Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the core problem, David Masters and Si’akh Lokhamim

In Btvs booklet about the 40th anniversary of the occupation, Steven David Masters, their second president elect, demonstrate the core problem with his co believers approach to the realities Israel and Israelis face.
In his piece he glorifies an anthology of conversations with veterans of the 1967 war made by Amos Oz, Muki Tzur and other members of the kibbutz movement a year after that war. It was called “The seventh day; soldiers talks about the six day war”, or in Hebrew ‘Si’akh Lokhamim’, (si’ahk is Hebrew for a conversation that is more meaningful then just talk).

This Si’akh Lokhamim was an important soul searching experience for a lot of Israelis in the years after the victory of the six-day war. But with 40 years insight it had generated some criticism. That criticism focuses on the exclusion of combatants who were not members of kibbutzim from Si’akh Lokhamim. Most notably among them are the students of ‘Mercaz Harav’ the religious academic institution in Jerusalem from which the settlers’ movement came, but also and probably more important are the non European Jews from the development towns and the low-income neighborhoods in the cities.
The reasons for this exclusion may have been just a matter of convenience, both social and psychological. It is easier for a researcher to interview people with the same background as his, and it is easier for them open up to him. The may have also been an element of elitism, as some critics here in Israel will say, after all many of the country leaders in those days did came from the kibbutzim, others will point to the heavy price the kibbutzim paid in that war, because they where the elite they served in and lead many of the combat units in the IDF and the price they paid was disproportionally higher then other segments of the society. An inner discussion was therefore badly needed.
Whatever the reasons, this exclusion, which Masters applauds, is now blamed for what is now known in Israel as the left wing bubble or the Tel Aviv bubble, the inability of major left wing movements such as ‘Peace Now’ and the Meretz party to reach to other sections of the Israeli society beyond the kibbutzim and the Urban Ashkenazi elite.

Glorifying a bubble suggests that the glorifier himself lives in a bubble. And a good indicator of that is the image he has of Si’akh Lokhamim, because that image, of a moral outcry against the occupation is wrong. Si’akh Lokhamim did discuss morality, the morality of war, of killing other people, of getting killed, and leading others to their death, and the feeling towards those responsible to that death, the leaders of both sides.
Back then in 1968 the Israeli equation of Ashkenazi kibbutznic = left wing peace activist did not exist, and not all the views expressed in Si’akh Lokhamim will be considered left wing peace activists talk today, such as the views of Aharon and Lotan at the beginning of the book, about the Israeli relation to Jerusalem and the security importance of the newly gained territories. Lotan also recalls how in the days leading to the war a Jewish shop keeper started making a lot of many selling knives to local Israeli Arabs, who were buying them in big numbers, when he realized what they were for (killing Jews, though the book does not say so explicitly) he closed his bossiness. In Ramat Yochanan a discussion between two generations took place, and in it both father and son said the war strengthened their connection to the land, and other war veterans spoke of hating the enemy, the Arabs. These are hardly left wing views, especially not the kind that fit the rigid worldview of Btvs, the most dominate of them was the realization the if the war had ended differently the other side would not have such soul searching conversations.
It is an irony of history that this left wing bubble sees its own origin through the crust of its bubble. Here in Israel since the beginning of the Oslo process, Palestinian mass murder campaigns had blown it up into more and more diminishing sizes. What is the situation on the other side of the Atlantic I do not know, but clearly with at least one group of political activists it as strong as if the Oslo process hasn’t even begun.

This is a continuation of an earlier post.

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