Aluf Benn is angry with Israel.
Benn is angry with his country over their myopia and narrow self-interest in responding to the Arab revolutions.
How angry is he with his fellow countrymen? Well, he’s at least angry enough at Israel to give him a platform at the Guardian to express his disgust.
Indeed, as Ha’aretz circulation continues to dwindle to minuscule numbers – indicating that an increasing number of Israelis no longer take their fanciful pseudo-intellectual musings seriously – we likely can expect their enfeebled political analyses to appear more often on the pages of ‘Comment is Free’.
In “Israel is blind to the Arab revolution“, CiF March 23, Aluf Benn, the Ha’aretz editor-at-large, displays an impressive ability to avoid allowing stubborn, undeniable political realities to get in the way of his puerile idealism.
Benn lectures Israeli leaders who don’t possess his sophisticated political imagination and “can not see beyond the recent escalation across the Gaza border“, and have not “reached out to the [Arab] revolutionaries, celebrating their achievement or suggesting we need to know them better…”.
Benn then diagnoses our political myopia:
“there’s a deeper motive underlying the Israeli attitude. They see their country as a western bastion, a modern democracy that is unfortunately surrounded by less developed nations.”
Is he implying that Israel’s political exceptionalism in the region is even debatable?
Ben then digs deeper at the roots of Israeli ethnocentrism:
“Beyond eating hummus in local Arab restaurants, the wider Middle Eastern culture is largely shunned by Israeli Jewish society….Israelis are so arrogant and ignorant about their vicinity that whenever we make comparisons, the benchmarks are always the US, western Europe…never Egypt, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority or even Dubai.
“This attitude leads to a policy of self-isolation from neighbouring societies.”
To argue that its Israel which isolates itself from the Arab world, and not the other way around, is a simply staggering inversion – one which, no doubt, plays well in the Shenkin St. cafes in Tel Aviv he likely frequents with Mya Guarnieri and Rachel Shabi.
There are, actually, quite a few very real reasons for Israel’s isolation in the region.
In addition to the toxic anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist incitement which dominates public discourse in the region, the Arab League still maintains a boycott of Israeli goods. While the stringency of the boycott varies according to each Arab nation, this economic warfare, which was initiated in 1945, before Israel was a state, would seem, at the very least, inconsistent with Israel’s integration into the Middle East.
Even more unneighborly, however, is the refusal by many Arab states to allow entrance to anyone who uses an Israeli passport or who has any Israeli stamp in their foreign passport.
The “neighboring” countries who, under most circumstances, don’t accept my Israeli passport include: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Djibouti, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
So, while most Israelis would of course love to have a better relationship with its Arab neighbors, and of course hope that the political upheavals currently taking place in the region will result in a move toward Israeli-style liberal democracy, wishing for something doesn’t make it so, and many quite understandably (given the history of the region) fear the possibility that secular Arab tyrannies may be replaced by regimes influenced or dominated by Islamist movements which are hostile to Israel’s very existence.
No, Mr. Benn, it isn’t cynical to be less than enthusiastic about the potential for this “Arab Spring” to devolve into greater instability and to foment even darker political pathologies.
Its called political sobriety.