Holy Water

The Editors

Uri Avnery on Israel's new police chief and the wave of rejuvenated religion being ridden by Netanyahu:

The Israeli Police needed a new commander ... When Binyamin Netanyahu announced his choice, everybody was amazed. Roni Alsheikh? Where the hell did he come from? He does not look like a policeman, except for his mustache. He never had the slightest connection with police work. He was, actually, the secret deputy chief of the Shin Bet.
He is the first police chief to wear a kippah. Also the first who was once a settler. So we were all waiting for his first significant utterance. It came this week and concerned mothers mourning their sons. Bereavement, Alsheikh asserted, is really a Jewish feeling. Jewish mothers mourn their children. Arab mothers don't.
When our gallant soldiers (all our soldiers are gallant) sacrifice their life, it is to defend the life of our nation, while Arab terrorists carry out suicide missions in order to go to paradise.
When I was young, nobody in this country spoke about a "Jewish State". We spoke about a "Hebrew State". An extreme fringe group (nicknamed "Canaanites") even asserted that we are a new Hebrew Nation which has nothing to do with Judaism. Most of my generation thought along the same lines, though not quite with these words.
Then came the war of 1967, the “miraculous” victory, the conquest of all the country up to the Jordan River, with all its holy places. Far from dying, the Jewish religion suddenly sprang to new life. Now it is expanding rapidly, kippot can be seen everywhere. Especially among the settlers.

This rejuvenated religion is closely connected with an extreme right-wing, ultra-nationalist, Arab-hating ideology. This is the wave on which Netanyahu, a non-religious, non-kosher-eating super-nationalist opportunist, is riding now.

You can read the whole piece here.


  • 13 March 2016 at 12:17am
    Graucho says:
    As the good Doctor Johnson asserted "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". Israeli politics appears to be suffering a terminal case of the phenomenon.

  • 13 March 2016 at 2:24pm
    stettiner says:
    I don't speak Arabic, so the phrase "Allahu Akbar", so often uttered by knife wielding attackers on the streets of Israel may well mean "Long live the free (from the river to the sea), democratic and secular state of Palestine and its eternal non-violence preaching President". I just note, that each and one of them cites concern for the well-being of the sacred mosque of al-Aqsa, apparently under threat of the Jooos, with or without a kippah.

    Nothing religious about it, though...

    • 13 March 2016 at 8:42pm
      David Gordon says: @ stettiner
      Well I am sure you speak enough Arabic - but as you are using an argument based on what words might mean, a sentence from Avnery's article might do:

      "In Israel we don't like to use the word "propaganda" – we call it "explanation" - hasbara in Hebrew - instead."

    • 14 March 2016 at 9:08am
      stettiner says: @ David Gordon
      Yet another disciple of Ken Livingstone...

    • 14 March 2016 at 1:02pm
      David Gordon says: @ stettiner
      Yet another complete non-sequitur.

      For the complete avoidance of doubt, I am not a disciple of Ken Livingstone. I make up my own mind.

      Any actual objection to my quotation from Avnery?

    • 14 March 2016 at 3:52pm
      stettiner says: @ David Gordon
      You ignore my comment and instead demand to know what I think about Avnery's very personal view on the Hebrew language. Talk about non-sequitur...

      “In Germany we don’t like to use the word “television” – we call it “fernsehen” – to see from distance in German – instead.”

    • 15 March 2016 at 8:15am
      Alan Benfield says: @ stettiner
      And we prefer 'Rundfunk' to 'radio' - but neither is a euphemism, so you rather miss the point.

    • 15 March 2016 at 8:51am
      David Gordon says: @ stettiner
      Oh dear.

      1. I did not ignore your comment. I replied to it.
      2. To explain how I replied to it, you suggested that "Allahu Akbar" might mean something quite different to what it actually means, and I illustrated that by Avnery's point about “propaganda” being replaced by "explanation”
      3. As you seem to need a lot of explanation, Alan has kindly explained to you that Avnery was pointing out a euphemism - perhaps it is even irony.

      Does the Hasbara organisation understand euphemism and irony?

    • 15 March 2016 at 9:11am
      Alan Benfield says: @ David Gordon
      Perhaps, David, stettiner does not understand that in current terms 'collateral damage', to take an egregious example, usually means 'dead civilians', rather than demolished buildings.

      Or perhaps he is being deliberately obtuse...

    • 15 March 2016 at 5:03pm
      stettiner says: @ Alan Benfield
      Oh, how sweet, Allan and David. Are you done patting each other on the back? Soon you'll ask me how many shekels I'm paid for my activities... Jokingly, of course.

      "According the Online Etymological Dictionary, the English word propaganda is related to propagation – basically, getting the word out there. Indeed, propaganda is intellectual material meant for mass public consumption, including ideas about whom to vote for. But propaganda is also about agitating or getting people riled up around a particular goal, and here Hebrew takes a different spin on the word from English. The Hebrew word forpropaganda is תַּעֲמוּלָה, of the root ע.מ.ל (a.m.l) meaning labor and effort".

      Hence, your comments are propaganda; my comments are labour, effort and explanation.

    • 15 March 2016 at 5:54pm
      frmurphy98 says: @ stettiner
      "Soon you'll ask me how many shekels I'm paid for my activities... Jokingly, of course".

      Why would they?

    • 15 March 2016 at 8:13pm
      stettiner says: @ frmurphy98
      Because it more often than not comes right after "on which page of the Hasbara manual did you find this argument"? Believe me, I have nearly 40 years of experience, in three languages...

    • 16 March 2016 at 1:13am
      Sal Scilicet says: @ stettiner
      Alan and David do a great ‘good cop - bad cop’ routine. They’d be a scream as a double stand-up act.

    • 16 March 2016 at 11:45am
      Alan Benfield says: @ frmurphy98
      I'm thinking of founding 'Benfield's Law' as a parallel to Godwin's Law (

      "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a remark or implication involving anti-Semites approaches."

      This is otherwise known as 'playing the anti-Semite card' and is one of stettiner's favourites. He is also fond of the 'ad hominem' attack, as is Sal Scilicet, who I see has also joined us below.

      By the way, I'm Alan, not Allan.

    • 16 March 2016 at 7:51pm
      stettiner says: @ Sal Scilicet
      Hilarious. And predictable...

      The Dynamic Duo calls me an obtuse part of a conspiratorial "Hasbara organisation" who doesn't understand irony and euphemism, in need of a lot of explanation, a troll of many names.

      And yet I'm the one "fond of ad hominem attack".

      Poor misunderstood souls...

  • 14 March 2016 at 4:56pm
    Graucho says:
    Semantic issues are very interesting, but underlying this article is the inexorable metamorphosis of Israel from a secular state into a theocratic one. If current demographic trends continue the ultra orthodox settler movement will soon become the most significant voting block in the country. People being people and politics being politics they will then be in a position to grant themselves priviledges beyond the considerable ones they already enjoy.

    • 14 March 2016 at 6:46pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      Dear Grauch

      You don't seem to have the slightest understanding of Israeli demography or Israeli society. The two largest population groups in Israel, constituting a majority (50% of the population) in 50 years according to demographers, will be the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews (haredim, not religious settlers, if you understand the difference). Religious settlers will remain a minority. A 2013 survey indeed showed that around 20% of Israelis "identified" with the national religious camp but not all of them were religious and only a quarter voted for the national religious party. These are anything but theocrats. Half of them would have no objection to same-sex couples attending their synagogues or women serving as rabbis.

    • 14 March 2016 at 9:22pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Dear Fred,

      If I read your post correctly, in 50 years time it will be 50% Arabs + ultra orthodox. If so, how is that 50% expected to split between the two groups and will those arabs have the vote ? Given Israel's version of PR, you do not have to be in a majority in order to exert a disproportionate political influence. No dispute about Israel being a secular state currently, nor of the sizeable proportion of Israelis with liberal social attitudes. The question at hand is what happens when those guys who throw stones at drivers who deign to drive on the Sabbath have their hands on the levers of power ?

    • 14 March 2016 at 9:49pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      It will be 25% Arab and 25% haredi (Ultra-Orthodox). Today the percentage is 20% and 10%, respectively. Certainly the Arabs will have the vote. The problem is seen as economic - the state will not be able to bear the burden of so large a nonworking population of haredi men, so an effort is being made to integrate them into the workforce as well as to improve the economic situation of the Arabs. Haredi political parties have almost always been part of government coalitions but they have always gone along with the government on security and foreign policy issues, caring only about getting their share of the budget for their institutions and maintaining the religious status quo and I imagine that this will continue to be the case. But a great deal of rethinking has to be done about how Israel will look socially and economically in 50 years.

    • 15 March 2016 at 8:53am
      David Gordon says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Thank you for that very clear explanation, Fred. Let us hope for success in the rethinking that you describe, so that all parties concerned are able to prosper.

    • 16 March 2016 at 1:10am
      Sal Scilicet says: @ David Gordon
      Oh Dear. This is extraordinary. I mean, truly embarrassing. What are you, the Gestapo already? Ve ask ze kvestions? “English, Hebrew and …?” Like you’re dealing with a kid in fifth grade? My dear chap, Cross Examination 101: Never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer. Dear, oh dear, David. How is this even relevant, which languages stettiner might claim to know? This is the Internet, remember. On-line etiquette, it’s free. Anybody can claim to speak a dozen languages while swinging from the chandeliers and chew gum. You don’t have to believe it. What’re you going to do? Set a vocabulary test? Honestly, LRB seems to have developed this knack for attracting particularly pernicious types, who seem to believe they invented the English language all on their tod. All you’ve just managed to prove, with that unmistakable hauteur of proprietary ownership, is that you’re in fact quite capable of revealing yourself as quite the compleat prat. Don’t you see? You’ve already made it abundantly clear that you don’t accept a word of what stettiner says. Yet you pretend to treat any response as credible?

    • 16 March 2016 at 7:34am
      David Gordon says: @ Sal Scilicet
      Far from it Sal, the question to Stettiner on what are his languages is because I was surprised by his original statement that he understands no Arabic. Nothing Gestapo-like about that. Just interested to see what he says. And he (or she, I don't know) may ask me any questions he likes.

      As for "On-line etiquette, it’s free" that is a laugh. Tell it to Stettiner - or maybe you are Stettiner under yet another name. I have had my suspicions before.

    • 16 March 2016 at 9:21am
      Sal Scilicet says: @ David Gordon
      Netiquette 101.

      Like it or not, the Internet is absolutely useless for the reliable dissemination of accurate information. Absent the requisite means for independent verification, everything online should, by definition, be treated with the utmost caution. Don’t believe anything you read, until you have at least satisfied yourself of its veracity.

      Never make fatuous claims about your alleged qualifications and/or expertise. You will only sound like a regular used car salesman. (“Would I lie to you?”) Remember Peter Steiner’s brilliant cartoon in The New Yorker? “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” (July 5, 1993, when the Web was still something of a novelty.) The converse is even more apt – nobody knows you’re not a dog.

      You can only fool all of the people some of the time. If you habitually make grand assertions about your own alleged bona fides, you will always fool some of the people all of the time. But if you claim to be an expert, you’re really just kidding yourself. By sounding like you believe, just like any regular politician, that you’re casting your pearls of wisdom before a bunch of ignorant fools. If you know what you’re talking about, just state your case as succinctly and clearly as you can. Your readers will make up their own minds, whether they can believe you or not. And that, I’m afraid, really is just about as good as it gets.

    • 16 March 2016 at 10:56am
      David Gordon says: @ Sal Scilicet
      What are you on about?

      I have not made a single "claim[s] about [my] alleged qualifications and/or expertise". Nor have I made "grand assertion[s] about [my] own alleged bona fides". I don't claim to be an expert on this subject, I mainly just ask questions.

      From my end, this correspondence is now closed.

  • 15 March 2016 at 9:21pm
    David Gordon says:
    Which three languages Stettiner? English, Hebrew and ....?

  • 15 March 2016 at 10:13pm
    Graucho says:
    So, just to make sure that that I am clear, in 50 years time the Haredi will elect about 25% of the MPs in the Knesset and there won't be any political problems, just economic ones.

    • 16 March 2016 at 4:30am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      That is correct, Graucho. The Haredin currently have 6 seats in the Knesset while constituting 10% of the population, so you can make the projection. The issue of the religious status quo has accompanied Israeli life from the outset and has had its ups and downs. Family law - marriage, divorce - has always been in Orthodox hands but the haredi are now being challenged by the national religious camp who wish to see their own rabbis serving in religious courts, handling conversions, etc. I appreciate your concerns about Jewish religious life but I'm sure we'll manage to work things out.

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