Which brings me to Likud, whose charges of anti-Semitism against all its critics make it possible—in the late Alexander Cockburn’s words—to always tell when Israel is in the wrong. Pro-Likud neocons played a large part in launching Iraq’s destruction. Israel’s right wing wanted Iraq permanently enfeebled. They got their wish.
The same forces are now driving the current American confrontation with Iran and the shameful abandonment of the Palestinians. In the meantime, Israel’s citizens remain deeply at odds over their democracy’s future. The unraveling of Netanyahu’s coalition after a mere 10 weeks is proof that the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union and a high birthrate in the ultra-Orthodox community mean that democracy itself is under threat. Activists claim that starting in 2010, the Israeli Parliament has passed more than 25 bills to limit freedom of speech and of the press. Former nightclub bouncer Avigdor Lieberman is now sitting in Abba Eban’s old office. Ultras in the Orthodox community do not believe in such things as judicial independence or basic Palestinian rights.
Every Friday, hundreds of Israelis gather in Arab East Jerusalem and hold a vigil to protest the eviction of Palestinian families from homes they have occupied for generations. Extremist settlers are pushing them out with government eviction notices. First evicted in 1948, these poor souls are being expelled by Israel for a second time. Some young Israelis are as outraged as the most extreme of Palestinians at the injustice of it all.
The Jewish state has been taken hostage by the ultra-Orthodox parties and the settlers. Only recently Mitt Romney told the Israeli hawks that it’s OK to attack Iran, or words to that effect. Palestinian human rights were not mentioned. The “P” word is verboten if one’s running for office in the Land of the Free.
Last week I spent my evening recovering from a leg injury while watching Daniel Barenboim conduct his wonderful Israeli-Egyptian-Syrian orchestra in Beethoven’s nine symphonies. He founded it with Edward Said, the late Palestinian historian. I also saw Barenboim carrying the Olympic flag with other worthies into the stadium. I wondered why Israel couldn’t have more Barenboims and fewer Netanyahus. Enjoy the Olympics.
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