I think it’s wrong to give up

By Mike Eilan

If all is lost then why bother?

In these hot days towards the end of October, it has been easier to get excited about the American election campaign than what’s happening with Bibi, Shelly, Tzipi and all the other nicknames that denote either familiarity or affection I don’t feel.

At least Obama, whom I like but don’t necessarily agree with, has what the pollsters call a path to victory. It’s true that he’s done hardly anything to help us and the Palestinians make peace, but at least I can hope for a second term turnaround, and also he seems like a smart and decent man who’s done some good things. Continue reading

Israel Needs a Popular Front

The Popular Front was the communist response to European fascism in the Thirties. In a dramatic U-turn in 1934, Stalin broke with previous policy and instructed European communist parties to partner with social democrats and other parties of the Left in order defeat fascism.

The change came too late for the German Communist Party, which had already been decimated by the time that Stalin made his move, but Popular Front governments came to power in both France and Spain. In France, Léon Blum’s government lasted barely a year before falling apart due to strains between its constituent parties, while the government in Spain was overthrown by Franco’s fascists in a civil war.

History does not remember the Popular Front kindly, primarily because it was a Stalinist tool. But it was more than that, too, and there’s much that can be learned from it. The Popular Front in the Thirties was a strategy that enabled communists to form alliances with non-communist, and even bourgeois, parties in the fight against the radical Right. For the first time, communists were able to wrap themselves in the national flag without betraying their principles. Continue reading

Voting with closed minds and memories

Memory is a fluid commodity in Israel.  We remember distinctly God’s gift of the land to the Jews, but, faced with refugees from Africa, we forget that we, too, were refugees not too long ago.

We remember the despair of living under foreign rulers, but we are blind to our own rule over another people, which is happening now and under our noses.

It’s a counter-intuitive memory, which seeps into the spaces where myth and manufactured history already exist but it unable to penetrate the vacuums of deliberate forgetfulness and denial. A very convenient and comforting memory. Continue reading

The intellectual giant and Israel’s cartoon prime minister

Bibi Netanyahu’s speech at the UN last week has, predictably enough, been widely covered in the world’s media, much of it dealing with his use of a cartoon sketch to illustrate the supposed progress of Iran’s nuclear development and the general conclusion that he deferred any Israeli attack on Iran until next spring. I don’t have anything to add on those two scores.

For me, the most fascinating commentary on Bibi’s appearance was not contained in any of words written or images broadcast after the speech, but in the counterpoint created, within days of the speech, by the death of Eric Hobsbawm, the renowned English historian who was both a communist and a Jew. The many obituaries to Hobsbawm have drawn attention, if only inadvertently, to the “other Jew”; one who doesn’t wallow, as Netanyahu does,  in Jewish suffering but takes satisfaction from the Jewish contribution to civilization since the Enlightenment. Continue reading