is England. There are several million Muslim voters. And for many members of parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected. And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment. They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution, despite [issuing the pro-Zionist] Balfour Declaration [in 1917]. They maintained an arms embargo against us [in the 1950s]; they had a defense treaty with Jordan; they always worked against us.

But England changed after the 1940s and 1950s. They supported us in 1967, there was Harold Brown [sic — presumably Harold Wilson or Harold Macmillan, both of whom secretly and illegally assisted Israel’s nuclear program] and Mrs. Thatcher [who were pro-Israeli].

There is also support for Israel today [on the British right].

But in Labor there was always a deep pro-Israeli current.

But [the late 1940s prime minister and Labor leader Clement] Attlee was [anti-Israel].

Anyway, this [pro-Israeli current] vanished because they think the Palestinians are the underdog. In their eyes the Arabs are the underdog. Even though this is irrational. Take the Gaza Strip. We unilaterally evacuated the Gaza Strip [in 2005]. We evacuated 8,000 settlers and it was very difficult, after mobilizing 47,000 policemen [and soldiers]. It cost us $2.5 billion in compensation. We left the Gaza Strip completely. Why did they fire rockets at us, for years they fired rockets at us. Why?

Maybe because they don’t like us?

You fire rockets at everyone you don’t like? For eight years they fired and we refrained from retaliating. When they fired at us, the British didn’t say a word.

Maybe it is anti-Semitism?

Yes, there is also anti-Semitism. There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary. But with Germany relations are pretty good, as with Italy and France.

But there is erosion of public pro-Israel sentiment — at the universities, in the press. I’m not talking about the governments.

I’ll tell you why. On television there is an asymmetry that can’t be corrected. What the terrorists do is never broadcast.

So there you have it, from the man who believes Israel is the most popular country in the world and claims that acts of terrorism directed at Israel never appear on TV. What can one say?

As an Englishman, I naturally take an interest in expressions of suspicion or hostility directed towards the British, but there is one point Peres makes that cannot pass without comment: his reference to Muslim voters in Britain. This is where Peres’ racism seeps out since he cannot bring himself to refer to this political constituency as British Muslims. They are for Peres, Muslims with the power to vote — not Britons who practice Islam.

As for the general tone of the interview as it deals with the British current, I’m reminded of similar, if somewhat more forcefully expressed sentiments coming from an American writer who sees Peter Beinart as a victim of the malevolent British influence.

After Beinart wrote his widely acclaimed piece in the New York Review of Books, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” Jim Sleeper was sure he knew how Beinart’s mind had been corrupted:

Political decay, impotence and bitterness slither out of people in peculiar ways, and, for too many Brits, who have so much more to regret and apologize for and so much bottomless hypocrisy to plumb than Israel ever will, the anguish of decline slithers out against the Jews in eerily disembodied, oddly passionless ways:

“How odd of God to Choose the Jews,” runs a characteristically disdainful verse by the 20th Century British journalist William Norman Ewer. (To which my own riposte is, “Moses, Jesus, Spinoza; Marx, Einstein, and Freud; no wonder the gentiles are annoyed.”)

Well, there are lots of annoying people and things in the world, but British Jews who swallowed Ewer’s hook on some playground or classroom in their early years seem condemned to writhe with it, much as American blacks who’ve internalized a standard of idealized whiteness turn it against blacks who are darker-skinned than themselves, and much as German Jews who’d internalized an idealized German kultur loathed the embarrassing Ostjuden from… Russia and Eastern Europe. Here — and let us not mince words — we are talking about self-hatred, a cold, fine-spun, exacting usurper of sound judgment.

Beinart’s ancestors came from Lithuania, but before World War I they migrated, with a sizable contingent of other Litvaks, to South Africa. In the interwar years of Wilsonian nationalist awakening In Lithuania and all over Europe, many more Lithuanian Jews saw what was rising around them in their home of 500 years and opted for Zionism, transforming their ancestral, liturgical Hebrew into an old/new language and migrating to Palestine in the 1920s and 30s. Still others opted for the more universal promise of Communism in Europe and Russia, and others for capitalist opportunity in America. Those who stayed put were slaughtered — more than 135,000 of them in the woods and fields around their towns and were buried in mass trenches by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen and their Lithuanian recruits in the summer of 1941.

Some Lithuanian-Jewish Communists had fled not to the USSR but to South Africa as well as to America, among them Joseph Slovo, a founder of the African National Congress. A few of the next generation of South African Jews were ANC sympathizers, like the young Ian Shapiro, now a political scientist at Yale. And some of these leftists later became neo-conservatives or bureaucratic apparatchiks in the manner I’ve mentioned, grafting an old mental morphology onto Established Power rather than onto a revolutionary pursuit of Power.

Beinart’s family and most other South African Jews weren’t leftists. They came seeking freedom from persecution and bourgeois. But in South Africa they internalized the idealized British standards I’ve mentioned, and few were immune to internalizing the “odd” but unrelenting British discomfort and pretended bemusement about Jews.

All this prompts many a British Jew’s own efforts at expiation and projection. Even young Beinart, although he grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and attended the Buckingham Brown and Nichols School and then Yale, where he was influenced by the Jewish nationalist political theorist Steven Smith, eventually spent a year at Oxford reckoning with whatever aspirations and insecurities the Brits of South Africa had implanted in his parents and, through them, in him.

This is a recipe for the unsavory mix of aspirations and fears we encountered in his writings and his trajectory as I sketch them briefly in bookforum. Although I don’t share their positions, Chait and Goldberg have a point: Beinart, like the estimable Tony Judt, himself a British Jew, is right in principle about Israel’s worst apologists, but he overstates his case for reasons having more to do with swift, dark currents in history and himself than with the complicated realities in Israel and Palestine.

Maybe I need to place a prominent warning on this site, alerting readers about the dangerous influence of the evil country where I grew up.

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17 thoughts on “Shimon Peres — king of bombast

  1. Boycott Israel Today

    This is fasinating stuff – but I can’t make out what Israel objective is – can someone help me out here?

    Israel is the confused and disturbed bully of the world, I imagine (like millions around the world) how the world would have been without this bully?

  2. Steve C

    “…..There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary.”

    As a 50+ year old Englishman should I feel deprived to have never heard this before?

  3. Michael

    You fire rockets at everyone you don’t like? For eight years they fired and we refrained from retaliating. When they fired at us, the British didn’t say a word.

    Casual observers may be unaware of how false this is: Peres can get away with saying it because what Israel was doing to Gaza after the relocation of its settlements to the West Bank is so little reported that most people are amazed and incredulous on hearing that the number of Palestinians it killed in Gaza in the three years after disengagement was similar to the later death toll in Cast Lead.

    So complete is Israeli dominance of the media discourse that even if you persuade people that the UN figures (see the casualties database) are reliable, you merely advance to the point where you are asserting that Israel ‘retaliated’, albeit disproportionately, as it supposedly did in the case of Cast Lead – and are left with the even more difficult job of persuading them to research the actual sequence of events.

  4. Norman

    It must be the season. reading all the revisionists at work trying to rewrite what has been. The mindset of the Israeli leaders today, boggles the common sense of the World. How arrogant of them to preach to the World that they are the chosen ones. That they are being picked upon if others disagree with them. With the attitude they display to the World, only other mad people would agree with the words being used. They truly are becoming scary. They seem to be imitating the Nazis, though I wonder if they will follow through & just blow their own selfs up, or take out the whole of the middle east?

  5. Christopher Hoare

    What pathetic people, with their eyes firmly focused on the past — and not a real past but one existing only in their imaginations.

    Why would a normal citizen of the world prefer to throw their support to the Palestinians, the Jews might wonder? Suppose it might have something to do with living in the present and looking toward the future?

    This obsession with remaking the past, from the brutal society that keeps ‘secret’ bombs with which to destroy its enemies lest they might achieve any equality, is pure psychosis. Freud must be spinning in his grave.

  6. David R. Evans

    What is even more frightening from a U.S. citizen’s perspective, is that the U.S. Congres rabidly supports these criminal psychopaths, and that we have an electorate that isn’t bright enough to vote them out. Those of us who know the unspeakable truths about Israel need to educate those who refuse to abandon all of the propaganda-inspired myths. An excellent source of good information is:

    And an excellent online documentary that reveals how biased our media is, and how pervasive Israeli propaganda is in the U.S.:

  7. Renfro

    Only thing I can figure about Peres statement about science and land and ‘competition for earth’s resources is either he is trying to throw off the scent of Palestine land theft or “land itself” actually does mean nothing and it’s the resources and ‘riches’ land can produce that is the zionist goal. Anyway, he’s nuts. Or he may becoming senile.

    Have to say I have been seeing some of the vilest stuff ever coming out of the zios lately like this Jim Sleeper. It’s everywhere, and they are going after the net and blogs the hardest.
    Their character attacks get more vicious, tracking their enemies ancestors for gawds sake?..and picking apart every aspect of their lives to explain why this Jew isn’t really a Jew or how he was corrupted by non Jews or a lefty education and on and on.
    Everyone is their enemy and anyone who isn’t on their enemies list today, just wait till tomorrow.

    Seriously, these people have lost it. …they are in meltdown.

    I think it is because they know the public is turning more and more against Israel and it’s bellicose agression every day and they are scared that the US public might start demanding the politicans stop those blank checks to Israel drawn on taxpayer accounts.

  8. Norman

    I know, I already cast an opinion earlier, But, an after thought occurred to me this evening. As I keep repeating myself about Israel having the Bomb, beginning to look as though they will incinerate the Middle East, is the factoid that they, Israel is acting just as Germany did before WWII gobbling up the lessor countries that Chamberlain acquiesced to Hitler. Just a little bit more. As the saying goes, “History tends to repeat itself” sure seems the case here. Only this time, it’s the Palestinians in the roll, & the Israeli’s playing the NAZI”S , compete with the youth movement. What a waste of human power.

  9. Steve

    When Peres asks rhetorically “What importance is there today to land?”, I think that he is uneasily sensing something real, and he is desperately grasping for some firm ground to stand on. Israel isn’t really obtaining sustenance from the land it missappropriates. It is simply using that land as a place to locate its suburban sprawl. In that case, how meaningful is the supposed connection of blood and soil? His rambling on about football and science and the contest to develop “nature’s riches” sounds more poignant than deranged to me. He senses that the core of Israel’s zionist dream is hollow.

  10. Barney.

    ” It’s everywhere, and they are going after the net and blogs the hardest.
    Their character attacks get more vicious, tracking their enemies ancestors for gawds sake?..and picking apart every aspect of their lives to explain why this Jew isn’t really a Jew”

    Renfro, out of interest, who are you referring to here ? I know that Gilad Atzmon has been singled out for sustained defamation, and everyone from Dershowitz to all those ghastly pro war blogs like “Harry’s Place” and Oliver Kamm, Aronovitch and Nick Cohen have singled him out. Also the left like Greenstein and Rance have him in their cross hairs. I don’t think the attacks on him will dissuade him though : Atzmon is a very resilient, tough character and debated some of them very articulately at Oxford University ( there are clips on youtube ) . What all these guys try to do though — is to keep Atzmon out of the mainstream discourse.

    I also know that Neturei Karta are under attack on all sides — they have courage.

    I’d be interested to know who you are refferring to, and how the Zionists have had a go at them.

  11. Colm O' Toole

    “Sweden doesn’t understand why we are at war. For 150 years they have not had a war. There were even Hitler and Stalin, but they kept out of the picture.”

    Sweden supported Finland during the “Winter War” during WW2 when the Soviet Union invaded. Sent 8,000 troops and many planes and weapons. Also Sweden took in 70,000 Finnish children to keep them safe during the war.

    Also according to Wikipedia Sweden took in nearly all of Denmark’s 8,000 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Denmark.

    Goes on to say because of Sweden 99% of Denmark’s Jews survived World War 2. I suppose Shimon Peres might reflect on that when he says Sweden stayed out of WW2 and are “bleeding hearts”.

  12. Barney.

    Colm, good post. Much of that information you posted, whilst certainly not concealed in any way, is still not part of mainstream discourse in any way. Most of us don’t know these aspects of the relevant history, so Peres can get away with lachrmose narratives and cliches to justify his colonial views.

  13. Renfro


    I am referring mainly in my ‘net and blog’ statement to the concerted effort by Israeli activist to now go directly after the owners of blogs and try to discredit or slander and accuse them of being ‘unfair’ and therefore anti Israel and ‘secret anti semites’ and giving ‘platforms’ and encouragement to anti semites in their blogs.

    Without naming names I have seen several very good recent examples of this in very respected blogs that are pure non partisan and non Israel related policy blogs.
    Not being able to control “the comments of the public” and not having any success in combating the negative comments of other posters they have turned to trying to intimidate blog owners, prevent them from publishing anything not favorable to Israel or any reports at all that cast Israel or US zionist or the Israeli lobby in a bad light or even approach ME policy without an Israeli bias. This is a tactic to censor debate and discourse. As in, if the blogs can be kept away from the Israel and I/P or Iran issue there won’t be any comments on it to influence any readers of that blog or stir the pot.

    This tactic was bound to be applied to the net just as they used the usual MSM character attacks on the public figures who have spoken out about Israel and I/P. It’s pretty obvious, if you read critically at all you can’t fail to notice it.

    The Israelis are in desperate overdrive cause they have lost the narrative. And the net has been the driving force in that.

  14. David Marchesi

    One of my early childhood memories was of newsreels reporting the King David Hotel outrage and the killing of Count Bernadotte. In a recent commemoration in Israel of the latter event, probably remembered by the Swedes more than by the Brits, one of the Irgun/Stern gang terrorists ( or an apologist for) noted that “Bernadotte wanted to internationalise Jerusalem, so we killed him” {not necessarily a verbatim quote, but accurate} Israel may be the only country to have had two prime Ministers who won their laurels as terrorists ,against the British and the Palestinians, in their case. It is manifest that Israel’s destiny is to give Jews a bad name. This could be why the “Christian Zionists” are so supportive of the Jewish State- when Armaggedon comes, few Gentiles will weep for the exterminated Jews of Israel.What of the UN in all this ?

  15. Barney.

    David, I agree with much of your post.

    I know some Christian Zionists on a personal level ( work mates ) and what you say is true : they have a simple view of life, and don’t care about the Jews at all other than they are part of their Biblical narratives about the world/after life, and are only included because of that.

    These Xtian Zionists do not seem to be compassionate or caring to anyone who is outside their narratives — you are part of their ‘saved club’ — or you don’t exist.

    Stephen Sizer, an English priest and anti Zionist rejects the Xtian Zionists outright on the grounds that Jesus himself was not part of an ‘in club’ or ‘them and us’ narrative — Jesus was compassionate and non violent to all human beings. Indeed, Jesus rejected a lot of what he saw as the exclusivity of Rabbinical authority.

    Here’s a good Youtube debate with Stephen Sizer on the Xtian Zionists —

    How rare are these Jewish and Christian voices for inclusivity, peace and compassion — and they are all kept out of the mainstream. Shows how powerful the media are doesn’t it ?

    On a related point, some of you may consider the “Century of the Self” video interesting — it shows how Freudian theory was fused with the fascist ideas of Gustave Le Bon as a means to ‘sell pleasure’ to the people and at the same time, control them via advertising and commercialism.

  16. Barney.

    And, even more troubling, have our fellow boarders seen the following footage of a Christian Zionist and Jewish alliance meeting ?

    I find these people to be very very frightening —

    It seems to me that the Christian Zionists subconsciously *see themselves* in Ahmadenijad : they expect the worst, most vengeful, most bloodthirsty messianic apocalyptic armaggedon like behavior from the Iranians — because that is precisely what *they*, the Christian Zionists have in *their minds* to do to others.

    Isn’t that a classic case of what we’d call projection?

  17. Barney.

    Renfro, yes, you are right — in the UK press, The Guardian comment boards ( Comment is Free ) came to the attention of the nutcase Zionist right — and they responded by setting up their own monitoring group, CIFWatch, to monitor what they saw as the blog comments’ “anti Semitism.”

    These people are reaching a state of paranoid and manipulative hysteria in their neurotic visions of what is ‘anti Semitic’ — they see ‘anti Semites’ hiding behind every bush and corner.

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