The Voice(s) of a People?

blue horizon

2015-05-12 – I haven’t said much in this blog about Israel. Although I strongly believe in the right of Jews to a nation among the nations of the world, I’m pretty much appalled by the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Israelis and Palestinians have had a lifetime to work things out. Every strategy, on both sides, that is in use now has been tried and tried over and over again since before I was born. Each and every strategy has been an utter failure. No one has learned anything. Yet no one is willing to ever try anything new. There is no end in sight.

The latest craziness comes from a writer in the New York Times named Anat Biletzki, a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. She is opposed to the Israeli occupation.

I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the Israeli occupation, however. I’m here to talk about her article in the Times, which is entitled “Making It Explicit in Israel.”

In this article, she talks about ambiguity and clarity in politics. In her view, Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in the recent Israeli election has made Israeli policy “explicit.” We now know what Israel intends, and what Israel has intended all along, which is the incorporation of all of Palestine within Israel and a denial and destruction of Palestinian rights.

Explicit. And hopeless, apparently.

Now, I do find the results of the Israeli election to be troubling. Apparently the electorate, enamored of Netanyahu’s failed policies, have decided to double down and try them again. I sure wouldn’t have voted that way.

But neither did a pretty sizable portion of the Israeli electorate. Netanyahu did not gain a majority, but he was able to form a government with a majority of a single seat in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). And this he did by forming a coalition.

So, nu. How does this make Israeli policy explicit?

Before the election, there were voices to the left of Netanyahu. Presumably Anat Biletzki was one of them. After the election there are voices to the left of Netahyahu. It was a confusion of voices before. It is a confusion of voices now.

Yet Netanyahu holds the reins.

Good people are at a disadvantage in politics. Tough guys make a lot of noise. They cheat. They kill, if needed. Good people don’t do things like this. Even in democracies, where the killing of opponents is supposedly out of the question, bullies get their way. This is true in Israel. This is true in Palestine. This is true in the United States.

It’s a problem.

If a person says that my country’s policy (i.e., U.S.) has now become explicit, my voice is extinguished. I don’t approve of many things that my country does. I don’t approve of carte blanche for the fossil fuel industries. I don’t approve of unequal treatment of my fellow citizens. And so on. But if you say that the policies I disapprove are the explicit policies of my country, then I don’t count. And change is impossible.

It’s like saying that all white people are X or all black people are Y.

I’ve written before how the silence of ordinary people allows bullies to prevail (here is one, here is another). Now some philosopher has raised the stakes. Not only are our voices unheard, they are nonexistent. We are subsumed into the stereotype created by the worst among us.

I don’t believe it.

We’d see a different world if we all just speak up.


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