Monday, July 17, 2006

Of Two Different Minds

A group of soldiers protecting worshippers
at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (July 2006)

Be lenient with me as I return to a subject about which I have frequently griped in the past: "the Europeans." Today, I ran into an acquaintance of mine from a very small country in Western Europe, and asked her how she had passed the last few days. She mentioned that she had had a wonderful time at the beach in Tel Aviv. The only thing that had disturbed her, were the sounds of military helicopters moving across the sky. "Everything was so peaceful, and then this ...." she said with obvious resentment. The statement reminded me of the distaste some European visitors expressed to me about the police presence in some American cities, as well as the abundance of security personnel with guns on Israel's streets. I find it very difficult to understand this mindset. The helicopters are making it possible for me to sit safely on the beach. The security guards are there to prevent us from being blown up. Yes, I am resentful - but not at the people who are protecting me.

In conversations with Europeans, and while living on the Continent, I have often noticed a certain uneasiness with police and soldiers, even if they are representatives of democratic states pledged to safeguard the rights of their fellow-citizens. Some French and German acquaintances of mine, almost seemed to prefer the risk of being the target of violent crime to an increased police presence or more agressive patrolling.


Noah S. said...

Pacifism and anarchism - old traditions on the European left.

Noah Kaye said...

Common sentiment of some scholars in my field who visit Israel.

I think that there's also a notion out there that Israel is a hyper- rather than highly militarized state.

Anonymous said...

I think the difference of how people experience polcie/soldiers may have a lot to do with issues like memory and class.

Memory, because Contintal Europeans associate war with genocide... and with defeat. The state is feared hardly less than the criminals, because in the twentieth century, the State was Europe'as greatest criminal. No wonder that Europeans and Israelis are more cautious than Anglos.

Class, because the police really "protects the rich", who pay it through their taxes and control it via politics. Poor people also have much less to lose, especially in terms of property crimes. Europeans travelling are often lower middle class, while most travelling Americans are middle-upper class. So this may give the impression of different "national" identities.

BTW, the clearest differentiation in how people relate to the state's armed forces may be neither their nationality, their collective memory or their class. Rather, it may be their minority/majority status within their country. Arab-Israelis or gay Americans will clearly fear their country's armed forces much more than criminals, because criminals do not threaten their existence constantly, but only nekudati.

Fern R said...

I can understand why French people would be uneasy about police. France still operates under the Code Napoleon which, among other things, means that the police can stop you on the street for no reason and demand your paperwork and frisk you. No probable cause, no nothing.

Anonymous said...

IDF soldiers are HOT!