Sunday, August 03, 2014
Shooting and crying posted by Richard Seymour
Of course, they, like everyone else, condemned the brutal June kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on the West Bank, an act immediately blamed on the Hamas leadership (falsely so, it later turned out: the kidnapping was, in fact, the work of a local “lone cell,” acting without authorization). But some felt queasy during the subsequent two-week Israeli operation to root out Hamas militants there, referred to as “mowing the lawn,” not least because several Palestinian civilians were killed in the process. Still, it was hard to criticize too loudly, because that effort was conducted under the cover of a search for the three missing teens and, by then, the three were the object of a campaign that encompassed the global Jewish diaspora:#BringBackOurBoys.
Few of these campaigners knew that the Israeli authorities had, in fact, established from the start that the boys were dead and apparently withheld that information from the public. Naturally, liberal Zionists condemned the Hamas response to the West Bank lawn mowing—the resumption of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel—but they hoped Benjamin Netanyahu’s government would react with restraint.
What Freedland describes, accurately enough, is the internal incoherence of liberal Zionism. It is not gullibility at all that leads apologists such as Freedland to endorse, at least at first, almost every single Israeli war. It is loyalism. Freedland first sees no problem with Israel "mowing the lawn" in the West Bank, because - two stater or not - his first priority is the integrity of the Israeli state. Palestine can have its national and territorial rights respected at some later point, when Israel feels safe, when the beastly terrorists have been rooted out. He secondly sees no problem with Israel launching air strikes on Gaza to 'stop Hamas rockets' since, even though he is aware that this itself is a counter-strike to Israel's 'operation' in the West Bank, only Israel really has a right to 'self-defence'. He thirdly sees a ground invasion as potentially even more just than air strikes, since they can be more surgical and precise in attacking Israel's enemies, and he has no principled objection to Israel invading Gaza to murder its opponents because see above. He finally invests hope in Netanyahu's 'restraint', despite knowing what sort of ultra-right forces his government contains, and despite being aware that Israel never responds to any perceived sleight with anything like restraint - because 'restraint' is relative to the extensive rights that, Freedland assumes, Israel already has in the situation.
Freedland hypothesises that liberalism may finally prove to be incompatible with Zionism. If the two state solution that has reconciled the two orientations proves to be chimerical, then people like him may have to choose. And this is correct, and has been apparent for some time. I would like to think this betokened a shift among liberal intellectuals, that it may lead to an open breach with Zionism. Perhaps it does. The trouble is that, based on this evidence, it seems most likely that Freedland will resolve the dilemma by strategically dropping the liberalism where Israel is concerned, rather than abandoning his Zionist precepts.
You see, every time there is a war, an imperialist war to be precise, certain liberals begin by exalting it and its prosecutors to the heavens. Their moral fervour knows no limit. Eventually, they have a moment of clarity, realise their error, and - if they are particularly conscientious - berate themselves magnificently. Then, duly purified, they can proceed to the next war unencumbered by the memory of their old 'mistakes', and proceed exactly as before. Freedland's article, in that respect, reads like a version of that old Israeli practice of 'shooting and crying'.