Avishai Ben-Haim thwarts his theory of the second Israel itself

by time news
Avishai Ben-Haim thwarts his theory of the second Israel itself

In an excerpt from his book in question, “Second Israel: The Sweet Gospel, the Bitter Oppression,” published in Walla! This weekend, Dr. Avishai Ben-Haim wants to present what he calls “Israel’s first lament of the loss of hegemony” after Revolution 77. In that two-page section, Ben-Haim uses a series of songs, which he identifies with “First Israel”, to show The same mourning atmosphere for Israel that supposedly was and is no more (and in any case was never but a myth).

This list is already provoking controversy, in part because it comes at the very beginning of the book – right after the effluent introduction, in fact, and so many of the book’s readers are immediately exposed to it. Presenting social processes through popular culture can be very effective and fascinating in socio-historical discussion, and Ben-Haim strives to weave together all the pieces in his puzzle. The claim itself is interesting and surprising, and should be seriously considered. Unfortunately, however, the examples that Ben Haim cites to illustrate his claim are very poor, and almost the entire list is based on disregard.

Ben-Haim opens his remarks with a certain reluctance that allows him flexibility. “The poems are not legal evidence, but a great way of telling the story,” he writes, noting that some of them herald the developments, and even a little prophetic, while others are “historical documents that express the spirit of the period.” But time and time again he hangs meanings in the songs that they did not have in the original nor in retrospect, and the attempt to make them read subversively is not really convincing.

There is the chronological matter. Three of the songs that Ben-Haim quotes were created and published even before 1977: Arik Einstein’s “Eretz Yisrael” was published in 1969 (and renewed in 1984, although the writer claims for some reason that in 1978 “they begin to sing it with great intent”); “I gave it my life”, a nonsense song by Beehive that competed in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest (and as Ben Haim himself admits, it is not easy to decide whether a single line in it is supposedly loaded with some political charge or is just a funny rhyme, and if such a charge does exist) , And it is doubtful whether this poem stands behind it); And “It Could Be Over,” also by Arik Einstein, which came out in 1973 and we’ll get to later.

Ben-Haim does claim in his defense that these are songs that foretell the process, so it does not matter that they were published even before the upheaval. True: Songs are loaded with new meanings over the years, and rediscovered in other meanings. The problem with these examples is material-program. Does the repression of “I gave her my life” represent anything? And the stingy text in the words of Arik Einstein – how much can you already depend on it? Is it really possible to seriously claim that many Israelis mentioned it as a reaction to a political upheaval that took place a decade later? After all, they had a lot of other songs to turn to.

Here the depth of the default is revealed: Ben Haim uses songs that have been published over 25 years (!), From before the upheaval and after the upheaval, from the late 60s to the mid-90s, to describe a general trend of lamentation. It was equally possible to collect 20 happy songs from this huge period of time in which thousands of songs were published in Hebrew, in order to claim the exact opposite. In fact, anyone who looks at the choral parades of the late 70s will discover joyful music in abundance. Trends of lamentation and sadness are typical of the mid-1970s, and in a completely different context – mourning for the Yom Kippur War.

Ben Haim is wrong in his examples, even though he does not completely miss the direction reading. Precisely throughout the 1980s – after the upheaval – one can clearly identify phenomena of left-wing turn, and even a certain radicalization, in Israeli culture, and in particular in cinema and popular music. In some cases, it is a real cultural father-murder: an appeal of the boys’ generation to the parents or even to themselves, in terms of content and style – when with the rise of rock and aesthetics to a leading position in Israel, even artists identified with melancholy national songs abandon them in favor of electric guitar and angry pose . This is in fact the opposite process from what Ben-Haim describes: turning his back on old Israeliness, and not exactly its longing or obituary. It can certainly be argued that part of this phenomenon is a reaction to the change of government: turning left when the government is supposedly right-wing, and turning right when the government is supposedly left-wing.

However, this wave is intensifying mainly in the face of military events, ostensibly external to the political system and the social fabric of forces – the Lebanon war, the massacre in Sabra and Shatila and the first intifada, events that undermined many perceptions in the Israeli public. These are the cases of “Had Gadya” and “After Us the Flood” mentioned in the list in the book, two songs from the late 80’s that you played on the radio were banned. It is impossible to take seriously Ben-Haim’s forced reading, according to which Alberstein’s version of the Haggadah piyyut, which clearly deals with the Israeli-Arab conflict and an endless cycle of blood, is in fact an internal mourning for the loss of Israeli hegemony and change. In Nurit Galron’s protest song, half the criticism in general is directed at the bohemian, hedonistic and indifferent Tel Aviv, the heart of “First Israel.”

He is also required to sing “I have no other country” written by Ehud Manor, which was also published against the background of the Lebanon war, even if in real time it was not painted in political colors – and in fact adopted by all political camps, including the deep right. “The fact that this song became an anthem must not be suppressed because it sat on real sentiment,” Ben-Haim writes, and is right – but this sentiment is common to large sections of the public in Israel, and crosses sectors and positions. The song, not to mention that it was composed by a Tunisian-born musician and originally performed by a Yemeni singer, re-floats even more than the Balfour protest – and presumably this is where the writer’s socio-political call comes from, unless we accept the subversive charge of sociological baggage. I will be silent because my country has changed its face “- it is doubtful if she had a trace in the original. Is it really impossible to accept the shock of artists in Israel from bloody events but as an internal social struggle? Ben-Haim’s thesis reads in this way what his political opponents see as a fight against corruption. This is his right, but if every expression of protest is first and foremost a struggle for hegemony, then nothing in reality has any meaning, and there is no point in protesting against anything.

A particularly depressing remark concerns the way in which Ben-Haim refers to the song “Winter 73” by a special education corps band (“Their Promise Dove”). This song was released in 1994 – 17 years after the upheaval, and in my opinion its link to a discussion is far more absurd than the discussion of songs that preceded the Likud’s rise to power. In fact, it came about during the rule of the “hegemonic” side – the years of the second Rabin government. Ben Haim accuses the author of the song, Shmuel Hasefri, of hatred towards him and everything he (Ben Haim) represents, but what is the difference between this and the song? Well, it’s included in the discussion because the hymn – a song chosen as the most beloved song by military bands for generations – is actually part of the “genre of depression songs that weaken the power of the Zionist struggle.” This is a nasty description: Is the Zionist struggle not strong enough to withstand a song? And perhaps the call for peace is precisely what will strengthen the survival of Zionism? And what about the “power of the Zionist struggle,” what it does not mean at all, and the discussion of power struggles between socio-economic groups?

Finally, we will return to Jonathan Geffen’s “It May Be Over,” with which Ben-Haim concludes the discussion, which, he says, includes lines mourning “that Israeliness of yesteryear.” It’s time to talk about nostalgia – a phenomenon that has accompanied Israeli music since the establishment of the state. From “There Were Times” (War of Independence), through the songs of “Little Tel Aviv” (1959) to “In the Captivity of the Nahal in Sinai” by the Nahal Band (1969), in which Naomi Shemer is excited to meet the “Lost, and Beautiful Land of Israel” And the forgotten. ” Einstein, the performing singer, has himself recorded seven records over the past three decades, the main ones being innovations to the songs of the “good old Land of Israel” (an expression that is definitely charged, there is something to wonder about) – as are a variety of other artists from a variety of genres. That is: this longing is part of an ethos that accompanies official Israeli culture for years, with no necessary connection to political developments.

But in any case, the song by Geffen, Einstein and Shem Tov Levy is a parody of this phenomenon (and not his only one, take for example the “caravan song”) – a parody that rejects the empty idealistic nostalgia of the previous generation and the perception that “was happy here” , That “everything was just wonderful” and that “they had something to get up for in the morning” – clear ironic expressions, almost full of ridicule towards “that Israeliness of yesteryear”. So true, it’s not really a biting satire but more of an embracing sting – but not really a lament.

All of this leaves Ben Haim’s case built mostly on Arik Einstein’s “sitting in front of the paper” (“Oh my countryman, you go pipen”) and Hava Alberstein’s “London” – which is not convincing enough. “Poems are not ‘proof’ of the process, but texts that make it possible to tell his story, express it,” Ben-Haim emphasizes in his opening remarks, and indeed, it should be said fairly: his thesis will not rise or fall on this list of examples. After all, there are a host of more and less obvious examples of cultural expressions, overt and covert, of exclusion and racism towards Orientals before and after the upheaval. But if Ben-Haim chooses to invite his readers to his thesis through this sequence of examples, he is failing in his own theory.

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