A Short History of Modern Israel

January 15, 2009

The idea of this essay (post?) is to give a simple overall picture of the history of the modern Israel. There may not be anything new here, but just a (hopefully) clear big picture. The generality came on the account of the accuracy, and each point will probably be easily proved as wrong by itself, by anyone who will wish to do so.

This essay is also suffer from a common tendency of not-well-written historical texts, of increasing resolution of details with the progress of the time. My excuse for that – besides my laziness and ignorance – is that it is possible for me to filter the irrelevant details out of the far history, in a way that will simplify the picture without seriously reduce its meaning. I’m lacking this privilege for the near past and our current days.

I will start (excluding some general comments) from the 19th century, and will progress to our current times more or less.

The Rise of the Zionism

During the 19th century the people in Europe started to crystallize into nations. The Jewish people got stuck in the middle of this thing. Some of them were fully integrated in the intellectual and financial elite, and some of them lived a poor pathetic dirty life in their ghettos. The result was that people could hate the Jews from whatever reason they wished.

As part of the nationalization process, some intellectuals made theories to justify it, or to describe the desired situation if they resisted the nationalization process. In any case they were messing with defining criteria and forcing the people (hypothetically) to fit into it. The dissonance between their visions to the real world was the only obstacle for getting into utopia. These theories and their desired results are known as ideologies.

One of these theories was that the problem of the Jewish people (or the problems that Europe has because of the Jewish people, as some wise politician defined it), is that: the Jewish people are a nation, but this nation is lacking the full package of: organic historical sequence, language, territory etc. This situation leaves the Jewish people in ill position that makes them, more or less, what the Anti-Semites ideologists says they are.

The solution for the situation was simple and elegant: creating a mythology. The best way to do it was to take the ready made ethos from the Jewish biblical faith – ignore the last two thousand years, ignore the fact that there is not much in common between the modern Judaism and the biblical one, ignore the fact that the origin of most of the modern Jewish people have probably nothing to do with ancient Israel, and ignore questions such of ‘the value of historical rights over a place which is already populated by real people’ – and let the Jewish people get back to their lost fatherland(!!!). The idea was to create a new (“revived”) healthy natural Jew and a new healthy natural Jewish society.

As expected, most of the Jewish people did not support this solution and preferred to take the strategy of supporting the socialism, which was one of the popular theories that reduced the nationalism, and allowed (theoretically) the Jewish people to become an equal part of the local society.

Skipping some details, the world got into a big war; whether it was one big war between the imperialism to the nationalism, or two wars between the good democracies to the evil totalitarism, or just politics, or any combination of the three, is not important to the issue we are talking about. The outcome of the war that is relevant for our matter is that during this period, more and more Jewish people got the understanding that staying in Europe may not be their best bet. So the popularity of the Zionism (The Hebrew nationalism) increased among the Jewish people, and a decent number of them immigrated to their home land.

The Establishment of Israel

When the war was ended, the world was trying to deal with the meaning of the Nazi genocide, and the British Empire was trying to get rid of its messy territories. A result of these two factors was that GB decided to retreat their Palestinian province, and the United Nations decided that the abandoned territory will be used to establish two new countries: Israel and Palestine.

The Palestinian people did not understand why the new invaders deserve to get anything besides punishment (especially when they were still the majority), and the Jewish people was not very keen to get back to Europe and wait for the next genocide just because some barbarians are not kind enough to be grateful for their generous willingness to share their historical fatherland with them. So they started to kill each-other.

It was a confused war between some Israeli militias and some Arab militias from the local population and some leftover natives from the Ex-British and French empires in the near area. It appears that the Arab militias were even more ill-organized than the Israeli ones and the young Israel gained great victory(!!!). Israel used the war to kick a fair part of the local Palestinians out of their land and those refugees and their offsprings (which also referred as refugees) became a true victim of the situation, and deserve their own essay. The outcome of the war was an official state of Israel on its nowadays territories without the occupied areas (the West Bank was occupied by Jordan and the Gaza strip was belonged to Egypt).

Israel – Early Years

No one really agreed about Israel new boarders, and the situation in the next couple of decades (approximately 1948 to 1967) was tensed and included a lot of incidents and few wars.

Meanwhile, the Israelis – pretty much successfully considering the circumstances – were fulfilling their vision: during the first half of the 20th century the new Hebrew immigrants established some colonies in the territory of modern Israel, so at the time of the declaration of independence and its corresponded war, there was already a well establish Hebrew civilization at the relevant territories.

This civilization was based on mixture of socialism and nationalism. In some way it can be parallel to the Soviet ideology, but without the brutal totalitarism (everything is relative), and the imperial ambitions. It was officially a democracy, but an aristocracy-ruled society in practice. It means that people could think whatever they want as long as they are not touching the sanctified Zionism and its precious army/socialism/whatever else. They could also vote for whoever they wished, but the feelling was that the reasons they needed for voting the Labour (the dominant party) can be much weaker than the reasons they need for not voting them.

Anyway, in the first couple of decades the Israeli society was – blossomed in proud egocentrism, typical to nationalism and fuelled by the Jewish tradition – building a new enlightened-proud-national-social-democracy. It was totally corrupted of course, but the structure was more or less stable, and they got some real achievements in education, national defense, economy, and especially with creating this abstract (and not very trivial) feeling of culture and identity for its (Jewish) citizens. It means that the average Israeli had the feeling that he(/she) belongs to something which is more than an improvised-interest-based-temporary organization, and that this semi-mystical entity is – whatever that means – responsible.

The harmony was not perfect. The society was based on a strong hierarchy that was strongly cultural-oriented. The top of the hierarchy was the population that emigrates from Europe from Zionist reasons. The ideal New Hebrew person was someone who came to build the country for the good of the nation and the collective, better as a Kibbutz comrade.

Bellow, there was European-originate people (‘people’ or ‘Israeli people’ refers to Jewish people unless otherwise specified) who just lived their life, possibly even as a petty-bourgeois in a big city, who’s cultural world and values were “European”. I.e. they knew that they are responsible citizens who should show solidarity to their people, be proud of their nation, and all the rest of the package.

A stage below was the Oriental-Jewish people: in the early 50’s when the young Israel started to grow, the Israeli population was mainly European by origin. It was not a very large population, about 700,000 people. And they needed to get more. There were quite a lot spare Jewish people in the Middle East. These people had not much in common with the European Judaism, and almost nothing in common with the Zionism or with the great ideologies of the 19th century. They had the right name and the right symbol-system though, so they were recruited to do their share in the Zionist dream.

They where basically thrown into small towns in unpopulated (in the Jewish sense) areas, and expected to expend the Zionist dream to these areas. They had no idea what ‘Israel’ want from them, so they didn’t do much and mainly developed a bitterness about their hosts (the ‘old’ European Israelis) who seems to know how the system work and using it for their own good. They became a minority of 50% of the population. Their own culture didn’t count much as it did not fit to the national purposes and considered as a semi barbarian oriental thing that need to be cured. The fact that this culture was much closer to the culture of the ultimate enemy than to the gloried Zionism, didn’t help much either.

It doesn’t really matter if these Oriental-Jewish people lived in ideal harmony in their home lands and manipulated by the evil Zionists to immigrate to Israel, or were abused by evil Arab dictators who took advantage over the situation to kick them out and rob their enormous property, or they simply made a mistake, or just idealized the past for explaining the contemporary difficulties. The result was that they found themselves taking a part in a system that they didn’t expected and did not understand. They got some superficial feeling of being proud of their nation and all the rest of the ideology. But they mainly felt that the country (the semi-mystical entity) is not giving them a fair share in a way that they could not understand. The responsibility they expected from ‘the country’ started the process of transforming into guilt.

Below the Oriental-Jewish there was another sector: the non Jewish minorities. After the war of 1948, when Israel sent into exile a fair part of the aboriginal population (it’s hard to find an objective source about the exact numbers), blocked their way back, and confiscated their property by juridical tricks, there was still large amount of aboriginals that remained in the Israeli territory. Most of them were Muslim Palestinians. These minorities got formally full citizenship and became part of the Israeli population. In practice however, they were discriminated and got less budgets, less chances to get into influential positions, their political protests was more liberally depressed, and they were suspected as spies and traitors by the Israeli population. But relatively to the rest of the Arab-Israeli related problems it was not so bad.

A special position in this hierarchy was saved to the ultra orthodox Jewish people (those with the beards and the black suites). The deal was that being an orthodox refines this person with some privileges like special governmental support and exemption from some civil duties. Besides that the orthodoxies got a monopoly over the lows of personal status. The formal excuse was some deal of the first Israeli government with some lobbyists for perpetuating the nearly extinct traditional Jewish life.

To make the long story short, the Israeli civilization gently grew up, the Oriental Jewish people became more and more frustrated, the religious institutions got more and more power, and the non-Jewish minorities piled up more and more bitterness in parallel to a partial integration.

The War of 1967

Then the 1967 war came. The exact processes who led to it and its exact progress does not really matter for this scope. The relevant thing is that Israel gained a glorious victory(!!!) again. And the main result was that Israel conquered the territories which known as the occupied areas (that was belong to Jordan and Egypt) and some additional territories from Egypt and some other from Syria.

As a victorious, Israel made a ‘classic’ mistake and decided to hold the territories she gained. It is hard to point single actions as reasons to historical processes, but the decision of Israel to hold the new territories was probably the most stupid thing that Israel ever done. It is highly probable that this occupation constitutes a main factor in most of Israel contemporary internal and external problems.

A Simple Explanation why Israel Held the Occupied Areas

As odd as it sounds, there was almost a total agreement in Israel that it should keep holding the new territories, and the question is why? The simple answer is that the great victory confirmed to the Israelis that they are leaving in an action movie and they are the good guys who are winning. The reasons to the war reduced in the collective mind to a huge mass of evil bad guys who attack Israel from pure hate and desire to extinct her, and the war itself reduced to Israeli heroic actions against the barbarians.

It is interesting to mention that hate (and arrogance in some level) was not a main factor in this simplification. It was much more efficient to depersonalize the enemy into masses of flat caricatures who are running forward motivated by rustic dark stupidity, and falling down in front of the powers of light. After the war was ended, the Israeli people could just lay back in relief (a very big relief) and see that they are not going to die anymore, they are right and strong, and the world is finally safe enough to blur all the little details of reality, and get some pleasant rest.

There were, of course, the people who always insist to spoil the movie and mention that all the actors are in fact real people and that a lot of realpolitik involved behind the scene, but they were a negligible minority, and heretics.

A Complimentary Explanation to the Simple Explanation Above

As I said above, the war and its reasons was simplified in the mind of the multitude to a level of ethos. The simplification was based on focus on the positive story of the victorious, and repression of the human side of the defeated enemy. It was more efficient than evolving an active justification system based on negative values. In this way, they didn’t have to protect themselves against their own conscience.

But there is a question why the politicians – who tends to be extremely popular after successful wars – did not maneuver the enthusiasm of the people to more responsible direction? The answer is simple: army (in its wide sense).

The Zionist ethos in those days was based on strong nationalism, with a special attention on the distinction between the new vigorous Hebrew nation and the old decadent Judaism of the Diaspora. The pre-Zionist Judaism considered as wrong and weak, hence (somehow) to be strong is right and the strength is a proof for the rightness (only because they was more moral and progressive than the barbarians of course). It means that the main motive is still justice, but (same as with voting the right party) supporting moves that looks ‘strong’ requires much weaker reasons than supporting moves that looks ‘weak’. If you run forward and everything looks right, there should be needed a serious reason to even start thinking about taking a step back.

This climate of vigorous deeds and strength, additionally to the questionable popularity of Israel among its neighbors, cause the Israeli army to become one of the main values of the society. Note that I define the army as value by itself, and not refer to values which are related to the army. The practical side of that, for our subject, is that the Israeli generals were idolized as leaders of the public opinion and of the politicians in person. Generals normally (unless you are Bismarck or someone else who knows what he’s doing) tend to prefer short term tactical considerations over strategic ones.

Other factor that was in the collective Israeli mind is the ‘historical right’ (a dangerous combination of terms), which was in fact part of the attempt to force the Zionist ethos over the occupied areas. The ‘historical right argument was only a side effect for the vast majority, but it deserved an explicit mentioning as it developed into a religious imperialism that had some effect on the future events.

The important thing is that the post-1967 Israel was bigger and happier, and the average Israeli was more convinced in the Israeli ethos. It lasted for seven years until the war of 1973.

The 1973 Transformation

Israel did not “lose” the war of 1973. But it felt more like a fair fight and less like masses of bad guys falling in front of the machine-guns of the good guys. There were no serious results (besides some dead people) and the objective situation of Israel did not change dramatically. I won’t, again, get into the details of the war and to questions such who started and why.

The important thing is that the feeling of the average Israeli was, for the first time, that there is no more one-way vigorous progress to an unavoidable utopia, but that the life is for real. The concept of Zionism reduced from an Idea to a Practice. The new Israeli religion lost a lot of its depth.

From this point the mighty structure of the Zionist ethos started to decline (every history that respects itself should include the term ‘decline’ somewhere). It was the beginning of what seems to be the end of system of false ideals, corrupted hierarchies, and national ethnocentrism; but also of socialism, culture, and education. Israel started to lose the structure that was responsible for its stability. Instead of building and improving itself, since the 1973 war Israel was mainly busy on slowing down and trying to save as much as it can from the ruins of its old vision.

The push that the growth of the Israeli religion got from the war of 1967, proved by the war of 1973 as an action that ripped its delicate roots from the soil of socialism, humanism, nationalism, and the rest of the basic foundations for a stable society.

Since 1977

The first serious noticeable affect of this transformation came in 1977 when the labour party lost the election for the first time.

As I mentioned above, about 50% of the population of Israel were Oriental-Jewish immigrants. The simplification of their story is that: they has been brought as reinforcements by the (Jewish) Europeans; and had no idea what they should do, so they started to dichotomize between diffusion to the Israeli consensus, and a local version of redneckism.

The Zionist nationalism in the latter group – which was an abstract version of an oriental tribal thinking at the first place – found itself narrowing the limit of the tribe to their own community. The naïve ideal of a ’big Israeli tribe’ got weaker and alternative narrower tribe became more legitimate. A strong characteristic of the new tribe limits can defined by the negation “the people who are not the European who backrub each-other in the government and the leading positions”.

Additionally to this group there was a large group of people (and a part in the mind of a much larger group of people) that was denying the conclusions of the realistic war of 1973 (on the background of the ideal war of 1967, and the Zionist miraculous progress in general). This group can be described as a classic Republican that basically sees the picture through the glasses of the physical strength of the nation.

All needed under these circumstances is a good rhetorician to translate these two groups to political power. This rhetorician name was Menachem Begin – the leader of the opposition. The Likud (Cheirut in its previous name) which was relatively small militant party, started to gain power. The propaganda of this party was (and still is) based on tribal identity (which is in fact a racism, that from some reason the society tend to tolerate when it comes from the underdog), personal attacks on the politicians of the other side (including “unorganized” physical attacks by the multitude), and the traditional conversion of the starvation-for-welfare of the poor into a desire to brutal power. With few exceptions, the Likud remain the leading party since then.

Despite the official propaganda, as prime minister, Begin tried to rely as much as he could on the old aristocracy and its mechanisms. He appointed as many ‘old’ key people as he could to important positions, and was less revolutionary than he declared in general. He also tried to do some change in the economy that was total disaster, but I’ll avoid my temptation to blame exclusively him for that.

The main event that should be mentioned, besides the social crisis, is the peace agreement with Egypt. But before that I’ll go into some more detail about the nature of the Israeli different territorial conflicts. In general – besides the primal ‘being evil colonials’ Vs. ‘don’t want to take the chance of staying in Europe’ reason – we can distinguish between two kinds of territory-based problems:

  1. “Standard” territorial conflicts – problems that Israel has with its neighbors after conquering some territories from them. This refers to anything related to Sinai that was taken from Egypt, and to the Golan Heights, that was taken from Syria.
  2. The “occupied areas” problem. This refers to the Gaza Strip and to the West Bank. Although they where taken from Egypt and from Jordan (respectively) at the 1967 war, those countries were smart enough not to (seriously) ask them back. The reason for that is that these territories were highly populated by a nation (in a pre-national state, if it matters) that was not Egyptian and not Jordanian, but Palestinian.

The peace agreement with Egypt was based on solving a conflict of the first kind. In the bottom line, Israel gave back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, Egypt obligated not to move armed forces to this area, Israeli tourists went to see the pyramids, Egyptian intellectuals continued see Israel as the ultimate evil, Egypt itself got piles of American support, and there were no violent incidents between Israel and Egypt since then.

An interesting aspect is the way the Israeli collective mind digested this change. Since the 1967 war (more or less), there were diplomatic contacts between Israel to Egypt. These contacts tagged in the Israeli mind as some realpolitik details you hear about in the news, and not something that actually have something to do with the big picture. Hence, when the Egyptian president arrived to Israel, the Israeli people were entirely surprised. It didn’t matter that there was a continuous progress between the sides, and that it was already agreed for few years that Israel is willing to give up territories in return for peace. “We called the enemy and invited him… and he said yes(!!!)”. It was some kind of miracle. So the Israeli narrative remains the same, but miracles were possible. It means more hope for some, more fear for others, and less stability for the ethos of everybody.

To increase the confusion, the Right-Wing leader hate-propaganda-based Begin was the one who finished the process from the Israeli side and signed the peace agreement.

Speeding up again, the main events in the next years were economical crises; a small war in Lebanon, that its main effect (except killing people) was the decision of Israel to stay there for 20 years; a continuation of the process that allowed some groups not to be traditional Zionists (although they remain under the umbrella of the Zionist terminology most of the time); and a beginning of some primal form of globalization in the Zionist old aristocracy.

1987: Intifada. The Palestinians Uprising Against the Israeli Occupation

As I mentioned above, some of the territories that Israel occupied in the 1967 war were populated by Palestinians. As Egypt and Jordan were not very keen to get this pain back, it was decided (or just happened) that the authority in those areas will be the Israeli army. ‘Army’ and ‘authority’ are terms that should not be put too close to each-other (and I tempt to mention wiser political system which disguised the power of their army under the name of ‘consent’).

So there is no reason to get into the details again. The Israeli army authorized, the Palestinian population was not pleased, and the whole thing exploded when some Israeli truck driver (probably innocent) lost control over his truck and killed some Palestinians. A Palestinian multitude tried to kill him back, the Israeli army authorized too much again, riots started everywhere, so the Israeli army authorized even more.

The riots were not entirely spontaneous. There was a strong awareness to the impact of the picture of stones against guns. The semi-organization of the Palestinian protest was made mainly by the PLO, which was a political organization (in contrast to a religious one) with a reach terrorist history. During the Intifada, the PLO, and its leader Arafat, succeed to label themselves as the leaders of the Palestinians, and the goal was to free Palestine(!!!).

The immediate Israeli understanding of the situation was mixed. First, they had some ideological arguments that were some extension of the traditional Zionist narrative to some form of imperialism: A common opinion was that “we have only one tiny country, and they (‘they’ are everybody who is in some way Arab or Muslim) have 30 countries, so why they want to take part of the very little we have”. This claim was supported by the logical maneuver that says that because there never been exist a country called Palestine the Palestinian people should go away.

Second, there was the usual surprise that upper classes have when they discover that the lower classes are not terribly thankful for the right to improve their position by the privilege of washing the upper classes dishes and clean their houses.

Beside that there was a strong tendency to repress the meaning of the situation by ignoring the ‘Why’ and focusing on the ‘What’. The ‘What’ is actually “What can be done to win something which is less then a war but more then a civil demonstration?” This way of thinking led to a fruitless field of ‘soft’ weapon development, and endless discussions about the morally appropriate amount of power that Israel should use. The unconscious assumption was that the former existing situation (occupation and no riots) was the natural state and the only problem is How to retrieve it.

One way to repress the possibility that a change may be needed was to see the other side as terrorists. It was easier then it sounds, as it was correct in many cases, and considering the past of the PLO as the official narrative of the whole thing made it unavoidable. It was much simpler to see all the violent events as terrorist actions, and ignore the absurd of a 10 years old “terrorist” throwing stone on an 18 year’s old Israeli “child” who is wearing uniforms and a tank. Anyway, the point is that the enemy is terrorist so it’s not a “Why” area of thinking.

There were also the annoying people that spoiled the movie of 1967 and now came back to say “I told you”.

The Israely Society in the Late 80′s and the Early 90′s

With time, when the pressure increased, the Israeli mind started to understand that something have to be done. This consciousness helped the collective mind to continue the sectorialization process which started with the rise of Begin in 1977. The common opinion was that the old story is not working anymore, but there was strong disagreement about the alternative.

One sector – which was mainly the old aristocrats, i.e. European-originated people (Jewish people); not religious; who believed in modern democracy, and were convinced that this is what they have in Israel; who respected and felt at home at the western civilization values; and saw the Zionist ethos as an unavoidable result of the unfortunate circumstances in Europe in the first half of the 20th century – became the core of the Left-Wing. They argued that the Palestinians deserve to do whatever they like with the land they live on (except Jerusalem maybe, as the Zionism used it too intensively. Zion is simply another name of Jerusalem by the way), and deserve to live their life as every human being, side to side to Israel, in its borders before the war of 1967.

Another sector – which was mainly based on Oriental (Jewish) people; manipulated by Begin and his successors; tribal-oriented; fear motivated; forever discriminated by the old aristocracy; believed that god is the tribe is the absolute rule-system – became the core of the Right-Wing. They argued that the conflict should be resolved by force. That ‘the Arabs’ understand and respects force only. That every step back of Israel, will make her look weak and will tactically used by its enemy. And that the support of god and their Zionist historical rights dehumanize anyone who resists this perception (expel him out of the tribe).

A third smaller sector – which was basically a biblical crazy religious people; who thought that god promise the land to Israel; that the Jewish are superior over the gentiles (which are not entirely humane); that the Palestinian people should at least shut up and thank Israel for the privilege to stay alive (sometimes) – became the core of what moderately called in Israel the Ultra-Right-Wing. They saw themselves as the true successors of the Zionism (which is true asymptotically), and wished for a theocratic empire, preferably ruled by the Mashie, that should be convinced by their noble actions that now is the time to come back from heaven.

Trying to make parallelization: the Left-Wing, at this stage, is parallel to the American Republicans, with a Democratic minority; the Israeli Ultra-Right is an active version of the crazy evangelists; and the core of the Right-Wing has no western parallel as far as I see.

There was though, some level of diffusion between the sectors. Especially, some members of the group that I considered as the Left-Wing who was on the right side of the spectrum (parallel to Conservative Republicans) considered themselves as part of the Right-Wing, and became most of its leadership in fact. Another diffusion was of large number of Oriental-originated-Jewish people into the old mainstream, which made them part of the Left-Wing.

There were other sectors, of course: there were still the ultra-orthodox, several dozens of communists, and the Israeli Arabs. But none of them really counted. The collapse of the official terminology of the Russian Empire opened its boarders, and a large part of the Jewish population (about a million) escaped to Israel. But besides strengthening the Jewish demographic majority and the sectorialization process, they didn’t have major influence at this stage.

It is also should be comment that the groups were not entirely homogenous. It is mainly worth to mention (beside the diffusion between the groups, which I referred to two paragraphs ago) an ultra-tribal sub-sector of the Right-Wing: Shas is the name of its representative body. Its ideology based strong racism, theoignorance, and chauvinism. Its goal is an Oriental-Jewish theocracy ruled by Oriental-Jewish males only, when public violation of the Jewish law (picking the nose on Saturday for example. One of their adored leader innovations) is prohibited. It is common to compare the vision of Shas to the contemporary regime of Iran.

One difference from an Islamic theocracy (fortunately) is the lack of imperial aspirations. There is a support on military occupations of course, as part of the narrow-minded dehumanization of the ‘others’, but it is not a fundamental principle. Instead of that, especially when the body is relatively small, there is a strong preference of the members of the group over the rest of the society, so the group is characterized by high solidarity to the inner side and some level of corruption and opportunism to the outer side.

1992 Elections

As I mentioned above, an internal and external pressure caused Israel started to talk with the Palestinians. As the PLO was the Palestinian leading body de-facto, but the PLO was defined by Israel as a terrorist organization, the peace conversations were between Israel to some Palestinian second-class personae who was not officially connected to the PLO. The whole thing was a big twisted stagnation and there was no major progress.

Besides the necessity to do something with the Palestinians, the new power hierarchy in Israel led to new types of corruption: It is hard to quantify and compare the corruption of the 80’s (under the Likud: the leading party of the Right) to the corruption of previous times, but the nature of the corruption changed: It was not longer a built-in part of the stable structure that sustaining the whole Zionist project. It was a new kind of corruption, and it had a negative effect on the Likud mild voters.

It should be mentioned that part of the Likud campaign 10 years before (at Begin’s times) was against the Labour corruption. The corruption of the Labour considered as deeply merged in the whole system, and the straggle against it could not be done without some bigger ideological straggle. The current corruption of the new-order elite considered just as a corruption with no excuses.

So, there were two (not entirely independent) major factors in these elections: the Palestinian problem and the cultural decline. The dichotomy between Left and Right reached to its highest point. Two significantly different opinions were possible (as most people saw it):

  1. A typical opinion of a Left supporter was something like: “the time has come to finally do something about the occupation. Terminating the occupation is the point where wise defense strategy and moral values meets each-other. It will allow us to finish our regional isolation and regenerate our collapsing liberal society. It won’t be easy, but we will be able to fight our wars from a moral superiority.” Or as some non negligible minority saw it: “war is scary. It is better to avoid it. The weak side is right because it’s weak and using force against it is wrong.”
  2. And a typical opinion of a Right supporter was of the form of: “those Left-Wing people went completely out of their mind. They are going to surrender to the Arab violence and give them territories that belong to us (by the permission of god, as some of them saw it). Those people can’t be trusted. They are corrupted to the bone and interested only in their money and their espresso (Somehow, espresso to the Israeli Right became somewhat similar to alcohol to Muslims). They are cooperating with the enemy. If the Left will win the elections, than the Arabs will know that it is possible to break us, and will use their achievement as a first stage in their plan to throw us to the Mediterranean. Those Left-Wing people forgot which team they belong to.”

So there were an elections and the Left won by a small majority.

The Peace Process

Yitzhak Rabin as the head of the Labour formed a not very stable coalition and started to advance a peace process. As opposed to previous moves, this time it looked for real. Israel agreed to talk directly with the PLO despite its terrorist past (and present, as some people claimed) and to openly negotiate retreat both from the Palestinian occupied areas, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

A lot of progress has made: Israel signed peace agreements with Palestine and with Jordan; there were a positive diplomatic progress with Arab countries in North Africa and Arabia; and above all, besides the fancy signed papers, there was a start of a real practical cooperation between Israel and Palestine (which part of it survived for surprisingly long time). In general, it looked like there is a chance that Israel will become an integral part of a sane area.

There was an opposition to this progress, and it was a violent opposition.

In Palestine, the radical Islam started to gain power. Its main representatives: the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad resisted to any contacts with Israel. Their vision was Islamic world domination, and they resisted Arab nationalism such as the one the PLO represented. They expressed their dissatisfaction from the peace process by the traditional way of the Radical Islam, and raised violent riots in Palestine and operated some terrorism against Israel.

In the other side, the Israeli Right claimed that the Israeli government and Yitzhak Rabin in particular, have no right to give pieces of Israel to the enemy. Their arguments were that the coalition was too narrow (and without some Israeli-Arab parliament members it has no majority, and it’s not fair to count the Arab voices). They had the over-simplified claim that ‘there is a peace process but the Arabs still kill Jews’, and the less over-simplified (and probably correct) claim that the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat control the Palestinian violence behind the scene. Additionally there was a common opinion among the Ultra-Right people that the ‘sanctity of the Promised Land’ is the highest value and it should be defended at all costs.

The protest and the propaganda became more and more personal against Yitzhak Rabin that was the dominant person in the process (and in some level against his number two: Shimon Peres). Rage demonstrations were made, and Israel was flooded by posters and stickers that was full of slander, and presented Rabin as the pure evil. Some of the major rabbis decided that by the Jewish Law Rabin should be assassinated, and the political Right leaders supervised the whole thing from a safe distance.

The most popular slogans of this campaign were “Rabin is a traitor” and “Rabin is a murderer”. It was shouted repeatedly in every demonstration, was glued over nearly every public wall and every Right supporter car. It was not entirely safe to look like Rabin’s supporter in some areas.

A comparison to the Holocaust also played a major role. It was not uncommon to refer to Rabin and the Left as Nazis, and a fair part of the propaganda visual aids included the swastika and other related motives. One famous poster presented Rabin in a Nazi officer uniform. It is the right place to comment that the only possible death punishment in Israel is for Nazism crimes.

The leaders of the opposition were standing behind this hate campaign. In the Ultra-Right religious groups there were serious discussions about the meaning of giving part of the Holy Land to the enemy, and about the superiority of the Jewish Law over the Israeli democratic bodies. All that was additionally to the decision that by the Jewish law Rabin should be killed (that I mentioned above).

The Political-Right leaders were not that explicit, but they encouraged an intensive emotional tribal hate. They led the demonstrations I mentioned above (those with the “Rabin is a murderer” slogans, and the Holocaust motives). In one case there was a police investigation about the origins of a sticker that simply said “Kill Rabin”. The tracks were lost somewhere in the Likud headquarters. The leaders were smart enough to never say anything directly, but they never made a try to prevent the violent phenomena or reduce the flames.

In the 4th of November 1995 a large ‘Pro-Peace and Anti-(political)Violence’ demonstration were planned. It supposed to show that the Left majority is still active and care, and the support of the peace process is not virtual. More then a hundred thousand people were expected to arrive, and all the major Left political leaders supposed to participate. The Right opposed to the demonstration and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in a typical non-direct-Holocaust-related comment said that such demonstrations belong to different regimes in different times. The demonstration took place with no special incidents.

When the demonstration ended Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a political activist.

The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

In the 4th of November 1995 after an intensive hate campaign the Israeli prime minister was shot.

The response was collective repression. It was too much to handle the future, so the past has changed. It was the kind of things that sounds theoretically impossible, and I can’t find a better way to describe it rather then present my own experience.

I arrived to the end of the demonstration (I wasn’t very politically involved, but they provided free rides and I needed to get to Jerusalem at that night). When the demonstration ended I went into a bus full of people who were in some state of euphoria. The demonstration was a success and people felt that there is a hope.

After about 10 minutes standing in the traffic (still in the demonstration area) there was announcement that Rabin was assassinated (He wasn’t dead yet but we didn’t know it). The response was an Orwellian shift.

At the first stage the people next to me were shocked and said that the unavoidable result of the last period has came. At the second stage, in few seconds, they said that they can’t believe that it actually happened. In a third stage, after few more seconds they didn’t expect it will happen. And in few minutes, the ruling opinion was that it is an unbelievable terrible surprise.

The Right-Wing Eurasia was replaced by a single crazy Eastasian guy. It was a single assassinator who worked alone. The meaning of not doing this shift, and staying in war with Eurasia, was to take the war to its real-world stage. By the Israeli law, it meant that the major leaders of the Right will be put behind bars and their main political bodies will be shut. The result of such steps would be a civil war, and the Israeli-left believed it can’t win.

In the days after the assassination the transformation completed. The whole nation was “united” behind the terrible surprise. No one ever believed that a Jew will kill a Jew. The whole nation – including the not very few people who celebrated the assassination – was moaning for the tragedy. Rabin himself – not a very pleasant man and a quite brutal realpolitik general – transformed into a good old grandpa who only wanted peace and quiet, that everybody loved, and his lost brought many people into tears.

The assassinator himself – an Ultra-Right religious activist; a law student in the only official religious university in Israel; that was consulting about Rabin’s right to live with some major rabbis; and was aspired (by his own words) by Right-Wing generals – considered as a monstrous outsider. In cases people were caught expressing support for the assassinator, they considered outsiders as well (at least until they apologized). The closest it reached to the reality, was when the Ultra-Right admitted that they may have a negligible outsiders-problem.

The new balance was that the Right will not express joy about the assassination, and the Left will not mention the Right responsibility to it. Though, the Right preserved the privilege for arguments of the type: “it was a terrible thing, but…” This balance was not perfect, and there were a lot of ill emotions under the surface, but a small war in Lebanon helped to concentrate these emotions out and cure the nation.

Post-Rabin Israel

It is difficult (for me) to refer to the 13 years between Rabin’s assassinations to our time from the same historical perspective that I pretended to use so far. The recent events are too fresh and it is very likely that the main processes of this period did not finish, and their results, or the meaning of their results, can not be understood yet.

The peace process has vaporized by Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the Political Right, after he replaced Rabin, and the leftovers of the new Palestinian institutions destroyed by the Israeli army at the first years of the current decade.

The old aristocracy declined. There is no longer a ruling set of values Vs. a Right-Wing opposition. The current situation is more set of independent sectors with a pale common denominator.

The main cause for this state is the rising power of the non traditionally-ruling classes, and the understanding, that grew over time, that the old ruling system is really not there anymore. Another factor that helped to speed up this process is the opportunist personality of the coming leaders – which used any value, weather it will be democracy or fascist nationalism – for their own good. Additionally, the whole process was accelerated by a strong Right economy so the people stopped seeing Israel as their social support, employer, leader, or entertainer.

The ethos and values of the collective mind reduced to an interest-oriented thinking.

6 Responses to “A Short History of Modern Israel”

  1. Liron Says:

    absolutely genius.

    • Serpil Says:

      In March of this year China opened a plant in Iran to build the NASR, idntiecal to the C-704 Anti-Ship missile that uses a centimetre wave radar seeker. This missile targets ships of 1000-4000 ton displacement, has a range of 22 miles and carries a 240 pound warhead and has a kill probability of 95.7%. it was developed because it is not economical to use large anti-ship missiles that are designed to hit ships of 8,000 tons or greater. This plant may also produce the newer C-705, which with a second stage added, can reach a target 105 miles away. In a methodical and deceptively modest manner China has helped Iran to take charge of all its surrounding waters. Since China is extremely unhappy by the U.S Navy exercising near their homeland waters, it might suit them to give the Iranians a more capable anti-ship missiles, on the basis that if there is a war with Iran and most of the U.S fleet in the Gulf is turned into coral reef, then the U.S. is less likely to come into the South China sea.

  2. achosen1 Says:

    Thank you

  3. Isy Says:

    As I skim down I see that there are things you don’t mention that to me seem pretty relevant.
    About the establishment of Zionisem you don’t mention that in those 2000 years the jewish people heled many traditions that while weren’t exactly the same were similar (holidais,prayers,etc) which also kept thir connection to Israel even if they wern’t orthodox, and that the old testament isn’t just a symbolof religion but of culture and history and even language to some extent that unified them as a people.
    About the establishment of Israel you don’t mention that the jewish settelers who came to Palestine a lot of times setteled in deserted land that wasn’t populated or legally bought land through organizations (Kakal) in which they settled. You also don’t mention that in 1948 started the second part of the “Independance war” against the surrounding nations there the arab nations told the Arabs in Palestine/Israel to flee saying they will “Drive the jews to the sea” which is why a lot of Arabs left thier homes.

    nice blog BTW :)

    • achosen1 Says:

      Thank you very much, and sorry for being a little bit slow with the response.

      I agree that Judaism was there long before the 19th century, but I think that Israel in its modern form is a result of the nationalism. The nationalism was fueled by the myths and symbols, and it was very hard to establish Israel without the excuse of tradition. However, most of the traditional motivation was replaced by national spirit; the role of the traditional terminology.

      I agree that I didn’t mention many things including the ones you specified. It was not an easy decision to say and what to ignore. The common sense behind my decision was to put the emphasis on the bottom line which is, that a new population of immigrants with not much choice settled in Israel, the major motivators for that, and what was in these people mind in general.

      One thing that I agree that I had to include is the revival of the Hebrew language. I would be happy to correct the assay, but I’m afraid that this phenomenon is still behind my understanding.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    dis iz not a short story

    C.O. yes it iz


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