Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Breakdown

Bernard Avishai's delineation of Israel into five "tribes" represents an excellent dissection of Israeli politics.

One interesting player to keep an eye on in Israeli politics is the Russian immigrant population -- currently heavily represented in the far-right Yisrael Beitainu party. It's no accident that this is so. The Russians constitute the most recent major immigrant wave to Israel, and come from a location where anti-Semitism was alive and viable in its most pure and classic form. The ghosts of anti-Semitism still haunt Ashkenazi Jews even in America (which isn't to say anti-Semitism doesn't exist here, only that it is a shadow of what it was in old Europe or Russia). Where the demons are fresher, the politics of fear will be much more appealing. It is said that Israeli fear is based off of Holocaust memory gone awry. It is an interesting counter to this hypothesis that the most militaristic elements of Israeli society are not the Ashkenazi cosmopolitan elite (descended, often, from Holocaust survivors), but the Russians (fleeing from Soviet oppression) and Mizrachi (fleeing from Arab oppression).

I worry about the results of today's Knesset election. Israel seems poised to shift radically to the right vis-a-vis the Palestinians. We might even witness a coalition made up of Likud and parties further right, which to my eye would be catastrophic. Maybe Nixon Netanyahu will go to China. But I doubt it.

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