35 thoughts on “Paul Auster’s Moral Ambivalence on Israel – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.

  1. Great article. Thank you.
    What a shame. The experience most of the world had hoped would have worked out turned into a nightmare.

      1. Bloodshed ended slavery in the United States….(The Civil War).
        Bloodshed ended the Holocaust….(The Allies’ war machine).

        1. Bloodshed characterized the Crusades but didn’t bring anything positive to the world. Bloodshed characterized the American Indian wars which led to genocide against them and white domination of U.S. territory. Millions were killed in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda & Cambodia. Can you tell me what ‘greater good’ came from any of them?

          WWII btw was not a conflict designed to end the Holocaust. Sorry to disenlighten you. It was happenstance that the war ended the killing. But if it had not been in the Allies interest to fight & defeat the Nazis, the Allies would likely never have intervened to end the Shoah.

          A historian you’re not. Why don’t you leave historical speculation to the Big Boys?

          1. To quibble, the Khmer Rouge lost power due to the Vietnamese invasion and the Interahamwe/Hutu Power groups were routed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. I don’t like violence. But Gandhian non-violence and civil disobedience only works when your opponent is bound by morality, or humanity.

  2. i second shlomo’s praise. a couple of points, though.

    i don’t sense much ambivalence on auster’s part, his argument being, more or less, that zionism is being sullied by the ultra-religioius. he doesn’t suffer the least bit of ambivalence over zionism’s birth and evolution up to the ‘unforseeable’ intrusion of religious fanaticism. which raises my second point: auster is either emotionally incapable of understanding the inevitable trajectory of zionism, or he is simply ignorant of the facts. there is nothing unpredictable about the development of religious fanatacism. israel’s foundation is built on the so-called secularization of religious mythology, an oxymoron if there ever was one, and it’s continuation is dependent upon immigration, which naturally draws idealists of the ‘frontier’ type, the likes of which auster finds distasteful.

  3. Subsequent to her husbands arrest,Isra Shalhab was arrested, detained for two weeks, and released. I would submit that she not arrested because she was a journalist, but because of something her husband had done against Israel’s security interests.

    1. You don’t submit anything without proof. What is your proof? If you publish an unsubstantiated claim like that again here you are violating the comment rules. Assuming the secret police act in a certain fashion based on hunches & good faith is a ridiculous proposition. Bring proof next time or don’t bring anything.

        1. You refer to a Politico story reporting that Adelson planned to give $20 million to Newt’s campaign. A story I believe is true and Bob Mann doubted. In fact Adelson has now given $10 million to Newt with more expected. He’s given Newta total of $17 million since 2006. So as far as I’m concerned Politico is right on the mark and my confidence in their source is justified.

          Now what were you nattering about??

  4. “…the Occupation IS Israel. It isn’t apart from it.”

    I have always felt that the failure to understand this is what characterizes J Street. I have believed this since J Street’s first conference, as it was evidenced in almost every protest of love for Israel — and there were plenty of those.

    I, too, despair of what will replace Israel. What I foresee is mass exodus and 200 nukes in the hands of religious fanatics and testosterone-fueled settlers.

  5. Silverstein says:
    “Auster … has little more than an artificial sense of what Israeli life is like.”

    You and he have that in common at least.

      1. Silverstein says: “My knowledge of Israel is not only superior to Auster, it’s superior to yours. You are in no position to judge credibly my level of knowledge of Israeli life.”

        Buddy – I live here and have done so for close on four decades. Not only is my knowledge of Israel and Israeli life superior to yours, my knowledge of the realities of what you call Israeli Palestinian life is greater than yours, since I meet and interact with I s r a e l i A r a b s on a day to day basis. All you know is what you cull from your so-called “high-placed sources” (in whose very existence I take leave to doubt) and what you read in the mass media, from which you invariably pick out whatever can be twisted to seem most disadvantageous to Israel. I judge your level of knowledge of Israeli life from what you write.

        1. My goodness. Yet another hasbarist claiming her knowledge of Israeli Palestinian life is superior to mine because she actually sees them walking in the street or because one works in her office or because a friend of her second cousin has an Arab for a friend. Do tell us from where your profound knowledge of them derives. We await with baited breath.

          1. Where does Simone say that her knowledge is based on the fact that “she sees them walking in the street or because one works in her office or because a friend of her second cousin has an Arab for a friend?”

            What she actually said was: “I live here and have done so for close on four decades… I meet and interact with Israeli Arabs on a day to day basis.” Nothing about “a friend of her second cousin has an Arab friend.” You can’t just brush off a statement that you have no specific grounds to dispute with and substitute a paraphrase that clearly bears no comparison to the original quotation.

            Where Simone is wrong is in sharing your view that Auster “has little more than an artificial sense of what Israeli life is like.” His comments that you quoted seem eminently reasonable based on my own experiences as some one who lived there for 20 years and goes back there two or three times a year for extended visits.

          2. You think Simone is the first Israeli to make precisely the same claim here? Of course not. And the claim usually involves precisely the lame stereotypes and superficial generalizations which she’s made. Simone does not know Israel Palestinians on anything other than a superficial basis. It’s clear from her prejudices.

            As for Auster and whether you’re qualified to say whether he has anything more than an artificial sense of Israeli life and politics–you’re no artiber of fact on this question I’m afraid.

        2. If Simone interacts with “Israeli Arabs” on a day to day basis, she would know – I guess “Simone” isn’t the Arab male name Simone – that according to qualitative studies such as Sherry Lawrence (2006), 66% of the Palestinians living within the State of Israel identify themselves in whole or in part as Palestinians. So Simone would use the label ‘Palestinians’, ‘Israeli Palestinians’, ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel’ or the like and not “Israeli Arabs” or “Arab Israelis”: a label created by the State of Israel to deny the link of the Palestinian citizens to that of the larger Palestinian people. “Arab” in that label refers only to a cultural and linguistic identity, whereas the “Israeli” refers to a political identity. The enourmous hypocrisy is that while the average Israeli discourse isn’t capable of admitting the roots of the “Arab” citizens to the historic land of Palestine, they have no problem calling a refugee in the diaspora a “Palestinian”, that is once he’s been expelled !
          Dan Rabinowitz & Khawla Abu-Baker: “Coffins on Our Shoulders” and Ilan Pappe’s new book “The Forgotten Palestinians” would be a good start for Simone to ‘know’ her Palestinian fellow Israelis.

          1. Do you remember Ilan P. Deir Yassin?

            He danced the dabka with his underpaid West Bank day laborers ‘every week’, he was ‘invited to all their parties’ (did he ever invite them back to his own parties I wonder…). He loved them ‘as family’ (something only masters in a patriarchal or colonial situation ever claim to do) and all the while he made jokes about the Nakba. I dared him to share his jokes with his Palestinian workers, to see if they thought his jokes were funny… He never answered of course.

          2. I see Silverstein has sent his loyal troops in to bat and has not published my answer to his demand: “Do tell us from where your profound knowledge of them derives. We await with baited breath.” I suppose you’ll now claim I had no answer – when the fact is, I answered and you didn’t dare publish my answer.
            You don’t explain precisely what are my “lame stereotypes and superficial generalizations”, do you, Richard? – because I didn’t make any. If I did – I challenge you to quote them.

            When you write “Simone does not know Israel Palestinians on anything other than a superficial basis. It’s clear from her prejudices,” what you are actually saying is “Simone does not know Israeli Palestinians on anything other than a superficial basis.It’s clear from the fact that she disagrees with me.” I could say that it’s pretty clear from your own prejudices that you yourself do not know “Israeli Palestinians” – or the realities of Israeli life – on anything other than a superficial basis. So, I ask you again – what is the basis for your so-called expertise?

            Do you think that by sending your groupies, such as Deir Yassin and Elisabeth to fight your battles for you, that I and everyone else will forget that you haven’t yet answered my challenge. What makes y o u such an expert on Israeli life (not just on “Israeli Palestinians”)? The year or two you spent here on a study programme? How pathetic.

          3. I’ve looked through my moderation queue & searched on your name & IP there is absolutely no comment of yours to this thread that hasn’t been approved. You posted one initial comment claiming Arabs are your best friends and nothing else. If you tried to post it, it failed & I never saw it. Otherwise, the error is yours. If you maintained a copy of the comment post it again. If you didn’t rewrite it & post it again saving a copy in case there’s another problem of the sort you claimed occurred.

            If you claimed I didn’t know Israeli Palestinians (the quotes you add to this phrase confirm your racism by yr refusal to call this group by its own preferred appellation) or Israeli life you’d be lying because you know from this blog that I do know both. Any reasonable person, even those who disagree with my views will concede that I know a great deal about Israel and Israeli life. I’ve covered this issue before & won’t go on about this ad nauseam. If you refuse to concede or believe this it’s your problem, not mine. I never claimed you didn’t know Israeli life, as you do. But you clearly haven’t a clue when it comes to Israeli Palestinians & after your first failed attempt in the comment thread you haven’t offered any proof of that claim.

            A number of different commenters use common IP addresses in posting comments here. Usually that means either you or your ISP is sending your comments via a proxy server. This is a very bad idea because if I ban one of these IP addresses it may mean that you will also be banned. To the extent you can, use a single IP address that is yours alone & not shared. I realize this isn’t always possible, but if at all possible I prefer it.

            One of my comment rules prohibits ad hominem attacks on other readers/commenters. You have absolutely no call to call anyone a “groupie.” Not only is the insult uncalled for it’s simply not true. I have no contact with them on issues related to the comment threads. I do not ask them to do or write anything here just as I don’t ask you. If you engage in such gratuitous insults in future you will lose yr privileges.

          4. “the claim usually involves precisely the lame stereotypes and superficial generalizations which she’s made.”

            I don’t know what you mean by “usually”. Are you dragging in other people rather than addressing what Simone actually said? What lame stereotypes and generalizations?

            The words “I live here and have done so for close on four decades” are very clear-cut and I have no reason to doubt them. Maybe you do. If so, tell us more. Of course not everyone who lives there keeps their eyes open, but you would need something better than just putting words into her mouth. (I assume it’s a her – perhaps that’s my western prejudice.)

            As for me not being an “arbiter of fact” – again you resort to the old tactic of putting words into some one else’s mouth. I never claimed to be the arbiter: only that his words (or at least the ones that you quoted) sounded eminently reasonable, based on my experience as some one who lived there for twenty years and also worked with Arabs for 14 of those years in the same, blue-collar (and sometimes menial) jobs for the same lousy pay.

            As for Deir Yassin’s point about Israeli Arabs identifying themselves as Palestinians, the fact is they ALSO identify themselves as Arabs and indeed the Muslim Arabs in Israel also identify themselves as Muslims. They are also Israeli citizens, so it is perfectly correct to call them Israeli Arabs.

          5. 6 or 7 right wing commenters have claimed their “best friends” are Israeli Arabs & the like. By “usually” I meant the general attitude & claims these people have made. ISn’t that obvious?

            I don’t care how long she’s lived in Israel. She doesn’t know anything about Israeli Palestinians. Why does how long she’s lived in Israel have anything to do with anything?

            Auster’s words only sound “eminently reasonable” to a fellow lib Zionist or someone to the right of that. To the rest of us they sound tempering, lame and a cop out. Neither Deir Yassin nor I were talking about how Israeli Palestinians “identify” & you know it. We were talking about what they call themselves. And they do not call themselves “Israeli Arabs” & you know that too (though that great friend of the “Israeli Arab” people, SImone, doesn’t seem to).

            It is perfectly incorrect to call them Israeli Arabs unless you wish to insult them. In fact the word “Aravi” used in connection with Israeli Palestinians in Hebrew is a word with mostly racist or demeaning connotation. You know what too. You clearly don’t give a damn. Nor does Simone. Which is why she’s full of it regarding her claims of who & what she knows about them.

          6. I’m not sure what you mean by trying to distinguish between how they “identify” and what they “call themselves” – surely these are different aspects of the same thing?

            What they call themselves varies over the short-term as well as the long term – just as Israelis will sometimes talk about being “Jewish” and at other times about being “Israeli.” Just as I am sometimes British, sometimes English and sometimes Jewish. In my experience, people of all persuasions and nationalities choose to emphasize in themselves whatever aspect they feel is currently under attack by others. This is a healthy characteristic – it shows that people are ready to stand up for themselves – but we shouldn’t let it impose a straightjacket of nomenclature on everyone else.

            I do not accept that calling an Arab citizen of Israel an “Israeli Arab” is insulting – even subjectively. If you were to look an Arab citizen of Israel in the eye and tell him that he is NOT an Israeli, you would encounter a vigorous and robust response. Again in accordance with the natural human characteristic of fighting back when under siege.

            Indeed if you view the word “Aravi” as racist in the context of Israeli Arabs you would not even be standing up for you own standards, but rather kowtowing to that MINORITY of Jewish Israelis who use the term as a pejorative. For this reason I will continue to call them Israeli Arabs (or Arab Israelis). If this is a banning offence so be it.

          7. surely these are different aspects of the same thing?

            They are NOT the same thing. Israeli Palestinians may consider themselves “Arab” but don’t call themselves “Israeli Arabs.” They simply do not do so. You can argue till the cows come home about why they should or could or might. But they don’t. They do not do so for a myriad of reasons, which I pointed out to you & which you conveniently attempted to elide. Why is the distinction so hard for you? I know why, because it disturbs your sense that you aren’t being allowed to define Israeli Palestinians in a way that is comfortable to you. Well tough luck fella. We don’t get to choose how to define groups of which we’re not a part. They do. Get used to it. As long as Israeli Jews think they can impose identity, names, & other matters upon Israeli Palestinians, things will be a right mess between you.

            BTW, Israeli Jews call themselves “Israeli,” and far less often (except for the observant minority) “Jewish,” but almost never “Israeli Jews.” That’s because they have a sense of entitlement to being “Israeli” & owning the phrase, as if there are no other Israelis than Israeli Jews. They most definitely do not think, when they think about this subject at all which is infrequently, of Israeli Palestinians as their equals.

            Also, it doesn’t matter what you think of the term “Israeli Arab” and whether you think it’s dandy or peachy keen. They don’t like it & don’t want to be called it. And you aren’t Israeli Palestinian and have no right to define them in any way except the way that they choose. IF you refuse, then you render yourself irrelevant to any serious conversation with them on any matter that is important to them. If you really considered them partners in the project of defining what is Israel and what is Israeli you would honor that. The fact that you don’t speaks volumes about your political limitations & prejudices.

            If you were to look an Arab citizen of Israel in the eye and tell him that he is NOT an Israeli

            This appears to be a typo since in context your use of the term “Israeli” is not only ridiculous but makes no sense. So if I correct your assumed typo to say “Arab” you’re still arguing against a strawman. No one is saying that an Israeli Palestinian is NOT an Arab. Of course he or she is. But the question is what is most important to an Israeli Palestinian in terms of all his or her various identities. Is Arab more important than Palestinian? Yes. So the question isn’t whether that person is Arab, but whether that person is an Israeli Arab or Israeli Palestinian. And for them, they’ve made the choice. Get used to it, get over it & call them what they call themselves & want you to call them. If you don’t your racism comes through loud & clear.

            that MINORITY of Jewish Israelis who use the term as a pejorative.

            You know that this is a lie if you know anything about Israel. At one time or another virtually all Israelis except for the most sensitive and most progressive have used this term in precisely the way you claim they haven’t. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Israeli Jews harbor racist attitudes toward Israeli Palestinians, one of which is the use of this term in a racist, pejorative fashion. You can’t argue with the poll numbers.

            I am asking you not to use that term here ever again. If you had not made such a point of rubbing our noses in the fact that use of the term is perfectly acceptable (to you, an Israeli Jew), I would not make such a point of insisting you stop using it. But you have made your bed and now will have to lie in it. You are being at the least insensitive and at worst racist. I am asking politely the first time. The next time my response will not be polite & you will lose your privileges.

          8. [commenter banned: you think you can call a Twitter impersonation of me “a brilliant parody” and retain your comment privileges?]

  6. I share Auster’s distaste for the US ultra-Orthodox who have become Settlers- and terrorists and racists. However, that does not reflect the rest of Israelis and perhaps they’ve gone too far this time. Surely, Netanyahu will have to respond forcefully with those extremist Settlers who are behaving like hoodlums and, yes, terrorists!! Let them go to work and have to pay a mortgage. They won’t have time to burn Mosques.

  7. P.S. My Israeli grandsons did not put their lives on the line in order to support Settlers who are supported by the State and commit outrageous, immoral, violent acts- everything Judaism is against.

  8. Silverstein says:”To the extent you can, use a single IP address that is yours alone & not shared. I realize this isn’t always possible, but if at all possible I prefer it.”

    Sorry, I haven’t a clue whether my ISP is using a proxy server or not, nor am I entirely sure what a proxy server is, or how it works. I’m not that computer savvy. But I did mention before, that sometimes, I get an error message and then it (and whatever I wrote) just seems to disappear. Sometimes, my comment does turn up among the comments on your website and sometimes not. Go figure.

    What I wrote, in the comment which you say you never received, was an answer to your snide remark about the supposed source of my knowledge of what you call Israeli Palestinians. I have, in fact, mentioned this in previous comments to previous posts of yours, only you chose to dismiss my first-hand knowledge as “anecdotal”.
    For instance, I have many Israeli Arab colleagues (and I stress, for Elisabeth’s benefit, that I mean colleagues – not underlings). For instance, I have Arab neighbours in my apartment block (despite a previous false claim made by you that Arabs are prohibited from living in Jewish neighbourhoods). We visit in each other’s houses and we t-a-l-k. For instance, my choir is closely involved in projects with Israeli Arab choirs and music groups. As Barenboim has demonstrated, there is nothing like music for breaking down barriers between human beings. For instance, I have visited them in their villages. The upshot of all this is, we actually c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e on a day to day basis, so that I have had the opportunity to talk with Israeli Arabs from many different walks of life. Not everything they have to say is complimentary to the State of Israel, so I have no fear they are merely telling me what they think I want to hear. On the other hand, it demonstrates very clearly that Israel is, in fact, a true democracy.
    Now that I have answered you, at length, perhaps you will f-i-n-a-l-l-y stop evading the question and tell us: where does y-o-u-r so-called knowledge of Israeli life come from other than second hand newspaper reports, or from books by left-wing Israelis with an axe to grind? How many Israelis – Jews or Arabs – have you actually met and talked with yourself?

    1. I never said Israeli Palestinians are prohibited from “living” in Jewish neighborhoods, but they are prevented from “owning” property in Jewish neighborhoods.

      Ironic that you mention Daniel Barenboim favorably when you share no values or principles at all with him. He doesn’t at all use music or think of music in the same way you do.

      How does the fact that you actually exchange conversation with Israeli Palestinians (who by the way, you can’t even be bothered to call by their correct name) prove “Israel is a true democracy?”

      Whatever contacts you’ve had with Israeli Palestinians in no way proves you have a clue about how they live or what they believe. Even if you are having conversations with them, you haven’t heard or understood anything they’ve told you. If you had, you’d know that your views are 180 degrees diametrically opposed to most of theirs.

      My knowledge of Israel & Israelis speaks for itself (except to people like you who are deaf and dumb). The number of Israelis (Palestinians and Jews) I know personally as friends over the decades or have consulted for stories or blog posts is in the thousands.

    2. What a coincidence that Simone mentions Daniel Barenboim. It’s gives me an occasion to make another point on the socalled “Israeli Arabs” or “Arab Israelis”.
      Nabil Abboud Ashkar, a young violinist from Nazareth, and a member of the Barenboim/Said-project “East-Western Diwan Orchestra” since the beginning in 1999, and who has just been elected fot the Yoko Ono Courage Award:
      for his work to encourage Jewish-Arab dialogue and coexistence, and thus not an “Islamo-fascist” (I think he’s Christian, by the way) said in an interview with French television:
      Nabil Abboud Ashkar: “I was born to a Palestinian family in Nazareth…. it lies in Israel.”
      Interviewer: “You are what ? ….Arab Israeli ? “(the guy speaks Franglish]
      Nabil Abboud Ashkar: “Israeli Arab…but I don’t agree completely with this term. I see myself as a Palestinian, an Israeli citizen. You could call me an Israeli Palestinian. It would be more correct”
      I have difficulties linking the interview. If you google “France 3 + Yamen Saadi + violoniste” it comes up first. The sequence is starting at 1:35, and Nabil is expressing what the immense majority of Israeli Palestinians feel, but some might not dare to say out loud, particulalrly the older generation: that they are and feel Palestinians !

  9. Silverstein says: “I never said Israeli Palestinians are prohibited from “living” in Jewish neighborhoods, but they are prevented from “owning” property in Jewish neighborhoods.”

    That’s not quite accurate, Richard. What you actually said was: “And can you show me Israeli Palestinians who live in the same apartment blocks inside any major Israeli city (Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for example).”
    See https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2011/10/13/1000-palestinian-prisoners-to-be-freed-6000-remain/#comments

    When I replied that there were Arabs living in my own Jerusalem apartment block, you then changed your ground and asked:”Can you show me an Israeli Palestinian family living in a Jewish neighborhood which owns its apartment?”

    Be that as it may, I am now challenging you on your claim that “Israeli Palestinians ….. are prevented from “owning” property in Jewish neighborhoods.”
    This is, quite simply, untrue. There is no law preventing Israeli Arabs from owning property in “Jewish” neighbourhoods. If you are claiming that there is, then I am publicly challenging you, here and now, to prove it by quoting the relevant law.

    1. Israeli Palestinians do not own property in Jewish neighborhoods. If you have any proof that any do bring it & also tell us the numbers of Israeli Palestinians who own property in Jewish neighborhoods.

      As for whether they are able to rent apartments in Jewish neighborhoods, I’d be willing to bet it’s quite uncommon. After all, a sizable number of Israelis polled said that the least desirable neighbors would be (as I recall) gays, Arabs, the mentally ill, & foreign workers.

  10. I’ve just read the Hebrew translation of his last book “Report from the interior” Where he writes that Israel WAS a stete “with no blood on its hand”. Which means that today it is. I don’t think that there is any ambivalence now, and I am very disappointed with this sentence

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *