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Are Beatles to Blame for the Occupation?

Yes, says a Haaretz writer. Sgt. Pepper, apparently, is to blame for the Six-Day War.

Liel Leibovitz
June 13, 2017
The Beatles.(Facebook)(Facebook)Haaretz
The Beatles.(Facebook)(Facebook)Haaretz

Who’s to blame for the last five decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Go ahead, try and guess. Try and pin it on the PLO or the settlers or the international community. You’d be wrong: the real culprit is Sgt. Pepper.

So argues Haaretz columnist Nissan Shor, a prominent Israeli author and comedy writer. But the bit about the bellicose Beatles is no joke: The Fab Four, Shor opined in earnest this week in the Israeli left’s favorite broadsheet, have made the Occupation possible.

How, exactly? Behold: “If Sgt. Pepper symbolizes anything,” Shor wrote, “it symbolizes the Israeli culture of uniformity and its absolute normative sense, not to say hetero-normative, of hegemonic groups within the mainstream that seek to defend their values in an ever-changing reality in which nothing is obvious.”

If you don’t speak grad school, here’s what Shor is saying: by making a really great and timeless album that everyone agrees is really timeless and great and releasing it just a week before the Six-Day War, the Beatles, a really great, timeless band, made Israelis agree that their newly minted occupation of Palestinian land was timeless, great, as well. Q.E.D.

It’s easy to laugh at Shor’s profoundly moronic argument, or to turn his loopy logic into a drunken parlor game—Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run sparked the Yom Kippur War! Asia’s eponymous 1982 debut ignited the conflict between Israel and Lebanon! But there’s tragic beauty in his piece that deserves our attention. Ending his essay with a claim that the best people shun popular musical choices for more challenging and esoteric stuff, Shor reveals a lot about the contemporary state of the left in Israel, which has long abandoned its commitment to ideology and now runs purely on feeling.

The overwhelming majority of Israelis having been persuaded by observable reality to reject the Left’s traditional premise that more Israeli concessions will magically lead to less Palestinian violence, those who still define themselves as lefties now take solace exclusively in a sophomoric sense of cultural superiority. Just like those insufferable twits in high school who would sneer at anyone who listened to anything but the most obscure bands, Israel’s bien pensants instinctively believe that the many are always wrong. And if the many all support something, even something as rudimentary as self-defense, well, it sucks. Most of us grow out of this asinine way of seeing the world, and those of us who don’t quickly learn that they’re not going to find many friends, let alone voters. Israelis on all sides of the political spectrum deserve better from their public intellectuals. But hey, at least he didn’t blame Yoko.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.