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Burston: Israel is De-legitimizing Itself

Bradley Burston was never one of the Ha’aretz columnist I read regularly, like Gideon Levy, Akiva Eldar, or Amira Hass. I certainly did not expect to be featuring his work on this blog. But I noticed that his recent column was circulating widely among my friends, including those who care about Israel but are not involved in opposing Israel’s policy. I can see why this column, about envying the people who “hate Israel.” touched a nerve for them.

Without asking its people, without a second thought, Israel, at its highest level, has taken an executive decision. Unable to beat the forces who want to see Israel as one of the world’s primary pariah states, it has resolved to join them.

Determined to take our fate into its own hands. Israel, at its highest level, has decided that the job of delegitimizing the Jewish state must not be left to foreigners and amateurs. Showing itself desperate to be a pariah state, Israel will now get it done on its own. “

The things that have set him off include the humiliation of Turkey’s ambassador,  the Mossad assasssinations in Dubai, and the barring of United States members of Congress from Gaza.

It was not enough choose a pathetic side issue, a Turkish television show with anti-Israel scenes, as grounds to humiliate with infantile malice the highly respected ambassador of Turkey – a nation whose relationship with Israel, though troubled, remains crucial from every strategic and diplomatic standpoint.

It was necessary for Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who as the recently returned former ambassador to Washington certainly knows much better, to compound the insult on the eve of a fence-mending visit to Turkey by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, by declaring diplomatic war on the rest of the world:

Referring to the bellicose, confessed and convicted disgrace who is his foreign minister and superior, Ayalon told Channel Two, “His policy is proving to be effective. We will not allow a situation where every country will kick us. If there will be an attack [even if verbal or cultural] on Israel, we will leave all options open, including the expulsion of ambassadors.”
It wasn’t enough to threaten our relations with the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Austria and the whole of the European Union, as well as the emirates and other moderate Muslim states, by apparently violating the basic conventions of all civilized states in the Dubai murder.

It was necessary to stage a quick follow-up, for the sake of balance, perhaps, in going after our relations with Israel’s indispensable ally. In a gratuitous move breathtaking in its haughtiness, its ignorance of and disrespect for the United States and the American Jewish community, the Foreign Ministry – spearhead of Israel’s campaign against boycotts abroad – elected this week to boycott a meeting with five U.S. Congressmen visiting Israel. “

Burston ends with a description of what it is like to see one’s country change beyond recognition.

This is what I have learned about the government of this place, and many of the voters who put it there. Intelligent people who are too smart to be able to see themselves clearly, render themselves stupid.

And countries which cannot bear to look, even if they have good reasons, render themselves dangerous – first of all, to themselves.

This is not the country I first came to. But I still care about it, even if I know it may care much less than I would like, about me.”

and concludes by saying, “My father did not flee the Soviet Union just so his son could one day have the chance to live in a place just like it. ”

Burston is clearly undergoing a painful transformation, along with the readers who are moved by his column. And though I am sad for his despair and even more sad about the real policies that have caused it, it is also tremendously encouraging to know such a transformation is occurring. Unlike Burston, I don’t cling to the hope of one Israeli minister being arrested in order to save Israel from itself. But I do have hope that enough Israelis and people who care about them undergo this change there is a chance of a democratic future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

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JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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