Philanthropy is not working as well as it should, and almost everyone
knows it. The causes that receive the most donations are not necessarily the
ones that make the greatest impact. Personal whims and preferences of donors
determine where dollars flow more than proven effectiveness.
Friedman, “Why Philanthropy Needs Reinventing,” Philanthropy Journal, August 26,
I am aware that I am recycling the same introductory excerpt that
appeared in my previous column – but I feel this is justified since, as will
soon become clear, it is still entirely relevant to this week’s piece.To
In last week’s column, I broached several perturbing aspects of
what could well be termed the “paradox of politics” in Israel; and what message
it entails for the efficacy of philanthropic funding of endeavors intended to
advance the world view of their “right-wing” or hawkish-oriented
As for the paradox of Israeli politics, I pointed to the
astonishing phenomenon, where, following the failure of dovish coalitions and
their policies of territorial concessions and political appeasement, hawkish
governments are voted in to replace them. But shortly after taking office they
inexplicably embrace the failed policies of their dovish predecessors, which
they were elected to countermand – and which the bulk of their members built
their political careers on resisting.
Even more puzzling is the fact that
these breathtaking U-turns were undertaken despite the fact that not only was
there no clamor for them from coalition constituencies, but in fact they were
frequently executed in complete contradiction of their voters’ political
As I observed, this bizarre situation clearly demonstrates
that neither electoral success nor public support play a dominant role in
determining political realities in Israel.Causes, consequences and
Instead, these realities are, to a large degree, “elite-generated”
phenomena, and are the result of the pursuit of the personal and professional
interests of a small, but highly influential, group of civil society elites.
These interests are, in large measure, a product of the personal and
professional ties they maintain with left-leaning liberal peer groups abroad and
which, in turn, determine their personal and professional status.
their unelected positions of power and privilege – in the mainstream media,
legal establishment and academia – these elites are able to control much of the
political discourse in the country. It is this discourse that impacts the
cognition of the elected politicians and creates the perceived constraints that
the policy-makers feel bind them, and the perceived possibilities they feel are
available to them.
Without a firm grasp of this causal relationship and
the mechanisms of is operation, it is impossible to comprehend the process of
cause and effect in Israeli politics; and without such understanding, no
political action can be successful – at least in terms of its practical
The importance of this cannot be overstated.
it impinges directly on the crucial issue of how the Jewish people – in Israel
and the Diaspora – should make optimal use of the resources available to them,
to ensure the survival of their nation-state in a implacably hostile
environment.‘Nothing more practical than a good theory’
conclusion that emerges from this analysis is that to be able to enhance their
ability to influence political realities in Israel, the “Right” must act to
wrest control of the political discourse away from the left-leaning civil
society elites, who monopolize – or at least, dominate – it today.
achieve this goal, “right-wing” benefactors must begin to divert funding less
towards endeavors that focus on the “concrete” and more toward those that focus
on the “conceptual.”
Given the prevailing mind-set on much of the
“Right,” this is a suggestion that may well be met with derision, and claims
that it would favor the theoretical over the practical, and promote esoteric
philosophizing over tangible facts-on-the ground.
This is criticism that
should not be heeded. For as Kurt Levin, often dubbed the “founder of social
psychology,” famously remarked: “There is nothing so practical as a good
theory.” This touches precisely on the failing of the political “Right” and its
civil society auxiliaries.
They have neglected–or at least, are seen to
have neglected – the need for a “good theory” to counter the aggressively
advanced paradigm of the “Left.”Fleeting ‘facts-on-the-ground’
all, the dominance of the Israeli “Left” over the political agenda did not come
as a result of its physical activities but by attaining ascendancy in the clash
of ideas (largely due to the “Rights” abdication).
It was not “feats in
the field” that facilitated the emergence of the Oslodelusion; or transformed
the perception of a Palestinian state, west of the Jordan, from a perfidious
anathema in the late 1980s to an imperative for national salvation in the early
Conversely, the “facts-on-the-ground” in Gaza and Northern
Samaria, did nothing to prevent the obliteration of thriving communities and
decades of Zionist enterprise within a matter of weeks.
ownership of properties purchased from Arabs in east Jerusalem and elsewhere
will not prove a bulwark against withdrawal and the transfer of the areas, in
which they are located, to Arab rule.
At best, the owners will be
compensated should they choose – or be coerced – to leave.A slight
change of plan
I ended last week’s article with a promise that I would soon
pursue the discussion of this topic in a coming column – “in a more detailed and
action-oriented manner.” It was my intention to devote this column entirely to
However, I have decided to defer – at least partially – the
“action-oriented” prescription as to the type of endeavors and enterprises
“right-wing” politicallyengaged philanthropists should begin to focus their
funding on, to next week – the third and final installment on this
There is, however, a good reason for this deferral.
ascribe paramount importance to acquiring an intimate understanding of the
causal nexus between left-leaning elite control of political discourse and the
political realities in Israel, I should like to exploit a fortuitous coincidence
to help illustrate, accentuate and corroborate this vital
For such understanding is indispensable in deciphering the
perverse paradox of politics in Israel – and hence in formulating effective
initiatives to confront, curtail and counter its pernicious
Of course, it is these initiatives, which logically should
merit the largess of “right-wing” benefactors wishing to countermand the
realities that flow from this paradox. It so happened that, together with my
article last week, my Jerusalem Post colleague, Caroline B. Glick, published an
insightful analysis of the Osloprocess, marking the 20th anniversary of its
ill-conceived initiation.Collegial corroboration
Although I have never
discussed the issues I raised in my column with her, I was gratified to see that
Glick deftly described – although in a somewhat less explicit and more
context-specific manner – the very the mechanisms that I have stipulated
In her “Israel’s 20-year nightmare,” Glick illustrates clearly how
the political discourse is manipulated to suit the leftleaning agenda, giving
prominence to certain topics, while suppressing others.
Thus with regard
to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, increasingly portrayed by growing numbers on the
Left as being the result of Israel shunning possible opportunities for peace
with Egypt, she correctly notes: “Just to make sure we remember how illserved we
were by our leaders 40 years ago, every year around Yom Kippur, the media gives
an open mike to every maudlin, angry and indignant story they can
Every year documentaries are produced.
Every year, books are
Yet, as she writes, when it comes to the discourse on the
Oslowian debacle, the contrast is striking: “Nothing even vaguely resembling
[this] has occurred in relation to the so-called peace process with the
Palestinians that is now 20 years old.
No commission of inquiry was
No heads have rolled. No television station has broadcast a
serious documentary explaining the price Israel has paid on any level for a
mistake that has cost us so dearly on every level.”Consequences of
control of discourse
Glick also accurately identifies the effects that this
control of the discourse has on the decision-making of the elected politicians,
much as I delineated last week when I indicated that it is the discourse that
determines the decisions of the elected incumbents and their perceptions of the
restraints and possibilities that shape the formulation of their
This is clearly reflected in Glick’s condemnation that the
party most responsible for Israel’s continued abidance by a strategy that has
brought us nothing but disaster is the media. “Our media outlets run a constant
stream of post-Zionist propaganda that has reduced our elected representatives’
field of action to the size of a postage stamp.”
She goes on to invoke
this as an explanation for the previously mentioned “paradox of politics” in
Israel, stating: “The reason that once in office non-leftist leaders embrace the
positions of the radical Left, ignore the public, block every attempt to correct
the damage that the Oslo Accords have wrought, and embark on a new path, is that
they are no match for Channel 2 and all the rest.”Irrelevance of popular
Last week I observed that neither victory at the polls nor the extent of
public support play a dominant role in determining political realities in
Israel. Glick shows that she too is mindful of this inherent disregard for
popular opinion – at least whenever it clashes with the political predilections
of left-leaning elites.
Noting that the masses of Israelis who foresaw
and opposed Oslo were ignored, she wrote: The public foresaw what was eminently
More than two million Israelis – or nearly half the
country’s Jewish population in the early 1990s – actively opposed the so-called
Oslo Accords and what followed.
As a proportion of Israel’s population,
the number of Israelis who took part in protests against the so-called peace
process comprised the largest protest movement in history.” Yet to no
avail.Like a man in a bucket?
The creation of political realities in
Israel is an elite-driven process, that tends to be far more top-down than
Those genuinely wishing to change prevailing realities must
realize this and focus resources on emplacing, empowering, and promoting
counter-elites – what I have termed in previous columns “intellectual warriors”
– to replace the current “agenda-setters.” In the design and operation of such
initiatives it is crucial to avoid “singing to the choir.” They must aim at
reaching across the political divide, at challenging and discrediting the
incumbent elites – in full view of their own constituencies.
message must therefore be formulated in largely secular (but certainly not
anti-religious) terms, and their activities devised to make inroads into the
Their center of operations must be from locations
inside the pre-1967 lines – and prospective benefactors must resist the
temptation of succumbing to the “feelgood- factor” by funding “in-your-face”
ventures, which provide excellent outlets for “letting off steam,” but little in
terms of effective political results.
These initiatives cannot project
themselves as detached “alternative” endeavors catering only for likeminded
participants, but as a serious challenger for control of the
They must involve the creation of a “theater of engagement”
for the conduct of intellectual combat, which the current elites feel obliged to
participate in, and cannot evade or ignore.
Next week – subject to
breaking news – I will set out a practical outline for such an initiative. It
will be an expensive enterprise, but any endeavor to change the course of
history will be costly.
Whatever the cost, we should remember that
persisting with the effort to win the strategic ideological battle with the Left
using the current methods will be much like a man standing in a bucket, trying
to lift himself up by the handle.
And just as futile.
) is the founder and executive director of the
Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.
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