Wednesday, April 20, 2011

About Bees and Israeli Logic

One of my childhood friends really hates bees. He is absolutely convinced they’re evil and violent and would sting you the first chance they get. A while back he saw a beehive and went off to kick it hard. “If they are going to sting me anyway”, he explained, “I might as well get some payback now”. Later he told me how the bees showed their true colors by attacking him on sight, as he knew they would, thus confirming and proving his thesis about their malicious character.

My friend is using reverse logic. He does not believe in the well accepted cause-and-effect reasoning that lies at the base of every conceivable discipline, the one that claims current events affect the future. Instead, he believes that future events are already determined, and his actions here and now are coherent and rational given the unchangeable future.

This self-fulfilling-prophecy behavior is not exclusive to individuals. A whole state can engulf itself with this special brand of reasoning to justify actions and policies, as in the case of Israel.

The state of Israel believes that the world around it is hostile at best and bluntly anti-Semitic at worst. Because ‘we’ know whom we’re dealing with (“Arabs are Arabs and they are here to kill us all”), the only logical reaction is to invest more in the army, build walls and react with brutal and un-proportional force to any attack (and sometimes strike first, just to make sure we are safe). If the other side fights back, blames Israel or calls for revenge, it just proves how right we were in the first place.

Naturally, this type of reasoning prevents any real attempt to actually solve the conflict at hand. Even though an unprecedented Arab-League comprehensive peace initiative has been on the table for nine years now, Israel sees it as another sinister trick to destroy the Jewish state. Instead of at least sitting down with the Arab league to discuss the proposal, the best Israeli lobbyists have gone on the offensive to expose why it can’t work, and why Israel has no one to talk to.

This unique Israeli logic is not limited to conflict area sides like Syria or the Palestinians, but to countries like Britain and Germany, who are arguably Israel’s best friends in Europe.

Israel sees the Western world in general and Europe in particular, as no more than a collection of anti-Semitic states in their core that cannot be trusted. Whenever Israel’s Western friends are standing by it, the Israeli government and public does not acknowledge it: Germany is still trying to wash its collective consciousness; France is trying to compensate for its extensive connections with the Arab world (a sin in and of itself) and Britain’s hands can never be ‘clean’ after its ruthless mandate over Palestine and the Jews.

Obviously, any action that seems ‘anti-Israeli’ (to Israeli eyes only) – like condemning the building of settlements - will immediately prove the basic Israeli belief about the nature of the world around it.  

The logical result of this mentality is simple. If the world is full of anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic political players, there is no reason to listen to what the world says. If Israel will be condemned anyway, why should it play according to the ‘rules’? So Israel should do whatever it wants and rarely pay attention to friends (what friends?) who try to give perspective and advice. That exact course of action does not exist in a vacuum: the world sees and hears Israeli unilateralism, extremism, use of un-proportional force and disregard for international laws, and the world reacts.

Of course, any world reaction will bring us to square one. Israel will see any criticism as further proof to its mantra: ‘the (whole) world is against us’.

Unfortunately, many American Jews share the same view. They act as unsophisticated lobbyists - not to say bullies – who stand with Israel on every single issue, no matter how wrong or twisted it may be.
The wise and right thing for American Jews to do is to use our immense political power and unique access to Israeli decision maker’s ears to make sure Israel does not act out of the wrong notion of pre-determined future. We should be the ones to give Israel tough criticism out of caring and love, and to act as a bridge between false Israeli perceptions and reality.

We know it’s true that Israel has many real enemies, and nobody suggests it will dissolve its army or let go of its guard. But there’s a way to defend yourself, and you better do it against real enemies. At the same time, Israel has to relentlessly pursue any option to communicate and negotiate with ‘the other side’ with good will and sincerity.

We – American Jews – have to calm Israeli paranoia down and make sure it starts to think rationally about its actions. The rules of cause and effect haven’t changed. If Israel acts with sincerity and honesty and stops pre-labeling the world around it, it will find that the world is a much friendlier place than it assumes.

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