Written by Aron White
Last week, Israel – and its supporters around the world – marked 70 years of its existence, as the country celebrated Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day. In Israel, it is a day when political differences and arguments are put to one side, as the country joins together to celebrate its achievements, and its very existence. But the Guardian naturally wasn’t going to change course, and published a typically Guardian opinion piece to mark the day.
Michael Segalov’s opinion piece complains that Yom Haatzmaut does “not leave room for nuance”, and “only creates space for a certain type of Jew,” before reminding us that “Judaism has a long and proud history of dissent and disagreement”. He argues that Jews should follow the idea of seeing “Israel Independence Day as an opportunity for debate.”
Often UK Media Watch focuses on bias and inaccurate reporting. But, in this case, it falls to us to dismember an incredibly weak opinion article, which surely would not have been published were it not to flatter the opinions of the editors.
The argument that Yom Haatzmaut doesn’t leave room for nuance is simply wrong. One can be right-wing or left-wing, secular or religious, Jewish or non-Jewish, pro-Netanyahu or anti, and basically subscribe to any political ideology under the sun, and celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. This isn’t just theoretical – this is the reality in Israel! Celebrating Yom Haatzmaut simply means you celebrate the existence of a Jewish state of Israel in some form. This is as basic a requirement as possible, and does not in any way preclude what form that state should take.
As often with anti-Israel articles, one sees the warped and convoluted logic when applying this “Israel-speak” to another country. Almost all countries in the world celebrate an Independence Day. The statement that “celebrating Bastille Day leaves no room for nuance, and implies there is only one way to be French,” is just a non starter. Yet such nonsense is seen enlightened when said about Israel.
Segalov’s argument is also profoundly underdeveloped, or frankly non-existent. He quotes, disapprovingly, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, who said that Zionism is inseparable from Judaism, and counters that we should not make Zionism a part of the Jewish faith. But Judaism is not Mr Segalov’s plaything, and he does not actually present a counter argument himself. His response to the Chief Rabbi is a) that opinion only creates room for one type of Jew, and b) Judaism has a tradition of dissent.
His essential response to “Zionism is inseparable from Judaism” is a) I don’t like that, and b) Judaism allows for multiple lines of argument, even though I haven’t actually provided one. This is not so much an opinion piece, more an I-don’t-like-their-opinion piece.
And finally, he should call a spade a spade. What is the content of the “debate” Mr Segalov is calling for? If one is calling for a debate on Independence Day, isn’t that a polite way of calling to debate the very existence of the country? One cannot “debate” in the abstract, one must debate something – an argument, a concept, a preposition. Mr Segalov stops short of saying what his proposition is, but leaves little to the imagination. In his mind, the correct way to mark Israel’s independence is to challenge its continued independence.
Here is the final irony of the article. Segalov calls for diversity, room for multiple voices. If only the Guardian had that ability to create space for another voice – for just one day a year, to put aside its qualms, and to join in recognising the tremendous achievements of Israel. Alas, until then, it seems the Guardian’s monotony of gloom and doom about Israel will continue.
Aron White has a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of London (Lead College: LSE), and is a graduate of the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem. His writings have been published at the Jerusalem Post, JNS, The Daily Caller and the Algemeiner.