6 thoughts on “Zionism and the Cult of Death – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. It is an interesting article, no doubt.

    However, I do not completely buy some of the leaps that he makes. For example, he talks about “The ‘new Jewish man’ in this ideology, [who] was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, to die defending his land and people” and then says “It is deeply ironic that the very same society now claims to be shocked by the ‘martyrdom culture’ in the occupied territories.” There is a profound difference between the idealogy of Trumpeldor of dying to defend ones land and people and dying to murder another’s people. I think that Western culture and certainly Jewish thought is shocked by the notion of a suicide bomber who will kill himself in order to kill as many civilians of the “enemy” as possible.

    Also, he says: “The trial was [first and foremost] a grand attempt to shape Jewish and Holocaust history and memory by a single man, Ben-Gurion, and it had far less to do with the task of proving Eichmann’s guilt.” However, Ben-Gurion is not the one he quotes from the trial-Ben Gurion was not the prosecution. It was the Attorney-General. It was hardly a single-handed attempt by Ben Gurion to do anything.

    Lastly, I do not think, as Kimmerling does, that the ideology of Trumpeldor reigns in modern Zionism or modern Israel. The mantra of “it is good to LIVE for one’s country” is most prevalent amongst Zionists today. Most Israelis and Zionists realise that the Zionist movement now faces very different challenges from those of Trumpeldor’s day, or those from before 1948, or even 1967.

  2. I think you & Kimmerling are focussing on 2 diff. aspects of the Trumpeldor/suicide bomber comparison. What Kimmerling is talking about is the similarity bet. both in conceiving of their respective deaths as martyrdom for a national cause. In this way, both are identical in the way they conceive of such a death.

    You are talking about the ways in which ea. chooses to die: one in murdering innocent civilians & Trumpeldor on the battlefield. I would agree with you that in this comparison there are marked moral differences.

    As for your contention that western & Jewish thought is shocked by the notion of suicide bombers. Yes, this is true. I certainly abhor suicide bombings. But suicide bombers have grown more common as a means of nationalist/political resistance (the Tamils have used it most often) & not just in the Arab world.

    Are you arguing that Gideon Hausner was not taking any direction at all fr. Ben Gurion? And if Alberto Gonzales was trying Osama bin Laden in a U.S. court (not very likely given how averse Bush is to using our judicial system to try terrorists) you would say that George Bush was not directing or strongly influencing the trial? No, this trial was Ben Gurion’s baby. He set the tone. Hausner certainly was an agent in the process. But Ben Gurion was the spearhead.

    Oh, so you claim the Zionist movement’s mantra is “it is good to live for one’s country?” Does that include those in the settler movement who advocate violence against Israeli troops & the prime minister himself? Does that include those among the Likud & other right wing parties who held up images of Yitzchak Rabin as a Nazi before he was assassinated? You have given precious little proof for your contention that latter day Zionism is life-affirming movement (& keep in mind that I consider myself a progressive Zionist). If this were so (that it was life-affirming), then all major Zionist movements would be working to find an effective negotiated resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Because such a settlement is the only way to save Israeli (& Palestinian) lives in the long run. As long as Zionist groups and political parties (Likud, etc) reject a negotiated settlement on any but their own narrow terms, then an excellent argument can be made that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of Israel’s citizens for their grand vision of a triumphalist State. And this constitutes a “death culture” in my opinion in line with Kimmerling’s arguments.

  3. I don’t know enough about the exact role of the Attorney General to know how independent the job is. However, I certainly know that the current one, Meni Mazuz, has made some rather uncomfortable rulings for the government. I doubt if Ben Gurion told a lawyer exactly how to prosecute someone, though without doubt he had an influence on proceedings, considering their huge importance to the state.

    I agree that I have given little evidence that Israelis believe “it is good to live for one’s country”. My belief is based on personal experience of living in Israel for a year and having lots of friends of army age. Anecdotal evidence, I will admit, yet it is the prevailing atmosphere amongst the many, many Israelis with whom I have spoken.

    You are right to point out that the Zionist movement embraces a huge breadth of different political views. However, I have 2 problems with your comments. Firstly: I completely reject the notion that the far right-wing should be taken to represent the Zionist movement (I’d have thought that you agree). Therefore, the vast majority of Zionists hold to the above mantra (one cannot account for extremists). Secondly: I think that it is grossly unfair to suggest that the Likud party’s policies are based on anything other than what they see to be the best interests of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. You may disagree with their policies (I disagree with many of them too!), but it is somewhat narrowminded to believe that your politics are the only way, and those who disagree do not have the best interests of Israel at heart. Specifically, to write-off Likud as “reject[ing] a negotiated settlement on any but their own narrow terms” is just not true! Fine, you disagree with the way that they are going about it, but Sharon is willing to negotiate. If you believe otherwise then you certainly disagree with the EU, US, Russia, most of the Arab world, Mahmoud Abbas, etc. who are engaged in the current slow road to stabilisation and negotiations.

  4. The “far right” currently dominates Israeli politics so it is accurate to say that their views represent a major, if not preponderant perspective within contemporary Zionism.

    It is simply wrong to contend that the Likud is in favor of a negotiatied settlement with the Palestinians. If you seriously believe this, then you’ll have to provide some solid evidence–& how would you find any because they simply don’t?! Sharon isn’t even willing to negotiate a Gaza withdrawal–remember that this is a UNILATERAL decision on Israel’s part (yes, there is some small measure of discussion now, but that’s mostly after the fact since Sharon has already laid out the withdrawal plan entirely without Palestinian input or contribution); let alone a negotiated settlement of the entire conflcit (& this is what I’m really talking about–not piecemeal negotiations over this or that single issue).

    Oh I don’t doubt that Likud views their policies as in the best interest of the State of Israel. But George Bush, Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin and even Adolph Hitler believe/d similarly. So what does that prove? Those (Likud) policies still lead indirectly to the needless murder of Israeli & Palestinian civilians. Therefore the “death culture” critique is entirely valid IMO.

    Hmmm, let’s see: I “disagree with the EU, US, Russia…” because I contend that neither Sharon nor the Likud want a full-fledged peace agreement with the Palestinians???!! What are you smokin’?? All the nations & individuals you list do believe in a negotiated settlement as you say, but how many in their heart of hearts believe that Sharon wants the same thing?

  5. The Sharon government are not the far right. The right wing are up in arms about the disengagement plan. Furthermore, Ichud Ha’leumi (National Union) and NRP both left the government, which is now a unity government with both of the major parties, Likud and Labour. The far right do not dominate Israeli politics.

    What this discussion again comes down to is your fixation on demonising Ariel Sharon, rather than having a mature appraisal of his policies. The disengagement plan shows that he is willing to give up land. It shows that he is willing to make painful sacrifices. His restraint following the suicide bombing last Friday shows that he wants to give Mahmoud Abbas time to establish himself. The Sharm el-Sheikh conference shows that he wants to engage with the new Palestinian leadership. He is very much committed to the current process. If (as we all hope) it continues, it will lead to full negotiations. I do not buy your conspiracy theories about Sharon having some sinister alternative plan. It just isn’t true!

  6. Now we’re starting to get into arcane aspects of Israeli politics. But in your most recent comment you betray an incomplete analysis of the political scene in Israel. There are fine gradations of difference between the right/hard-right parties. Perhaps Sharon isn’t the hardest of the hard right but he’s a man of the right through & through even now that he betrays some readiness to soften some of his harder right positions via the Gaza withdrawal. Adding Labor to his coalition is a temporary convenience for Sharon & Labor as both want a Gaza withdrawal (for diff. reasons). I doubt the coalition will last much beyond this particular event (unless he shows a willingness to expand his efforts at a negotiated settlement w. the Palestinians).

    If you can look at the ministers in his immediately previous government & can honestly tell me they were not hard right, then your political eyeglasses are terribly fogged. You wish to see only the best & most decent in Israeli politics (including Sharon’s government), but you’re only seeing what you want to see & not what’s really there right in front of yr. eyes.

    I’m completely realistic about Sharon & his policies. The Gaza withdrawal (while a relatively good thing in & of itself) is a tactical ploy designed to divert world & U.S. opinion from putting further & more agonizing pressure on Israel to come to a final, comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians. As for my supposed deluded “conspiracy theories,” Sharon’s most trusted advisor said precisely this in a famous interview with Haaretz a few months ago (which I’ve posted about here). For you to ignore this again shows your willful blindness at the nature of Israel’s right wing political world view.

    I think we’ve both had our go at this topic, Colin. Let’s move on to other things. But again, you’re always welcome to post here & I welcome the divergent opinions you contribute.

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