Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Looking for meaning in all the wrong places

Can someone please help me parse what the hell Melanie Phillips's point is in this post?

She's upset about a BBC report by Katya Adler that said armed Rabbis in the IDF were a sign that Israel was turning the fight with the Palestinians into more of a holy war, because, as she rightly points out, it's not really that unusual to have a bit of religion in the army:

[T]he British army has military chaplains who are also officers.

Does seem to smack of double standards. And the logic, as Mel points out, would seem to be faulty:

Adler made this leap because to her, all orthodox Jewish religious observance is extreme, right-wing and aggressive; all settlers are orthodox and therefore extreme, right-wing and aggressive; thus all orthodox Jewish soldiers are settlers and therefore they are all extreme, right-wing and aggressive.

But the army is for all Israelis, not just the religious ones, it's a secular state thing:

The settlers believe the land was given to them by God, she charged. Well, they may well do so; but as Israel’s soldiers they are fighting to defend not the settlements but the State of Israel of which they are citizens and to which land they are fully and indisputably entitled under international law. Indeed, contrary to what she stated they are also entitled under international law to settle the disputed territories which are still the site of aggressive war waged against them; but that’s not in fact what they are in the IDF or were in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead to do.

Yes I know. But leave aside Mel's grip on the finer points of international law and English grammar for a moment, and it gets better still. Because half of Israel seems to be saying the same thing Adler's saying:

True, she was not short of Israelis to say all this: to make the direct equation between religious orthodoxy in the IDF and ‘holy war’.

If half of Israel thinks there's taht there's a nutty "Holy War" element to the IDF's mission, then we should probably listen. I mean they'd know, right. Apparently not:

Israel is a society which is deeply, even violently polarised between secular and religious. Quite unlike Britain, America or Europe there is simply no middle ground in Israel where people can be moderately religious and straddle the two worlds. You either belong to one side or the other; and each views the other as utterly dangerous and threatening. With no acknowledgement whatever of that crucial context for these Israelis’ remarks, Adler was able to use Israeli Jews to make her repellent case for her, that the IDF rabbis are as bad as the jihadis and that Jewish religious belief is beyond the moral pale.
You see, in suggesting that some Israelis think that other Israelis are dangerous religious nutters, Adler ommited the crucial context, which is that some Israelis think other Israelis are dangerous religious nutters.

Because of the extreme hostility by secular Israelis towards religion, Israel's education system leaves many of them with scant idea – just like Katya Adler – that the people, the religion and the land are inseparable and bound together by the thousands of years of history of the Jewish people in the land. It is a history many of them only learn for the first time when they join the IDF, which has to make up the appalling deficiencies in their education by taking them to places like Masada to teach them precisely what it is they are defending.

So the IDF is in the business of teaching its recruits "that the people, the religion and the land are inseperable and bound together by the thousands of years of history of the Jewish people in the land", and that's why they should fight? Wasn't Mel meant to be defending the IDF against that sort of thing at the beginning of the post?

Seriously, what am I missing?


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