Frustration and rage

Prof. Ze'ev SternhellRecently someone placed a small pipe bomb outside the home of Ze’ev Sternhell, a professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University. He was slightly injured when it exploded. The police think that the perpetrators were right-wing extremists, angry at Sternhell for his widely-quoted remarks, as follows:

In the end we will have to use force against the settlers in Ofra or Elon Moreh. Only he who is willing to storm Ofra with tanks will be able to block the fascist danger threatening to drown Israeli democracy. — 1998

There is no doubt about the legitimacy of [Palestinian] armed resistance in the territories themselves. If the Palestinians had a little sense, they would concentrate their struggle against the settlements… and refrain from planting bombs west of the Green Line. — 2001

This small bomb’s echo was heard across the country, Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now said:

On Thursday night, my feelings of personal safety — as well as those of my friends — were shattered the moment we received news that an explosive device had detonated outside Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell’s home.

One would expect that his ‘feelings of personal safety” would have been far more affected by Hezbollah’s and Syria’s thousands of missiles aimed at Israel or by Iranian threats, but never mind.

It is wrong to blow up left-wing Jews who say stupid things. Do I need to repeat that? It is no better than the actions of Hamas (who blow up both left and right-wing Jews).

Having said that, let’s follow the lead of those who try to understand the forces that have produced Arab and Muslim terrorism. Not approve of, just understand, mind you. Let’s try to understand the frustration that gives rise to right-wing rage.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the political causes for frustration, from an article by Evelyn Gordon:

In 1993, the Knesset approved the Oslo Accords, even though Yitzhak Rabin won election promising no negotiations with the PLO. But the ensuing surge in terror disillusioned many Oslo supporters, thus rightists saw a real chance of defeating Oslo 2 in 1995. So they did exactly what good democrats are supposed to do: They lobbied Shas and Labor MKs, and succeeded in garnering enough votes for victory – until Rabin, thumbing his nose at the rules, openly bought two MKs elected on a far-right slate, thereby securing a 61-59 majority…

Fast forward to the 2003 election, when Labor championed a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the Likud’s Ariel Sharon campaigned against this idea. Again, rightists did what good democrats are supposed to do: They threw themselves into electing Sharon. And they succeeded: The Likud won by a landslide. Yet 11 months later, Sharon U-turned and adopted Labor’s platform.

Nevertheless, he offered a democratic escape route: an internal party referendum. So rightists again did what good democrats are supposed to do: They canvassed door-to-door among Likud members. And they won again: Though polls predicted an easy victory for Sharon, his plan lost by a 60-40 margin.

But Sharon ignored his party’s verdict, despite having pledged to honor it. He also refused to submit his plan to any broader democratic test — new elections or a national referendum…

And then Sharon had his stroke, and Olmert continued his program with disastrous results. Now the desire of the present coalition partners to retain their comfortable chairs in the Knesset has almost guaranteed that the present policy of withdrawal and concessions will continue at least until 2010, when general elections are scheduled.

But if the extreme Right is a minority in Israel, so is the extreme Left of the Sternhells and Oppenheimers. So why is Israel following this policy, so thoroughly discredited by the failure of Oslo, the second intifada, and the establishment of Hamastan in Gaza?

The reason is that the policy is not made in Israel, but rather in Washington and Brussels. It is a policy based on the demonstrably false view that Arabs and Muslims will be nicer to the US and Europe — perhaps they will pump more and drive the price of oil down (or they will not pump less and drive it up) — if the West will weaken and shrink Israel.

Some of the promoters of this policy think that Israel has a right to exist, that a peace-loving Palestinian state is a possibility, and that forcing Israel to pre-1967 borders would end Arab demands. Others realize that this is too much to hope for, but believe that a shrunken Israel could still maintain military superiority over the terrorist proxies surrounding it. Finally, some understand that the demands will never stop until Israel is no longer viable, but either don’t care or will be pleased to see the end of the “shitty little country“.

Now nothing frustrates and enrages someone as much as the feeling that he is powerless and not in control.  In particular, many feel that their democratic government is a sham, and someone else is calling the shots, forcing their country to follow a policy that will end in destruction. And there’s nothing they can do about it.

But apparently it feels good to scare fools like Sternhell and Oppenheimer.

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3 Responses to “Frustration and rage”

  1. ME says:

    By the following statement “So rightists again did what good democrats are supposed to do . . . ”

    Does that mean to imply that there is an alternative form of government preferable or at work in Israel aside from a democratic one?

    Is it a parliamentary democracy?

    Furthermore, when you indicate “right” and “left” for Israelis, can you please explain the extreme positions polarizing those two sides?

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Does that mean to imply that there is an alternative form of government preferable or at work in Israel aside from a democratic one?

    It means that they worked within the democratic system.

    Is it a parliamentary democracy?

    The right-wingers think that it has stopped being democratic.

    Furthermore, when you indicate “right” and “left” for Israelis, can you please explain the extreme positions polarizing those two sides?

    That’s too much of a can of worms to open in a comment on erev Rosh Hashanah!

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    Two points. The fringe or extremist ‘right’ is a danger to those who really care about the security and well- being of Israel. But the ones who should resist these people first and above all are from the settler movement, and from the right itself.
    Secondly, Sternhall is a hypocrite. He has for years used verbal violence freely. His criticisms of Israel in Europe have made him popular there, but they were most often extreme and unjust.
    In this one both sides are wrong.