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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.

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Israel and the apartheid mindset

Arthur Goldreich died in Israel a few weeks ago. I only met him a couple of times over the years, but he was a formative figure when I was growing up, as the Rivonia detainee who, along with Harold Wolpe,escaped from detention in Marshal Square (I think) and miraculously managed to get out of South Africa.

The Pimpernel-like escape of Goldreich and Wolpe was one of the few rays of light during a very dark period for the opposition to apartheid. The Nationalist regime was rampant, and its inability to catch the two (Jewish) escapees was a vicarious victory for those of us who hated the Nats. That, at any rate, is how I remember it.

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When fact is narrative and narrative is fact

There’s a surprisingly simplistic and confused article by Shlomo Avineri in today’s Ha’aretz. I’ve never been a big fan of Avineri’s middle-of-the-road politics, but I always thought him to be smart. Not any more.

I assume it’s the ravages of age – and far be it for an old fart like me to hold that against anyone. Avineri was a professor at the Hebrew U when I was a student there (or was that the period he was DG of the Foreign Ministry?) My fucking memory is shot. Either way, the dude has got to be pretty ancient.  But that doesn’t excuse his writing crap.

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All Our Little Eichmanns

My apartment in Tel Aviv is around the corner from Kikar Rabin, the central square that is the site of choice for demonstrations, celebrations and municipal events. It is also, of course, the place where former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, an event that transformed the plain and not particularly attractive square into a tourist attraction of sorts.

Prominent amongst the visitors to the square on any given day are groups of young American adults on so-called birthright tours, zionist propaganda missions sponsored by the Israeli government, US Jewish federations and a number of rich individuals, such as Charles Bronfman.  The purpose of bringing these groups to Israel, according to the organization’s web site, is to “diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.”

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Putting the Boot into Obama

Two days ago I wrote about the dispiriting spectacle (to put it mildly) of an American president having to bend the knee in front of a group of his countrymen doing the bidding of a foreign country. I was referring, of course, to Barak Obama’s appearance before the American Israel Publics Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to put forward his side of the disagreement with Bibi Netanyahu.

Since then a couple of things have happened that put a far more alarming spin on the Obama-Netanyahu row.