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The demise of Israel’s pampered revolutionaries

The leaders of Israel’s social protest movement are rallying their scattered forces for another showdown on Saturday night. The consensus in the media is that it will be a muted affair; like the defeated remnants of Stalingrad dragging themselves to yet another hopeless battle.

My impression is that the social protest movement has imploded. The reasons for that are instructive. In my view they include:

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The Great Gilad Shalit Binge

As I write, Israel is preparing for the Gilad Shalit bacchanalia. For the next 72 hours, perhaps more, the country will indulge in an elaborate orgy of media overkill, voyeurism and self-congratulation that has no equal in the modern world.

Last night, the Supreme Court rejected the petitions that had been lodged against the prisoner swap. That, too, was part of the ritual. The fact that Israel is releasing people accused of horrific crimes, and who clearly remain dedicated to their struggle, can’t be allowed to derail the ceremony. In fact, it’s the entire point. Without the release of hundreds of dangerous prisoners, the whole thing would lose its potency. It would be no more than a human interest story; big-time reality TV.

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The Descendants of the Canaanites and the Jewish State

One of the least understood nuances of the interminable and numbing haggling between the Netanyahu government  and the Palestinians concerns the government’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” On the face of it, it’s an odd demand – Israel has never made the same requirement of any other country with which it established diplomatic relations – but also an innocuous one. After all, Israel does have a decisive Jewish majority and all governing institutions are in safe Jewish hands. That being the case, why should the Palestinians object, even if the demand is unusual?

The answer is that it’s all in the subtext. For only two relatively short words, “Jewish state” carries an extraordinary amount of baggage.

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Yom Kippur in the State of Nirvana

The pool stage of the rugby world cup is now over and the knockout games begin tomorrow. So, it’s a good time to take stock.

Not of the rugby, of course. I wouldn’t try the patience of my devoted readers, most of whom have yet to reach full sports enlightenment, to that extent. Though maybe just a spare thought for the French (with apologies to Philippe.) I have never been much of a student of  things French, so I don’t have the tools to understand why it is that, come crunch time, French sportsmen seem to go to pieces and start stabbing each other with knitting needles. It happened during the football world cup and, right on schedule, it has happened in the rugby as well.

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It’s more important than life or death; it’s rugby

Those of you who rely on this modest column for your weekly (or so) dose of depression and suicide-inducing negativity, are going to have to find a temporary substitute, I’m afraid. Even a jaundiced misanthrope such as myself occasionally finds himself in situations which require that Israel-bashing take a back seat for a while.

Such an occasion is the Rugby World Cup, which began this morning. As I write, the All Blacks are, not unexpectedly, stomping the shit out of the Tongans, and spectacles of similar magnificence (most of them featuring the South Africans as the stomped-on) will be occurring virtually daily for the next month or so. It is a prospect that can test the self-discipline of even the most grumpy amongst us.

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The revolting Israeli middle class

I’ll be at the so-called Million Man demonstration tonight, if only because not attending would identify me (in my own mind) with the reactionary majority of the population. Whatever doubts I have about the motives, sincerity and staying power of the demonstrators, they have broken with the self-satisfied apathy that has characterized Israeli society for the past few decades and that in itself deserves to be supported.

There’s an old, Marxist struggle raging inside me: whether to retain the purity of my ideology – and in so doing achieve absolutely nothing – or to compromise with the less ideologically rigorous and perhaps contribute in a very small way to positive change.

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Visiting normal countries is bad for an Israeli’s health

A few thoughts after a virtually stress-free month in Australia and South Africa:

Australia is wonderful for many reasons: the natural beauty of Sydney (where we spent our time,) the down-to-earth friendliness of the Australians and so on. But what struck me most is that it’s a country seemingly without an agenda; no-one – neither the government nor any dominant group in society – tries to shove an ideology down your throat.

Religion is left to the individual; if there’s an Australian equivalent of the Tea Party it’s out on the fringes and gets no play in the media. I felt no racial or ethnic tensions, though I’m sure they exist. (Like the US, Australia virtually decimated its native inhabitants at a time when such things passed under the radar.)

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Where is the social protest movement headed?

People whose views and instincts I trust (see Chanan Kubitsky’s piece below) assure me that the protest movement over the cost of living is the real thing and will lead to significant change. Not having experienced the beginnings of the social revolt myself, I defer to their greater knowledge.

I have my doubts, however.

1. I find it difficult to accept that, after 44 years of silent acquiescence to (if not actual participation in) the brutal colonization of the Palestinians, Israel’s middle class – or its more youthful component – has suddenly woken up to the fact that injustice exists in Israeli society. In my experience, Israelis are, on the whole, far too indifferent, self-satisfied and mercenary to make much of an effort for the common good. As soon as the individuals that make up the movement feel that they have achieved something for themselves, most of them will return to their middle class self-indulgence, I suspect.

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Stirring up a neurotic nation

I was out of Israel when the social protest movement began and, deep in post-vacation blues, I haven’t managed to come to grips with it since my return. The following piece was written by Chanan Kubitsky.

What can drive an Israeli to leave the confines of her comfortable air-conditioned home and take to the sweaty Tel Aviv streets one day in July?

Not having one.

Four weeks ago, Daphne Leef, a video editor aged 25, lost her apartment to an outrageously high demand for rent. So she pitched a tent in the middle of Rothschild Boulevard. Pretty soon other tents popped up with some more disgruntled renters. They sleep over, brush their teeth in the garden fountain, shower at the gym, and go to work.

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Arab flotillas versus Jewish flotillas

Flotilla frenzy is at a peak. The Israeli army is leaking reports of ships loaded with sulphur and god knows what else.  Ehud “Mad Dog” Barak and our plank of a chief of staff labelled the flotilla a “provocation,” as if that was the first cousin of a pogrom.

Of course it’s a fucking provocation. To provoke is to incite, anger or irritate and that’s exactly what the organizers of the flotilla want to do. To provoke the world into remembering Gaza. Because what Israel wants is for the world to forget it. As if Israel never indulged in provocation itself.