Sunday, December 13, 2015

Similarity between Israel and USA?

I translated and saved this piece in 1993, from Norwegian "Aftenposten", our leading conservative newspaper. IMHO, nothing much has changed since then:

Former vice-prime minister in Sweden, Per Ahlmark, in his latest book “That’s Democracy, Dummy!” is critical towards the Swedish government for its attitude towards issues being subjected to UN procedures. If the UN decides to do something, it is of course quite easy to agree and follow suit. But in the opposite case, if the UN is unable to reach a decision, the government has an alibi for not doing anything.

Ahlmark thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with the entire organization, and cites the election of Kofi Annan as evidence. Annan has been awarded the Nobel peace prize, but Annan also was head of the UN peacekeeping operations at the time of the massacres in Srebrenica, and at the time of the genocide in Rwanda, and did little to stop the killings.

In 1994, about 800.000 Hutu people were killed by the rival Tutsi, in only 100 days. Probably the fastest genocide in history. But who tried to stop the killings? Not Kofi Annan, not the UN, and none of the leading powers.

Ahlmark is equally critical towards the Swede Hans Blix, chief of the UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. Seen through the eyes of Ahlmark, he is technically incompetent, weak and succumbing. The IAEA in Vienna was fooled both by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the ayatollahs in Iran during the 1980’s. Blix awarded both countries a “bill of cleanliness” in spite of their intense covert effort to acquire nuclear and other WMD.

But Ahlmark is that rare animal, which can see more than one side of an issue. He is critical towards the massive criticism now being raised because no WMD have been found in Iraq, WMD that Saddam have had, and actually have used.

Instead, the soldiers found mass graves with 10.000 of victims, torture chambers everywhere. But that does not satisfy politicians and so called peace lovers in the West. The fact that Saddam Hussein probably have killed more Moslems than anyone else in modern times is not sufficient. The critics want to see Anthrax and mustard gas. That the occupation put an end to the world’s most brutal and bloody tyranny and a dictatorship accountable for the death of millions of people is not sufficient.

So far Per Ahlmark, according to a newspaper review of his book.

My translation of an article in Norway’s leading newspaper “Aftenposten” by professor of state sciences, Bernt Hagtvedt:

USA and Israel – two nations with profound similarities.

2003 will be remembered as the year when the differences in identity between Europe and USA were being focussed upon as never before. The war in Iraq became the ultimate expression of that debate. Recently Josef Joffe, editor in chief of the German newspaper Die Zeit visited Oslo, and gave a speech about the differences. He adopted a wide view, and discussed the similarities between Europe’s view of the USA, and our doubts about Israel. Those are two countries “that we like to dislike”, as he put it. His main point is that the alliance USA-Israel maybe has its roots at a more fundamental level than just the contemporary political issues. And, Europe’s view on both countries also rest on some quite determining conditions with roots in a distant past.
    After WW2, European countries have come together around a basket of values. Aggressive nationalism never again shall send hundreds of thousands of people to their grave. The borders shall be fixed; war is uncivilized, the recognition of the rights of minorities and a state of law and order shall be the fundament of all politics. When the Europeans see an increasingly unilateralistic and nationalistic USA, and a territorially expansive Israel, we se our own downside. We see politics at a stage that we hope to have outgrown. These countries behave in a manner similar to the Europeans in the past. Therefore, we turn away from them – in a kind of Freudian reaction pattern.

While Europe has become post-national, both Israel and USA are nationalistic states. This causes Europeans to wonder. The intensity of nationalism can be assessed by looking at their view of the army. After two catastrophes, many of the European countries are left quite stripped, without the codes of honour and the buoyancy that made them potent instruments in the 1800 and early 1900’s. The opposite condition prevail in USA and Israel. The Israeli and the American armies still are bearers of the nations survival capability and identity.
    In both countries, religion has a much stronger foothold that in the increasingly secular Europe. USA in many ways is a pre-modern nation, in the middle of is blazing capitalism and its awe of technology. Israel also is a strong mixture of the most regressive elements with the most modern-secularised, with an economy that far surpasses that of the sum of their neighbours. This level of power creates fear, also in Europe. The strength of the religions also creates a kind of faith-based politics that does not wear well with the Europeans. Both USA and Israel are expansive states, Israel with respect to land, USA more like a new kind of imperial power without concrete land conquests, but rather economical, political and cultural hegemony. Both states represent a flight from Europe. USA, a transatlantic exodus away from religious oppression, Israel away from a bottomless tragedy that Europe carries with it as a deep wound.

Pioneer nations.
Both states are settler nations. Both states met an indigenous population towards which they had, and still have, a quite ambivalent attitude. For a long time, both of them bore signs of being ethnocratic countries, with democracy for only a select group of citizens, the rest being second-rate. The state of Israel is to an extent built on the same elements. Because both countries started from scratch, so to speak, they are also ridden by an image of themselves as being special, as chosen, as the bearer of hope against “the old Europe”. They posses a new concept of cleanliness on behalf of themselves. This makes them particularly self-righteous in judicial matters. They view themselves as bearers of a new order, the incarnation of rights beyond any state’s common fundament of civilization. (Ref. Disrespect of the UN displayed by both nations.) From this follows a particular, basic missionistic attitude and a doctrine rooted in fundamentalism.  (Ref. The American and Israeli extreme right wing) that cause great concern in a Europe that really have experienced what such fronts may do with people.
    At the same time, any analysis of this kind may easily overlook the enormous span of disparity within each of the countries. Too often, we in Norway forget that within USA we find the most articulate opposition to the present republicans, and in Israel a left wing that is equally clear about recognition of human rights and democracy in the fullest meaning of the word as in Norway. Therefore, it is all the time too easy just to “like” or to “dislike “ USA or Israel. The point is to understand – which is not same as excusing.

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