Op-Ed: The State of Tel Aviv - Israel's Weimar?
Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He is at work on a book about the Vatican and Israel.
Cosmopolitan, hedonistic, gay-friendly, bohemien, urban, literary and decadent are the words that recur when describing the pre-Nazi wonderland of Weimar, Germany’s experiment with democracy between 1919 and 1933.
Nazism emerged as a reaction to the decadence of the Weimar Republic, which stood for nothing except cabaret. There the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt had his greatest period of creativity and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche died. But in the Weimar period, the Nazis also killed 50.000 people.
The word “Weimar” has now popped up in the essays of Israeli commentators. “Weimar was once a cultural center, where geniuses like Goethe and Schiller produced their masterpieces”, writes Uri Avnery, the left’s guru in Israel who rushed to Ramallah to be at Yasser Arafat’s side. He goes on:
“The German republic which was founded in 1919, after World War I, was called by the name of the national assembly which framed its very progressive constitution there. The endangered democratic State of Israel, whose Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948 in Tel Aviv, could rightly be called the Tel Aviv Republic”.
Welcome to the Israeli Weimar, or “Medinat Tel Aviv”, the State of Tel Aviv.
The right wing public dismisses it as a "bubble", but what happens there has epidemic consequences for the entire country, since half of Israel's population lives in the city or its environs, known as the Gush Dan area.
If the German cultural shrine had Bertolt Brecht, Tel Aviv has David Grossman, Avnery and Amos Oz. These writers today make the news only when they rant against the “occupation” or boycott a cultural center in Ariel.
In a long article published by the leftist Haaretz (and Italy’s La Repubblica), the literary doyen Grossman writes that the Jewish State must be saved not from Iran’s nuclear bomb, but from its own “extremism”, which the writer sees embodied by Israel’s prime minister, the “megalomaniacal” - in his words - Benjamin Netanyahu.
How would Grossman deal with the Iranian genocidal temptations? With a tent protest in Tel Aviv...to denounce Israel...
How would Grossman deal with the Iranian genocidal temptations? With a tent protest in Tel Aviv. A tent against Iran’s uranium enrichment? No, a tent to denounce Israel as “the eternal nation”.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv is proud of its trendy coffee shops, cinemas and theatres filled day and night with writers catching up on gossip or news.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv is the capital of humanistic preachers of the "normalization of the Jew" and self-elected keepers of the civic conscience who fill their pages with sycophancy and abasement, ideological degradation and moral equivalence.
Last year, next to Independence Hall, a group of these artists and intellectuals signed a declaration supporting the founding of a terrorist Palestinian state.
Like Weimar, the sophisticated modernists of Tel Aviv live in a progressive, enlightened, humanitarian and pacifistic state of mind divided between the good guys - the Arabs - and the bad guys – the “settlers”. This is a condition in which one suffers from the delusion that Tel Aviv is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan metropolis, more closely related in culture and style to Europe than the rest of Israel, and much more hip than Jerusalem.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv is famous for its “Shministim”, the high school senior military objectors (even the historian Benny Morris - who has since rerevised his revisionist history - refused to serve) who claim that to save Israel’s democracy they have to fight not against the terrorists, but against hareidim and “hilltop youth”. Let others seek out Arab terrorists and man the front lines in case of war.
Like Weimar, in Tel Aviv heroism left the way to a Westerner individualism and self-criticism in which the beach takes precedence over piety or ideals.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv lost its sense of righteousness in battle.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv is famous for its partisans of “Peace Now”, one in which Israel’s enemies dictate the terms of surrender to the Jewish State, like the Munich agreement, in which Czechoslovakia was forced to accept the terms of its destruction.
Like in Weimar, Tel Aviv’s writers express fatuousness and alienation, suicidal temptations and self-hatred to the point of automatic identification with Israel’s enemies in their writings.
Like Weimar, where the movies “Blue Angel” and “Cabaret” displayed the overt decadence of that nihilistic experiment, Tel Aviv is proud of its free-spiritedness, libertinism, vitality, “youth culture” and sheer sexiness.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv's intellectuals don't see the clouds of death at the horizon. In Weimar, it was the Buchenwald concentration camp on a hill overlooking the city, and there was a tree called the "Goethe Oak," beneath which the poet had sat during moments of contemplation.
In Tel Aviv it's Qalqilya, the Palestinian city called “Paradise Hotel”, because the city was used by suicide terrorists as the jumping off point into Israel.
Like Weimar, Tel Aviv is dominated by a dangerous melancholy.