In the past, I’ve posted about the competition between two senior Shin Bet officers to become the next chief, replacing the current one, Yoram Cohen. Though Israeli media cannot name these figures, I did quite some time ago. Now Haaretz reporter, Sefi Rachlevsky, writing about the wasted opportunity the world presented Israel over the past year to secure its future in the Middle East, (obliquely) names the apparent winner of the competition:
At the end of Chinatown the slogan appears: “Do as little as possible.” Under Netanyahu, this has been the motto passed on the heads of Israel’s five operational arms: military, intelligence, Shin Bet, Mossad, police, and state prosecutor. Don’t initiate. Don’t act in the region. Keep your head down. Act only on technical matters. The few within these agencies who are go-getters are people like R.–who’s been designated as the next Shin Bet chief. This is someone beside whom [Col.] Ofer Winter looks quite moderate. But the rest who aren’t [as] messianic, look to do as little as possible.
“R.” in this case is Roni Alsheikh, a former settler of Yemenite ethnic origin. His nickname is “The Fox,” since he’s known for using wiles rather than brute force (though he’s been known to use that as well) in his security interrogations. Like much of the senior leadership of all the security agencies, Alsheikh is Orthodox. From the implications of this passage it appears his political views heartily endorse the settler enterprise.
You can see where this is going. Israeli democracy, dying a slow death at the hands of the radical right will be strangled like a baby in its cradle by the incoming Shin Bet chief. The witch hunts against Palestinians both inside Israel and in the Territories will escalate. The Iron Hand will clench its fist even tighter. Religious war, just now simmering in Jerusalem, will be brought to the boiling point. Formerly marginal figures like Moshe Feiglin and Yehudah Glick will be given the run of the Temple Mount. Al Aqsa will be sealed more often (yesterday was the first time since 1967 it was closed to Muslim worship). Instead of stealing the homes of scores of East Jerusalem settlers, hundreds and thousands will be expelled by settler NGOs like Elad.
Alshkeikh is the paragon of the Yeats poem:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Haaretz columnist, Amir Oren, warned of Orthodox settlerism taking over the intelligence services, particularly the Shin Bet:
Shin Bet’s leaders are recruiting and promoting in their own [Orthodox] image, and middle-level managers, therefore, see this as a model to emulate. The annual evaluation of Shin Bet employees now includes an arbitrary question, infuriating in its ambiguousness: Does the employee “act in accordance with a Zionist value system”? The Shin Bet is now filled with religious employees, much greater than their percentage in the population. Religious women doing national civilian service receive priority over secular women soldiers for interesting intelligence posts, and many remain in the Shin Bet…
The headline of today’s Haaretz weekly magazine blares: “Will tomorrow’s soldiers be fighting for the sanctification of God’s name?” It goes on to describe the increasing Orthodox militancy of the IDF officer corps and the troublesome dilemma it poses for Israeli society.
There is nothing strange about this. Israel has grown progressively more right-wing Orthodox over the past decades. The secularism that dominated society for the first decades of the state (till roughly 1967) has been subsumed by the rising tide and ideological fervor of the militant Orthodox. This wave is unstoppable, at least through internal domestic means.
Roni Alsheikh represents the future. So do other far-right politicians like Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon, who each covet the prime ministership. These men are not ciphers like Netanyahu tends to be. They are full of passionate intensity which is very likely to lead, as Yeats wrote, to this apocalyptic future:
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The question is: is the world prepared to stand by while “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world?” Or will it step forward and take action? Action that will be difficult to muster and controversial to undertake? Will we continue to “lack conviction” as the center no longer holds?
“R” promotion is a good thing. If he is, indeed, as religiously proactive as you claim, as zealous, etc – let there come the darkness he is a harbinger of. Let the dark wave of Jewish zealotry subsume Israel. Let Orthodox Judaism rule.
There are times when one must stand aside and let events run their course. One hopes that the sane secular circles would simply refuse to play the game, but let the slavering Judo-Wesselism careen ahead.
“slavering Judo-Wesselism?” Seriously? I understand your need to denigrate Orthodox Jews and settlers but these incessant Nazi analogies are tiresome and inaccurate.
Do you mean to say to some of the people (e.g. Ronezki, Shaked, Weiss – ad nauseam)? People who wave Jewish racial superiority and religious moral superiority? Are they not asking to raise the flags on high?
I will grant you the claim of inaccuracy vis-a-vis Nazism. Yes (and damn lucky for us) – we are NOT there yet. But we’re on the way. And know you what we’ll see over the entrance, when the time does come?
דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום
There is much in Israel that should make decent people (among them decent Jews) sick. Irae3l is a sick society, whatever President Rivlin may say (he says so!).
But the masses of Zionists and Zionist supporters are like frightened sheep. I am reading, just now, a biography of a Frenchman, Joseph Fouché, who had some importance during the French revolution, and who was, at one point, marked for death by guillotine by the redoubtable Robespierre, of whom all the revolutionaries were afraid, since he routinely sent revolutionaries to their deaths. At page 88, the reader is invited to wonder if Joseph Fouche will escape death by causing an uprising of the frightened revolutionaries agaisnt Robespierre.
I am wondering how extreme Israel will have to become, as it plunges along its untrammelled-ideological way before decent American and European Jews revolt agaisnt it, either from fear for themselves (for antisemitism must surely grow as Israel’s cruelties grow and grow more widely known) or from concern for ordinary decency.
Al aqsa was closed for Muslims some time in the year 2000, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the first time since 1967.
The reason for it (now and then) was that police couldn’t contain the riots that came fron there.
Richard Silverstein says
@ yotam: You mean the police couldn’t contain their own riots, which you may see in videos of Al Aqsa assaulted by tear gas explosions just outside the sacred shrine? Israeli police can do whatever they want, including control any situation they wish. No Israeli has even made such a stupid claim as you. Israeli police can create a riot or quell one. They can open Al Aqsa or close it, virtually whenever they wish. Except this time they reopened, because they were afraid Jordan would take them to the UN Security Council. The only thing holding Israel back from full scale pogroms is fear of how it will look to the world & what it might do to them.
“Israeli democracy, dying a slow death ”
Was there ever such a thing in Israel? The veneer of democracy is giving way to the apartheid underpinning of a Jewish state.
The one constant truth about Israeli society is the extremists lead and the mainstream will soon follow.
Arie Brand says
The “war about Israel” is to a large extent an information war. One would hope that, if a sufficient number of people would be adequately informed, policies would change where it matters. Some progress has been made in this war but sometimes one despairs. I had such a moment of desperation when I saw, belatedly, an interview with the Dutch Prime Minister, Rutte, a man who had until then seemed sensible enough to me.
One should keep in mind that Dutch politicians are subject to less pressure and/or financial incentives from an Israel lobby than their counterparts in Big Brother America. One thus has to assume that what is said is to a certain extent really meant. And the “sincere opinions” expressed here barely differed from the rankest Israeli propaganda.
The subject was the IDF’s recent onslaught on Gaza. And one heard it all again. Hamas is a terrorist organisation. Israel is a democracy that has the right to defend itself. Because Hamas has presently more advanced rockets its attacks are now even more brutish and “churlish” than in the previous conflict. In short, not a trace of empathy for the Gazan victims. The real victims were on the other side.
I once heard a kindred spirit of Dries van Agt, Hans van den Broek, a former Dutch Foreign Minister and EU Commissioner, say to a pro Israel apologist “You don’t know the files”. This was the case here. This Prime Minister simply “didn’t know the files”. One must assume this because it is hard to imagine that a person with even a vestigial sense of justice would speak in this manner if he was really well informed.
The redoubtable Van Agt, has, in another open letter, taken him to task for the absolute lack of empathy he displayed in this interview for the desperate plight of the Palestinians. And the painful contrast there with his indignation about the “brutish” and “churlish” rockets of Hamas. The Dutch PM has answered, in his best bureaucratic manner, that he will “carefully study” this letter and provide an answer in due course. I haven’t seen a sign of it yet.
One hopes he is studying the files.
Deïr Yassin says
“The “war about Israel” is to a large extent an information war”
When Michael Moore introduced “Five Broken Cameras” at the New York Documentary Film Festival in November 2012, he said that if he had the ressources, he would send a copy of the film to every American household; and if they’d actually see it, within 24 hours the public opinion on this issue would change dramatically.
Arie Brand says
I should add that one cause for the Dutch PM’s indignation about Hamas was his “knowledge” that it fired its rockets from “schools and hospitals” and thus used people as human shields. Van Agt pointedly asked him whether he had this from independent sources or from whisperings into his ear by pro-Israel activists in his environment. Van Agt also pointed out that in Gaza with its 1,8 million inhabitants there are hardly any open spaces (in other words that it is difficult there to stay sufficiently far from some school or other).
Arie Brand says
Directly after the Six Day War the King of Jordan, Hussein, put out peace feelers through the then US ambassador to Jordan, Burns. He was anxious to come to a settlement with Israel, especially as far as the status of Jerusalem was concerned. Syria and Egypt were not involved in this though Hussein claimed that Nasser had given him the green light for this iniative. The U.S., especially then Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was very pleased with this and urged Israel to react positively and generously to the King who was probably even risking his own personal security by going out on a limb in this matter.
But the Israelis ignored him, continued with their plans for the construction of settlements, and later lied (and are still doing so) about the total Arab unwillingness to arrive at a settlement as made clear by the notorious “three no’s of Khartoum”.
Seventeen years later, in 1994, there was a peace accord with Jordan in which the status of Jerusalem as a holy place for Islam had again a pivotal place.
Now this status is obviously being threatened and there are Jordanian calls for the Arab world to come together on this. There are also threats to revoke the peace treaty of 1994. The Jordan Times wrote this morning:
“They said Israel’s closure of Al Haram Al Sharif in the occupied holy city and preventing Muslims from entering the mosque on Thursday constitute a violation of the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, which states that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem” as well as the UN Resolution 242, which urges Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Jordan’s firm position and threat to revoke the 1994 peace treaty was taken seriously by Israel. Even the US seems to have realised the message and pressured Israel to go back on its decision,” Adnan Abu Odeh, a former Royal Court chief, told The Jordan Times Saturday.”
It is unlikely that the mad gambler in Tel Aviv who calls himself “the leader of the Jewish people” has taken this threat any more seriously than the Israelis took the peace overtures of Hussein almost half a century ago.
Richard, you quoted this magnificent poem once before, as it is a chilling description of what is going on. Thanks for introducing me to it.