March 30, 2006

Making sense of Israel's election.

No, I'm not going to do that for you. I'm just as confused by the results as anyone else.

But journalist/novelist Linda Grant has some interesting observations on the election that I haven't seen anywhere else:

One of the things I first noticed when I returned to visit Israel in 1998 after a long absence, was the number of old people you saw. In Britain, they are invisible; in Israel, they are sitting in pavement cafes. But most noticeable of all was the sight of elderly men and women being guided along the street by Filipino and Thai care workers. Israel first opened its doors to migrant labour at the time of the first intifada, when it restricted the numbers of Palestinians crossing the borders each day to do the low-paid jobs Israelis refuse to do. Thousands of care workers from the far east came to Israel to work, to live in the most intimate proximity with elderly people the state had forgotten.

The elderly people who voted yesterday for the Pensioners party were among the first Israelis. They were the young, ecstatic crowd gathered in May 1948 on Rothschild Boulevard, crying and laughing with delight as Ben Gurion read aloud the declaration of independence. They were the generation that built the country, that fought its wars for it, that believed in a better tomorrow after the nightmare of the very recent past. They turned their backs on yesterday, with all its horrors, and set their faces to the future.

You simply cannot hope to come close to understanding Israel by dismissing it as a western colonialist plot. It was made up of real people, not sets of ideological constructs — immigrants from the recent horrors of Europe. And they felt they were literally fighting for their lives

The bitterness and anger they feel at the robbing of their benefits by Netanyahu's Thatcherite economic programmes, their poverty, their humiliating dependence on the kindness of strangers, is an indication of the depths of their betrayal by the state they made; by a government who robbed them blind to hand over their pensions to settlement construction, to give tax rebates and mortgage relief to fanatics who don't give a damn about the state of Israel and its inhabitants, only the land of Israel, this little bit of turf right here that the Torah mentions. Holy ground and to hell with you, whether it's your olive trees growing on what under international law is Palestinian soil, or you are 75 years old with a bag of rusty medals, struggling to keep warm in winter on the coastal plain.

So why did so many young people propel the Pensioners party into the Knesset? Somehow, between Sunday and Tuesday, it became cool; it was the hip thing to do. The young seem to be giving their vote not to the political classes, to Israel to Zionism, but to the actual individuals who laid the first foundations for the country where they were born. Watch that trend.

Via Comment is free.

Posted by Magpie at March 30, 2006 03:43 PM | International | Technorati links |

Look, I scanned this issue myself, and it really comes down to love.

I have a grandma, 93. If it seemed obvious to me that she was being screwed out of her Social Security by the politicians, and I could help her by voting in folks to Congress who's primary goal was to help my Grandma get some of that money back, what would I do?

What would you do?

Posted by: palamedes at March 31, 2006 06:39 AM