To warm you up here's Australia's leading Zionist comedian, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan:
"[T]he Israel I know is mostly secular, raucously, almost wildly democratic, has a vibrant left wing, having founded in the kibbutz movement one of the only successful experiments in socialism in human history. It is intellectually disputatious; any two Israelis will have three opinions and be happy to argue them to a lamp post. It is multi-ethnic, there is a great stress on human solidarity, there is due process. And I've never heard an Israeli speak casually about the value of Palestinian life." (Israel still looks good, warts & all, The Australian Literary Review, 6/5/09)
Now once you've picked yourself up off the floor, read this extract from Chapter 13 - Cut Off from the Tribe - of Max Blumenthal's new book Goliath: Life & Loathing in Greater Israel. The usual suspects are describing it as a "vicious anti-Israel screed" so you know it's good value:
"Over a plate of surprisingly decent bean curd sauce at the Chinese restaurant - one of only a handful I knew in [Tel Aviv] - [David] Sheen recalled how he arrived in Israel in 1999 from a solidly middle class, ultra-Zionist family from Toronto, Canada. At age 25, he was brimming with excitement about the earthy communal dream that awaited him: 'I saw Israel entirely through the frame of a Zionist education. I grew up in a very heavily Jewish environment, in a Jewish neighborhood, a Jewish school, synagogue - everything. The school was Zionist, and I was heavily immersed in the idea that we need Israel so there won't be another Holocaust, and that Israel needs us because it needs to be built up - it's surrounded with enemies so it needs our help to build itself. So when I first arrived in Israel I was thinking about the collective, and the concept of the Jewish people represented the strongest collective.'
"Though Sheen was heavily immersed in the tribalistic culture of Zionism, he had also cultivated strong leftist views through his participation in anti-globalization protests in Toronto. 'With every other issue besides Israel, I was on the left side of the spectrum,' he said. 'I was a PEP - a Progressive Except for Palestine.' Within a month of arriving in Israel, that began to change. He realized that everything he had known about Israelis and Palestinians was a fantasy cultivated through years of heavy indoctrination. His view of the occupation as a necessary, albeit unpleasant security measure was shattered after he spent long hours chatting with Palestinian workers who woke up at 4am each morning to slip into Israel from Nablus to work construction jobs for meager pay. 'Once I saw how the occupation created a permanent underclass and that it existed to promote exploitation - just by realizing that I broke with the PEP mentality.'
"Sheen's contact with actual Israelis undermined his idealized vision of the Zionist collective. 'Israelis were not exactly trying to pull together in the name of the Jewish people like I thought,' he said. 'It's a dog-eat-dog shark pool where you've got to swim to survive, and nobody has any idea of what civility means. People are manipulative and exploitative without any moral compunction or sense that there's anything wrong with that. They're not embarrassed about taking advantage of other people.'
"Alienated by the aggressive capitalism that was consuming urban life in Israel, Sheen retreated to a kibbutz in the Negev Desert called Kibbutz Samar. At first he thought he had finally found the slow-paced communal lifestyle he had been seeking. But then he peered beneath the kibbutz's socialist veneer: 'What broke me was they got workers from Thailand to work on the kibbutz for next to nothing,' Sheen recounted. 'I realized it wasn't really socialism they were practicing. It was socialism for Jews only. I grew up in multicultural Toronto where diversity was a positive thing. So it went against my values, and I tried to convince the kibbutz not to do this, to let the Thai workers live in normal apartments like everyone else - don't stick 6 of them in a fucking closet. Treat them like normal humans. Very few people even saw it as an issue worth discussing, let alone dealing with. They didn't see them as deserving of basic standards of living. They said, 'They're making more here than they would back in their country.' So that makes it okay? I wanted to get away from capitalism and away from exploitation, but I saw that kibbutz life was just that - it was segregationist Zionism. So I left.'
"In 2006, Israeli forces simultaneously carpet-bombed the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon. Israel blanketed the Strip with more than 6,000 artillery shells and missiles, deliberately destroyed Gaza's main power plant, then bombed the access roads to prevent the plant from being repaired. Within the span of about two months, the army had killed at least 202 civilians including 44 children in an operation billed to Israelis as a search for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In Southern Lebanon, Israeli bombing turned 800,000 Lebanese citizens - over a quarter of the country's population - into refugees while killing more than 1,100 civilians, including at least 300 children. Summarizing the views of the Israeli military leadership at the time, columnist Yaron London, one of the most prominent television journalists in the country, wrote, 'There is no longer any need for complicated distinctions... In practical terms, the Palestinians in Gaza are all [Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal, the Lebanese are all [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, and the Iranians are all [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.'
"Indignant at the disproportionate violence Israel had unleashed against civilians, Sheen joined up with the small but feisty bands of Israeli radical leftists who had dedicated themselves to direct action against their country's militaristic policies. During a gay pride rally in Tel Aviv called 'Queeruption', Sheen and a group of friends held signs reading, 'Stop the bombing.' They were immediately set upon by riot police who beat them with billyclubs before dragging them away.
"'I was shocked,' Sheen remarked. 'Nowadays everyone knows the police are brutal, but at the time I still couldn't believe that Israeli police would attack other Jews - and for simply holding signs.' At another anti-war protest in Tel Aviv, a prim-looking waitress burst through the door of a nearby restaurant and hurled a glass at the protesters. 'I watched that glass hit the ground and shatter. I can still hear the sound. It was when I realized that even in the heart of liberal Tel Aviv there is a seething hatred for anyone with humanistic values,' Sheen said.
"At the time, Sheen was living on a moshav (a collective farm) near the Gaza border. From his home, he listened to the thundering sound of bombs falling on Gaza all day and all night. 'The ground was literally shaking underneath my feet,' he recalled. Sheen ventured into town filled with revulsion at the shelling of Gaza. 'When I told people at the supermarket what I thought of the bombing, they would all say, 'What do you care? It's not going to hit you, it's hitting them.' I said back, 'It's hitting actual people. Doesn't that matter to you?' And they would get enraged and say, 'What are you, a fucking leftist? You don't care about the Jews.' That's when I realized that in Israel, you're either in favor of any level of violence unleashed on those people, no matter who they were, or if you're against it, you're with the terrorists. I was shocked that that attitude was so mainstream.'
"Sheen went on: 'To come out against these wars on civilians - you were cut off. You were not part of the tribe. You were not part of the Jewish people. You were alone. Once you have a personal experience like that, it etches those beliefs into your soul'." (pp 66-68)
Now do yourself a favour and go out and buy it!