Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What will bring the Israeli’s and Palestinians closer towards Peace?

You will have to believe me when I tell you that I read an excessive amount of news and opinion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am writing what is now my 50th entry on this blog which is devoted mostly to this issue. Absorbing the news is for me, as it is for you given that you read this blog, an endless outlet for introspection on what in means to be a Jew and a Zionist in the 20th century. Most articles you and I read about our beloved state, criticize excessively the decisions of the Ehud Olmert, or praise excessively the noble and moral IDF. Either way, both perspectives always find some way of mentioning the Holocaust, Aparthied, and general stereotypes of all Arabs as fanatical Islamists, and all Jews as the extension of the colonial arm of the great Satan, USA.

It is with this in mind, that I was pleasantly surprised to read this thoroughly sobering and pragmatic response to Jimmy Carter’s latest attack on Israel. It is penned by Bradley Burston of Haaretz.
The occupation is horrid, but it is not apartheid.

The occupation must be opposed not because it resembles apartheid, but because it is overtly destructive to both Palestinians and Israelis.

The use of the term apartheid actually contributes to one of the primary reasons why the occupation continues. It is the "Oom Shmoom" syndrome - the Israeli mindset that says "The whole world curses and mislabels us for anything we do or don't do, so we might as well go on doing what we're doing."

As it is, it is too easy for Israelis to maintain a state of denial over the occupation and its evils. It is too easy for Israelis to dismiss hyperbole, to wave away comparisons to the Nazis and other genocidal regimes.

What is needed is honest criticism of the occupation as it is. What is needed is exposure of the specific ways in which Israel's policies cause harm to the harmless, and, in the process, are bad for Israel as well.

The occupation will not end because of a thousand rockets, or ten thousand. It will not end through boycotts by publicity starved academics.

It will end by means of Israelis being exposed to and coming to terms with wrongheaded and often immoral acts committed in the name of security, acts which often harm only non-combatants. It will come through the actions of Israeli courts, of a U.S. administration actively seeking solutions, and, eventually, though the actions of courageous Israeli politicians.

It will come through diplomacy, international involvement, and a process in which mutual demonization gives way to compromise.

What is needed is an attempt to approach Israelis as human beings trying, if often failing, to deal with an impossible array of complex variables.

Human beings, not evil, bloodthirsty colonialist Zionist thugs. Human beings, not a collection of facile, mean-spirited labels.

Zionists and Israel hater’s alike, I hope you are both listening!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Foriegn Workers in Israel

Today’s Haaretz editorial has commented on yet another example of our beloved state failing to live up to it’s mantle of “or lagoyim.”
The government approved a scandalous bill yesterday - submitted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon -to import 3,000 foreign laborers to work in agriculture. They would join the 26,000 foreign workers already employed by the Israeli agriculture industry. The bill runs contrary to previous government decisions to gradually reduce the annual quotas for foreign workers in agriculture, construction and industry.
It seems as though the real ‘or lagoyim’ is Australia (for a change).
The deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, Prof. Zvi Eckstein, is in the process of formulating a comprehensive plan to drastically reduce the number of foreign workers in Israel. Eckstein, an economist and expert in labor market policy, relies on a model adopted by Australia and intended to curb the entry of millions of foreign workers from other countries in the region. Instead of bringing in a foreign and cheap labor force, Australia introduced agricultural mechanization. Eckstein thinks there is no reason for the Israeli government not to adopt a similar policy and subsidize farmers who bring mechanization into their fields and hothouses. Given the small number of landowners who make a living from agriculture, this is not an impossible task.

Yet the Israelis prefer to hire the foreign workers. Why? What happened to A.D Gordon’s vision? Already in 1920 he wrote “The Jewish people has been completely cut off from nature and imprisoned within city walls for two thousand years. We have been accustomed to every form of life, except a life of labor- of labor done at our behalf and for its own sake. It will require the greatest effort of will for such a people to become normal again. We lack the principal ingredient for national life. We lack the habit of labor… for it is labor which binds a people to its soil and to its national culture, which in its turn is an outgrowth of the people's toil and the people's labor. ...

I find this quote so poignant. By not labouring on our land, we are weakening the connection (and perhaps our rights of ownership) to Eretz Yisrael.