A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Israel at 62: Some Sober Voices among the Triumphalist

Israel's 62nd Independence Day (Yom ha-Atzma'aut) was marked yesterday evening. Already there's no shortage of triumphalist rhetoric, but as a fellow 62-year-old, I thought it might be worth noting that not everyone is as defiantly cocky as Bibi Netanyahu. Even as Netanyahu was speaking tough words over Jerusalem, listen to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin:
"Specifically at a time of cultural openness, we are witness today to a dangerous process of intensifying fortification of every group within its four walls," he said. "This fortification brings with it not only cultural or political polarization, but also fatal segregation in everyday life. For example, look what Jerusalem has turned into in the last decade: separate neighborhoods, separate public transport, separate shopping centers for haredi and secular [residents], Arabs and Jews. Ghettos and more ghettos, separated by walls of alienation, not by walls of cement."

Before lighting the first torch, the speaker said that the Jerusalem reality was a far cry from the vision for "the city that was bound together" - a reference to the biblical Psalm 122. He said fear for the "other," whether Arab or Haredi, was "contrary to the very essence of Zionism."
And Rivlin is from Likud. I think he's talking more about haredi/secular divisions than Arab/Jewish, and he did proclaim the eternal unity of Jerusalem, but it still is more cogent than some of the rhetoric used by others in his party.

And Ehud Barak, who for reasons perhaps only he understands is still a member of the Netanyahu government, is saying the occupation must end (and I'm deliberately citing Al Jazeera rather than the Israeli press):
"The world is not willing to accept - and we will not change that in 2010 - the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more," he said.

"It is something that does not exist anywhere else in the world.

"There is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let them [the Palestinians] rule themselves."
Israel's Memorial Day and Independence Day are marked according to the Jewish calendar. Though they began together, it rarely if ever coincides with Nakba Day, the day Palestinians lament the nakba or catastrophe of 1948, which is marked on May 15 of the Western calendar, the Western date that coincided with independence in that year.

No comments: