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A message to those wishing leftist Israelis would move to Syria

As police brutality against leftist demonstrators intensifies, right-wingers call on them to “go to Syria.” Why don’t the right-wingers emigrate instead?

Over the weekend, Israeli police publicly displayed for the first time a favorite method of torture among cops: the use of electric shocks against demonstrators. As can be seen in this clip (from 1:35 onwards), the demonstrator are sitting on the ground and refraining from violence against the cops, and yet a cops shocks one of them anyway. Stun guns and shocks are intended to replace lethal weapons in order to allow police to subdue violent people without causing them serious harm. However, many policemen use them as a tool of punishment – which is to say torture – against people who piss them off.


Right-wingers commonly call upon Israeli leftists to “go to Syria.” That’s code for, “See, see what a lovely democracy we have here. Would the Syrian regime allow you anything like it? You’d be shot like dogs. So please, pretend we’re in Syria, shut your mouths as if you were there, thank us kindly for not shooting you, and let us continue pretending Israel is a democracy.”

So no, we’re not going to Syria. You wanna live in Syria, you go there. There are plenty of dictatorships in the Middle East. Our goal – we’ll probably fail, but it’s our patriotic duty to try – is to prevent Israel from becoming another Syria. If you wish to integrate into the rest of the Middle East, there’s probably nothing we can do to prevent it. But, please, stop pretending it’s a democracy. A free country does not torture civilians or shoot at them. Take your pick: It’s either Syria or democracy. You want the latter? You’ll have to wean yourself off of longing for a strongman, preferably mustachioed, who would torture, kidnap or simply liquidate the people you don’t like, on behalf of the motherland. So, gentlemen, you’re liable to like the Syrian regime much more than we would. Why don’t you emigrate instead?

Those who believe that there is something special about Jews might mumble at this point something about it being incomprehensible how people who went such dark periods ™ can do this to their own. Those who know that Jews are just like any other people, just much more traumatized, aren’t at all astonished to see human beings acting human.

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    1. Ben Israel

      I couldn’t agree more with Yossi’s last paragraph. I can’t stand the patronizing attitude of people who say Jews are supposed to be better than everyone else because of how much we have suffered. I think that such a demand should be made to the Germans instead.
      Of course, religious Jews say that Jews are obligated to live up to the values of the Judaism and the Torah, but that is not accepted by the secular majority in Israel, so we have to make do with what we have.
      This idea that Israel is supposed to be a more “moral” state than other countries is a legacy of long-dead Socialist Zionism. Many early socialists (we are talking about the period around World War I when Labor Zionism really got going) were anti-nationalist universalists. Socialist Zionists faced the problem of encouraging Jews to be nationalists and, at the same time, to graft onto this nationalism an anti-nationalist socialist ideology. The way around this was to try to convince everyone that the future Jewish state would be a model Socialist utopia which would be an inspiration for the rest of the world Socialist movement. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way, which is why more and more Leftist/Progressive Jews and Israelis are becoming anti-Zionist.

      PS-regarding police violence, it should be pointed out that if unjustified violence was used against the Left, it was nothing personal. They have used massive violence against the Right and the settlers in the recent past, much more than against any Leftist demonstrators. Here again is the link to the Amona video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8R8msUtVpo

      These riot police hate demonstrators no matter what their ideology is, they are often rewarded for using violence and many of them are borderline criminals recruited precisely because they enjoy this kind of work.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Zvi

      Excellent piece. Israel has in fact become more like the rest of the Middle East than many people would care to admit. Will be interesting to see how things move on around us, and how that will play out here.

      Concerning the use of violence to suppress dissent or other forms of expression, this ‘technique’ is becoming common even in “tolerant” countries such as Canada.

      Reply to Comment
    3. RichardNYC

      Somehow “cry me a river” isn’t strong enough to mock the breathtaking puerility of this piece. You’re being tazed for breaching the peace? WELCOME TO AMERICA! If Israel isn’t a democracy because it uses TAZERS, then neither is America. Yossi et al are proof that no amount of restraint or humanity will dissuade the anti-Israel propaganda machine from doing all it can to divest the Jews of their freedom and security. Stop perverting the cause of democracy for your own anti-liberal crusade please.

      Reply to Comment
    4. ds

      a liberal democracy is not one in which nonviolent demonstrators are tazed for engaging in acts of civil disobedience in resistance to racist state policies. when police officers in the united states use tazers against nonviolent demonstrators it is considered police brutality. tazers are “less-lethal” weapons, meaning when abused (as they often are) they have the potential to kill. that the practice is tolerated by the state is a testament only to our diminishing freedoms, particularly following 9/11. it seems repression and democracy go hand in hand the world over these days. then again, we never really had freedom in america, as nearly all popular revolt in this country has been put down violently by the civil servants of the corporate state.

      with regards to the point that it is for some “incomprehensible how people who went such dark periods can do this to their own,” i am not interested in this argument. rather, i am interested in “You shall be holy to Me, for I, the L-rd, am holy, and I have separated you out from among the nations to be Mine;” and “Just as I am holy, so are you holy. Just as I am set apart, so must you be set apart;” and “And who is like your people Israel, one nation in the Land?” and “‘He called them ‘holy’, utterly sanctified, separate from the nations of the world and from their abominations.” not because i’m religious, but because what does it mean to be jewish and to have a jewish state. what does it mean to have a jewish democracy? do we have shared values? do we have a shared sense of purpose? do we have a basis for a constitution as a nation? if so, and we believe that our constitution as a people derives from our sense of shared purpose around the values expressed in our tradition (whether or not we believe in god), then to eviscerate our tradition in the frantic race to triumph over our enemies real and imagined leaves us without a basis for existence as nation. you have nothing to to compel one towards a nation that is without ideals, that is without a noble sense of purpose. if we are to be a nation of monsters no different from all other monsters, why be zionist? why be jewish? i refuse to let being jewish be just like being anyone or anything else because then there is no value left in being jewish and then our survival will truly be imperiled.

      Reply to Comment
    5. David

      Cringe worthy article.
      Using the word “torture” here makes all further discussion futile. Looking at the way London police or US/German police treat far leftists this is tame. I’d prefer a two second long taze to a truncheon anytime. And comparing this to what goes on in Syria or Egypt reminds me of Holocaust comparisons, it has about equal academic depth.
      Writing about the surrounding countries brings to mind the partly Western and Arab academics who work at Universities in Cairo and Beirut and their blogs and ezines. What these people think and write about Israel pretty much goes along with pieces like this.
      In order to stay relevant it is of import not to fall into hyperbole and pathetic pathos. Or you may go take a course in Jewish studies at the American Uni in Cairo. There you will find many like minded people. Like Maya Mikdashi http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/1704/when-an-act-of-war-is-not-an-act-of-war . The piece at the end of this link has as much integrity as the above blog post.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Yishai

      Speaking of cringe-worthy, your re-cap of Second and Third Aliyah socialist Zionism, Ben Israel, is breathtakingly ill informed. I do have to applaud the gusto with which you seamlessly tie the supposed (and, I should add, entirely invented, by you, in this post) “non-nationalism” of early labor-socialist Zionism with your favorite whipping boy, the Israeli left. But in this case you’re way out of your depth. I don’t even know where to start, other than giving you a reading list of some of the most basic titles in the historiography of Zionism that would give you even the slightest notion of what you’re talking about. But here’s just a sampler: first off, what you call “leftist” in early Zionism would have been recognizable to almost all involved in the movement during this time, but it was called something else…let’s see, what’s the word…oh yeah, “Zionism.” The idea of the kind of right-wing (oh, heck, I’m being polite — let’s just call it what it really is: fascist) Zionism that you seem so fond of didn’t even show up at the party until the 1930s. That is to say, those who subscribed to Zionism, let alone those who picked up and moved to what was then a fairly rustic (to put it lightly) place like Ottoman and British Mandate Palestine were most certainly, and without qualification, nationalists. All of them. Eh, forget it. You’ve stopped listening anyhow. The sad thing is that if you’re what passes for someone who, I would guess, views themselves as a well-informed Zionist, we’re in a sad state indeed.

      Reply to Comment
    7. max

      Yishai, if there’s something I admire with you (and few other smooth writers), is the convincing way you write to the ignorant.
      Of course, you may claim that you know better, but Labor Zionism is history, not your private interpretation.

      Reply to Comment
    8. max

      It’s sad that in Israel, as in many other democracies around the world, society hasn’t yet found non-violent means to break illegal demonstrations.
      Does anyone have a proposal for how to do it?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Danny

      Ben Israel – the idea that Israel is a “light unto the nations” and that our army is somehow “the most moral army in the world” have long been staples of our propaganda mechanism that aims to cast Israel as somehow better than our Western counterparts (being better than our Middle Eastern neighbors goes without saying). Well, as you so rightly observe, Israel is not better than, say, America was when it wiped out the Native Americans and placed the survivors in reservations; Israel is not better than Great Britain when it conquered half the globe and made the conquered people into its slaves; Israel is not better than France when it occupied a foreign land and moved its citizens to it to build settlements and enslave the native population. This chutzpah of saying one thing but doing something that is the complete opposite is something which I cannot ever get used to about Israel. Israel is an occupier of foreign lands that has moved its own citizens to build settlement in direct opposition to international law and has (at least in the past) used the native population as slave labor (yes, that is correct – the Palestinians who built our country for us were paid a fraction of what an Israeli would earn) and kept them under lock and key in their refugee camps. Israel has done things to the Palestinians that we would not stand or allow to be done to us by others. Israel is an immoral state; it’s about time we recognized this fact.

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      Danny, some reorganization of facts: a foreign land needs to belong to a foreign state; when people move on their own will the international law isn’t broken; when the slave labor was forbidden to work in Israel, they complained of lack of work – I guess you’re against globalization and in favor of government-enforced fixed wages.
      For the rest you’re right: in the overall, Israel is no better than some other Western states

      Reply to Comment
    11. directrob

      Max,
      “a foreign land needs to belong to a foreign state”
      “when people move on their own will the international law isn’t broken”
      .
      International law is not that naive.
      .
      See from the international court of justice:
      http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a
      .
      “The Court ascertains whether the construction of the wall has violated the above‑mentioned rules and principles. It first observes that the route of the wall as fixed by the Israeli Government includes within the “Closed Area” (between the wall and the “Green Line”) some 80 percent of the settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Recalling that the Security Council described Israel’s policy of establishing settlements in that territory as a “flagrant violation” of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Court finds that those settlements have been established in breach of international law.”
      .
      I fear there is no higher court to plead your case.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Critic

      Anyone who is willing to protest should deal with the consequences of physical harm or death. (for example, Rachel Corrie)

      These are all loud and obnoxious people, and get what they deserve. This is not civil disobedience.

      Reply to Comment
    13. mr terry snow

      2 to BEN ISRAEL

      “more and more Leftist/Progressive Jews and Israelis are becoming anti-Zionist”

      recent israeli elections and present polls
      clearly demonstrate israeli left is dead
      kaput- no more then 10 000

      Reply to Comment
    14. Nicholas Danin

      This comment was eliminated on suspicion of being authored by a zombie anti-Semite. We can’t risk infestation – this site is only working thanks to our braaaaaaaaaaains

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ben Israel

      “Nicholas Danin”-
      Here is a wikipedia article about the person whose name you adopted as a pen name:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Donin

      I presume that you are the same person who calls themselves Stella Goldschlag and Herbert Kappler. I hope the owners of this site note this.

      Anyway, I am curious as to how many Israeli Arabs and West Bank Palestinians have fled to Syria to enjoy the peace and prosperity there that you are recommending.

      Reply to Comment
    16. max

      Directrob, the ICJ was sitting as a consultative body, not as a court. Countries don’t have to follow its advise. So is the legal system.

      Reply to Comment
    17. directrob

      Max,
      As a rogue state Israel with all his military might can do as it pleases, just do not call it legal. About that the ICJ has spoken.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Philos

      Erm, isn’t this why police the world over are called “fascist pigs” by left-wing and right-wing protesters? I mean when rebellious people call upon the army to intervene they usually call upon them to shoot the police. Let’s face it, the police as an organization are trained to “police” the populace; you can’t criticize them for doing their job. That’s like criticizing capitalism for being too capitalistic like in the criticisms of the big banks.

      Police will beat the crap out of you whether you’re an Israeli leftist in Jerusalem, a rightist in the WB, a student in London or a young Spaniard. That’s what they’re there for; solving crimes and arresting murderers is a fairly recent feature. The difference between “liberal” and “non-liberal” societies is the extent to how badly they can beat you and in most cases this difference is facile when you see the injuries sustained by people from the police in “enlightened countries” like Germany, France or Britain

      Reply to Comment
    19. Philos

      More to the point after watching David’s link I don’t understand why people just let themselves get beaten by cops.

      If anyone tried to beat me with a stick in an unjustified attack I am morally allowed to fight back.

      The lie of “non-violence” in the West and the myth of Ghandi has rendered the masses impotent. If one million people had rioted through the streets, burnt down some offices and defenestrated a few brutal cops during the oh so effective anti-Iraq war marches it is doubtful that Bush or Blair would have had the balls to proceed. It’s as though the state elite understand perfectly well that their power rests on force, even in democracies, and all the liberals brains reside in a different universe.

      Weber, Foucault and Mao all got it right: power flows from my willingness to kick you in the teeth repeatedly and your inability/lack of will to stop me

      Getting kicked in the teeth in the streets of Spain or Jerusalem won’t change a damn thing….

      Reply to Comment
    20. Borg

      The fact that you have published Nicholas Donin, Herbert Kappler, Stella Goldschlag, etc for a long time, is because you must be at least in partial agreement with their commentary. It is only after a reader points out who they are that you delete their comments, because it is embarassing to be in agreement with known anti-Semites

      Reply to Comment
    21. Piotr Berman

      I think there are two separate issues here: (a) is police in Israel more brutal than in other democratic countries, (b) is Israeli public much more prone to urge protesters they dislike to “go to Gaza”, a favored destination, “to Syria” etc.

      I think that the case for brutality of Israeli security forces can be made, but clearly it is most clear when applied to protests by Palestinians and Palestinian sympathizers. For example, using tear gas launchers to inflict injuries is quite unique.

      Comparison with Spain is also telling. In Barcelona the protesters were occupying a central square for weeks before riot police was called in.

      But one would have to make a more thorough study, and the case is not that obvious when we discuss how Jews in Israel are treated. Finding a comparatively racist democratic state may be hard, I am truly open for suggestions.

      But on issue (b) I think Israel is unique. I also think that there is a huge streak of meanness in the part of Israeli public that writes comments in Ynetnews (well, many of those are actually Americans or Canadians). For example, certain American journalist, Dan Rather, complained that a member of his crew was strip search prior to an interview. What was striking was that there was about 100 comments, and almost to one where in the spirit “good, but too bad they did not check the ass hole of Rather himself”. The overwhelming majority was expressing opinion that strip searching is exactly what unsympathetic journalists should be subjected to.

      Philos: I think that you are too clever by half, and your characterization of Weber, Foucault and Mao is incorrect.

      Reply to Comment
    22. abban aziz

      tazers? seriously?

      god you leftist know nothing about protests. if arab/leftist activist in israel pulled that kind of stunts they do in jerusalem (fire bombing homes, assault border police, etc..) they would be SHOT, not tased.

      israeli police truly are a patient bunch. boggles the mind how the left can still find something to complain about.

      considering this, i understand claims that these people should move to syria.

      perhaps they should.

      Reply to Comment
    23. abban aziz

      i mean pull that kind of crap in the US/Britain.

      Reply to Comment
    24. cin huno

      That has to be the wimpiest taser I’ve ever seen. If it was a regular taser the demonstrator would have lost control of his body immediately, not minutes later (you can clearly see that the video was edited in order to make it seem that it happened soon after.) Pretty poor propaganda…

      Reply to Comment
    25. Metin

      i do hate all of the right wing administrations and religious people around the world!

      Right wing ignorance israelis wants to declare all the jews around the world are anti-human and all of israelis are just killers!

      We are all human beings even we are atheist, jewish, muslim, budist or christian!

      We should create a country for radical muslims, jews, christians and they should emigrate there to fight each others for a better world by anti-humanitic acts!

      Reply to Comment
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