I am sick of the middle-east–or more accurately, the middle-east is making me sick. I have spent a good deal of my adult life actively defending the State of Israel; both by bearing arms in the military, and by serving as an unofficial ambassador to defend the country from its detractors.
Recently, I have published my initial blog on Occam’s Corner discussing why the so-called boycott of Israeli academics is hypocritical and silly, and then defended this position against anti-Israel propaganda here again on OT. More recently, I have argued Israel’s position with regards to its recent operation in Gaza to prevent continued rocket fire on Israeli citizens.
I have never backed away from criticizing Israel’s misguided policy of settling in the West Bank (and of course Gaza), but as the Hebrew saying (“Higiu mayim ad nafesh”) translates “The water has reached the soul–” and I am utterly fed up with Netanyahu and the Israeli government.
Instead of embracing the moderate Palestinian stance of Abu Mazen, and the common denominators that he put forth in seeking UN recognition–including a two-state solution recognizing Israel’s security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders–with no insistent rhetoric about the right of return of millions of former Palestinians to Israel, the detached Israeli government has spit into the face of the world. There is no anti-semitism/anti-Israeli hypocrisy here; Europe, a host of influential and generally supportive countries and the US (not to mention the Palestinians) see the decision of Netanyahu to start building again in disputed territory as a slap in the face. I see it that way too.
I am not alone. Article after article in the Israeli press–particularly in the excellent newspaper “Haaretz” lambastes Netanyahu over his arrogance and poor decision making; he, who wants to convince the world of existential threats coming from Iran, is wasting any political credit (although none is due) over useless policies of angering the Palestinians and the world by building in land that (hopefully) will be negotiated away as part of a peace agreement and two-state solution.
Why? Why does he do this? Why did he announce intentions of more controversial West bank building projects when Vice President Biden visited Israel? Why this show of arrogance and willingness to go against the entire world? One might argue, as Netanyahu clearly does, that the world is full of anti-Semites who hate Israel. But that argument fails when the US and Canada, Australia and Germany, are all voicing tremendous disappointment with Netanyahu’s behavior. No one will convince me that US policy is anti-Israel.
So why does Netanyahu do this? Is he really so obtuse, so caught up in his own righteous rhetoric, that Palestinian suffering means nothing to him? That he truly believes that Israel can continue to control these territories indefinitely?
Perhaps. But I think the answer lies with Netanyahu’s ideology–or rather–lack of it. Not that Israel’s right lacks ideological opponents of a two-state solution. But in Netanyahu’s case, it seems more likely that the man will say anything to get elected. If it served his purpose (eye on the polls) to push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, I believe he would do it. But in Israel of 2012, the population is split, and Netanyahu expects his reelection to come from the right. Hence his merger with Avigdor Lieberman’s radical right wing party, and hence his decision to stir up international trouble. There’s nothing like the old “us against the world” rhetoric to stir up the right wing base and get the nationalistic juices flowing.
I’ve been venting, and one might wonder “what does this have to do with science and the lives of scientists?”
Well it has a lot to do with science. Because building government sponsored settlements in the occupied territories costs a lot of money. The security that is needed to provide for these residents is exceptionally expensive. Roads and schools need to be built. All at the expense of the government. The taxpayer.
At the same time Israel’s classrooms are overcrowded. Teachers are underpaid and treated like dirt. Almost no one wants to become a teacher. Although Israeli researchers have obtained several prominent Nobel prizes in recent years, concerned that science is derailing in Israel, a new program was recently instituted. I read that schools will select an extremely small number of high school students with IQ scores in the ‘genius’ range. This select group of about 15 students will begin in high school to work in science labs with prominent researchers, in an attempt to train “Israel’s next generation of Nobel laureates.”
When I read this in one of the Israeli newspapers, my BS detectors were screaming louder than a Geiger counter in a puddle of 32P. What?!!! Instead of methodically training students in the sciences and improving the education system, this is the great plan? Did any of the great planners of this program ever consider that diligence, creativity, management skills and a variety of others skills undetected by any IQ test are probably far more important for success in the sciences?
It’s all back to the same root–money. With huge investments in the West Bank and settlements and infrastructure, it’s no wonder idiotic and cheap programs for advancing science are being implemented rather than real improvements in education.