South Jerusalem Podcast

Haim Watzman

The International Relations and Security Network, a Zurich-based information service for international relations and security professionals, interviewed me for its current special report on Israel. Hear me talk about Israeli democracy and Judaism, and please come back here to comment, object, question–and perhaps even concur–with my views.

Just don’t be confused–the picture on the podcast page is not me. Didn’t I just write about editors’ penchant for choosing a photo of a bearded guy with sidelocks and a black hat when an illustration is required for the term “Jew?” Rest assured that I remain clean-shaven and colorful.

6 thoughts on “South Jerusalem Podcast”

  1. Well done. She allowed you to fully answer her questions and gave you the time rather than dominating it as too many interviewers do. Your points are well taken.

    Per the picture, are you sure that you don’t have a fake beard and a black hat stashed away in a closet, that you can don in the manner Superman does his cape?

    By the way, the occupation is over, Google Maps has made the West Bank part of Israel. If you put in the GM search box Ramallah, Hebron, Jericho, Jenin or any place in the WB and hit return, Google will place Israel after it in the list of possibilities that will appear.

  2. I concur — though that’s to be expected.

    I’m wondering if you might flesh out what orders you think are within the range that soldiers are obligated to obey. During the disengagement, the line I often heard from right-wing friends was that refusal to participate was simply an exercise in defining the bounds of acceptable policy. It’s the same (the argument went) as leftists refusing to expel Arabs if the government were to go all Kahane on us.

    Now, I hope and believe that it’s more than just leftists who would object to forcefully expelling Arabs en masse from their homes in Israel and the territories, but how would you make the case to a right-winger that obeying orders is okay in one case but not the other?

  3. Raghav’s, above, question is difficult and I second request for not an answer but probing. I wonder if the Israeli Supreme Court’s old ruling that a soldier may be legally bound to refuse orders exists in other Western democracies. The Numberg Defense did not play very well in the Vietnam era US, although those embracing that defense were (I think) mostly employing violence themselves, at least bombings of State buildings at night.

    Could one suggest in approaching Raghav’s question that a soldier refusing orders submits to incarceration, and that she should have the respect of a public decleration if she is willing to endur this?

    I note that the “traditional” Jew is looking away from the camera. Perhaps hiding something?

    Finally, some of your crazed commentators are quite old.

  4. Gregory, German soldiers are legally bound to refuse orders that violate jus cogens (e.g. the Basic Law, or the Geneva Conventions). Additionally a soldier may (not must) refuse an order for conscientious reasons in certain circumstances.
    In 2005 the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (highest court in administrative matters) acquitted a major who had refused to participate (in an auxiliary function) in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He refused to take part in a war he considered illegal under int’l law. The court did *not* decide on the legality of the war, but still upheld the primacy of the major’s conscience over his duty to obey an order.
    (,, both in German)

    After the experience in this country of unconditional obedience during WW II, and the Nuremberg defense afterwards, which was resoundingly rejected, none of this is especially surprising, don’t you think?

  5. Well, Fiddler, I have long thought that the German preservation of the death camps, plus, in many cities, one portion of a building damaged during WW II, to be a remarkable reply to their struggled past. Certainly in the US, failure to deploy would not be portected in law, although I have a very vauge recollection that some poor young man did refuse to go in Iraq early on. Unfortunately, I cannot read German, but thanks for the links. In a sense, your major was punished, both by what may have happened from 03 to 05, and blemish thereafter.

    I chance another comment on Haim’s interview. He says that a one State solution would remove the Jewish character of the State; and, ancillary, that there would be “security issues” in a single State. I think the two reasons lead to different places, and would like to say how.

    In a single State economic, and so political, power would at first be quite tilted to Israel as such (leaving out the anger many Jews would feel upon such a “solution,” and what might events might be thereby induced). The violent wing in what we now think of as Palestine would likely not see this as a solution at all, but continued “Jewish domination,” and so remain violent. Fellow travelers, willing to aid and hide them, would exist as well. A Palestinian State outside of Israel would, however, or maybe just could, provide a new outlet for dissafection in State building and governance. There would still be violence prone groups, but perhaps with less fellow traveling. So a two State solution insulates against already grown violent extremists, grown partly though decades of conflict with Israel and within Palestine itself.

    The primary argument of Haim’s, though, leads to a very different place. There are already Israeli-Arabs, about 20% of the population, and likely to grow in percentage. If these citizens were truly equal socio-economically, one could expect their clout to rise, say, in enhanced Kenesset membership, leading to effective coalitions which might even tilt the formation of a government, just as now small parties can force policy for their small vote in forming a government. That is, under true equal participation the “Jewish nature” of Israel must change sooner or later. This will not eradicate the Jewish past, for that past is the starting point for something new, so influences the result; and in any case is an active participant in any evovling coalitions. Nonetheless, “preservation of the Jewish State” will fail in some sense. Call for a two State solution based on such preservation implicitly denies Arab Israeli citizen equality. This would not matter much if these Arabs were a small proportion or in demographic decline; but neither of these conditions hold.

    I think the security insulation argument for a two State soluton has great merit, although I think that currency dampening as the conflict never ends. But the dominant argument, preserving the Jewish State, has lead to a cul-de-sac of righteousness where either the absolute nature of a Jewish State goes or equal protection under the law goes.

    The continued importation of foregin labor (damn the New York Times!) suggests the latter is the prefered option. And, astonishingly, Arab Israelis are as liable at exploiting these as are Jewish Israelis. Homo sapiens sapiens uber alles!

    Disclaimer: during WW II, Mexicans were allowed into the US to replace draftees destined for war. At war’s end, these Mexicans were placed into trains in a somewhat military fashion and deported back to Mexico–1 million or so of them, I heard on NPR radio. Some were actually US citizens who couldn’t speak Spanish. Did I find out about this growing up in Arizona, in my American history class? No. I found out in my 40’s on NPR radio.

  6. re editors’ choices of how a Jew is depicted, Haaretz regularly uses “man”; “woman”; “Haredi”; “Arab”; and “Bedouin” when not relevant to the story. Drives me nuts. The rest of the English-language journalistic world gave up labels in hard news…what…forty years ago?

    But what can we expect from a nation who grew up on *100 Shirim Rishonim*, where all the holiday songs feature illustrations of dancing Chasidim?

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