Sunday, July 12, 2009

Overcoming Defencelessness

Posted on Sign and Sight is an interview with Claude Lanzmann, the fabled creator of the 9 1/2 hour documentary film "Shoah" about the murder of the European Jews in the death camps.

Lanzmann, according to the introduction by Max Dax has an impeccable Leftist provenance:

"The 83-year old was a Resistance fighter, a signatory of the Manifesto of 121 against the war in Algeria, he was a member of the red circle surrounding Jean-Paul Sartre, he was Simone de Beauvoir's partner for many years and is currently the publisher of Les Temps Modernes, France's left-wing intellectual conscience."

In 1994 he released another long documentary, "Tsahal",
a film about the Israeli army. The new release of this documentary includes a discussion between Lanzmann and Ehud Barak.
I found interesting Lanzmann's sober look of appreciation and respect for Israel's military power and ethos. I recommend reading the whole interview.

Here is a key passage:


In "Tsahal" I also knew exactly what I wanted to tell: the creation an army, the construction of an army, the creation of courage. This army represents a victory of the Jewish people over themselves. There had never been a Jewish army before. My film tells how Jews took their fate into their own hands to avoid ever become victims again. I show how they overcame the victim role and overcame a mental predisposition.

In the Israeli army life is valued higher than anything else. And yet every soldier in the Tsahal is prepared to give his life. Unlike other armies of the world, the soldiers of the Tsahal do not die for the glory of their fatherland, they die for life alone. You should not forget that the genocide of the Jews in the Second World War was not just a murder of innocents. It was also a genocide of the defenceless. My film describes the path to overcome defencelessness. It describes how the Jewish people empowered themselves with weapons and it describes the psychological metamorphosis that the people had to undergo, in order to build an army like the Tsahal, in order to be able to defend themselves, to be able to kill.

For decades, young Israelis have been growing up with the insecurity of knowing that no-one can guarantee that "Israel will still exist in 2025".

In this interview Lanzmann clarifies in no uncertain terms the repeated mistake made by nearly everyone who cares to weigh in on the I/P conflict, that Israel seeks to justify its very existence by making political fortune out of the Holocaust. Not so. Says Lanzmann, and I agree. Israel has vowed that the Holocaust was the last time the world witnessed the extermination of defenceless Jews. Israel makes sure that Jews living within its borders will never again be victims.

I know this is a troublesome concept for many Far Leftist Jews, represented by the likes of Rabbi Lerner, Richard Silverstein, Norm Finkelstein, Jerry Haber, Jews Sans Frontiers, to name but a few. They appear to prefer, seriously, the diasporic Jew. Hannah Arendt was sympathetic to this hankering for righteous powerlessness, up to a point, as she elaborated in her 1964 interview for German TV:

"..one pays dearly for freedom. The specifically Jewish humanity signified by [Jewish] worldlessness was something very beautiful... it was something very beautiful , this sundering aside of all social connections, the complete open-mindedness and absence of prejudice that i experienced... Of course a great deal was lost with the passing of all that. One pays for liberation. I once said in myLessing speech. . .

Gaus : Hamburg in 1959 . . .

Arendt: Yes, there I said that "this humanity... has never yet survived the hour of liberation, of freedom, by so much as minute" You see, that has also happened to us.

Gaus: You wouldn't like to undo it?

Arendt: No. I know that one has to pay a price for freedom. But I cannot say that I like to pay."

Arendt is a courageous thinker who is not easily frightened by the cards dealt by reality. Surely it is not a desirable condition for Jews, or any human group for that matter, to live in a state of perpetual guardedness, on the cusp of existential disaster, the way Israelis are required to do. But, she says, this is the price paid for the loss of the condition of defenceless victimhood. In a way, once Israel has lost its victim status, it has also lost what
Bertrand Russell called the fallacious claim to the superior virtue of the oppressed.

13 Comments:

At 7:57 AM EDT, Blogger Jerry Haber said...

Hello again,

Actually, I prefer living in Israel. Good weather and I can eat the food. And I have the library.

My problem with Israel is not that the Jewis people are no longer victims, but that they are oppressors. Israel holds millions of people without human or citizenship rights -- the sort of rights that the Declaration of Independence calls "inalienable."

Moreover, they justify this governing without the consent of the governed as a necessity security measure. What that means is that for Israel to exist, it must deprive the native Palestinians of their rights -- unless they cave in to Israel's terms.

So I assure you, CC, that when Israel does not govern over millions of people without their consent, when it recognizes its responsibility for not allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and when it becomes not a light unto the nations (hah!) but worthy of sitting with the civilized ones, then I will have even more reason to live here besides the weather, the food, and the library.

So much for your diasporism and the Magnes Zionist.

Lehit

Jerry

 
At 10:10 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"for Israel to exist, it must deprive the native Palestinians of their rights -- unless they cave in to Israel's terms."

Are you referring to Israeli Arabs, or Palestinian Arabs? You know there are differences between what kinds of rights they have, right? You know that the Israeli Arabs have rights under the Israeli state, right? And you know also that most of them do not desire to give up those rights in return for living in a future Palestinian state, right?

You also know that many Palestianins are not native of the Palestinian territory nor of Israel, right? That many came to the area because zionist investments raised the Arab standard of living above that of the surrounding territories, right? And that many Jewish Isralis are native to the Palestinian territory, right? And that millions of Jewish Israelis are of Middle-Eastern origin, expelled from Iraq, Egypt, and many other Arab countries, right?

So, do you want to rethink your question. Or was it even a question? Or are you just interested in shutting up CC and Lanzmann?

I would also be very amused to hear who you think the "civilized ones" are. That would be a real blast anonymous Professor!

 
At 11:54 AM EDT, Blogger Jerry Haber said...

I was referring to the native Palestinians whose claim to a state in Palestine was recognized by the United Nations on November 29, 1947 in General Assembly Resolution 181. You may have heard of that resolution; it is mentioned in Israel's Declaration of Independence (that was the document written by the Russian Jew, David Gruen, one of the Zionist settlers, and signed almost entirely by Zionist settlers, who were not native to Palestine.)

As for the rignts of Israeli Arabs, they have the right to throw their ballot down the toilet, since in the 60 years of the state, no Arab political party has been invited to join the ruling coalition. They also have the right to have their educational textbooks dictated to them, since, unlike the National Relgious schools or the Haredi schools, they have no educational autonomy.

On the other hand, Israel is very welcoming to St. Petersburg beauty queens, who convert to Judaism, fly to Israel, make their name in the Russian language media, and are elected to the knesset where their party is in the ruling coalition.

Heartwarming story, don't you think? Especially when Israel expels foreign works' children who were born and raised in Israel, and who only know Hebrew.

Now, that's civilized...

 
At 7:18 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The UN resolution did not grant the right to a state of the "native Palestinians". It granted 2 states to the Palestinians, the Jewish Palestinians, and the Arab Palestinians.
You can read the Resolution here: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/un/res181.htm
References to "the Palestinians" refer to both Arabs and Jews, and each are give their own state.
The distinction between the groups has nothing to do with "native" and "non-native". It has to do with national groups, recognized by the UN.
Funny how people who might usually be critical of the "native"-vs-"foreigner" become it´s biggest proponent when it comes to bashing Jews.
You also forget to mention that the Palestinian Arabs, along with the Arab states, *rejected* the resolution, and *declared war* on the Jews. Here, we can return to the original topic of the post -- that of Jewish self-defense, and Lanzmann´s documentary film.
Although, I doubt you´re interested in it. Rather, you just want to find an opportunity to spew your anger, and a blog post about Jewish self-defense seems an appropriate target.
BTW, Israeli Arabs are in fact represented in the Knesset, more so than minorities in almost every Western democracy. They also have relative autonomy for educational and other community institutions. But I know that doesn't sound bad enough to justify your animosity. So, sorry to disturb your deranged antizionist worldview.

 
At 11:51 AM EDT, Blogger Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, I left a comment on this post, because the post mentioned me and considered me a diasporist. Since I am a Zionist, I corrected CC, who apparently, accepts the correction, since she didn't comment on it.

I didn't say that the resolution recognized the Palestinian Arabs claim to a state because they were natives, only that the Palestinian Arabs (who happened to be natives) should have a state. The fact that the Palestinians rejected the partition plan is entirely irrelevant, since they didn't reject that part of the plan that recognized their claim to a state. If the Palestinians had said to the UN, "Thank you very much, but we don't want a state," then I would suppose you would have a point.

Anyway, forgeting about natives, I am glad that you recognize that the UN recognized the Palestinian Arabs' -- the overwhelming majority in Palestine, even in 1947 -- the claim to a state in Palestine. You may find this odd, but there are a lot of Jews out there today, who don't recognize the Palestinian's claim to a state (and vice-versa). They forget that the same plan that called for a Jewish state -- and which is mentioned in the Dec. of Ind. -- called for an Arab state on much larger territory. Ah, but nothing like selective quotation...

Arab representation in Knesset is no big deal since they are in permanent opposition. Show me other minorities that are never invited to join in a governing coalition. That is why fewer and fewer Palestinians vote in national elections -- they may as well throw their vote down the toilet.

What other countries have native minorities that constitute 20% of the population, whose percentage is kept down by massive immigration (but, thank God, not any more), and yet are excluded from government coalitions based on their ethnicity?


"They also have relative autonomy for educational and other community institutions". Love that word "relative" -- relative to what? They have autonomy, provided that they don't teach anything not approved in advance by the majority -- like the Nakbah, where there were relatives were not allowed to return to their homes.

How come the haredi sector has more educational autonomy than the Arabs? Because they are Jews?

Anyway, read what real Zionism is about at the Magnes Zionist blog

 
At 3:25 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry,
You´re still arguing that on this native/non-native basis that doesn´t apply well to the situation, nor does it provide a good basis for an argument.
You didn´t reply to my criticism of your conflation of natives with Palestinian Arabs, which doesn´t reflect reality (which I explained above). But yet, you´re still using that argument.
I am not familiar with the Palestinian Arab´s (and the Arab countries´) *partial* rejection of the UN Resolution. Not sure it matters either They declared war on the Jewish state, and sought it's elimination. It was not a squabble over the placement of the borders. It was all or nothing. Or do you have some source to refute that? I would be honestly interested in seeing that.
Additionally, it is a complete mystery to me why you would thank me for recognizing that the Resolution granted the Arabs a state. It appears you are jumping to conclusions about me before you actually know what I think.

 
At 3:25 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry,
You´re still arguing that on this native/non-native basis that doesn´t apply well to the situation, nor does it provide a good basis for an argument.
You didn´t reply to my criticism of your conflation of natives with Palestinian Arabs, which doesn´t reflect reality (which I explained above). But yet, you´re still using that argument.
I am not familiar with the Palestinian Arab´s (and the Arab countries´) *partial* rejection of the UN Resolution. Not sure it matters either They declared war on the Jewish state, and sought it's elimination. It was not a squabble over the placement of the borders. It was all or nothing. Or do you have some source to refute that? I would be honestly interested in seeing that.
Additionally, it is a complete mystery to me why you would thank me for recognizing that the Resolution granted the Arabs a state. It appears you are jumping to conclusions about me before you actually know what I think.

 
At 4:15 PM EDT, Blogger Jerry Haber said...

I don't actually understand your position.

You admit, of course, that the Zionists were settlers (mityashvim), that they founded settlements (yishuvim), and that the vast majority of them came from Europe to found the New Settlement. (Ha-Yishuv ha-hadash)

You also admit, of course, that the Zionist settlers looked on the Arabs as native to Palestine (you have read, I suppose, Zionist literature; it's fascinating stuff.)

You also admit, of course, that the UN recognized the claims of Jews and Arabs to states in Palestine in the Partition Plan, which was adopted and never rescinded by the UN. (If you think otherwise, please show me what resolution rescinded it.)

You also admit, of course, that the Arabs never rejected their claim to a state.

And finally, you admit, I assume, that the United Nations never condemned *either* side for launching a war against the other but called on both sides to cease fighting.

Of course, had the Arabs launched a war of aggression against the Jews, they still would have been entitled to a state in Palestine. You clearly agree to this, because you don't argue that Germany and Japan don't have a right to a state. (I am assuming that you hold Germany and Japan to be aggressors in that conflict.)

But, again, of course, nobody except the Jews condemned the Arabs for launching a war of aggression in any event -- so the above point is not relevant.

 
At 12:22 AM EDT, Anonymous Migreli said...

Shlomo Avineri has an interesting article about Hannah Arendt. He explains where in his view she went wrong, but also praises her good side. His main criticism is that she internalized some of the values and attitudes of the anti-semitic culture that dominated the civilization of her world - a failing that every diaspora Jew can be prone to, and even it now seems sometimes Israelis too.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1153098.html

 
At 12:56 AM EDT, Anonymous Migreli said...

"... they [Israel] are oppressors. Israel holds millions of people without human or citizenship rights ..."

Nonsense. Israel accords full human rights to Palestinians in the territories. Israel declared in 1967 that it will observe the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva Conventions in all the territories, even though Israel does not accept that the judicial status of those territories is occupied territory. Israeli rule in the territories complies with the terms of international law governing the rights of civilians in disputed territory scrupulously. It even recognizes the rights of native Jews to reside again in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as they did in their tens of thousands until 1948.

Furthermore, Palestinian residents of territories captured in 1967 and annexed to Israel, have the option of Israeli citizenship, and they hold Israeli identity cards.

"...for Israel to exist, it must deprive the native Palestinians of their rights -- unless they cave in to Israel's terms..."

For Israel to exist, it must deprive the Palestinians of their ability to murder Jews and wage war against our country. The Palestinians must cave in to Israel's terms, which are the terms of every decent civilized human being on the planet. These terms are very simple - the Palestinians must cease their acts of murderous malice, and the bloodthirsty indoctrination and incitement of their people.

 
At 8:16 AM EDT, Blogger Jerry Haber said...

Migreli,

Re human rights in the Occupied Territories. Ever heard of groups called B'Tselem? Amnesty International? Human Rights Watch? The United States State Department? The United Nations? All of these organizations have websites that chronicle the human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Palestinian residents of territories captured in 1967 and annexed to Israel -- that would be East Jerusalem, right? What about the millions under Israeli control -- after all, why annex territories when you can have them without giving their residents citizenship? It is getting the bride without the dowry, as Levi Eshkol said.

I am glad you think the terms are that of every decent human being on the planet. Fortunately, the only people who agree with you are extreme rightwing Jews...and maybe some evangelical Christians.

 
At 8:50 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"It is getting the bride without the dowry, as Levi Eshkol said"

This does not make sense in this context.

 
At 1:22 PM EDT, Blogger Jerry Haber said...

You are correct, Contentious Centrist. I meant to say,

"It's like getting the dowry without the bride, as Levi Eshkol said."

The dowry is the Occupied Territories (including the Golan) and the bride is the Palestinians living on them. Israel gets to exploit the land and the natural resources while not annexing territory and having to offer citizenship to the occupied population. Let us not forget that Israelis living in the West Bank are judged according to Israeli law. Ditto for the Golan.

 

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