One job I appointed myself to upon returning from Israel was that of trying to acquaint Americans, and especially American Jews, with a sense of Israel as a real country and not a dream state. Most American Jews have not been to Israel, and their views of the country are based on the same images I had before I went: Leon Uris’s Exodus, the ’67 War, kibbutzes, Moshe Dayan’s eyepatch, Abba Eban’s speeches, etc.
Tony Kushner tried to break the spell for me a few months back when he said that American Jews’ idea of Israel was a “fantasy built on a delusion.” The delusion was the lack of understanding that creating the country in the first place had involved ethnic cleansing in 1948 (all those Palestinian refugees), while the fantasy was the belief that Israel wasn’t really a foreign country, but some kind of aching Jewish dream of a homeland and a refuge, forever in peril from the evil Arabs.
Now that I have seen what Kushner meant, two ways I’ve tried to correct the image as a journalist is to describe how militarized Israeli society is and how out of touch with Arabs the Israelis are, if they’re not downright racist. Two problems that I would guess bedevil other nationalist countries. For Israel is a very nationalist place. Doesn’t prize diversity.
This is all by way of introducing a link. It’s become a minor scandal in Israel that on July 12, the day the war broke out following Hizbollah’s lethal raid, the Israeli Defence Forces chief of staff, Gen. Dan Halutz, sold stock worth about $25,000. In other words, as war councils were being convened and Halutz was publicly vowing to take Lebanon 20 years back, he was also calling his broker to sell a portfolio. Halutz has confirmed the deal, but blasted the leak.
This incident should be laid side by side with New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s statement that when the war broke out, he felt just as he felt in June 1967, that Israel was in a war for its very existence. Nadler’s fear is widely shared in America. But the two facts show the difference between the real state of Israel and the fantasy state. In the real state, the top general so takes for granted the future existence of Israel that he has time to call up his broker during the outbreak of hostilities with a neighboring militia. In the fantasy state, an American congressman has a vision of a heroic homeland being smashed to bits by the Arabs. Americans need a reality check.