Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Carnage Cruise

Friends and acquaintances are certain that this time, Israel has overstepped. The IDF's assault on the Gaza-bound flotilla provoked waves of anger and protest, even in parts of the US, which for the most part overlooks or excuses Israeli violence. The tide, I've been told, is finally turning.

We'll see. There have been far deadlier spasms of Israeli aggression, but those were primarily attacks on Arab civilians, either in dense urban areas or refugee camps. Numerous poor brown people butchered in the defense of humanity. A tragic but necessary trade-off. This time Israel fucked with those loosely-sponsored by a NATO state with which Israel shares military technology. Most of the dead are Turks, and this is not going over well in Ankara. So really, it's not about numbers of dead (as Stalin reminded us), but who the dead are connected to. And Turkey is not known for passive resistance.

This is not to say that Turkey is warming up its F-35s, for whatever its egregious human rights sins, the Turkish leadership is not insane (they're still open to continued arms sales). The Israelis, on the other hand . . . well, insanity may be too general a description. Military and political setbacks have forced Israeli leaders to alter their expansionist plans, but the expansionist mindset remains. It's a major part of Zionist dreams going back to the 1920s. According to reports from my Israeli news list, these setbacks have maddened many in Israel who believe that they should be allowed to behave as they see fit, and fuck the world if it doesn't agree. There are Israelis who take a saner view, but to date, they are decidedly outnumbered.

Thus it was meant to be. In my early days as a Middle East speaker/debater, I encountered Israelis from left to right, and while they held different views about war and Palestine, all of them said that the Israeli mentality is ultimately suicidal. If there is any hint of a massive defeat or decisive turnaround in Israeli designs, the country may well blow itself up (after destroying those around it) rather than face such indignity. The leftists bemoaned this; the rightists celebrated it. Israelis are drilled from childhood about their uniqueness and divine right to whatever land they consider historically theirs. They are also told that the rest of the planet hates them and longs for their extinction, therefore Israelis must be tougher, stronger, more violent, indeed crazier than their enemies.

You see some of this in Yoav Shamir's excellent documentary, Defamation. Shamir, an Israeli filmmaker, goes off in search of contemporary anti-Semitism. He deals with all sides, from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to Norman Finkelstein. Shamir is open and displays a wry sense of humor, but in the end he focuses on the indoctrination of Israeli youth. It's an illuminating journey, one that helps explain the mentality that led to Israel's latest assault, by no means the last one.

If in fact the tide is turning against Israel, and if the suicidal option is at all accurate or realistic, then how far does Israel get pushed before the real madness goes down? Hard to say. I certainly hope that like many lunatic reputations, this one is bullshit. How depressing would it be if Christian fundamentalists were right?