Sunday, January 02, 2005

Interview with Amos Elon: "Do you find Israel to be barbaric, unenlightened, nationalistic?

'In Israel there's the `Gush Dan' state and the political state. The `Gush Dan' state is a state of live-and-let-live. Of tolerance. Of the desire for peace and a good life. But the political state, well, you know what it looks like.'

What does it look like?

'It's partly quasi-fascist and partly religious with narrow horizons.'


'Quasi-fascist in the sense that abstract principles of religion are dictating our fate without any democratic process. There are religious people here who believe they've put their finger on the very essence of being. They know everything. They're in direct contact with God.'

You have some profound anti- religious sentiment.

'I'm not being original when I say that religion that enters politics is dangerous. Such religious people would be better off behind bars and not in politics. Certainly.'

The critical mistake of `67 opened the door to dark forces that overwhelmed the Israel to which you belonged, to which you felt a genuine closeness?

'There were two sources of the perversion: the mixture of religion with political policy and the secular right's military adventurism. Force. The worship of force. By the way, it hasn't only come from the Likud. It also came from Ahdut Ha'avoda (the United Workers Party, a precursor of the Labor Party), from people like Allon and Galili. Ahdut Ha'avoda always seemed to me to be a party of farmers fighting over each piece of land with pitchforks.'

And the result is that this place has corrupted itself?

'The occupation certainly corrupted Israeli society. There is no dispute about that.'

Has Israel slid into a situation that places it in a category other than the democratic Western nations?

"Without a doubt. And I'm still wracking my brain wondering what those people were thinking after the Six-Day War. How did they think they could keep it? What did Dayan think? Did he really think that if we just treat them nicely, everything will be fine? What provinciality it was. What historic ignorance. Had this ever happened anywhere else in the world? From this perspective, the Israeli occupation is perhaps the least successful attempt at colonialism that I can think of. This is the crappiest colonial regime that I can think of in the modern age."

How is it worse than French or British colonialism?

"In the French and British colonies, there were mixed marriages. In India, for instance. But especially with the French. They're freer than the British are in bed, that's well-known. But both the French and the British tried to co-opt the elites. As a rule, whenever a European nation took over territory in the Third World, it tried to embrace the elite. Here there was no such attempt. There were no mixed marriages, there was no significant commercial cooperation. The only human partnership was in the lowest dimension of all: crime.""

Its a tragic and enormous error that Israel succumbed to the temptation try to hold onto the Territories. Israel could have had peace, security, and its liberal values. But this is the kind of tragedy that is inevitable: given the premisses of Zionism, how could it be otherwise?

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