Elvis in Jerusalem: Tom Segev
Chair: Jonathan Friedland
In this session, Tom Segev discussed his book of the same name with Jonathan Freedland. Segev argues that the sweeping americanisation of Israel, rued by many, has in fact had an extraordinary beneficial influence, bringing not only McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts but also the virtues of pragmatism, tolerance and individualism. Jumping full square into the ideological battle about the future of Zionism, he welcomes as a harbinger of compromise and openness the diffusion of national identity and ideology that has taken place in the last decade. Post-Zionism, as Segev defines it, 'means that Zionism has done its job, with notable success, and that Israel must now move on to the next stage’. Against the backdrop of continued violence in Israel, Segev stressed the importance of post-Zionism at this time of crisis.
The session was held in association with the New Israel Fund.
Tom Segev grew up in Jerusalem and did his military service at the National Defense College. He studied at the Hebrew University where he gained his BA in History and Political Science and he received a PhD in History from Boston University. Tom Segev is one of Israel's most controversial and celebrated newspaper columnists. His first book, 1949: The First Israelis (1986), is a cornerstone of the ‘new historiography’. The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust (1994) was an iconoclastic and influential investigation into the influence of the Holocaust on Israeli society. One Palestine, Complete (2000), which deals with the history of the British Mandate in Palestine, won the New York Times editor's choice of ‘Best Books 2000’ and the US National Jewish Book Award 2001.
Jonathan Freedland is a writer and Columnist of the Year. He is author ofBring Home the Revolution: the Case for a British Republic (1998) and presenter of BBC Radio 4's The Long View.
“The americanisation of Israel means more than a Hebrew internet or a kosher McDonalds. We have both, but it means more. It means that the entire elite of Israel is manned by people who were trained in America. If you want to be somebody in Israel today, you really need to have an American chapter in your biography, and most elites do have that chapter. I think that’s a good thing, and I know that this sounds very provocative, not only in England but even more so in the other countries of Europe. I know you talk to Europeans about americanisation and they think it is a terrible thing. In Israel it is still a good thing. It is a good thing because we are adopting from America a whole set of values which are relatively new to us. We don’t have a constitution in Israel, but we are adopting constitutional values from America, which means that we are adopting the concept of a stronger democracy from America. Human rights, we adopt from America.”
“I think that the conflict is not a conflict which can be solved at this time. It can only be managed at this time. It is about management. And I think that the three people who manage it at this time are managing it very, very badly. They are Arafat, Sharon and Bush. They have to go before anything can happen.”
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