The singer in the market and the ex-PM in jail: A study in masochism

Miri Aloni and Ehud Olmert may display masochism in believing Israel's enemies, but most Israelis know better. Does the West? Opinion.

Howard Rotberg ,

Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Noam Moskowitz/POOL/Flash 90

“We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies." - Ehud Olmert

Masochistic Personality Disorder “is a pervasive pattern of self-defeating behavior, beginning by early adulthood nd present in a variety of contexts. The person may avoid or undermine pleasurable experiences, be drawn to situations or relationships in which he or she will suffer...”- Psychnet.com

It was getting to be the end of my five week sojourn in Israel, some years ago.

After a month of dazzling views of the sea up on Mount Carmel’s Ahuza neighbourhood in Haifa, I was staying for a week in Tel Aviv at the Metropolitan on Trumpeldor, down near the sea.

I was supposed to be working on my new book, but there was something in the air that seemed to make my writing that day somewhat superfluous. The day before, Hamas or one its related organizations had fired rockets on Eilat and then the Jordanian town of Aqaba. Doubtless an attempt to disrupt the chances of the Arab Palestinians accepting Israeli offers, and American demands, that direct face to face talks replace the indirect nonsense that was getting nowhere.

The maximum summer heat and humidity had rolled in with the month of August. Walking with the tourists down at the water’s edge, one could get a breeze that made the hot, humid air bearable.

But the last day of my stay for the summer saw me heading up Ben Yehuda Street and over to Allenby Street. Allenby is Tel Aviv at its most gutsy, stripped down to its historical barebones – older buildings with shops of all sorts, falafel and shwarma stands, working class and middle class shoppers, not the high end from North Tel Aviv. Africans on bicycles, old ladies with Philipine aides, gorgeous young ladies and all of middle Israel. All sweating on this shopping street that stretches from the hotel district all the way into the South Tel Aviv - that stagnant crime-ridden area of illegal infiltrators, massage parlours and downscale shops whose owners, while awaiting customers, peer out at the soldiers walking by on their way to the old bus station.

I thought I would walk Allenby as far as the “shuk” – the Carmel market. I don’t know why I was drawn to the market, and why not any store would do; it had to be the shuk. I wanted to have a last memory, not of tourists walking the promenade, the tayelet, by the seashore, but of the regular people, trying to get some bargains.

On top of yesterday’s attack in the South, things had flared up along the Lebanon border, up north. Ah yes, the Lebanon border, where in 2006 Israel had tried to remove the Hezbollah rockets and infrastructure that had so traumatized the residents of northern Israel, Jews and Arabs alike, as Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at civilian targets from border communities like Kiryat Shemonah down to the large urban area of Haifa. Having just spent a month in Haifa, and talking to some folks about what it was like during the rocket attacks, had certainly sensitized me to the threat on Israel’s border.

Israel had tried to remove the Hezbollah threat, but the world and the UN of course, rose up to criticize, as usual, Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens. The clever terrorists had embedded their rockets in civilian areas, so attacks on rocket launchers were necessarily resulting in civilian deaths, even if those civilians were complicit in Hezbollah’s existence and positions. At the end, Israel contented itself with a ceasefire, with United Nations forces charged with the responsibility of preventing Hezbollah bringing in more rockets from its patrons Iran and Syria.

Of course, in breach of the UN resolution, Hezbollah used the ceasefire, to bring in about 150,000 rockets all aimed at Israeli civilian areas. The knowledge of those rockets sitting there, and Iran’s probable intention to order their launch as a way to take attention from the final work on the nuclear weapons, all seemed to hang in the hot, humid air. My shirt was developing patches from the inevitable perspiration, my hair was getting moist and my tongue dry.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, not yet 3:00, and yet the sidewalks were busy. The cars raced down the road, weaving in and out of lanes, and playing their horns like musical instruments. Mixed in were the inevitable curses and angry hand signals of drivers who disapproved of the driving styles of other drivers. I had been in Israel long enough that I no longer was bothered by the cacophony of horns and squealing tires and brakes, and motorcycles.

The incident at the northern border was apparently started when the IDF, with full cooperation of the UN soldiers, was clearing some tree branches away from the border area, so that these branches could not provide cover for infiltrators or enemy marksmen. Suddenly they were attacked by a squad of Hezbollah fighters, and when the dust settled, one Israeli soldier was dead, and a couple of Hezbollah men, along with a journalist who for some reason had been hanging out there.

Oh great, I thought, Reuters and AP, along with the BBC, will probably report it as Israel starting a war over a tree, and targeting a journalist.

No matter, the world is upside down, the anti-Semites like Mel Gibson, Oliver Stone and Helen Thomas, are convinced that Obama’s “respect” for Islamic deviancy has allowed them an open season on Jews and the Jewish State. I was thinking of an article that I read by the despicable Chas Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who was arguing that Israel is a strategic liability for the U.S., that the U.S. gives it too much aid, that Israel was responsible for Muslim states hating the U.S., you know, all the usual nonsense. But one thing he said really got to me: he referred to Israel as “that Jewish experiment in the Middle East”. Boy, that made me mad. Jews were in Israel before anyone had ever heard of Freeman’s buddies in the House of Saud. The use of the word “experiment” was obviously meant to connote an implicit view that it is time to bring the experiment to a close. Cursed Anti-Semite.

As I approached the shuk, my spirits elevated as I discontinued my previous thoughts and focused on the scene in front of me: a couple of passageways extended into the market with shoppers elbowing their ways in and out. There were a few stores facing the opening to the shook and they were as usual doing a good business. Then, right off Allenby before one entered the passageways was a public square. There were a variety of benches occupied mostly by older men and women.

People milled around, taking in some displays and over at the far corner, there was music coming from the direction where a crowd of 15 or 20 were listening to an older woman who was singing along to some recorded music she had brought. In front of her was the inevitable open guitar case with a variety of coins tossed in. It looked to me that she had taken in thus far about 40 shekels (about 10 dollars), mainly in one and two shekel coins.

The singer looked to be about 60, a bit overweight, short gray blond hair, a woman who looked as though she must have been pretty in her younger days, but perhaps had come upon rough times. But what grabbed my attention was her obvious talent. She wasn’t quite nailing all the high notes, but her voice, manner, delivery, and the quality of her material reflected a singer of great talent (all songs were in Hebrew, and I only recognized a couple). The audience, small that it was, seemed to know many of the songs. There weren’t many young people there; mostly older.

I dropped a two-shekel coin in the guitar case; the singer omitted a couple of words of the song, to thank me, looking into my eyes with gratitude. I felt sad in a way. This was a woman who obviously had talent, had once had striking looks, I imagined, but she was reduced to playing for coins in the market. I asked a young woman standing next to me if she knew the name of the singer. She gave me the name and it occurred to me that I had heard it before. Rather than listen to the rest of the set, I decided to go back to my room and “google” the name to see if I could remember where I had heard that name and to see if she was mentioned on the internet.

Once I started walking again, however, thoughts of Israel’s lonely situation entered my head. Stuck in the forefront of the Islamist rejection of western modernity and liberalism, Israel is treated by western elites as if she is the cause of all militant Islamism, instead of just the first front. 9/11 should have demonstrated to the Americans that they were next but the American media and academy had left the study of history and values behind, and embraced a simplistic tolerance of what should be intolerable, and some even hoped that sacrificing the Jews of Israel would satisfy the enemy or at least buy time.

I reflected back on the hard lessons learned by the Israelis. They had embraced the Oslo Process, which supposedly reflected a desire by both parties to put aside violence and have the Arabs recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace as the Jewish homeland, in return for a two state solution to be phased in, along with the sharing of Jerusalem and financial compensation to Arab refugees from Israel (but not Jewish refugees from Arab lands). Military men like the Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, against their better judgments, built up over years of dealing with Arabs, took a risk for peace.

The Israelis learned a sad lesson, that the Oslo process, despite Israel arming and providing other assistance to the so-called Palestinian Authority, was met with the horrible terrorism of suicide bombers who attacked Jewish civilians during the Second Intifada.

When I got back to my room, I had already figured it out, but I checked the internet anyway. The great Miri Aloni, the gorgeous and talented Israeli phenomenon of the late ‘60s through the ‘90s, the last person to stand next to Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and sing the Song of Peace before he left the stage the night he was shot, was indeed one and the same as the older overweight woman now singing for shekels in the square in front of the market. I checked out the most recent YouTube performance; there was no doubt. I also took the opportunity to listen to performances preserved on the internet from her prime.

There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to hear more of Aloni’s singing. It was about a twenty minute walk back to the shuk, and the heat now was coming both from the sun and radiating upwards from the scorched sidewalk. Nevertheless, I walked hurriedly, hoping I wasn’t too late. I got there, and indeed, she was still playing.

The audience was still small, and two or three of the audience looked to be either drunk or on drugs. Still Miri sailed through her material. Was it my imagination, or was she starting to get all the high notes now?

Suddenly, an old man walked up to her as she was singing. He was slight, with long hair pulled into a pony tail. The most prominent feature, however, was that he had no teeth. Of course, any person missing all their teeth automatically looks terrible, and he gave off the appearance of someone who is down and out, as we say.

Still the great Aloni welcomed him; in fact, he said some words to her and she answered back. How gracious, I thought. He stayed right beside her, singing along and smiling like a kid out of school. What happened next gave me the second big surprise of the afternoon. She turned to the old man, and handed him the microphone. She mentioned his name, but I did not catch it. She turned the music to an old Elvis Presley classic, and the pony-tailed no-teethed old man proceeded to mesmerize the crowd with a clear and pure first-rate rendition of an Elvis song. The audience, now down to 10 or 12 active listeners with a bunch more milling around in the area, politely applauded.

When I got back to the hotel, I called my Israeli cousin and asked him what had happened to Miri Aloni. He told me that her story involved moving to Germany and having a husband/manager who stole all her money. I wondered if the emotional toll of Rabin’s assassination had played something of a role in all of that. Surely, being forever identified with the terrible tragedy was not good for her career, especially when, in hindsight, the peace movement seems to have been so naïve.

That night, I read some more about Miri Aloni. Her “Song for Peace”, someone argued on the internet, was not only naïve, but defeatist and submissive. Almost all Israel knows that singing for peace is not enough, if the other side demonizes and delegitimizes you. I too knew that peace in Israelis’ hearts must be matched with peace in Arab Palestinian’s hearts. When the Arab Palestinians were given Gaza they voted in Hamas whose constitution pledges to destroy Israel. Over on the 'West Bank', Abbas, the one whose Ph.D. thesis denied the Holocaust, has not held elections for over a decade The problem with using people as tools for incitement is that you can lose control. Now he can’t make peace, if he even wants to, for fear they will kill him.

Rabin tried to make peace and failed, and then he was killed. But it was not his murder that ended the dream for Israelis; their hopes were dashed by the constant suicide bombings of 2001 and 2002 and the fact that Arab media and schools still teach that Israel is illegitimate and must be destroyed. Now Iran is promising to do the job with its soon to be completed nuclear bomb.

Aloni did not write Shir LaShalom (Song of Peace) but it will be always linked to her, just as Rabin’s death hangs like an albatross from the neck of a career wrecked by the reality that singing about peace cannot create it. Sometimes peace comes from strength, and even sometimes from war. Aloni, however, had sung:

Let the sun rise
light up the morning
The purest of prayers
will not bring us back

Nobody will bring us back
from a dead and darkened pit
here,
neither the victory cheer
nor songs of praise will help

So just sing a song for peace
don't whisper a prayer
Just sing a song for peace
in a loud shout

Allow the sun to penetrate
through the flowers
don't look back
let go of those departed

Lift your eyes with hope
not through the rifles' sights
sing a song for love
and not for wars

Don't say the day will come
bring on that day -
because it is not a dream -
and in all the city squares
cheer only for peace!


So, the love and peace crowd convinced themselves that singing for peace had replaced Jewish prayers for peace (where, of course, Peace is always balanced with Justice); Shir LaShalom counsels the listener not to “whisper a prayer” and that peace will not come “through the rifle’s sights”. What did the writer of the lyrics of Song for Peace have against the traditional prayer repeated at afternoon and evening prayers of devout Jews: “Grant abundance peace unto Israel Thy people for ever; for Thou are the sovereign Lord of all peace; and may it be good in Thy sight to bless Thy people Israel at all times and at every hour with Thy peace.”?

More problematic still, the peace crowd convinced themselves that one could deal with genocidal enemies by replacing your rifles with a song for love.

The problem with a dream life, even for a beautiful and talented songstress, is that dreams end in the harsh reality of this crazy world. But for Miri Aloni and the rest of the Jewish world we can sing on. The reviews are inevitably mixed, the appreciative crowd is very small, but, like Aloni, we have the choice to raise our voices, and unlike Aloni, we can choose to pray, or sing, or both. Unlike Miri we can make a more reasoned, reasonable and productive response to the Islamic non-acceptance of Jews in what they consider to be once and forever Muslim lands. The reality of Hamas and Hezbollah have shattered all dreams.

Unlike Miri, we do not have to wallow in self-hatred and tolerate what is alleged to be an abusive relationship with her husband. The self-hatred of those who embraced the silly dream of songs for peace now is exposed on a street corner in front of the shuk. The deep confusion of the Left cannot be redeemed by masochistic behaviour.

Other fellow travellers of the idealistic peace and love movement now spend their time advocating Western “tolerance” to Islamist plans to make the west servile and subject to Sharia law.

When the Arab Palestinians responded to peace overtures from a leftist elite "tired of winning" (as per Olmert’s infamous phrasing), that violent response of course illuminated the vacuum of the leftist conceit in a neighbourhood of murderers. In my opinion the moral collapse evidenced by Aloni’s years in Germany was a direct result of the intellectual collapse of mixing up the difference between living in Tel Aviv and San Francisco.

This beautiful and talented woman was said to live as a virtual prisoner of her spouse. I am not sure if that was the man, who was sitting by and scooping up the loose change from the guitar case, while Aloni chirped on like a wounded love-bird - symbolizing the complete collapse of the baby-boom love and peace generation.

Aloni sees things differently, at least in interviews. A year after I saw her, she said to JewishJournal.com that:

“The street show is a phenomenon, because people are surprised that someone who is very famous and part of the Israeli music history is willing to perform on the street, but I feel that I am doing something good for the people.” Yet do we not believe she would trade in singing for shekels if she could get a proper gig for decent money?

The tragedy of Rabin’s assassination during her concert seemed to change her life; this reminds me somehow of the tragedy of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his life-altering event being his decision to fight the Second Lebanon War.

Olmert, had a promising start as a leader in the national camp, bitterly opposed the Oslo Accords, sought to close Orient House, the PLO ’s headquarters in Jerusalem, and even demanded the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

In 1993, he was elected mayor of Jerusalem, defeating the legendary Teddy Kolleck. For 10 years as mayor he was a champion for a united Jerusalem.

In 2003, Olmert reentered the Knesset as a member of Sharon’s government, A hint of things to come had this formerly rightwing Likud leader with a Revisionist background suddenly become prime minister Sharon’s main backer of the disastrous unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

Olmert’s move leftward was demonstrated by the infamous “We are tired of winning” speech given to the left-wing American-based Israel Policy Forum in June 2005.

In July 2006, after Sharon had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke on 4 January 2006 from which he remained in a vegetative state from 2006 until his death on 11 January 2014, Olmert led the nation into the disastrous Second Lebanon War. After much criticism about his conduct of the war, Olmert picked the members of a commission of inquiry, headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd; however the commissions report was damning, stating that that the conduct of the war was a “failure” and resulted in “a major and grave missed opportunity” to inflict a major defeat of Hezbollah and restore Israel’s deterrence.

Olmert’s tepid reaction to the report indicated a moral failure far more acute then the fraud and corruption convictions that later put him behind bars. Instead of taking responsibility, he talked as if the report’s findings exonerated him and “lifted the moral stigma” from him.

The disgrace of the Winograd Report seemed to affect Olmert’s moral compass. In 2007, Olmert participated in the revived peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland, where he suddenly adopted the Arab Palestinian narrative, stating that “for dozens of years, many Palestinians have been living in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew, wallowing in poverty, neglect, alienation, bitterness and a deep, unrelenting sense of deprivation. ...I know that this pain and humiliation are the deepest foundations which fomented the hatred against us.” Even so, the Arab Palestinians maintained their rejectionist stance, making it a precondition that the Palestinians would have their “right of return”.

Olmert told the Israeli media that unless a Palestinian state were created, the Jewish state would be engaged in apartheid and “the State of Israel is finished.” Olmert, so unsuccessful in war, perhaps thought a deal would rehabilitate his image, and without consulting the Knesset or cabinet – Olmert offered Abbas 98% of the 'West Bank', forgoing defensible borders and Israel’s security presence along the Jordan River. This lack of consultation is perhaps the most serious of his failures.

Furthermore, he agreed to divide Jerusalem and give up jurisdiction of the Temple Mount to a multinational committee. He also disconnected the acceptance of Arab refugees into Israel from any discussion of restitution for Jews evicted from Arab nations.

The unauthorized and naive offers he extended to the Palestinians created hardened positions from the Palestinians after that. He even went abroad and there criticized the Netanyahu government and identified himself with far-leftists, even giving the keynote address to anti-Zionist J Street. Too bad that Olmert never took note of Winston Churchill’s advice: “When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.”

One wonders whether the fallout from Olmert’s failures in both war and negotiations, contributed to the acts of corruption for which he was subsequently jailed.

Did both Aloni and Olmert both exhibit a type of masochism, feeling the need to obviate their guilt issues by embracing evil? Did Olmert enjoy the international crowd so much that he accepted their outlook and ideologies? Is this what caused his submission to the Leftists and Arabs? Did Aloni adopt the ideologies of entertainers who begin to believe their own songs more than the values of their country? Is this what caused her submission to a masochistic home life in Germany?

To me, the metaphor that Aloni brings to mind is that, like her submission to her husband, the western Left has itself submitted to its Islamist, Chinese, and Leftist masters.

In cases of submission, a profound masochism drives behavior. Years of moral confusion drive abnormal desires for the acceptance of punishment. Aloni cannot break out of her situation, apparently. However, Israelis now realize what they are facing - when will the supporters of the Left in America do the same? Will they too wait until they are surrounded by sworn enemies fighting asymmetrical warfare within populated areas?

It is so sad, but on the bright side, Israel has shown during the Netanyahu years, and the Trump years, a more right wing and realistic view of the situation. Combined with their social resilience, Israelis will never again think that singing for peace can make peace happen and never again elect a leader who is “tired of winning”.

Howard Rotberg is a retired lawyer and the author of four books on ideologies and values including the pro-Israel novel The Second Catastrophe: A Novel about a Book and its Author; Exploring Vancouverism: The Political Culture of Canada’s Lotus Land; Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed; and The Ideological Path to Submission... and what we can do about it. He writes also for various magazines such as Frontpage Magazine, New English Review, and Israel National News. He is the president of Canada’s sole conservative values and pro-Israel publishing house, Mantua Books, www.mantuabooks.com and lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada.



top