Grumpy old man: The Grumpy test

Want to talk Israel-Palestine? Answer one or two questions first.

By
December 4, 2014 13:53
Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons,WESTERN WALL RABBI,WHITE BEACH PRODUCTIONS)

 
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I recently picked up Max Blumenthal’s Goliath, and from the very first page, it’s clear what the reader is in for. He says he wants US taxpayers to see “what they are paying for, the facts as they really are today, in unadorned and unsanitized form, without sentimentality or nostalgia.”

For good measure, one paragraph down he throws in the phrase “ethnic profiling experts at Ben-Gurion International Airport.”

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If that’s insufficient, on the next page Blumenthal introduces us to “army bureaucrats in Tel Aviv” who “developed complex mathematical formulas to regulate the caloric intake of each person trapped” in the Gaza Strip, and to Dov Weisglass, the jolly confidant of numerous Israeli leaders who goes straight for the yuks when he’s quoted as saying: “It’s like an appointment with a dietitian.”

I have only completed the 11th chapter (they’re relatively short), but so far the narrative pretty much paints Hamas as the good guys, Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority as a bunch of connivers and stooges of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel and the majority of its Jewish citizens as a plague not seen since the days of… well, you know who.

Yes, we Israelis certainly have a dark side. Yet we have other sides that are, to say the least, enlightened and even exemplary (and not just when compared to some of the countries around us). But because Blumenthal gets straight to the marrow of the bone he picks, it’s clear from the get-go that he doesn’t think very highly about Israel, Israelis or the ideology of Zionism.

FORGET WHAT you might think about him. Maybe he’s a self-hating Jew or even an out-and-out anti-Semite (although I find those terms problematic because they’re thrown around these days with such alarming alacrity). But surely you have to thank Blumenthal for letting us know exactly where he stands before we spend our time or money on his book.

I can’t say this about many others who bloat the airwaves, hog bandwidth or spill tons of ink in order to slice, dice, mince and puree the manifold issues of the Israel-Palestinian dispute before coming to the point and saying just what it is they’ll actually want in the end.



Take those who support the idea of boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel. Without reading what passes for the core movement’s manifesto, it sounds like a good idea if you’re the type who wants Israel to return to the Green Line or thereabouts and have grown weary of finding a nice, clean and friendly way of persuading it to do so. But read deeper into the thoughts of the BDS movement and you’ll find lots of ruminations of a “right of return,” a “state for all its citizens” and other euphemisms not for two states for two peoples, but for the end of Israel sooner or not too much later.

And there’s the rub: A lot of the people who support BDS seem to want nothing more than the two-state solution – which, according to any number of opinion polls, most Jewish Israelis would support were they able to get around a few nagging doubts about Palestinian sincerity and deeply worrying trends of regional jihadism. I myself have much less of a problem with these BDSers, who might be called subscribers of convenience, than with the movement’s hard-core subscribers. So when someone comes out and says he or she supports BDS, I’d like to know right away which subscription we’re talking about.

Same with West Bank settlers. There are settlers and then there are settlers, although unfortunately many of us here and most people abroad paint them all with a wide brush as wildeyed, gun-toting, olive tree-destroying, mosque-burning, go-ahead-make-myday fanatics.

What many forget or don’t know is that the majority of Israelis who moved to the West Bank did so purely or at least mostly for the suburban lifestyle made quite affordable thanks to generous government incentives. Make home-owning within the Green Line cheaper and a whole lot might head back. (I say “might” because, paradoxically, most live in settlement blocs that are so close to the Green Line there might be no reason for them to leave, what with talk of Palestinian amenability to having these blocs end up in a post-peace-pact Israel.) And don’t forget the Evangelicals.

Such good friends of Israel – except I’m always left to wonder about the fine print. Their idea of friendship is with a strong Israel, a vibrant Israel, a Jewish Israel.

So far, so good. But it’s also with an Israel that encompasses the entire Land of Israel, whose real estate parameters can vary, taking in anywhere from today’s Israel and the West Bank to lands well across borders to the southwest, east and even north.

But then there’s the super-fine print, something about an “end of days” trope that first requires the aforementioned territorial control and then, once things get really interesting, compelling the Jews to (1) accept Jesus or (2) burn in hell. But leave aside the last part for a second. The end of days also requires a little war – and what better way to really piss off the hundreds of millions of pissed-off people around us (and their superpower patrons) than by having infidels thrust even deeper into lands already burning under the feet of people who can’t get along even among themselves.

Leave aside for a second these more monolithic groupings. Look at Facebook, where members rarely go beyond a paragraph or two, and Twitter, where 140 characters is the limit.

If you are unfamiliar with these people and merely happen to come across their thoughts on Israel-Palestine, how do you know what they really believe in? Knowing such things would give their stunted, fleeting posts a bit more context.

So herewith, I am instating a short but mandatory questionnaire for anyone holding forth with me on such matters: 1. Which are you seeking? A) A two-state solution with an Israel and a Palestine based roughly on the pre-1967 lines but with minor adjustments acceptable to both sides; B) A “Jewish” state encompassing what is today Israel, the West Bank and even the Gaza Strip, where the Jews remain in charge forever; C) A state “for all its people” encompassing these same territories but where majority rule prevails; D) A state encompassing these territories where there are no Jews; E) A state encompassing these territories where there are no Arabs; F) No preference/don’t know.

2. If you choose A, should Palestinians have an unfettered right of return to Israel? A) Yes B) No C) Don’t care/don’t know.

CALL IT the “Grumpy Test.” It will help me know who’s on the other end and whether there’s anything to talk about.

Hard-core BDSers would identify themselves a Grumpy C or D, or perhaps Grumpy AA (sneaky bastards). Hardcore settlers or Evangelicals would be Grumpy B or even E. Moderates, including those seeing BDS solely as a lever to obtain two viable, long-term states, would be Grumpy AB.

So out of the closet and into the streets of sunshine and fully transparent debate. I’m always willing to talk. First, though, identify yourself and let me know if there’s anything to talk about.

By the way, I’m Grumpy AB. Pleased (I think) to meet you.

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