Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Our Dignity Matters


Israel has lost some of its support in Britain and in other European countries over time … because of settlement activity, which we condemn.” So said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, with the assumption taken for granted that the Jewish nation-state is so much in need of British and European support that such a statement would be enough to sway policymaking in Israel. While many of the comments below the article endeavored to disabuse him of that notion, common-sense reactions as displayed by Israeli Jewish hoi polloi have yet to trickle up to Israel’s all-knowing media and fearless leadership. (Yes, you got that right: Sarcasm.)

Israel’s leaders are pragmatic to a fault. So steeped are they in the philosophy of “Better be smart than right” that they fail to see how over-pragmatism amounts to the least smart and pragmatic course of action. Israel’s constant apologies to aggressors and half-hearted actions where said aggressors are still supplied with “humanitarian” food, water and electricity are like a neon light that attracts attention all around, bringing to relief the ability to prey on the Jewish state’s chief weakness, that desire to be loved at all costs. What may have begun as a reaction to centuries of Jewish existence hated by the surrounding non-Jews (Christians and Muslims alike) has grown into a hypercorrective madness, an attitude of abject kneeling that no other nation would lower itself to.

Sentimental though the concept of dignity might seem, it is in a nation-state’s highest pragmatic interests to preserve it, even at the cost of outward shows. We can learn this from one leader before whom ours have recently prostrated, Turkey’s Islamic dictator Erdoğan. After the Terrorism Flotilla incident of 2010, he insolently addressed Israel on the scenario of losing Israeli tourism to Turkey, saying Turkey had no need for all the tourists from Israel, being quite capable of filling the void with tourists from Muslim countries.

Unless Erdoğan could somehow bring an air-convoy of Muslim tourists from the rest of the world, it is obvious that his was an empty boast. The number of Muslim tourists already visiting Turkey could not magically rise, while the absence of the Israeli Jewish tourists would surely be felt—all the more so as Israeli tourism in Turkey was such a booming business prior to the Terrorism Flotilla incident. Erdoğan probably knew it when made that statement; if not, then his underlings in charge of Turkey’s tourism and finances did, whether or not they had the courage to tell their dictatorial boss so. But Erdoğan had the dignity of Turkey in mind, and he was not going to sacrifice it for Israeli tourism, no matter how much money was to be had that way. Three years later his decision paid off, in receiving an apology from the leader of the country he attacked, a leader who thinks national dignity is a small short-term price to pay, long-term consequences be damned.

Likewise, the Turkish press dutifully takes care not to call members of the Kurdish nation by name. “Mountain Turks,” that is the name assigned to those non-Turkish, non-Arab speakers of a language related to, yet distinct from, Persian on the southeastern regions of Turkey. Unlike the Arab settler-colonists in Palestine, the Kurds are a real nation (they have a distinct language and culture), not a contrived anti-nation propaganda device. What a contrast, then, we have between Turkey’s insistence on her stance up to the point of denialism and Israel’s bone-headed refusal to uphold her dignity by adhering to the truth, to an anti-denialist stance (for the fictitious non-Jewish faux-Palestinian nation narrative has but one purpose, the denial of the truth that the Jews are the one and only Palestinian nation).

I know what many people will say at this point: “We can’t lie to ourselves; the reality is that we do need things from other nations.” But that was not my argument. Every nation needs things from other nations in our day and age; the issue is what lengths a nation would go to attain those needs. My argument is that the prices Israel is willing to pay go far beyond sanity, beyond what any normal nation would pay. And by “pay” I’m not talking about money but the far greater price of national dignity, a price that is later realized in Jewish blood as the loss of dignity invites all manner of attackers, knowing that they would later be apologized to and compensated by those they had attacked.

In many classical Jew-hating websites (those that do not bother to hide their Jew-hatred under the mantle of anti-Zionism; the Far Right cesspools, for example), it is customary to refer to the U.S.A., and often the entire non-Jewish world, as the shabbos goy of the state of Israel, recruited to do the Jews’ dirty work for free. In the world of Jewish Law, the shabbos goy is a non-Jew who does some work that is forbidden for Jews on Shabbat where it is essential, such as flipping the circuit breaker to restore the light to a synagogue. Crucially, however, Jewish Law says the shabbos goy is not to do the job for free—he or she must be paid. This is so that the job would not be a favor they do the Jews, and therefore the Jews would not be indebted. A shabbos goy is employed as a matter of plain dealing.

Whether Israel can do this thing or the other by itself or needs help from outside, it is clear that the help from outside has not been on the lines of the shabbos goy, contrary to the assertions of the aforementioned Jew-hating scum. Instead of plain dealing, Israel has far too much courted the favors of non-Jewish states. America’s foreign aid that has become a tool of extortion to make Israel give up its own lands needs no elaboration upon. Submarines have been ordered at a cut price from Germany in the thought that the “special post-Holocaust relationship” would make such a deal safe, only to have one of the recent orders threatened by the German government on account of Israel’s “West Bank settlement” activity. Had the orders been a matter of pure plain dealing, any such threat could be responded to by a counter-threat that our money would be spent elsewhere.

We need certain things from the non-Jewish states, such as weapons, but why do they have to be obtained through favors? Why not just buy and close the deal, with no fanfare and no strings attached? Israel’s pragmatic needs can be answered without compromising her dignity, simply by employing the same common-sense methods that any normal nation-state does. We Jews can inhabit our country without limit (that means the post-1967 territories as well), tell the world our enemies are just a part of the Arab nation, drive out a flotilla of terrorists and terrorism supporters without any apology later and keep our dignity, our pride before the other nations, at the same time. How is it done? Simply by sticking to plain dealing—by not giving other nations any opening to manipulate us through the attaching strings of favors done.

One of the earliest works urging the revival of Jewish nationalism (a.k.a. Zionism) was the book Auto-Emancipation by Leon Pinsker. In it, he called for the Jews to return to being masters of their own fates—masters in the sense that any other, normal, nation is a master of its fate. This vision has gotten derailed in recent times, yet it is not too late to return to it.


  1. Netanyahu lost me when he caved to Obama's pressure and apologized to Erdoğan.

    It was craven.

    In any case, this piece is brilliant and holds all sorts of potential for discussion.

    "America’s foreign aid that has become a tool of extortion to make Israel give up its own lands needs no elaboration upon."

    I would love to see Israel thank the US for its foreign aid in the past, but allow them to understand that it is no longer necessary.

    Do you suppose that there is any possibility of that happening anytime in the near future?

    I doubt it, but it should be done.

  2. American aid, is 75% military and 25% civilian. Of the military aid, 75% of it is spent in the US on resources that can't be acquired elsewhere. There is another 300-400 million in shared development spending which is matched dollar for dollar by Israel. That is work on missile defense, for the most part which the US takes advantage of, like Iron Dome.

    But you have to look at that in the universe of aid in the whole region. The US gives Jordan about $450 million a year, the PLO about $275 million a year, Egypt gets 1.9 - 2.0 billion in direct military aid. And then there's Saudi Arabia and the GCC states who are routinely given sweetheart deals to procure state of the art systems including 3 AWACS platforms. LAst month a $10 billion dollar deal was announced. Add to that the secret billions dumped into Yemen's drone civil war, the fiasco in Libya, the $7 billion a year we spend in Pakistan and all the aid, materiel and covert assistance to Iraq. And an airbase in Uzbekistan. And US's underwriting of NATO while giving essentially strategic directional control TO Turkey.

    And - while all this is happening, the US buys outright, a few billion in tactical gear developed in Israel such as avionics, anti tank and air to ground missiles.

    One thing Israel could do is use the F-35 JSF program as leverage. Either Israel could get a bigger deal and more participation and flexibility or they can walk away as a tier-2 partner. It's not been crystal clear if the F-35 will ever see the light of day so Israel might be better served walking away from it. If they scan, perhaps they can use some of that that allotment for F-15SSE and F-16 upgrades for what might be the last generation of piloted attack aircraft. And spend the rest on a mini X-47B type program to develop an Israeli indigenous jet powered fighter/attack stealth drone. Israel leads the world in UAVs but will have to maintain a qualitative edge in the face of the US, Russia, China building their own. Moreover, with an indigenous program there's far less risk of scope creep which is killing the F-35. and not to leave the mobile armor behind, work to make more deadly systems against Egyptian M1A2 Abrams tanks and Apache attack helicopters and F-16's Obama likes to reward them with.

  3. Mike,

    It's not like there were no good ways for Netanyahu to respond. Turkey sends a flotilla to bring aid and comfort to Israel's belligerent enemies—respond in kind by arming the Kurds. Why the heck is it so hard? But the Israeli government wouldn't even threaten with that option, let alone actually carry it out. The idea that Israel needs Turkey and must retain relationships with it at all costs seems to have been ingrained in the policymakers' thinking.

    As for U.S. aid to Israel, what may have begun truly as a free gift in the days of LBJ and Nixon has morphed into a set of chains. Although it's possible for the U.S. to strong-arm Israel without aid—as Eisenhower did in 1956—it's still important to take away as many levers over us as possible. For length reasons I didn't include the facts about Israel's ability to wean itself, but fortunately Empress Trudy supplies these in her excellent comment. So, as with standing up to Turkey, it is only the psychological frailty of Israel's leadership that's getting in the way of making the common-sense moves Israel should do.