The new face of Likud

January 8, 2013

Until now, Danny Danon was a marginal character from the extremist back benches. In the next Knesset, he will be at the heart of Israel’s ruling party

(Times Of Israel) One of the most important events in Danny Danon’s life happened in 1969, two years before he was born.
That was the year Joseph Danon, a 29-year-old army reservist, was pursuing a Palestinian guerrilla cell in the Jordan Valley. When battle was joined, one of the Palestinians threw a grenade and Danon was hit by shrapnel. He emerged from a coma after several months, having suffered a serious head wound. He was rendered permanently deaf.
Many of Danny Danon’s childhood memories are of serving as his father’s interpreter at banks and government offices and of going on hikes across the country and then reporting back to their home in Ramat Gan, describing the routes and the landscapes to his father, once an avid hiker himself but now too infirm to come along.
“We would re-enact the hike at home,” Danon said in a recent interview. “Despite his injury, he managed to get across the message of knowing the country and loving the country.”
Danon began reading books about the underground groups that fought the British in pre-state Palestine, and learned the sites of battles from David and Goliath to the Yom Kippur War. That, he says, gave him a strong connection to the geography of Israel. Interpreting for his father, he said, “gave me the confidence to speak and argue and say what I think.”
In 4th grade, he remembered, he once argued with a teacher about the event that still serves as a dividing line in Israeli politics — the sinking of the Irgun weapons ship “Altalena” off the coast of Tel Aviv in 1948 on the orders of David Ben-Gurion, who feared a rightist putsch. Menachem Begin, the Irgun leader and future Likud prime minister, was on board. Ben-Gurion’s commander on the scene was Yitzhak Rabin, the future Labor prime minister.
“She said Begin was to blame,” Danon recalled. “I said Rabin was to blame.”
Danon’s mother was born in pre-state Israel — “a Palestinian from Palestine,” Danon says. His father came from Egypt as part of the mass exodus of Jews from Arab lands; Joseph Danon died of complications linked to his combat injury when Danny was 22.
Anyone paying attention to the stream of hardline rhetoric and legislation emanating from the Israeli right in the last four years will have noticed Danon’s name attached to much of it — attempts to disqualify certain Arab lawmakers, or to make getting an ID card contingent on a loyalty oath, or to hem in leftist groups by outlawing contributions to nonprofits from foreign governments. Last May, he declared at a rally that illegal African migrants — “infiltrators,” in the lingo of the right — had set up an “enemy state” in south Tel Aviv. After the rally, some Israelis attacked Africans who happened to pass by.

Danon is not a joke. He is not crazy. And he is no longer a back-bencher

Danon has mostly been described as a fringe character from Likud’s rabid back benches. Recently, the country’s most popular satire show, Eretz Nehederet — “Wonderful Country” — began mocking him as a lonely and weird teenager with acne scars.
But Danon is not a joke. He is not crazy. And he is no longer a back-bencher. Years of smart maneuvering inside the Likud catapulted Danon to the ninth spot on the joint Likud-Beytenu list for the upcoming election, putting him ahead of veteran politicians like Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and security figures like Moshe Ya’alon, the former army chief of staff. The same primary vote banished Dan Meridor, a prominent moderate, and Benny Begin, a principled hardliner of the old school and Menachem Begin’s son, to unrealistic slots at the bottom of the list and ensured they would no longer be members of Knesset.
Along with Danon, the Likud vote strengthened other candidates who believe in building settlements and in eternal Israeli control over the West Bank, dismissing what that would mean for Israel’s Jewish majority or its democracy, and who have acted to constrain state agencies or civil organizations which might impede their goals.
It further brought in Moshe Feiglin at number 22 on the list. Feiglin supports building the Third Temple in Jerusalem, has suggested that Arabs not be allowed to vote in national elections, and once told a reporter, “You can’t teach a monkey to speak and you can’t teach an Arab to be democratic.” Feiglin’s inclusion has accomplished the admirable feat of making Danon appear moderately right-leaning and Netanyahu a staunch liberal.
The Likud primary vote put Danon and his vision at the center of power in the party and within reach of a post in the cabinet. Netanyahu, outmaneuvered, is outnumbered in his own party. Menachem Begin is long dead, and his son is in the political wilderness. Anyone following Israeli politics after this election will have to get used to the fact that today Danny Danon is Likud.

Danon lays a symbolic cornerstone for new Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, November, 2009. Settlements, Danon says, "are not an obstacle to peace" (Flash90)

Danon lays a symbolic cornerstone for new Jewish construction in East Jerusalem, November 2009. Settlements, Danon says, ‘are not an obstacle to peace’ (photo credit: Flash90)

Danon, 41, lives in Moshav Mishmeret, in central Israel. His wife is a dietitian and they have three children, the oldest 11 and the youngest 5.
For those who are used to his strident public persona, Danon’s personal demeanor can come as a surprise. He is polite and well-spoken, his answers polished and his words chosen with care. He spurns the informal dress of many Israeli politicians for a suit of a conservative congressional blue. He comes across less as a rabble-rouser than as someone who has correctly gauged the fears, frustrations and dreams of Israel’s right, shares them, and has done a canny job of riding them to power.
Danon began trying his hand at politics at his secular high school, participating in the school’s branch of Techiya, a now-dormant rightist faction. After serving in the army as an education officer with Jewish teenagers coming from abroad for a taste of Israeli military life — a distinctly noncombat position — he became active in the Zionist youth movement Beitar and spent time doing organizational work in Miami, Florida.
In 2006 he ran an upstart campaign for the leadership of Likud’s international arm, World Likud, beating out Netanyahu’s candidate, Yuval Steinitz, who is now the finance minister. He entered the Knesset in 2009, and became associated with a new bloc of young MKs in the party who made a habit of attacking Netanyahu from the right, opposing the few conciliatory moves the prime minister wanted to make toward the Palestinians — such as announcing a partial housing freeze in the West Bank in 2009 to assuage American displeasure and allow talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to go ahead.
Netanyahu made the move in order to salvage Israel’s deteriorating ties with the administration of US President Barack Obama, but Danon saw it as an unacceptable admission that the Jewish presence in the West Bank was illegitimate or temporary. His vocal opposition to his party leader’s policy brought him substantial national attention and bolstered his position among the party’s base.

Danon believes his hardline positions have helped Netanyahu in his ties with the US. Netanyahu in Jerusalem last week (Photo by Moshe Milner/GPO/FLASH90)
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Danon believes his hardline positions have helped Netanyahu fend off international pressure. Netanyahu in Jerusalem last week

“The settlements are not an obstacle to peace,” Danon said. “After the disengagement from Gaza, the public freed itself of the idea that this is about the settlements, and about land for peace.”
Danon believed he was both expressing a necessary truth and doing Netanyahu a tactical favor — allowing the prime minister to point to the internal political challenge mounted by Danon and others to show Israel’s allies and critics abroad why the freeze was a major concession and why it could not be extended.
“It was important to Netanyahu that my voice be heard, and I know he used it, in the US and Europe, when he talked about his domestic difficulties,” Danon said.
Netanyahu has said he supports the idea of a Palestinian state, though some in his own party doubt his sincerity, as do many outside it. Even if that is Netanyahu’s goal, he no longer has a majority inside Danon’s Likud.
Danon’s platform is virtually indistinguishable from that of the ascendant Jewish Home party, a religious pro-settlement faction that supports annexing nearly two-thirds of the West Bank and leaving Palestinians in enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory. Likud has been bleeding votes to Jewish Home despite an attempt to attack the smaller party as too extreme — an attempt that is doomed to fail, given the current makeup of Likud. Jewish Home appears to many voters from the ideological right as more pure than Netanyahu’s party, which has been tainted by the compromises necessary to govern.
Danon believes Palestinians in the West Bank should be given “autonomy” in their cities and towns, but that their state is actually Jordan and their blocs of territory should be linked politically with the Hashemite Kingdom to the east. The Palestinians of Gaza can look to Egypt. Israel will directly govern most of the territory, have security control of the rest, and continue to build settlements, somehow remaining a Jewish democracy while ruling over more than 2 million Palestinians who are denied equal rights. The Palestinians, and the world, will live with it.
Does he believe the plan is realistic?
“Nothing is realistic,” Danon said.
That rather apt take on where the prospects of peace stand has a lot to do with Danon’s own rise within the Israeli right and with why the right will win this election.
“In terms of dealing with Arab nations, many Israelis today have gone back to the warrior mentality of David Ben-Gurion,” Danon wrote in a book he published last year, “Israel: The Will to Prevail.” “We’re sick of hollow accords and grand ceremonies done for the camera’s sake.”

Politicians of the right have taken to citing Ben-Gurion as their model for ignoring international opinion, quoting his oft-repeated line, ‘The question is not what the goyim say, but what the Jews do’

Ben-Gurion, he wrote, “was willing to pay a price for the security of Israel in international opprobrium, and so it is with a new generation of Israeli leaders. We also understand the necessity of shaping our fate by our own hands. If we have to pay a price with the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, so be it.”
Politicians of the right, both from Likud and Jewish Home, have taken to citing Ben-Gurion as their model for ignoring international opinion, quoting his oft-repeated line, “The question is not what the goyim say, but what the Jews do.” That quote is featured in a Jewish Home video, for example, explaining why annexing most of the West Bank would be a good idea.
Ben-Gurion detested Likud’s ideological forebears and would almost certainly have detested their descendants. He was keenly aware of international opinion, and ensured Israel was always allied with a greater power. Some remember that he famously declared that when faced with the choice between the entire land of Israel and a Jewish state, “we chose a Jewish state.” That adage does not appear popular among candidates from Likud or Jewish Home.
While Netanyahu has been circumspect in public about his presumed affinity for the Republican party, Danon has been openly critical of the current US administration, writing in his book of the “growing irrelevance” of American influence under Obama and suggesting that “confidence in the US as a stabilizing force is eroding.”
“The Obama administration support for the Palestinian position and their engagement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt call the strength of its support for Israel into question,” he writes. Danon is proud of his contacts with influential figures in the US; he mentioned TV host Glenn Beck and one-time Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
But at the same time, he says ties with the US administration are “very good,” pointing, as do other politicians of the right, to security cooperation over the last four years — the point being that Israel can continue its current policies without causing undue harm to the country’s most important strategic relationship. His own plans for the permanent disenfranchisement of the Palestinians notwithstanding, Danon says he believes “Obama and Netanyahu will work together this time.”
In any case, he said, peace is off the table in the near future.
“In the short term there are two options: One is what’s happening now in Judea and Samaria, where the conflict is being managed,” he said. “The other is what’s happening in Gaza, which is chaos. I choose the one in Judea and Samaria, which is not ideal, but at least we’re in control.”
“Our area is so dynamic and dangerous that you can’t afford to make mistakes,” he said. “If I told you three years ago that Hosni Mubarak would be in a cage in Cairo, or that Assad was going to fall, you would have said I was crazy.”
In January 2013, it would be hard to find many Israelis, on the left or right, who would disagree. The electorate is currently split over whether a peace agreement and a withdrawal from the West Bank would theoretically be desirable, not about whether those things are practically possible now. Almost everyone knows they are not. After years of rocket fire from Gaza, and with the old Mideast disintegrating around Israel and morphing into something that will probably be markedly more dangerous, it is not only ideological rightists who look at a city like Jerusalem, for example, with its heterogeneous and combustible population, imagine an Israeli withdrawal, and see the specter of Aleppo.
The left has failed to present voters with a clear or credible alternative. The right has: control the West Bank forever. That vision now dominates the right and is set to dominate the next Knesset.
For guidance, Danon says, he looks to Vladimir Jabotinsky, the ideologue of Revisionist Zionism, who said Jews must build an “iron wall” of military force that would ensure their safety in Israel.
“We’re not there yet,” Danon said. “Today there are forces in the area who still think they can get rid of us with force. When we create a real iron wall, it will be possible to think about peace agreements.”
_________
This is the fifth in a series of profiles of political players leading up to Israel’s national election on January 22, 2013. Previous installments featured the renegade rabbi Haim Amsalem ;retired general Elazar Stern; Ayelet Shaked, a secular candidate in the religious party Jewish Home; and Omer Barlev, a former commando and hi-tech entrepreneur.
Find Matti Friedman on Twitter and Facebook.


If Only the Left Would Abandon Israel

May 27, 2012

(Ted Belman) Shaul Magid, professor of Jewish Studies at Indiana U, asks, “What if the Left Abandonned Israel?” and suggests that Israel would go to hell in a handbasket.  “Be careful what you wish for,” he warns.

For him, the left are “basically liberal-minded and believers in civil rights and the rights of the oppressed — at least in the abstract.”  He suggests that the “messianics and revisionists” of the right, on the other hand, aren’t.  Everyone believes in civil rights in the abstract.  It’s when you deal with reality other considerations and values come into place.

I also believe in the “rights of the oppressed,” but I differ with the left in that I see the Jews in Israel as the oppressed ones, not the Palestinians (at least, the Palestinians are not oppressed by the Jews).
We Israelis are oppressed by everyone, including the U.N., the State Department, the EU, and the Muslims, including the Palestinians.  We are oppressed by 60,000-plus rockets aimed at us by our immediate neighbors and by threats of annihilation.  And for what?  It’s either because we exist, which the left and the Arabs think is a crime, or because we are “occupiers,” which much of the world finds unconscionable.  They forget that UNSC Res. 242 authorized Israel to remain in occupation until she had recognized and secure borders.  They argue that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies, even though Israel is not occupying the land of another signatory to the treaty as provided therein.
But even if the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply, Israel’s primarily obligation is to treat the people occupied humanely.  In this regard, 95% of the Palestinians are totally governed by the Palestinian Authority.  Nowhere in the treaty does it say that the occupier must end the occupation.  In any event, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is fully set out in the Oslo Accords or 1995.  There is no suggestion in it that Israel must end the occupation without a negotiated agreement.  So spare me the crocodile tears about the “occupation.”
The condemnation of Israel is based on the belief that the disputed territories are Palestinian.  How so?  They have never exercised sovereignty over said lands
The Arabs rejected the Partition Plan in 1948 that would have led to their sovereignty and invaded Israel instead.  For the next nineteen years the West Bank was under Jordanian control, and no one ever called for a Palestinian state.  In 1967, the Arabs were utterly defeated in a war they began.  As a result, the UNSC passed Res. 242, which does not require Israel to withdraw from all the territories. At the Khartoum Conference, the Arabs rejected Res. 242 and agreed on the three nos: no recognition, no negotiations, and no peace.  Arafat accepted Res. 242 because such acceptance was a precondition to entering the Oslo Accords, but he never agreed to its terms.  And now they reject negotiations.
Israel, on the other hand, can claim sovereignty over these lands, pursuant to the San Remo Resolution of 1919 and the Palestine Mandate of 1922 which granted the Jews  the right to reconstitute their homeland in Palestine and the right to close settlement of the land.  She can also claim sovereignty over these lands by virtue of a continuous presence in the land for 3,000 years, by virtue of 1,000 years of sovereignty, by virtue of acquiring the land in a defensive war, or by insisting that only the Jordan River would constitute secure borders.
Magid quotes Zachary Braiterman with approval:

I used to think that American Jews had the right and obligation to stake ideological claims in Israeli politics. I was wrong. I don’t have anything to say. Legalize outposts? Go ahead. Beat the hell out of Hamas or Hezbullah? I won’t object. Hit the Iranians? I hope you all know what you’re doing, because the mess is yours if you make it, and there is not a lot that the American Jewish community will be (able) to do if things go south. Desecrate mosques, uproot olive trees, beat up a Danish demonstrator, pass racist legislation, muzzle criticism, harass people at the airport?

Each one of these complaints shows a profound ignorance of the law or the context. Each one can be rebutted to the satisfaction of a fair minded person.

Historically, the Zionism of Braiterman was the norm. Even given the less-than-charitable things Ben-Gurion had to say about the Arabs and the ways in which Israel treated its Arab population during times of conflict, the Zionist mainstream was committed to a humanistic and liberal ethos, even as it failed in significant ways.

This is true, but why did it fail?  Because the Arabs would have none of it.  And that’s the point: why it is no longer the norm.  The Jewish left prefer to ignore the reality.  The Arabs are dedicated to destroying the Jewish state, in phases if necessary.  The charters of both Hamas and Fatah say so.  Sharia says so.  The incessant preaching of hatred says so.  The support for terrorism says so.  The unwillingness to compromise their maximalist demands says so.  Yet the left blame Israel for the lack of peace.

Megid complains:

The unspoken merger of the messianic and neo-revisionist right, coupled with the politicization of the haredi has given rise to an increasingly uncompromising ethnocentrism and, arguably, a redefined Zionism.

True enough.  But by characterizing the new Zionism as “ethnocentric,” Megid is opening up a can of worms.  He is embracing the canard that Zionism is racism.  He is arguing against the Jewish particular in favor of universalism or multiculturalism.  Those values might be appropriate for America, though I prefer the melting pot to multiculturalism.  In fact, so do most Americans and Europeans.  Multiculturalism has proven a failure, and its bitter fruits have yet to be realized in full.
Megid regrets that Israel was not able to “attain a balance necessary for its rightful place as a society among the nations of the free world.”  But why must Israel be like everyone else?  Why can’t it remain a pumpernickel in a store of white bread?  Besides, Israel is in the Middle East, which is not part of the free world.  The Arabs are barring Jews and Christians from Arab countries.  In Egypt and Nigeria and elsewhere, they are killing Christians and burning churches.  No multiculturalism for them.  No universalism for them, except when Islam dominates the world.
While the Jewish left embraces the Muslim Brotherhood at home and abroad — and, I believe to America’s detriment — Israel prefers to keep her distance from the forces which are bent on destroying her.  In order to defend herself, she must embrace her ethnicity, not eschew it.
I accept that many Jews who embraced the Zionism of their youth “understand quite well and are deeply informed — not only about the political realities but about the underlying history of the conflict.”  But so are the Jews who embrace the new Zionism.  The difference being that the former want Israel to be a state of all its citizens rather than a Jewish state.
The latter apparently is too Jewish for them.
In the end, it’s not about old and new Zionism, but rather about survival.  The left wants Israel to give in to the demands of the Arabs and the international community in order to survive, though history does not support this belief.  The right believes that doing so would lead to Israel’s destruction.  The right prefers peace through strength.

Anyone left in the left who isn’t dealing with these issues is in denial.


Did Historian Ilan Pappe Fabricate a Quote by David Ben-Gurion?

March 7, 2012

(Volokh)The quotation in question is “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as war.”
With regard to the first part of the quotation, “The Arabs will have to go,” this piece makes a strong case that he, at best, relied on a mistranslation of the Hebrew by others rather than going back to the original source (the mistranslation saying the exact opposite of the original writing’s “We do not want and do not need to expel Arabs and take their places”).
With regard to the rest of the quote, the ethics committee at Pappe’s University of Exeter determined that this was a “fair and accurate paraphrase” of sources relied upon by Pappe (without specifying the sources), but was mistakenly put in quotes.
This raises the obvious question of how this could be a fair and accurate paraphrase if the first part of the quotation was incorrect.  On that point, the ethics committee apparently concluded that the fact that others incorrectly “translated” the first part of the quotation even more egregiously exonerates Pappe.
I wasn’t aware of this controversy previously, and I haven’t gone back to the original Hebrew sources.  But if the linked-to piece is correct, it looks like Pappe took a bogus English translation of a Ben-Gurion quote that had been repeated by others, then “paraphrased” some other material that he nevertheless put into quotation marks, and combined them into a quotation falsely suggesting that Ben-Gurion had a longstanding to expel the Arabs of Palestine.
In fairness to Pappe, in the editing process things like this can happen inadvertently, and can especially happen if the mistake creates a quotation that seems perfectly sensible to the author based on his ideology–one is much less likely to carefully check a quotation that “sounds right” than one that doesn’t.  But it certainly doesn’t help Pappe’s case that he attributes the difficulty this has caused him not to his own errors, but to the machinations of “Zionist hooligans,” [UPDATE: fwiw, an old Soviet propaganda term used to denounce American Soviet Jewry activists as well as Israelis] which hardly makes him sound like an objective scholar pursuing the truth.

Pappé publicly supported an M.A. thesis by Haifa University student Teddy Katz, which was approved with highest honors, that claimed Israel had committed a massacre in the Palestinian village of Al-Tantura during the war in 1948, based upon interviews Arab residents of the village and Israeli veteran of the operation. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian historians had previously recorded any such incident. Meyrav Wurmser describes it as a “made-up massacre,” but according to Pappé “In fact the story of Tantura had already been told before, as early as 1950 . . . It appears in the memoirs of a Haifa notable, Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, who, a few days after the battle, recorded the testimony of a Palestinian.”  In December 2000, Katz was sued for libel by veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade and after the testimony was heard, he retracted his allegations about the massacre. Twelve hours later, he retracted his retraction.


Helena Rubinstein and the Business of Beauty

November 14, 2011

Media_httpwwwnewyorke_bayip(New Yorker) “Rubinstein’s New York living room, like everything else about her, was tasteless but full of gusto,” Brandon writes. “It sported an acid-green carpet designed by Miró, twenty Victorian carved chairs covered in purple and magenta velvets, Chinese pearl-inlaid coffee tables, gold Turkish floor lamps, life-sized Easter Island sculptures, six-foot-tall blue opaline vases, African masks around the fireplace, and paintings covering every inch of wall space.” She once invited Edith Sitwell over for lunch and, upon hearing that Sitwell’s ancestors had burned Joan of Arc at the stake, exclaimed, “Somebody had to do it!” In the nineteen-fifties, she took as a companion a young man half a century her junior, wooing him on a date that began with an enormous lunch (“I need to keep up my energy!”) and a showing of “Ben-Hur” (“Most interesting! I’m glad the Jewish boy won!”). From then on, Rubinstein took the young man everywhere, even to a state dinner with the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who asked her, “Who’s your goy?” Rubinstein replied, “That’s Patrick! And . . . and, yes, he is my goy.”

Note the backhanded accusation of racism at the Jewish entrepreneur. It is as if implying that even the Jewish business woman is a bigot. Some interesting history here, but told in a frame that is hostile to profit and business. Hate is not profitable and though the editorial feels otherwise, the greater story is that haters go to considerable illogical choices to guide their decisions. Rubinstein is compared to the L’Oreal owner Schueller who bought her business after she died and was a Nazi and Arab League collaborator against Israel and it’s Jews. It is pointed out that L’Oreal could of just as well bought another cosmetics company like Elizabeth Arden, but the point is that he bought Rubinstein… and like Lehman Brothers before him… bought her company in what would turn out to be a poor business decision. The was written in March; back when business was still under attack. It was written in the New Yorker and used a Jewish historical business figure to prove how shrewd business decisions are often immoral. After looking it over months later I have realized how biased the New Yorker actually is, because if you look at the underlying story (hidden behind the writer’s bias and behind the critic of the writer’s bias) is a story about how vanity, ego and bigotry led to a poor move. Oscar Schindler is also brought up. Suppose Oscar had not saved those Jews? Would he of become a hero after the war?