What I’ve Been Up to in Israel

I promised Power Line an exclusive report from Israel, and believe me, I will keep my promise–although it will be an exclusive report from Israel datelined “Istanbul,” because that’s just the kind of week it’s been, and this is the Mediterranean, the land that deadlines forgot. But the exclusive report is coming, Power Line, I promise.
In the meantime, I thought I’d point you to a few things I did manage to write for Ricochet while I was there. (I was thinking of Powerline the whole time, so in a way this is almost exclusive to Power Line.)
First, you might be interested in this conversation my friend and fellow Ricochet contributor Judith and I had in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh. The video is here.
Next, sadly, we made an unscheduled trip to Itamar, where five members of a settler family–the Fogels–had been murdered days before.
ClaireItamar01.jpg

One very quick point I’ll make is that this was clearly not a family above all of “settlers”–some alien species that exists primarily as a political bargaining point–but of human beings. In the home next door to the one that was invaded, kids’ clothing was hanging on the line next to a child’s bicycle. You simply cannot look at that and think, “This story is above all about land and politics.” This story is above all about murder. They were children and they were murdered. Two more children were orphaned. The children were targeted deliberately. This was a premeditated murder–not a crime of passion or self-defense–and it was a psychotically savage crime. Anyone who in any way tries to rationalize or minimize this or to suggest that this is a fitting punishment for anything needs to go out and look at a three-month-old baby and ask himself what it would take to climb over a fence, climb in a window, and cut off that child’s head. If that act seems an “understandable” reaction to a political grievance to him, I don’t think we can have much of a conversation. But I don’t think it will, on reflection, seem that way to most people.

I wanted to see this settlement on the West Bank for myself, and I was glad I did, because what I saw was surely not the way it was being widely reported and discussed.

We heard the word “organic” more than we heard the word “terrorist.” Now, you all know where I stand on organic farming. I’m with Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution: Bring on the pesticides and the GMOs. But these are, alas, the kind of people who just won’t be shut up about the healthful glories of organic farming, even in the wake of a savage terrorist attack. Organic grapes. Organic goats. Organic yogurt. The words “our community” feature large. If they weren’t sitting there in the West Bank, you’d figure they were freaks from Marin County circa 1973. But they are sitting there, so they’re not harmless organic-farming freaks, in the eyes of the world, but the very obstacle to peace in our time.

Here I discuss the privatization of the kibbutzim and the Carmel fires.

I worked on Kibbutz Afikim, in the Jordan Valley, when I was about eighteen years old. The path between working on a kibbutz and writing a book called “Why Margaret Thatcher Matters” was a straight line. It did not escape my notice that I was working on a collective farm–a place devoted to the production of agricultural goods, in other words–yet the only vegetable served in that dreary collective dining hall, ever, day in, day out, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, was the cucumber, and there was never any fruit. I farmed my brains out that summer and still nearly came home with a case of scurvy. I have no idea where the bananas I picked that summer went, but it surely wasn’t the dining room table.

And here you can see the media fellows squabbling for possession of our sole copy of Michael Totten’s excellent new book, The Road to Fatima Gate. We were particularly keen to read it that day because we were en route to inspect Hezbollah military installments on the Lebanese border:

Buried underneath that village and others near it, which you must admit look lovely from this vantage point, are weapons. A lot of them. You’ve got command and control systems, IID, anti-tank weapons, short-range rockets, anything you need. This isn’t a big secret; after all, this is the view–without binoculars–from where I’m standing, so obviously it’s not going to be hard to watch what they’re doing and where they’re burying this stuff.

A few reflections, next, on security at Ben Gurion airport:

It was a lot less expensive than psychotherapy, and after a while I really got into it. I’d really never thought that much about my whole life story before. If they’d offered me a couch and another hour, I’m sure I would have achieved significant insight.

And finally, some thoughts about the urgency of repairing the relationship between Turkey and Israel:

[The rift] makes no sense strategically, for Turkey or for Israel. And it makes no sense culturally. These countries have far more in common than they realize. They are both new nation-states–remember, the Turkish Republic is almost as young as the state of Israel, both products of the upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, and both deeply insecure on the world stage because of it. They are both multi-ethnic democracies. One has a Muslim minority; the other a Jewish minority; both are remarkably tolerant in a region not known for tolerance; both are secular states; both face similar security concerns in a dangerous region. Both are struggling to figure out how to reconcile the concept of a secularism with the piety of its citizens; both are countries with young, vibrant, populations. Both countries have universal conscription, and not one mother in either country is happy to pack her son off to the army. I’m not pointing this out because I’m corny and sentimental: It’s just a fact.

Oh, a bonus: What do you think, is this electric car idea going to work?

I walked in late–having been endeavoring without success to hack on to A Better Place’s wireless network in the ladies’ room–and looking sour. I sat down in the back and said to our guide, “Who’s that?” figuring he was just some PR flack. And even when she said, in a hushed, reverential way, “It’s him,” I had no idea I was in the presence of a man revered in Israel as a demi-god.

There’s a lot more to report, and Power Line absolutely will get the exclusive story about Israeli assessments of the Iranian strategic threat from me–unless Sarah Palin delivers it to you first. I know I’m racing against time on that.
So stay tuned.
Photo Credit: Jennie E. DeVore.

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