Guardian

Plaiting Sawdust


Reading Antony Lerman’s latest CiF offering was about as productive as plaiting sawdust.

Lerman’s attempts to present Zionism as some sort of reactionary stance which is toxic to any green shoots of peace in the Middle East by citing supposed foundations for his view from sources such as Moshe Arens, through the World Zionist Congress to Peter Beinart fall as flat as an under-baked soufflé due to his usual stubborn insistence upon avoiding any mention of the full range of factors which have contributed to the failed peace-making attempts of the past two decades.

“Israel may show all the signs of being a typical westernised, post-ideological society. But in response to growing international pressure over recent years and with the country’s centre of political gravity drifting to the far right, Zionist ideology appears to be playing an increasingly important role in decision-making and in determining the face that Israel presents to the world. “

With typical sleight of hand, Lerman in this opening paragraph attempts to persuade the reader that there is a link to be made between Zionist ideology and the ‘far right’, thereby attempting to discredit the former by linking it to something the reader will instinctively reject. This does not stand up to scrutiny from any angle: Zionism is something which transcends or precedes political viewpoints for most Israelis and is the mesh which holds this truly multi-cultural and far from ‘post-ideological’ society together.

Neither is it any more true to say that Israel has moved to the right from a political point of view than to make the same statement about the United Kingdom based upon the results of the recent elections there. The party which received the most votes in the last Israeli elections was Kadima, but coalition building sometimes produces strange bed-fellows as the British people should now be finding out. Both the current Likud-led government and the vast majority of the Israeli people today accept and support the concept of a two-state solution; thirty years ago this was an eccentric fringe opinion in Israeli society. If anything, Lerman would be more correct if he pointed out that as in many European countries, the Left in Israel has caused itself to become increasingly less relevant and centrists either mildly to the right or left, but with little to distinguish between their policies and principles, command the majority vote.

Lerman’s lack of understanding concerning internal Israeli politics is painfully obvious from the manner in which he somewhat chauvinistically insists upon analysing them within the framework of his own political experiences, which are of course entirely irrelevant to those of a different nation on a different continent with vastly different collective experiences. Unfortunately he is not alone in making this error; many of the sources he cites as back-up to his erroneous argument make the same mistake. Thus we see the latest World Zionist Congress – influenced by J-Street – and Peter Beinart in his recent essay, adopting a view of contemporary Zionism which actually says more about those who do not live the Zionist experience every day of their lives than those who do.

In the comments to Lerman’s article, Matt Seaton described Beinart’s essay as ‘seminal’. One wonders how creative or original a viewpoint so one-sided that it completely ignores almost two decades of post-Oslo Intifada, rocket attacks and war can possibly be. Equally one wonders what lack of humility can prompt outside commentators to dismiss the often painful experiences of a whole nation in favour of somewhat patriarchal finger-wagging, particularly in light of the prospect of threats to come. In a conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg, Beinart stated that “over the long run, the best way to undermine Nasrallah and people like him is to give hope to those Palestinians and Muslims who do want a two-state solution.” With all due respect, these are the words of a man whose comprehension of the Middle East has as many holes in it as a lump of Emmental cheese.

This, of course, is precisely the problem with so many in the Western world who choose to commentate on Israel or seek to influence its policies and actions. Their desperate wish for Israeli Jews to behave as they think they would in the same circumstances (despite never having had to contend with them) and their strident criticism when we do not conform or live up to their expectations is fuelled by an enormous blind spot. The brand of modern liberal Zionism which may well be appropriate in the micro-cosmos of North London or New York does not have to stand up to the same tests as Zionism in the Jewish state. Neither is it influenced by the experiences of the Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews who make up a large proportion of Israeli society. It is therefore as inappropriate in the Israeli environment as an Englishman’s three-piece suit in an August heat wave.

For Lerman and others of his background and viewpoint, Zionism is an optional extra. For Israelis it is something to be lived every good day or bad day of their lives and a constantly evolving challenge. This fact must be recognised by all parties as an integral cornerstone of a positive future for the Middle East, and the first step towards this is to dismantle the blanket connection made by Lerman and others between Zionism and far-right ultra nationalism; a connection which is not only patently false, but which serves a political agenda opposed to Jewish self-determination and can only have the detrimental result of silencing the moderate majority of Zionists who seek a peaceful two-state solution to the conflict.

14 replies »

  1. “Plaiting sawdust”,could be easier than plaiting Baldy’s last three strands of hair

    How exciting another article from baldy,who gets hair clippers for his birthday.

    A meaningless article so bad,that Matt Seaton had to come to his rescue.

    But these two brown-noses, the Scottish Socialist,and Martyn Jones liked it.

  2. “This fact must be recognised by all parties as an integral cornerstone of a positive future for the Middle East, and the first step towards this is to dismantle the blanket connection made by Lerman and others between Zionism and far-right ultra nationalism; a connection which is not only patently false, but which serves a political agenda opposed to Jewish self-determination and can only have the detrimental result of silencing the moderate majority of Zionists who seek a peaceful two-state solution to the conflict.”

    I believe you nailed it there!

    turn the tables.

    Good post.

  3. Hi Boys and girls! Let’s count together how many times the term ZIONISM is featured in the article! Can you guess, boys and girls?

    29.

    29 bottles on the wall. 29 times the jobless weirdo mentions his favorite irrelevant word to describe the phantom that exists in his head- a 62 year-old colonial brutal domination over the poor helpless natives.

    A big word, like Imperialism, like Colonialism- it ends with “ism” so it must be cerebral and deep. A beast run by blind internal momentum that needs to be questioned, stopped. Something that the Guardian is busy turning from an archaic, ESTABLISHED idea, into a new derogatory word, the new Apartheid.

    62 years later and Jewish self-determination needs to be assessed again and again by the jobless weirdo and his minions. The weirdo is busy creating a narrative, folks. Don’t interrupt him, don’t interfere.

    Don’t mention Z word.

  4. “Plaiting sawdust!” I like the analogy Hawkeye.

    And yes, Lerman is wrestling smoke, too, when he tries to approach such a topic with his biases even from a pseudo-intellectual standpoint.

  5. @FoolMeOnce

    Hi Boys and girls! Let’s count together how many times “FoolMeOnce” said something remotely intelligent or useful! Can you guess, boys and girls?

    Oh I’m sorry I seem to have caught the 2-bit sarcastic bug from the last person, shame on me…

    This is how you sound to people “FoolMeOnce”, perhaps you really are the Fool or just a typical run of the mill closed minded, antisemetic, anti-Israel, got nothing better to do with my life and time person who thinks that they actually “give a damn” about anything and who thinks that their joining the club of the Israel/Jew haters makes them feel real good about themselves and truly know nothing of anything except their own mindless self-hating ramblings…

    I guess ignorance truly is bliss!

    If you dont want sarcastic responses or unintelligent comebacks like mine above, then dont bother doing it in the first place…because this is all you will get and you will be nowhere and learn nothing in your life…

    Good luck!

  6. Thanks, Hawkeye. This is a good analysis, particularly:

    “…Lerman’s lack of understanding concerning internal Israeli politics is painfully obvious from the manner in which he somewhat chauvinistically insists upon analysing them within the framework of his own political experiences..”

    My point is that being chauvinistic and analysing from within the framework of his own political experiences is the only way in which bitter and twisted Lerman is able to approach Israeli politics.

    He, in common with his Guardianista colleagues above and below the line cannot do complexity at all. Lerman is so pressured by his hatred that he can only make and perceive “either/or”, “black/white” arguments.

    Lerman is in mental turmoil cannot notice nuance – it’s as if all his energy has to be concentrated on being right at any cost, when it isn’t calculated to try to spite the people he perceives have wronged him. So he battens onto the extremes which are starkly evident, even if they are unrealistic or untrue, and, being starkly evident, can be simplified to the nth degree.

  7. Mitnaged

    Apologies – the article was posted under my name by mistake – Israelinurse deserves the credit. Been fixed.

  8. Israel Muse

    Tsk tsk sunshine, got up on wrong side on bed? (2-bit sarcasm)

    Are you the jobless weirdo or one of his minions? You ARE aware I was refering to the LERMAN article, right? although re-reading my post I now suspect it isn’t that clear… 😛

  9. COMMENT: I was refering to the Lerman article in my above post. Prehaps that came out not entirely clear 🙂

  10. @FoolMeOnce

    LOL 🙂 Ok now don’t I feel like the fool, I hereby apologize for my poor “sarcastic comeback attack” on your comment but yes it didnt seem clear what article you were referring to, thanks for clearing that up…

    I will be available all week for sessions of “pulling my foot out of my mouth” 🙂

  11. Israel Muse

    The error was all mine, in fact I mentioned NOWHERE what article I was writing about. 🙂

    Not only that, but I can see my sarcasm was over the top even for dealing with Lerman (who seems to draw cynicism like a magnet).

    I will take this as a lesson. Apologies too.

  12. Cross-posted from Medusa’s thread – I think it applies equally here, and if AKUS looks in, there’s a part addressed to him:

    “..Serendipity
    Rate This

    “…. Analysing anything related to Lerman must be very like trying to catch smoke, but you’ve made a pretty good fist of this, Medusa.

    “I find Seaton’s “contributions” just as confused and confusing. Were he an ordinary poster at the other place, he’d be banned by now for burbling inanities (but let’s face it, their resident burbler is still very much in evidence, but over there rather than here, thank the merciful heavens).

    “AKUS, I tried to read Lerman’s bio here and I got the impression that although the writer of it did very well, Lerman had succeeded in throwing up yet another smokescreen. Can you tell us anything else about the circumstances of his departure from IJPR and whether he’s continued to embitter and twist other organisations he works with?”

  13. Israelinurse, congratulations on this.

    I try to read Lerman’s drivel, but everything he writes is so deadening. I believe he has this effect on almost everyone, except the dopes on CiF. What is your antidote to feeling as if the vitality is being leached out of you?

    For myself, by the time I get to the end of what he has written I feel as if I am trying to walk neck-deep in treacle.

    I think he does this on purpose….

  14. IsraelMuse and FoolMeOnce I am unaccustomed to all this good humour and good manners. You are aware that this is the blogosphere aren’t you, where people have to be cajoled into being marginally bearable?