Creating people's geographies
Cited in a recent Ha’aretz piece about the decline of the israeli left, the late academic Yeshayahu Leibowitz is described as remarking that he is not sure whether Israel’s policies since 1967 are evil stupidity or stupidly evil. In another, verbatim citation, Leibowitz is quoted as having said, more resolutely, in 1990: “Everything Israel has done, and I emphasize everything, in the past 23 years is either evil stupidity or stupidly evil.”
Along with a number of other academics such as Ilan Pappe and Neve Gordon, journalists such as Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, and other critics of conscience such as David Grossman, it is good to see instances of intellectuals fulfilling their proper role of speaking up. In Liebowitz’s case, he is not as well known outside Israel. In 1969 he reportedly began describing the “inevitable Nazification” of Israeli society. Further, by the time of the (first major, 1982) Lebanon War, he became known for using the term Judeo-Nazi to describe the Israeli army. He also called for soldiers to refuse to serve in the IOF.
Interestingly, an online search for the Liebowitz quote cited above returns less than 10 hits — presumably because it was originally in Hebrew — which makes it all the more worthwhile to highlight for a critical English-speaking audience. There is a sizeable collection available online of incriminating quotes of past — and present — israeli “leaders”, few of them in dispute (usually the few that are disputed are because they were attributed but not authoritatively recorded. One recalls the infamous and hotly contested and denied Menachem Begin quote attributed to him by the late Amnon Kapeliouk, for example). Yet not all the critics make it to the Anglophone media.
A Latvian-born Orthodox Jew, Yeshayahu Leibowitz moved to Palestine in 1935 and reportedly opposed a religiously-based state. More about his interesting life and career can be gleaned in English here, and there are a number of videos on YouTube.
For quotation references, see Edward Alexander, ‘Israelis Against Themselves’, chapter three in Alexander and Bogdanor (eds.), The Jewish Divide Over Israel (2006), p. 36. The same author repeats much of the content in this piece at an academic “monitor” site, apparently in the same likudnik thought-police vein as the execrable Campus Watch.