A new BBC poll finds popularity of Israel at a welcome low globally.
These numbers in Australia reveal the profound disconnect between political elite opinion and the general public:
In the EU countries surveyed, views of Israeli influence have hardened in Spain (74% negative ratings, up 8 points) and in France (65%, up 9 points) — while positive ratings remain low and steady. Negative ratings from the Germans and the British remain very high and stable (69% and 68%, respectively). In other Anglo-Saxon countries, views have worsened in Australia (65% negative ratings, up 7 points) and in Canada (59%, up 7 points).
And what do most Israelis think? A new review in the New York Review of Books by David Shulman, discussing Peter Beinart’s book The Crisis of Zionism, argues this:
How did we reach this point? Why do Israelis cling to a policy so evidently irrational, indeed suicidal? The simple—too simple—answer is: we’re afraid. We’ve been so traumatized, first by our whole history and then by the history of this conflict, that we want at least an illusion of security, like the kind that comes from holding on to a few more rocky hills. Never mind that every inch of Israel is within range of tens of thousands of missiles currently stationed in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza, not to mention Iran, and that a few more square kilometers make no difference to that threat. We’ll still take over those West Bank hills, and we’ll even put a few rickety caravans on them for anyone crazy enough to want to live there, and we’ll station a few dozen bored soldiers on top of each of them and all around them, and we’ll connect them to the Israeli electricity grid and the water system, and we’ll build a big perimeter fence to enclose the new settlement and to provide land for it to grow on (usually many times the size of the settlement itself). The land happens to belong to Palestinians, but that, clearly, is a consideration of no relevance here.
The fears of Israelis are no doubt real enough, and a generous interpretation of Israeli policy over the last four decades would give them due emphasis. As Ali Abu Awwad, one of the leaders of the new generation of Palestinian nonviolent resisters, often says: “The Jews are not my enemy; their fear is my enemy. We must help them to stop being so afraid—their whole history has terrified them—but I refuse to be a victim of Jewish fear anymore.” He’s right to refuse. But I think the reality we inhabit and have largely created by our own actions has more to do with the story we Israelis tell ourselves about who we are—a powerfully dramatic story that, like many such mythic stories, has a way of perpetuating itself, at continually escalating cost to those who tell it. This story more and more coincides with the primitive Netanyahu narrative I mentioned earlier.
To get away from it, we need to recognize certain primary facts, however uncomfortable they may be for some of us. As has been the case in the past, there are always easily available diversions and distractions that mask the true basis of the ongoing struggle; in Israel today, the main such diversion is called “Iran.” Along with such distractions we have the Israeli refusal to see the present Palestinian leadership in Ramallah for what it is, a more than adequate partner for Israel. Those who don’t agree should be thinking about men such as Marwan Barghouti, still biding his time in an Israeli jail. He’s no saint, to be sure, but he enjoys enormous authority among Palestinians, and he knows very well what is required to strike a deal. There is good reason to believe that he wants such a deal, along the lines that are by now recognized as reasonable by a majority on both sides of the conflict and, indeed, by most other nations. He has recently published a strong statement calling for mass nonviolent resistance in the territories and an end to the farce of a negotiating “process” that has allowed Israel to stall endlessly—and to hide its deeply rooted hostility to the very idea of coming to some form of agreement with the Palestinian national movement.
To prolong the occupation is to ensure the emergence of a single polity west of the Jordan; every passing day makes a South African trajectory more likely, including the eventual, necessary progression to a system of one person, one vote. Thus the likelihood must be faced that unless the Occupation ends, there will also, in the not so distant future, be no Jewish state.