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Ben-Gurion University
BGU Lev Grinberg, paradox of the radical activist with mediocre publishing record
Senior Lecturer, Dept of Sociology-Anthropology
Director, The Hubert H. Humphrey Center for Social Research
Email: lev@bgu.ac.il 

Editorial note

BGU Lev Grinberg projects an image of a political activist in an interview to an Argentinian paper.  Grinberg is a Marxist activist who produced some of the most virulent critique of Israeli society.  He compares Israel to the dictators in Argentina, his home country, where thousands "disappeared" during the government's campaign against leftist; he accuses the Israeli government of manipulating the trauma of the Holocaust to commit crimes against Palestinians, including the suppression of the Second Intifada. He ignores references to Iran's support of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and their role in sabotaging the peace process.  He accuses Israel of stealing water from the Palestinians, a notion that was disproved by a number of respectable experts.

Some of Grinberg's classic conspiracy themes can be recognized. One of them, which he shares with other radical academics, is the argument that Netanyahu fabricates enemies in order to torpedo the peace process. As Grinberg puts it, first it was with the PLO, now it is with the jihadists and Iran. Grinberg is much upset that the US backs Israel on these imaginary threats, calling it a "real tragedy."

Instead of detailing any scholarly achievements, Grinberg is described as one of the founders of the movement of conscientious objectors soldiers Yesh Gvul. In the interview below in Argentina where he presented his latest book, Politics and Violence in Israel / Palestine. Democracy versus military rule, Grinberg discusses the results Israeli elections and compares the Israeli social protest of summer 2011 to the spirit of protest of 2001 in Argentina. For Grinberg, "the neoliberal policies hurt the middle and lower classes of Israel," and implementing a Marxist system is the natural cure.

Grinberg is emblematic of other radical scholar at BGU who, supported by the Israeli tax payer, use their position to delegitmize Israel abroad by using unsubstantiated comparisons.


Pagina/12, Argentina
Translated from Spanish by Google

"The neoliberal policies hurt the middle and lower classes of Israel," says the sociologist based in Israel.
Picture: Bernardino Avila


Lev Grinberg SAYS the elections REPRESENT success, but also the failure of the indigenous

Paradox of Israeli Social Protest
By San Miguel Mercedes Lopez

Grinberg Sociologist, author of Politics and Violence in Israel / Palestine. Democracy versus military rule, states that political parties tried to capitalize on the movement and perpetuated the false left-right dichotomy.

The ultranationalist veteran politician Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to form a government in Israel after his party, Likud, received a setback in the elections that has forced him to seal new partnerships. It is likely to add to the rookie and former television host Yair Lapid and his centrist party Yesh Atid (there is a future) to his right block. Economist and sociologist Lev Grinberg said that these elections represent a paradox: "The success of the protest movement of 2011, but also its failure." As a replica of the indigenous of Spain, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in September 2011 to condemn the high cost of living in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other cities. Speaking to Página/12, the founder of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Ben Gurion speaks of the scope of this movement. "He is unable to combine the discourse of equality and social justice with the need to take action on behalf of oppressed groups as the Mizrahim in the periphery, the Arabs, the ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopians and, above all, the Palestinians in the occupied territories. "

Professor Grinberg was born in Argentina and moved to Israel in 1971, aged 18. Three years later he founded the Movement of Arab-Jewish students Campus and in 1982 was one of the founders of the movement of conscientious objectors soldiers Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit). He was in our country presenting his latest book, Politics and Violence in Israel / Palestine. Democracy versus military rule (Prometheus books), which states as core idea that parties close the political space when threatened, ie, they do not incorporate new agendas. And this would be the reaction of the games against social protest, which is nothing more than the expression of the political disenchantment. "Those who want to change up the movement and speech are demarcating the borders of Israel, they want to live well within Israel and in the occupied territories. They complain that they cut the welfare state, but the subsidies to settlers remained . Grinberg said the protest involved social groups not represented in the political and economic decisions criticizing the premier Netanyahu. "The neoliberal policies hurt the middle and lower classes of Israel. But it's just a movement, not led to a political party."

And to meet this "throw them all", as compared by Grinberg, the spirit of protest of 2001 Argentine political parties manipulated public opinion. "The candidate for reelection Netanyahu conducted a campaign of fear of Iran, the Palestinians, to cover the topic of the crisis and the effects of neoliberal policies." For the lecturer, he kept the discourse of polarization that silences discussion of other matters. "Since 1977 the Likud and Labor have imposed the right-left dichotomy in order to preserve their power and prevent rivals from entering the political arena."

When asked what is this new rival in the political arena, which is Lapid, his party remained as second force in parliament with 19 seats-, Grinberg stresses that the leader of Yesh Atid handles a message that this is his modern "sophisticated manipulation." "Lapid came up with something new, that appealed to the young and the middle classes who voted for him because they want to maintain their economic status, do not care about any other topic. Lapid gave an economic message: Netanyahu said he lowered the standard of living and the price of housing increased by 40 percent. "

Lapid no longer a pop, a new phenomenon in Israeli politics. His party managed to capture the secular middle class who feel they have no representation. Among the groups Arabs (Palestinians, 10 percent in parliament) are relegated there no middle class represented. But Lapid not ignored. Grinberg insists on the idea of handling. "Lapid manipulated the protest was centered on the middle class, because he does not represent the lower classes (they traditionally vote for the Likud). The people attracted middle, before voting on the left. "

Lapid has a problem with Orthodox Jews, says the Professor. "When he spoke of equal rights equality obligations added, ie Orthodox Jews to go to the army. This topic covered the other issues. "

The movement managed to mobilize outraged middle and lower classes. The media said it was the middle classes who took to the streets, but also mobilized peripheral groups. "The feeling I hvee of this election is that no one talked about what the society is interested at. The people went to vote in Israel-not mandatory-as an act of protest against Netanyahu, all who were against, and some of his supporters, were left at home. "That explains why the January 22 Likud-Beiteinu coalition had 31 seats (out of 120), eleven less than previous elections.

The expert explains why the conflict with the Palestinians is not discussed. "There were no proposals that would lead people to vote for peace, there was no speech nor legitimacy to address the issue. Meretz (pacifist left) and Hatnùa (party that created by the former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni) raised it and each received six seats. The movement, in an effort to get them to mobilize the right, said nothing about the conflict and occupation. "

But a light hovering across the tunnel. Grinberg think soon, outraged Israelis will return to the streets and this "can transform protest to political language". In that case we have to wait for new elections.


Israel and the Gaza CrisisTrapped in the Language of Force

Lev Grinberg, Professor of Political Sociology at the Ben Gurion University in Tel Aviv, says Israeli intervention in the Gaza conflict is short-sighted. Exclusive recourse to military force blocks opportunities for peaceful negotiations in the long-term, and plays politically into the hands of Hamas, he says

Israel's present military campaign may turn out to be a painful political, if not military failure. As these lines are being written, ceasefire negotiations are taking place. But whether the fire ceases before or after a ground campaign, Hamas has already achieved its objective: recognition as a partner to a ceasefire agreement and as a political force to be reckoned with.

Ever since October 2000, Ehud Barak has been working to convince the entire world that the Palestinian Authority is not a partner for negotiations, and now he is resurrecting that partner in the image of Hamas.

The fundamental problem with Israel is that it is able to think only in terms of force. This is what usually happens to the stronger side – it becomes blinded by its own power, failing to recognize its limitations before it is too late. At best, the problem is identified in time, which leads to negotiations. But usually it takes a strong blow to pave the way to negotiations, or simply to run away.

Self-knowledge of empires and nations

Sometimes an entire regime collapses due to its inability to recognize the limitations of its power.

This is how empires implode – it is what happened to the Soviet Union as a result of its insistent control of Afghanistan. The United States, on the other hand, escaped from Vietnam, just as Israel escaped from Lebanon in 2000.

Israel was willing to negotiate with Egypt only after the 1973 war, which was a military victory but a political defeat. The 1982 Lebanon war was both a political and a military defeat, eventually leading Israel to recognize the Palestinians in the early 1990s, following the First Intifada, when the Chief of Staff declared there was no military but only political solution. Only then did the politicians get the message and begin negotiations.

The problem was that even after recognizing the PLO they went on trying to force an agreement uponit, rather than negotiate with it. Indeed, ever since their last serious attempt to "negotiate" in October 2000, Israel seems unable to move away from the language of force: since "there's no partner" we must "let the IDF win". The concepts of left and right have become obsolete, with everyone violent solutions and unilateral moves.

Firing rockets for political ends

Unlike us, the Palestinians – like the people of any weak, stateless entity – know they could not overcome Israel even if they wanted to. Therefore, even when they do use cruel violence, it is designed to achieve political ends.

Only at certain points during the Second Intifada (mainly in March 2002) did they try to compare Israeli and Palestinian losses – an error they continue to regret to this day.

If force alone matters, Israel will always have the upper hand. Therefore, the rockets fired on it from Gaza have a political objective: to make the Israelis realize they will not have peace as long as Gaza is blockaded and economically strangled. Hamas wants to show the Palestinians and the rest of the world that it is a responsible regime that can take care of its people. Therefore, its first objective is to open the crossings into the Gaza Strip and create normalized conditions that will improve the standards of living and ensure political stability.

Israel's intention to halt the operation without granting Hamas its wish is hopeless. Perhaps a ceasefire agreement is being signed at this very moment, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that it is bound to collapse once more. The present military campaign is bound to fail politically, because Hamas has achieved its strategic objective by the very fact of firing rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, by proving – once more – that it is able to withstand Israeli's military pressure, and by demonstrating Israel's dependence on less-than-friendly mediators.

Hamas – the only partner for preventing violence

And the more Israel tries to force a ceasefire by escalating its violence – either now or a few months from now – Hamas will gain more prestige, while Israel's standing will weaken.

The present campaign demonstrates to all that the Arab Spring has improved Hamas' standing in the Arab world and the international community.

Operation Pillar of Cloud reveals that Hamas gains the upper hand in any situation, even if an unconditional ceasefire agreement is signed, because it has survived the Israeli attack and will be able to continue arming itself for the next campaign. It is therefore the only partner for preventing violence.

I have no idea what Israeli decision makers had in mind when they decided on this campaign, but they were certainly short-sighted (some say, electorally motivated), as they have not specified its political objectives, nor how it should end and what would follow. I sincerely hope that soon enough, somebody will start thinking in political terms.

Democracy is founded on the idea of resolving conflicts by way of dialogue rather than unilateral coercion. If Operation Pillar of Cloud eventually shows that Israel does have a partner for dialogue, perhaps this particular cloud may turn out to have a silver lining.

Lev Grinberg

© Lev Grinberg 2012

Qantara.de editor: Lewis Gropp

Lev Grinberg is a political sociology professor at the Ben Gurion University in Tel Aviv and author of "Politics and Violence in Israel/Palestine: Democracy versus Military Rule" (Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Politics 2009).


Paradoja de la protesta social israelí

El sociólogo Grinberg, autor de Política y violencia en Israel/Palestina. Democracia versus régimen militar, señala que los partidos políticos intentaron capitalizar el movimiento y que se perpetuó la falsa dicotomía derecha-izquierda.

 Por Mercedes López San Miguel

El veterano político ultranacionalista Benjamin Netanyahu está queriendo formar gobierno en Israel después de que su partido, Likud, recibiera un revés en los comicios que lo ha obligado a sellar nuevas alianzas. Es probable que sume al novato y ex conductor de televisión Yair Lapid y su partido de centro Yesh Atid (Hay Futuro) a su bloque de derecha. El sociólogo y economista Lev Grinberg afirma que estas elecciones representan una paradoja: “El éxito del movimiento de protesta de 2011, pero también su fracaso”. Como una réplica de los indignados de España, centenares de miles de israelíes salieron a las calles en septiembre de 2011 para condenar el elevado costo de la vida en Tel Aviv, Haifa y otras ciudades. En diálogo con Página/12, el fundador del departamento de Sociología y Antropología de la Universidad de Ben Gurion señala los límites de este movimiento. “Es incapaz de combinar el discurso de la igualdad y justicia social con la necesidad de tomar acciones a favor de grupos oprimidos como los mizrahim en la periferia, los árabes, los ultraortodoxos, los etíopes y, sobre todo, los palestinos en los territorios ocupados.”

El profesor Grinberg nació en Argentina y se fue a vivir a Israel en 1971, con 18 años. Tres años después fundó el movimiento de estudiantes judeo-árabe Campus y en 1982 fue uno de los fundadores del movimiento de soldados objetores de conciencia Yesh Gvul (Hay un Límite). Estuvo en nuestro país presentando su último libro, Política y violencia en Israel/Palestina. Democracia versus régimen militar (editorial Prometeo), en el que afirma como idea medular que los partidos cierran el espacio político cuando se ven amenazados, es decir, que no incorporan nuevas agendas. Y que ésta sería la reacción de los partidos frente a la protesta social, que no es más que la expresión del desencanto de lo político. “Quienes integran el movimiento quieren cambiar el discurso y están demarcando las fronteras de Israel: desean vivir bien dentro de Israel y no en los territorios ocupados. Se quejan de que se recortó el Estado de Bienestar, pero se mantuvieron los subsidios a los colonos.” Grinberg afirma que participan de la protesta los grupos sociales que no tienen representación en la política y que critican las decisiones económicas del premier Netanyahu. “Las políticas neoliberales perjudican a las clases medias y bajas de Israel. Pero es sólo un movimiento, no se tradujo en una formación política.”

Y que frente a este “que se vayan todos”, como compara Grinberg el espíritu de la protesta con el 2001 argentino, los partidos políticos manipularon a la opinión pública. “El candidato a la reelección Netanyahu llevó adelante una campaña del miedo –miedo a Irán, a los palestinos–para tapar el tema de la crisis y los efectos de sus políticas de corte neoliberal.” Para el profesor, se mantuvo el discurso de la polarización que silencia el debate de otros asuntos. “Desde 1977 que el Likud y el Laborismo han impuesto la dicotomía derecha-izquierda a fin de preservar su poder y evitar que otros rivales entren en la arena política.”

Ante la pregunta de qué representa este nuevo rival en la arena política, que es Lapid –su partido quedó como segunda fuerza en el Parlamento con 19 escaños–, Grinberg subraya que el líder de Yesh Atid maneja un mensaje moderno y que ésa es su “sofisticada manipulación”. “Lapid apareció con algo nuevo, que atraía a los jóvenes y las clases medias que lo votaron, porque éstas quieren mantener su situación económica, no les importa ningún otro tema. Lapid dio un mensaje económico: dijo que Netanyahu bajó el nivel de vida y que el precio de la vivienda aumentó un 40 por ciento.”

Lapid no deja de ser un emergente, un nuevo fenómeno en la política israelí. Su partido consiguió captar a la clase media secular que siente que no tiene representación. Entre los grupos árabes (palestinos, 10 por ciento en el Parlamento) que están relegados también hay clase media no representada. Pero Lapid no los tiene en cuenta. Grinberg insiste en la idea de la manipulación. “Lapid manipuló que la protesta estaba centrada en la clase media, porque él no representa a las clases bajas (tradicionalmente éstas votan al Likud). El atrajo a gente de capas medias, que antes votaban a la izquierda.”

Lapid tiene un problema con los judíos ortodoxos, señala el profesor. “Cuando habló de igualdad de derechos sumó la igualdad de obligaciones, es decir, que los judíos ortodoxos vayan también al ejército. Este tema tapó los otros asuntos.”

El movimiento de indignados logró movilizar a las clases medias y bajas. Los medios de comunicación decían que eran las clases medias las que salieron a las calles, pero también se movilizaron grupos periféricos. “La sensación que dejaron estos comicios es de que nadie habló de lo que a la sociedad le interesa. La gente fue a votar –en Israel no es obligatorio– como acto de protesta contra Netanyahu, todos los que estaban en contra fueron y parte de los que lo apoyan se quedaron en su casa.” Eso explica por qué el pasado 22 de enero la coalición Likud-Beitenu obtuviera 31 escaños (de un total de 120), once menos que las anteriores elecciones.

El experto explica por qué no se debatió el conflicto con los palestinos. “No hubo propuestas que llevaran a la gente a votar por la paz, no hubo discurso ni legitimidad para tratar el tema. Meretz (pacifista de izquierda) y Hatnùa (partido que creó la ex canciller Tzipi Livni) lo plantearon y cada uno recibió seis escaños. El movimiento, en su afán de lograr que se movilicen las bases de la derecha, no dijo nada sobre el conflicto y la ocupación.”

Pero asoma una luz al otro lado del túnel. Grinberg piensa que pronto los indignados israelíes volverán a las calles y que “podrán transformar la protesta en lenguaje político”. En ese caso habrá que esperar a las nuevas elecciones.


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