Video 1: An incredible video providing a glance – rich with symbolism – into the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the occupation. A religious Jewish settler in Hebron (of Russian origin) attempts to scale the home of a Palestinian in an effort to take down a Palestinian flag anchored on the roof. Problem is that the settler gets caught in the barbed wire. The Palestinian confronts the intruder (at one point even trying to help him) and a debate ensues about who has rights over the land. Th Settler at first claims that he just came to talk (apparently confusing the roof for the front door) and then argues that the house actually belongs to him (the settler) because all the land belongs to him (i.e. belongs to the Jews). The Israeli solider that arrives on the scene demands that the Palestinian return to his home. The solider seems to be blaming the Palestinian for the provocation of the flag but (at least initially) has no words for the inept (Purim drunk?) criminal.
Video 2: The flag incident continues. Israeli Soldiers arrive to remove the Palestinian flag. The soldiers give the impression that they recognize the unjust action by externalizing responsibility (“I have orders”). They also say (in Hebrew) to their superiors that there is no point in using force with all these cameras around. One can read that cynically, but I see that as their way of convincing their superior to change course of action and manage this conflict by other means (i.e. through the courts, as first suggested by the Palestinians). It’s interesting that the Palestinians are willing to recognize the Israeli courts as the final authority on this subject (not sure why they would). Perhaps it’s just a way to get the soldiers to leave their homes – for the time being – without humiliating them in front of their children. Or maybe they actually trust the high court in Israel to rule in their favor.
The BDS “id” unleashed? The new “Juden Raus”? Or just the inevitable “bad apples” in a growing social movement? The barrel or the apples? What say you?
Over at Ynet, Linda Gradstein writes that as the BDS movement is seemingly reaching a new threshold, Israel is considering hiring a PR firm to improve its tarnished image.
My take: I am reminded of a story about a police officer who sees a man down on all four looking for something on the street. When the officer asks the man if he lost something, the man replies, “Yes, my keys.” “You lost them here?” asks the officer. “No,” replies the man, with slurred speech, “I lost them in the alley, but the light is much better here.”
If we really want to take the problem of delegitimization seriously, we need to do more than just change the way we talk about Israel – more than Extreme Makeover Zionist Edition-. We need to venture into the dark alley where we originally lost our way. Otherwise, we are no different, and will have no better luck, than the drunken man in the story.
According to organizational psychologists, when there is a significant gap between what people expect and what they actually get, two types of learning can take place: single-loop and double-loop learning. Single-loop learning refers to efforts to reduce this gap by modifying the strategy originally employed – improving Hasbarah skills, for example. Double-loop learning, on the other hand, requires us to question the assumption, values and actions that brought us to this problem in the first place.
There are no shortcuts here. Double-loop learning means we need to radically transform our relationship with the Palestinians. This is not to say Israel deserves to be delegitimized, but when it chooses an overall course of action – yes, the occupation, blockade and settlements are choices – it significantly contributes to the problem.
In this Sunday’s addition of the NYT Omar Barghouti argues that the burgeoning success of the BDS movement has exposed Israel for the racist, oppressive and irrational state that it is.
My take: While making a number of important points the article suffers from some serious shortcomings. The author makes light of the idea that the BDS movement presents a threat to the state of Israel. He does this by ignoring the fact that one of the central demands of the movement – a return of Palestinian refugees – would render the Jewish state unrecognizable. A radical change that for the majority of Jewish Israelis is very disturbing. It is for this reason that no less a critic of Israel as Norman Finkelstein has called the BDS movement a “cult” that exaggerates its success and deceptively seeks the “destruction of Israel”.
But this oversight is symptomatic of a much larger problem. To know what scares your enemy – as Mr. Barghouti purports to do – you need empathy. The BDS position, with its human rights and justice discourse, tends to function at an abstract (often imaginary) level of cognition that lacks an ability (or will) to see the perspective, fears and needs of the other side.
You cannot produce mass change by ignoring the masses you seek to change.
My latest on the way in which Orphaned Land, Israel’s biggest heavy metal band, is transforming relations between Muslims and Jews in the MENA.
Sometimes change happens in the most unlikely ways, fostered by the most unlikely of people. In the last few years, while Israel’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world has drastically deteriorated, an Israeli heavy metal band has been uniting thousands of Jews and Muslims across the Middle East.
Originally published in Common Ground News, a longer version of this piece also appears in The Jerusalem Post.