Richard Ben Cramer’s excellent book, How Israel Lost, puts it like this: ‘On the Palestinian side the conflict has more or less replaced life — or cooked it to a standstill. Among the Jews, the effects are harder to pinpoint, or more insidious — because the whole point of Israel was to create a place where Jews could live the best life — and liveliest — in accordance with their values.’ What has happened to values when Jewish children are inured to the idea of collective punishment, to the effects of white phosphorous and dime bombs? What has happened to Israel’s admirable ‘Purity of Arms’ when young Israelis fighting for the side we think of as right leave graffiti in Gaza like this: ‘We came to annihilate you’; ‘Death to the Arabs’; ‘Kahane was right’; ‘No tolerance’; ‘We came to liquidate’.
It’s not just the soldiers who are warped by the war. Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, reports this week that 68 per cent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same apartment building as an Israeli Arab.
‘Twenty years ago I would have called Israel a nice little socialist country, with one problem,’ writes Ben Cramer. ‘Now I’d say the “one problem” has eaten up the rest of the country.’ It eats up the rest of the world too. Everyone’s got an opinion; everyone’s flushed with useless outrage one way or the other.
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