Time: Israelis don’t give a fig for peace, they want money

Victor Hanson calls Karl Vick’s column in Time “probably the most anti-Semitic essay I have ever read in a mainstream publication.” I think Hanson is getting a bit carried away, but Vick’s article is nevertheless deeply weird and it at least hovers on the edge of anti-Semitism. Vick’s point is that the Israelis don’t care about having peace with the Palestinians, because they’re too much into enjoying their material existence, and in particular they’re too much into making money. They live on land they’ve taken from the Arabs, he says, but they don’t care, because they just care about themselves.

The truth, of course, is that the Israelis don’t care about peace with the Palestinians because, blessedly, they have finally broken free of the pathological mesmerism of the “peace” process. They know that “peace” is not possible, and they know that any serious efforts to attain “peace” will only expose them to increased Palestinian aggression. So they’re not distracting themselves with “peace” or taking the current round of negotiations seriously. That is a sign of rationality and health. (I recently urged the same approach myself—that everyone should just ignore the “peace” process. So it seems the Israelis are right in tune with me.) But for someone like Vick who still lives inside the “peace” process fantasy, where “peace” with the Palestinians is both (1) the most important thing in the world and (2) attainable, for the Israelis not to be interested in the peace process is a sign of moral obtuseness—an obtuseness Vick explains in terms of the Israelis’ selfish desire to enjoy life and, he keeps emphasizing, to enjoy money.

The more I think about it, the article is at least somewhat anti-Semitic. And since anti-Semitism is virtually non-existent in the U.S. mainstream media, the piece may well be the most anti-Semitic article Victor Hanson has ever read in a mainstream publication.

Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace
By Karl Vick / Jerusalem Thursday, Sep. 02, 2010

Heli and Eli sell condos on Exodus Street, a name that evokes a certain historical hardship in a neighborhood that suggests none at all, the ingathering of the Jews having entered a whole new realm here. The talk in the little office is of interest rates and panoramic sea views from handsomely appointed properties selling on the Ashdod waterfront for half what people are asked to pay in Tel Aviv, 18 miles (29 km) to the north. And sell they do, hand over fist—never mind the rockets that fly out of Gaza, 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south. “Even when the Qassams fell, we continued to sell!” says Heli Itach, slapping a palm on the office desk. The skull on her designer shirt is made of sequins spelling out “Love Kills Slowly.” “What the people see on the TV there is not true here,” she says. “I sold, this week, 12 apartments. You’re not client, I tell you the truth.”

The truth? In the week that three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.

Now observing 2½ years without a single suicide bombing on their territory, with the economy robust and with souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia. “Listen to me,” says Eli Bengozi, born in Soviet Georgia and for 40 years an Israeli. “Peace? Forget about it. They’ll never have peace. Remember Clinton gave 99% to Arafat, and instead of them fighting for 1%, what? Intifadeh.”

But wait. Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity? Well, not exactly. Asked in a March poll to name the “most urgent problem” facing Israel, just 8% of Israeli Jews cited the conflict with Palestinians, putting it fifth behind education, crime, national security and poverty. Israeli Arabs placed peace first, but among Jews here, the issue that President Obama calls “critical for the world” just doesn’t seem—critical.

Another whack for the desk. “The people,” Heli says, “don’t believe.” Eli searches for a word. “People in Israel are indifferent,” he decides. “They don’t care if there’s going to be war. They don’t care if there’s going to be peace. They don’t care. They live in the day.”

This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the Sept. 13, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.

- end of initial entry -

Asher M. writes:

Subject: Vick’s column in Time not anti-Semitic

Vick thinks this way, as you say rightly, because the Israelis to him seem woefully obtuse. But the conflict aside, Israelis are more materialistic than say, American Ashkenazim or white liberals. At the least, there are more very materialistic people among Israelis than Americans. Persians are even more garish in their tastes. Spend any amount of time in Los Angeles, and these points will be apparent. The aesthetic of understated wealth is uniquely Western.

Taken together, these two elements can be quite shocking if you (a) are unfamiliar with Israelis and (b) fervently believe in the peace process. In that light, the piece is not anti-Semitic.

Sophia A. writes:

I think that Israelis do “give a fig” for real peace with real negotiating partners. If the prospect of real peace ever looms (doubtful) the Israelis will negotiate in good faith.

They don’t “give a fig” for a figment of some addled lefty’s imagination (peace with the so-called “Palestinians.”)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 08, 2010 12:26 PM | Send

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