Yossi Klein Halevi and the Nature of Dreams
Israel, as Amos Oz once observed, was born out of a spectrum of dreams and visions, blueprints and masterplans. Some complementary, some contradictory, these dreams represent the federation of ideas that compose Zionism. Where these dreams quarrel with one another, there is the basis of political debate in Israel today.
In Like Dreamers, Yossi Klein Halevi examines the history of two dreams in particular: the kibbutz movement, that utopian ‘attempt to transcend human nature, replace selfishness with cooperation,’ and religious Zionism. Secular kibbutzniks and religious Zionists ‘disagreed about God and faith and the place of religion in Jewish identity and in the life of the state.’ Yet, Klein Halevi observes: ‘For all their differences, religious Zionism and the secular kibbutz movement agreed that the goal of Jewish statehood must be more than the mere creation of a safe refuge for the Jewish people. Both movements saw the Jewish return home as an event of such shattering force that something grand – world transformative – must result.’
Klein Halevi cleverly and compellingly uses the lives of seven paratroopers – participants in the battle for Jerusalem during the Six Day War – to trace the development and ultimate decline of these two dreams. For it was June 1967 that brought religious Zionists and secular kibbutzniks together – ‘everyone had a share in the victory’ – before they would eventually part ways in the following months and years.
June 1967, for Klein Halevi, is the beginning of the end of the kibbutz movement. Those aligned with Mapam and Hashomer Hatzair lost their faith in the Soviet Union and Marxism. The Labour establishment of which the kibbutzim were part was exposed as corrupt and were caught off-guard on Yom Kippur 1973. ‘All the institutions and leaders I grew up believing in have failed,’ Arik Achmon of Kibbutz Netzer Sereni says. ‘The system that I was sure was foolproof has failed in every way.’ Materialism, individualism, and the occupation undermined utopianism and communal life, while Menachem Begin attacked the kibbutzniks as ‘millionaires with swimming pools.’
After 1967, religious Zionists perceived themselves to be the new pioneers: first in re-establishing the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion that was destroyed by the Jordanians in 1947; then, in forming new settlements in Samaria such as Ofra, Kedumim, and Elon More: ‘This time the movement would be led by religious Jews. There was no choice but to step into the void left by the depleted kibbutzniks. A movement of the faithful. All those who understood that Zionism was not about refuge but destiny, redemption.’
British Jews Angry Over Unpunished ‘Quenelle’
It has been almost three weeks since West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka celebrated scoring two goals against West Ham United by doing the quenelle, the reverse Nazi salute popularized in France by comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.
Yet Anelka remains unpunished. He continues to play, in fact. Albion’s then-head coach Keith Downing refrained from condemning him immediately after the soccer match, and in the days that followed the club itself held back as well. Albion instead released a clumsystatement, which acknowledged that the quenelle “has caused offense in some quarters.” Albion “asked Nicolas not to perform the gesture again.”
But for the Jewish community — including the owner of the club’s shirt sponsor Zoopla — in the United Kingdom, it is the lack of response from the Football Association (FA) and anti-racism campaign organizations like Kick It Out that has disappointed and caused upset.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Community Security Trust (CST) have been in regular contact with the FA since December 28, when the CST made the original complaint against Anelka and furnished the FA with information about the quenelle, its use and meaning in France as an anti-Semitic gesture, and its association with Dieudonné. Tal Ofer, London-based member of the European Jewish Parliament, also made an individual complaint to the FA about the incident.
Marketing Week claims that the realtor website has contacted West Brom with an ultimatum following Anelka’s quenelle. Zoopla, whose founder and CEO is Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, insist that if Anelka plays in Monday’s Premier League home game against Everton it will want its name removed from the team’s shirts.
For the authorities, though, the investigation into Anelka’s celebration itself has dragged on into its third week, with the FA refraining from informing the public or community organizations about its progress. In response to a widely-circulated story that the FA has brought in an unnamed academic to assist in determining the meaning of the quenelle, the FA did state that, “We are working with an appointed expert regarding the salient issues related to the quenelle gesture.” However, there will be no further updates on the investigation until January 20 at the earliest.