Category Archives: Jewish State

Razorwire over the Wadi

Shakhaf returns home from school. Daddy, who recently returned from his reseve duty, asks how was her day. Shakhaf, who is in the first or second grade, says she has homework to do: answer the question whether Israel has a right to exist. Daddy, and you can see how much it costs him (“if it has a what?” “a right to exist”), keeps his cool and asks what she thinks of the question. Shakhaf says it’s a simple one; he asks for the answer. She says “yes, it does”; he asks “why?”. Shakhaf is stuck: “I don’t know”.

Here comes the expected Zionist answer: a house which we’ve abandoned and yet remains ours, the 2,000-years exile and all of the usual mythos. But, daddy says, when we’ve come back, we’ve forgotten other people have lived here in the meantime – “and these people are right, and these people are right as well, and because of that we’re entangled with ourselves for a 100 years already”.

And perhaps the recognition of tragedy, the collision of two sides in the right, is a bit too much for a seven year old child. Especially in a reality where this collision takes the form of terrorist attacks and unfocused assassination strikes.

[] Touching every open sore

The new movie of the brothers Tomer and Barak Hayman, “A Bridge over the Wadi”, tells the story of the mixed school for Jewish and Arab children so named, residing in Qafr Qara. The school is supposed to promote coexistence among Jews and Arabs – and the movie takes a good look at every pothole on that road.

It begins well: excited kids go to school. An Arab mother says she grew up hating Jews and she doesn’t want her son to grow up like her. Asaf, a Jewish boy, goes to school with mixed feelings: he is afraid of a terrorist attack, the school is in an Arab town. The year is 2004. The children reach school, balloons go up, and everything looks fine. The teachers teach the children trust-games: one child closes his eyes, and the other leads him throughout the school grounds, guiding him so he won’t fall or harm himself.

Then Hanukah comes along. All of the children, Jewish and Muslims, sing holiday hymns. They light “eight candles of light and love”. Some of the Muslim parents feel ill at ease – which is noticeable when their own children sing “[and we thank thee] for the salutations, and for the wars You fought for our forefathers”.

The first flashpoint comes during Ramadan: A Muslim child leads all of the children in a holiday prayer, and the children bow and pray. This is too much for Moni, who takes her son out of school. She claims to be an atheist, but says Jews have, over the generations, have preferred death to bowing. It’s very hard to blame her for this.

A short while afterwards comes the suicide attack in Be’er Sheva. Asaf is hosting his friend, Bashir, in his grandmother Bruria’s house. During lunch, Bruria cross-examines Bashir: Are you sad when Jews are killed? Did your parents teach you life has intrinsic value? Asaf is trying to defend his friend (“they don’t speak to them about it, so they won’t be afraid”); the grandmother carries on with the crucifixion. When the two finally escape towards the video games, she fires at the camera: “we educate the people who will kill us”.

The Hsymans aren’t going easy on themselves, do not act as toy leftists, and don’t pretend the occupation is the source of all the problems in the universe. At a campfire, after Shakhaf and her friend are taken by the friend’s father, Farouq, to the Luna Park, she asks Farouq about love. Farouq says there are no such things among them, it’s forbidden. Shakhaf, amused and curious and detecting bullshit a mile off, asks what would happen if her friend would tell Farouq she was in love. Farouq, noticeably agitated, repeats his reply. Shakhaf asks, wondrous: what do you mean? There are no rules in love, if she falls in love she falls in love. Farouq does not reply. The director intervenes, and repeats Shakhaf’s question. Farouq finally answers: “If this happens, I’d shoot her and turn myself in, I’d go to prison”. Shakhaf, terrified: “You’d kill her?”

And all this is a bit too much. It’s not clear why kids in second class have to learn about Land Day. It’s not clear why the school, which always makes certain all lessons are bilingual (which, as the teacher Yasmin justly notes, means in practice that the Arab pupils are losing their mother’s tongue, because they speak Hebrew with their friends), is split particularly on Independence Day. Some learn about Independence Day, some of the Naqba. And what will they say to each other, when they return to school after two days?

The movie is well edited, the directors’ involvement is minimal (aside from the question directed at Farouq, they asked no other question), and it leaves the viewer with huge despair, huge fear. After all, this school was established by the more tolerant people of the two groups, and if this is the result when their children meet, what would be the result in the general public, where xenophobia is a central ingredient of identity?

The last scene is a conversation among the children. One child, Jewish, all children, even civilians, will have to be soldiers at one point. Another Jewish child is trying to soften the message: no, not everyone. Yes, everyone, the first child insists; it’s either the army or the prison. The second speaker, defensive, says: but you don’t have to serve in a position which forces you to kill Arabs. The first speaker replies: it’s your commander who decides what you’ll do, not you.

One of the Arab children blows a fuse: if you kill Arabs, I will come to your house and blow you up. The second Jewish children gives it his last shot: but maybe, by the time we grow up, there’ll be peace. The first speakers nods dismissively: I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

And if this is the level of pessimism among second graders, and second graders who know the “other side” intimately, maybe it’s time to close up shop.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz for Nana Culture, published November 4 2007, translated into English today, November 6.)

Wandering in the Fog: Israelis and History

A pamphlet is going around by email and forums, which warns Israelis of the dangers of celebrating the Sylvester (*). The pamphlet is replete with gross inaccuracies: for instance, it claims Sylvester I was a pope, while a more proper term would be Bishop of Rome; the papacy did not acquire the power we are used to until the 11th century.

Even should we leave aside this error – which a layman, unfamiliar with church history, could make easily – we hit upon a blood-curdling claim: according to the pamphlet, “the first organized pogrom” broke out  simultaneously in Germany, England and France on 31 December 1400.

Leave aside the fact that the propagandist does not know that such a coordination between the three realms (even assuming Germany was a realm at the time, which it was not) was simply impossible, due to communication problems and the lack of a common calendar. Let us even leave aside the fact that the pamphleteer is repeating the blood libel – in reverse; But how could the writer, who purports to be a believing Jew, not know there were no Jews in England and France in 1400?

And how about a friend of mine, who re-tells a well-known story about Rabbi Akiva, and finishes it with “and then Cossacks came and burned down the town” – without seeing the problems in seamlessly incorporating the second century rabbi, a leader of the Bar Kochva rebellion, in the tapestry of Eastern European Jewish life in the 1700s.  

Israelis are ignorant of history. This seems to be a designated effect. To begin with, the Israeli education system withdrew Jewish history away from the rest of history: it divided history lessons into “Jewish history” and the history of everything else. And then, they transformed the entirety of Jewish history into Historia Lacrimosa, a history of tears.

The lessons focus on the destruction of the Second Temple – but not on the unique beliefs and cultures which thrived while it stood; on the destruction of the Rhine Jewry during the crusades (what are crusades? What is Christianity? Unimportant; Christians are people who kill Jews); on the expulsion from Spain and the Spanish Inquisition (which, contrary to myth, did not persecute Jews). And between these two events, of course, Europe experienced nothing but endless blood libels.

The reason, as usual, is Zionist theory. The concept of Shlilat Hagola, negation of the Diaspora, ignores the salient fact that most of Jewish history took place in the Diaspora; that even prior to the destruction of the Temple, most of the Jews chose not to live in Palestine. The desire for a “normal” history, one with blood and kings and wars, made Zionist historiography – at least in its school version – leap over 2,000 crucial years.

Add to that rampant and ancient xenophobia, and the concept that things that interest non-Jews ought not to be of interest to Jews, and you get a society lacking any historical anchors. I have heard, with my own ears, an Israeli tour guide explaining, by Titus’ victory arch, that the Flavian emperor was in fact a pope (he misunderstood the meaning of the inscription pontifex maximus; and how he to know that the popes have borrowed this title from the emperors?). I have heard yeshiva boys who believed Plato lived after Maimonides; after all, many of his claims resemble those of Maimonides. Some people are under the impression that the Hasmoneans have triumphed, of all people, over the Romans; and who have no clue whether the Greeks came before, or after, the Romans.

And why should they? After all, does it really matter, in that endless chain of “on every generation they rose against us to destroy us, and did a remarkably good job”, whether the Egyptians came before the Nazis? And is the precise timing of the Byzantines in that chain essential? And so, we have people ignorant of all culture – even Jewish culture; people who are not certain on the time of the First Temple (the one, as everyone knows, destroyed by the Greeks), or the Second; or who were the Hassidim, and what in God’s name did they want.

There is no vaccum, and where there is no history, myth steps in. In our case, the myth of “the entire world is arrayed against us, always, a priori”; a myth which enables a propagandist to turn the blood libel inside out, and blame all of the Christians living in 1400 in a conspiracy against the Jews living among them; the myth which whispers that wherever there are Jews, there are also Cossacks; that the Holocaust is but the pinnacle of some mystic chain, and that another Holocaust is just around the corner. A long chain, unbound by causality, because it needs no causality.

Nietzsche once asked “how does history aid and harms life”; we can see the damage wrought by an absence of history at any time we look at the frightened herd which is the Israeli public.

(*) For unknown reasons, the Gregorian New Year is called the Sylvester in Israel; this probably has to do with German Jews and the traditions they brought with them.

(Written and published in Nana News in December 2004.  Translated by Yossi Gurvitz, October 2007).

How I Became an Enemy of the Race

(Note: This article, a polemic whose original and pretentious name was “Apologia pro fide sui”, was published in December 2006 in Nana News, after an Orthodox commentator charged me with anti-Semitism. He replied, and I replied again – I plan to translate the second reply later.)

(For Dena Bugel-Shunra)

Ariel Lavi, who writes Parshat Ha’Shavua columns in these pages – caveat: I edited most of them – wrote yesterday a somewhat confused and emotional column, in which he blamed of anti-Semitism. And that’s about it. Even though he wrote that “the full refuting for Gurvitz’s claims could be detailed here”, and even though he was offered a podium precisely for that purpose, Ariel has, lo and behold, declined to do so.

I was skeptical whether the strange mishmash written by a person who supposed, for some reason, that the [Jewish] Hellenizers were an obstacle in the war against, err, the Romans, and who has in the past claimed that Plato learned his wisdom from the Hebrew prophets, actually merits a reply. Normally, I’d say no; but, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to a polemic with the opponent you have, not the one you’d wish for.

Anti-Semitism? Bullshit

Lavi’s first accusation is that I am anti-Semitic. Crying anti-Semitism has become, of late, the ultimate excuse for dodging debate on troublesome ideas. There’s no point in arguing with an anti-Semitic. I guess I got off lightly: Lavi did not claim I’m a holocaust-denier.

The accusation is false, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, it should be noted that the labeling of someone as anti-Semite is not a refutation; were I to consider all Jews the descendents of apes and pigs, and to hold decidedly unkosher debauched feasts on Yom Kippur which happened to be a Saturday, while listening to Wagnerian operas – that would still say nothing about the value of my arguments, and would not refute them.

Anti-Semitism is the claim that all Jews are guilty of something. Classical, which is to say Christian, anti-Semitism was of the opinion that all Jews are eternally, mystically, guilty of the murder of the son of God – a guilt which could only be expiated through the waters of baptism. Modern anti-Semites claimed that Jews are, by nature and without power of change, loathsome creatures.

I reject with disdain the claim that a “set nature” can be decided for over 13 million people, different in one another by ethnicity, character, education, social position and residence. Anti-Semitism is yet another prejudice, another sub-category of the disease which is xenophobia. I believe that the word “Jew” has only religious significance: a Jew is someone who accepts a certain set of beliefs.

I find that set of beliefs to be detestable – more on that in a minute – but it’s interesting to look and see how Lavi sees things. The results may be interesting.

Reverse Anti-Semitism

According to Lavi, the Jewish people is entrusted with a heavy burden of “Tikkun Olam”, fixing the world. It is not, by any means, a new concept, and it is brought ad absurdum by Jewish law: there is a correct Jewish way to lace your shoes, and a Jew who deviates from it is harming Tikkun Olam. The Kaballah, which lurks like a malignant tumor behind many Jewish customs, whispers that incorrect lacing of the shoe creates demons.

Lavi hastens to enlist me, due to my mother’s lineage, in the ranks of his devil-banishing legion. He believes I have no choice but to play the part he and the rabbis set for me in their divine farce. And, since I refuse, he is left with no option but declaring me a race traitor.

Which is to say that, according to Lavi, my function in life is set by my blood. When I renounce the part others want me to play, he decides that my behavior is irrational and is only intended to provide me with excuses. By the same logic, the Venerable Peter – one of the most influential churchmen in the Middle Ages – reached the conclusion that Jews are irrational creatures: they have, after all, rejected by various excuses the self-evident (according to Peter’s thinking) truth of the Gospel, and by so doing denied their divinely-allotted part.

So who, precisely, is the anti-Semite around here? I report, you decide. Does it mean I have no issues with Judaism – and let us be exact: Judaism and not Jews? Not at all. But it requires an explanation, and it won’t be short.

A Religion suffering from PTSD

The historical development of Jewish thought is the result of a dreadful paradox: Jews believed they were the chose people, but, how should I put it, God was on the side of the Roman legions. The Temple, which was the center of Jewish life, was destroyed in 70 AD. The defenders of the Temple were betting Jehova won’t let His name be besmirched. They were wrong.

And as if to add insult to injury, a small and cheeky cult which broke the tribal limits and believed God has expiated the Original Sin, by sacrificing himself for the sins of the world, has taken over the Known World. The majority of Jews, with no need for pogroms or persecution, went over to Christianity; within a century after “the realm turned heretic”, St. Jerome could crow that “Not one in ten remains of Judea”.

The trauma among the survivors was horrible. It is expressed in the anti-Christian curse uttered by Orthodox Jews three times a day unto this day: “Let the heretics be deprived of hope…”. The heretics are the Christians. During the Middle Ages, under pressure of censorship, the curse was changed minutely – Minim turned to Malshinim­ – and is now ostensibly directed at snitches. Pious Jews are familiar with this story.

Ever since then, Judaism was hanging between two polar points: the proper status of Jews facing their actual status. The pressure was particularly jagged in Ashkenaz – western and northren Europe – where Jews sometimes lived, literally, under the cross: the Jewish quarter was often built around the cathedral.

The result was a wild hatred, unlimited because it was powerless, to the people among whom the Jews lived. In one vengeance hymn the word “blood” appeared 77 times. (And this, as far as we can tell, is also the cause of the Blood Libel. The Christians knew the Jews hated them, and they made a logical deduction: the Jews hate us so much, they are willing to murder their own children so they won’t become Christians; what, then, shall they do with our children?).

This relationship became more and more poisoned as time passed. And as if that wasn’t enough, Judaism kept bleeding: in a desperate attempt to circle the wagons, it became anti-intellectual. The Jewish world closed more and more, and the very act of peeking outside became an offense. The philosophical writings of Maimonides were handed over to the inquisition for burning in 1232, and that was a price the rabbis were willing to pay in order to prevent Ashkenazi Jews from learning of the world beyond the walls. This turning inwards, towards the Talmud page, beget degeneracy.

And degeneracy, among a people accustomed to a high level of critical culture, led to escape – assimilation. During the Renaissance, Judaism was already an empty shell; Jews had nothing to contribute to the most stirring period in the history of the western world. Nothing – except the curse of the Kabballah, for which it was its hour of greatness; night is darkest just before dawn. The last crisis came when Orthodox Judaism, losing its wits under the waves of Enlightenment which swept the Middle Ages away, has declared that “the new is forbidden by the Torah”.

And when that happened, anyone who could, anyone with sense, fled. The 19th century saw the demolition of the legal walls between Jews and Christians, and almost any thinker of importance made the short, odious trip to the baptismal font – or merely declared himself an atheist. Once more, not one in ten was left in Judea.

Judaism reached the 19th century as a wreck. Like Islam, it crashed on modernism. It dragged a poisoned baggage with it to the century of the Enlightenment: Kill the best of the gentiles, smash the brains of the best serpent, all non-Jewish women are prostitutes, you are called man and they are not, it’s a law that Esau hates Jacob. The world outside the ghetto – and the ghetto, it should be remembered, was almost always the result of Jewish choice – was so scary.

Internal Tension and its Results

The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam mentioned by Lavi brought about a significant branching: A large number of Jews decided, during that terrible and beautiful century of Enlightenment, to indeed fix the world. They became revolutionaries and communists and reformers. Many of the descendants of the persecuted decided no one should be persecuted any longer. They were prominent in the political, literary and scientific movements – in a time when it was taken as dogma that science will save humanity – with no proportion to their number in the general populace.

The century of Enlightenment, between the end of the Napoleon Wars and the First World War, was also the century of the Jews. Marx, Einstein, Freud, and many others – by breaking the world into which they were born, they created the world in which we live today.

(And some of them, indeed, when chasing the highest good, when love of humanity overcame love of man, when they decided to demolish the old world to its foundations, became the worst of killers. Trotsky, Kaganevich, Frenkel, Yagoda – these are names no longer mentioned).

But Tikkun Olam has two versions, and while the Enlightenment Jews chose fixing the world, and accordingly became more and more distant from Judaism, those left behind, those who kept the fire-spitting ember of Talmud and lawgivers, Kabbalah and legends, saw Tikkun Olam as something entirely different: as the restoration of things as they should be – the control of others by Jews, the Messianic times according to Maimonides. They had no interest in the world, but they had one hell of a grudge against it.

And Zionism, who created this country, was torn between these two poles. Whose heart will not bleed at Shaul Tscharnikhovski’s roar, “My sword! Where is my sword!” – when he knows well there is no sword? And, when he dreams – lying prostate before the statue of Apollo – about “the conquerors of Canaan by storm” – only someone who does not know oppression and occupation will mock the feelings of the oppressed. But Tscharnikhovski was also capable of singing the praises of human brotherhood; few Zionist could do likewise.

Yet following the Uganda Debate, after Zionism has given up its ambition of a normal state, first and foremost a shelter, when it became addicted to the bad old necromancy of messianism, based on mystical “Eretz Israel” – then the tension was discharged. Zionism became the refuge of those who chose to see the concept of “chosen people” as Herrenfolk. This attitude is not new; contrary to the claims of the Zionist left, it did not spring into being following the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Ehad Ha’Am, visiting Palestine in the 1900s, complained that the “pioneers” were treating the locals – who may not have occupied the place by storm, but did live in it for centuries – abominably. Zionism became a magnet for the racist among the Jews.

By thy Sword Shall thou Live

And so, when we look at the list of Nobel Prize winners, note the large number of Jews and the pitiful number of Israelis – even though Israel contains almost half of the world’s Jewry; when we see the achievements of American and British Jewry, and compare it to the lamentable state in Israel; when we stare into this mirror, we see, staring back, the difference between implementing Tikkun Olam as responsibility for the world, and Tikkun Olam as a wild, desperate quest of vengeance against history.

There are millions of people in Israel, whose soul is still that of the refugee, and whose minds are consumed by that old hatred, that 2,000-years old hatred, against the world. Such a situation will always be loaded – and in Israel we have given those people, who credo is “the whole world is arrayed against us”, advanced weaponry. Isolationist, Orthodox, human-hating Judaism is the variant that reigns in Israel.

And it has some frightening parallels with the Nazi movement. The attitude of Nazis towards homosexuals, women, and foreigners is dangerously similar to that of Orthodox Judaism towards them – a religion which has never abolished slavery, whose males pray daily that they were born neither woman nor slaves, whose laws do not punish the Jew who kills the gentiles, whose Chief Military Rabbi has concluded a POW must not be given medical treatment, unless it brings about some intelligence benefit, or there’s fear that his death will cause harm to Israelis.

Nazism was an attempt to cancel out modernism, to leap backwards to an imagined Middle Ages – much more violent than the real one was; and all of the faculties of Orthodox Judaism are employed in an attempt to avoid confronting the modern world, a desperate attempt of flight from recognizing that its basic thesis – that the Jewish male is the center of the world, the pinnacle of creation, above the inert, the plant, the animal and man – has crumbled 200 years ago.

But this is probably too much history for a person who keeps mixing the Greeks and Romans – hey, what’s the difference, they’ve both persecuted Jews – and way too much philosophy for a person who still believes, for reasons beyond human ken, that the Greeks worshipped statues. This demands too much thinking. Better call it anti-Semitism.

Because, as everyone knows, there is no point in arguing with anti-Semites. There’s nothing to argue about. What a nice, easy solution.

Judeo-Nazis

Gevalt! A gang of neo-Nazis was discovered in Petah Tikva. Why, oh why did we import those anti-Semite Russians? So what if, in all likelihood, they came to the country as small children and grew up here – they’re truly bred anti-Semites, just like all gentiles (spit!) are.

Just what don’t you get? They’re not Jews! Gevalt! They have only a Jewish father, or a Jewish grandfather; maybe a father and two grandfathers, and one grandmother, but they lack a Jewish mother! Maybe their mother has a Jewish father and grandfather, but she doesn’t have a Jewish mother! To make a long story short, somewhere down the line, one non-Jewish mother cropped up. That’s how it is, when you grow up without a worrying Jewish mother: you wind up a Nazi.

These Nazis, they’re not Jewish enough. They may be half, quarter, or three-quarter Jews, but they’re not full Jews. They don’t have the pure Jewish blood, which is why they lack the spark of Jewish soul, the spark which connects them to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Why did we bring these goyim here anyway? So they’d get mixed up with pure Jews and cause assimilation?

They should be kicked outta here, and in the meantime, they should be reminded – every day, every hour – that they’re not one of ours. They’re not Jewish enough for us – and what is it to you, if we go to the discos on Saturdays and drive to smoke a few joints in Sinai during Yom Kippur? When it comes to the purity of the Jewish race, we’re all Satmer Hassidim, and anyone who has just a Jewish father is beyond the pale, and we won’t let him forget it.

Which is right and proper, and here’s the thing: when those little goyim grew up, turns out they became Jewish-haters. What more proof do you need?

(Hebrew original posted on September 10 2007 by Mad Max, translated by Yossi Gurvitz. The police have arrested several members of a “neo Nazi” gang; the prisoners are all Russian immigrants, and a racist outcry as to their “Jewish purity” and demands for their expulsion – picked up by the Minister of the Interior – took over the Israeli news sites. This is, of course, a parody).

Patriot of a Non-Existing Country

We have the right to hate Germany, because we love it. When speaking of Germany, we should be taken into account: we, Communists, young socialists, pacifists, freedom-lover of all kinds… How easy it is to pretend as Germany is composed only of the national associations. Germany is a divided country. We are part of It”.

Kurt Tuchlosky, 1929 (*)

 

 

An ironic piece was published this week (**) in Ha’aretz: the State of Israel, in response to an appeal to the Supreme Court, objects to have the word “Israeli” appear under the “nationality” clause of the Israeli Identity Card (which all Israelis must carry). The attempt to have the Court recognize an Israeli nationality, claims the State, is undermining the State of Israel.

 

It is doubtful whether there is any news item which so clearly articulates the problem of “two nations in thy womb”, the internal struggle over Israel’s soul. The appellants – who include such figures as Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avneri and Yehoshua Sobol – claim that the Ministry of the Interior recognizes 135 different nations. It recognizes the mighty Assyrian empire, the stubborn, hoary Samaritan tribe, and the remote Georgians. It refuses to recognize only one nation: the Israeli nation.

 

The ensuing struggle today in the Supreme Court is part of the struggle for the face, soul and identity of Israel. Our politics are so bitter because they are politics of identity, and our bitterness comes from fighting over what sort of country we should strive for. To put it another way, we are embittered over the question “who is a patriot.”

 

The right-wing readers of my columns have made it a habit to impugn my patriotism. And, indeed, according to their way thinking I am no patriot. If their patriotism means nothing but xenophobia, the controlling of another people, the justification of the killing of anyone who was not circumcised at the age of eight days, the limiting of civil rights according to ethnicity, and using the injustice visited upon the Jews as a pretext for injustice by Jews – then I should not be called a patriot. Moreover, I believe that such a country forfeits its right to exist. The world already has too many ethnocraties as it is. I strive towards a Civil State, what is called here, with contempt, “a country of all its citizens”, a distant dream in contemporary Israel.

 

I think ethnic countries, or rather countries whose perception of nationality relies ultimately on ethnicity, were and remain the main source of suffering in the world. All too often, religion gets entwined with ethnicity: thus, a loyal Frenchman (a right-winger, of course) was considered to be a Catholic one; thus, the Croats were led by Catholic priests, and Russian-Orthodox priests served as inciters for ethnic cleansing in Serbia; thus the national struggle in Afghanistan, the struggle against the Soviet invaders, got mixed up with religion – and became a struggle against the atheist invaders.

 

So is the case in Israel, as Judaism or some of its mutations (most commonly the Sect of the Battle Uniform, which demands that anyone who served in the IDF is a Jew or should be considered as such), lead it towards ultra-nationalism, away from the Civil State. The Ministry of the Interior chose sides and stands by religion: it will not recognize the Israeli nationality. Such recognition means that a person may be defined by some other characteristic than his religion, that a community may be formed based on the fact that its members hold the same principles, instead of the same religious tenets or ethnic background.

 

The Declaration of Independence stands by the supporters of civil state: it guarantees equal rights to all who live in the country, a promise that clashes with the concept of “a Jewish and democratic country”. A country cannot be both Jewish and democratic. A “Jewish and democratic country” is democratic to its Jews and Jewish for the rest of its residents.

 

The supporters of the ethnic state point, correctly, to the fact that the writers of the Declaration of Independence never intended to apply it. The Founders wanted an ethnic state, and carried out a wide ethnic cleansing to get it. The Declaration was written so that they would have something to wave at the UN, which had just then published the Declaration of Human Rights.

 

And that’s what the fight is about: Is there an Israeli nation, or are there only Jews and Arab ethnicities; shall we have a partnership, or shall we stand, forever, on the brink of an ethnic-cleaning war; will the willful hatred of humanity, or will universalism – both rooted in Judaism – portray the visage of the country. It is the question whether the Declaration of Independence is a fundamental document or a mere camouflage rag.

 

Many in the left find it hard, in the last few years, to love their country. Their tendency is to leave patriotism for the right-wingers to appropriate. It is hard, but necessary, to hate our country, because we love it; to hate its current visage, and to strive to change it.

 

How easy it is to pretend, as if Israel is composed of only the Likud Center and the Settlers. When speaking of Israel, we should also be taken into account: we, universalists, humanists, opponents of militarism, socialists, anarchists, freedom-lovers of all kinds. Israel is a divided country; we are part of it.

 

(Written and published in Nana News, as a weekly “Decline of the Republic” column, on 23 May 2004. Translated into English by Yossi Gurvitz).

 

(*) I do not read German – the text is a translation of a translation from German to Hebrew.

(**) That was in May 2004. As far as I know, the appeal is still being deliberated bu the Court.

Slaughterhouse Fodder

Ehud Olmert demonstrated new depths of cynicism today, depths which can only be demonstrated by a person to who clings to his position with less public support than a statistical margin of error. He declared in the Knesset “we are correcting a wrong that has lasted 60 years, which has not yet been resolved. The Holocaust survivors who reside in Israel are entitled to live with dignity here, without coming to the state where they cannot enjoy a warm meal.” What was the cause for this rousing declaration? The government had decided to add 83.33 shekels a month to the Holocaust survival stipend — about $19.30 — and even this will only commence in the 2008 budget.
This is, of course, only a government decision. It will require approval by the Knesset. The swift moving dudes in the Treasury have already declared that they will support a budgetary supplement of up to 520 Shekels per Couple — but only as of 2011. Let the wretches die a little, and stop being a drain on the public purse. The treasury cannot find the 240 million shekels to finance those 520 shekels per couple in 2008.
Of course, there is money. There is a lot of money. $15 billion of excess taxes to be exact. In other words, 62.5 times the required amount, and this is only from excess taxes collected this year.
Now is also a good time to state that the Israeli banks have been exploiting the Holocaust survivors and their descendents with a lack of humanity that even is Switzerland is cause for discomfort. It is also a good time to bring up that dark deal made by Ben Gurion, the deal the gave legitimacy for money, under which the State of Israel — allegedly, the heir of those persons murdered in the Holocaust –received a great deal of money and goods from West Germany, infringing on the rights of the survivors themselves. It is also appropriate to state again that the denazification of West Germany at the time was, how should I put it, only partial.

Ben Gurion gathered up human dust
To toss at the enemy’s eyes;
The road we paved to Jerusalem
Was paved on survivor’s bones.
Benjamin Haroshovsky, Peter the Great

The Holocaust survivors have always been used as objects by the Zionist movement and its rightful heir, the State of Israel. At first they were used in order to increase the immigration quotas, although the immigrants themselves were harassed by the society to which they had immigrated. Then they were used as an excuse to establish the state itself. After that, they were cannon fodder for its battles, not even knowing the language of the land and dying along the road to Jerusalem, in Latrun, crying “wasser, wasser!” and in the absence of water drinking the oil from their guns. After that, when they’d done their job, they were ordered into silence. They were an object of shame for those who stormed though Canaan to conquer it. The fifties were the decade when silence by day turned into howls by night. It was a generation which saw psychological treatment as a weakness, a stain – and they did not submit themselves to it. While all this was happening, Zionism completed the devastation of their culture, the Yiddish culture; it was “a foreign jargon”.

Later, when the Zionist ideology exhausted itself,  and it became necessary to establish the Holocaust as a religion in its stead, they were commanded to speak – just as they had been commanded to be silent, beforehand. And they were as obedient to the new command as they had been to the old. And never mind that this speech, which turned them into the event that they had lived through, reopened wounds that had only barely sealed up with scar tissue. And then they became the ambassadors if Israel around the world, a world ordered to sit in silent shame and never dare to ask any questions.

And after the State picked their pockets and used them to the full extent possible – it threw them to the dogs. The only ray of light in this story is the decision taken by the Electric Company workers, who have undertaken not to cut off electricity for Holocaust survivors. Until now, apparently, Holocaust survivors who could not afford to pay their electricity bills were doomed to boil in the heat of summer and freeze in the winter cold.

Sixty thousand Holocaust survivors – about half of the total number of survivors living in Israel – live beneath the poverty line. And the Ministry of the Treasury abuses them year after year. After all, what can they do? Go on strike?

And now Ehud Olmert is pleased, because he’s added $19.30 a month to their budget. And this, according to the Prime Minister of Israel, is supposed to “right a wrong that has lasted sixty years”.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz on 30 July 2007, translated by Dena Bugel -Shunra)

Return of the Repressed

The Japanese have a big problem with their history, and it occasionally breaks through to the surface. The Japanese Minister of Defence, Fumio Kyuma, was recently forced to resign after stating the obvious: that the American use of nuclear bombs against the atrocity his country has been inevitable at the time. What is perceived as an extreme to psychotic right-wing notion outside of Japan, but constitutes the mainstream inside it, made him pay the price for offending the national myth. The former Prime Minister, Koizumi Junichiro, mostly a benign character, insisted on odd visits to the Yasukuni Temple where senior Japanese war criminals are commemorated. It is entirely plausible that the American effort, right after the war, to prevent the prosecution of the Emperor Hirohito – a step the Americans feared might lead to a general uprising – badly distorted the Japanese conception of history.

The Turks have a big problem with their history, and it keeps generating headlines. During the first world war the military junta conducted a genocide against the Armenian minority. This genocide is a self evident truth world wide, except in Turkey and Israel; but what, to outsiders. is perceived as an extreme to psychotic right-wing notion, is the Turkish mainstream; and it insists on prosecuting even nationally-recognized writers, if they uncover the conventional fallacies. Sometimes it murders as well.

The Israelis have a big problem with their history, and it’s difficult even to walk down the street without bumping into it. Those who took Canaan by storm did it a little too late, in a time when the whole idea of ethnic cleansing started being rejected by international consensus. Ironically, it happened because of the efficiency with which the Nazis conducted their ethnic cleansing against the Jews (The Soviet ethnic cleansing in eastern Europe is beginning to draw attention only in recent years). Hundreds of villages and quite a few Palestinian cities where demolished when the Zionist phoenix rose from the Palestinian ashes; ;dozens of massacres were carried out, hundreds of deportations; the language, the traditions, the landscape – all changed beyond recognition. Often by means of bulldozers and demolition charges.

Today the Minister of Education, Yuli Tamir, stated the obvious: the Palestinian citizens of Israel would no longer have to learn about the mighty pioneers who tamed the wilderness and fought the evil savages, but could learn history as it was experienced by their ancestors: the deportation, the massacres, the Naqba. What is perceived, outside Israel, as the extreme to psychotic right-wing – the Israeli mainstream – has already confronted the minister with raging fury. She hasn’t resigned yet, but it’s very possible that the decision will be used by Ehud “no High Court of Justice” Barak as means to her dismissal. MK Zvi Hendel, that exceptionally rabid dog, whose discontent over being unable to continue abusing the inhabitants of Gaza has become his icon, has already informed that he will propose a bill to automatically revoke the citizenship of those who commemorate the Naqba.

Tamir’s decision is idiotic, of course. If there was a Naqba, if there were deportation and massacre and ethnic cleansing and Ben Gurion’s famous hand gesture, it should appear in Jewish schoolbooks as well. If it didn’t happen, as the Zionist propaganda claims, then there is not reason for the Naqba to appear in the Arab schoolbooks. Two so different schoolbooks on the same subject are a recipe for increasing and radicalizing the tension.

But Tamir doesn’t have the required political capital to oppose the raging rabble which is the majority of the Israeli public, that same rabble that enthusiastically supports turning Israel into an apartheid state, that believes it is the Chosen People returning to its “long lost home”; her political capital barely sufficed for marking the Green Line, the 1967 borders, on schoolbooks’ maps. The Zionist myth – equality, national independence, progress for all the land’s inhabitants, the unabated righteousness – these turned S. Yizhar’s Hirbet Hiz`ah, that account of “how to create a diaspora”, unbearable even at the seventies. What the conquerors themselves knew, their descendants prefer to forget.

And since the Israelis simultaneously believe both that they are the takers of Canaan by storm, and that the storm was only a gentle spring breeze, they cannot look in the face at the ruins their existence is founded on. Anything that might remind of what must not be reminded is brutally pushed aside. And that brutality is often turned towards those witnesses of the horror that was the birth of Israel, the Palestinians who brazenly did not flee, who remained despite the massacres, despite the arbitrary land expropriation, despite the discriminatory laws and all the foul legal shticks the Jewish genius managed to devise.

No other place craves normalcy as much as Israel, an evidence of how badly it is missing here; but a nation that was founded on graveyard remnants and mosque ruins will never be normal, until it admits the debt it owes its past, look it straight in the eye and make its peace with it. We can see just how abnormal it is, how badly it terrifies those who inhabit it, in a recently published research; it shows that 46.1% of youths between 14 and 18 prefer living outside of Israel, and that 68% of them think its situation is “not good”. A country that so many of its young want to flee, will never be normal. The first generation conquered and kept silent, the second generation concealed, the third generation escapes.

And we can understand them: they are being raised from childhood on the conception that life in Israel is a mission, that in fact they are doing the country a favor by living in it. They are, after all, the vanguard of the Jewish People returning to its motherland. And it seems that for amazingly high number of them, this burden is too heavy to shoulder.

They were never taught that they are natives to this land. They were never taught that their country was founded on injustice, on crime, but that it was founded; that it is here; that it has nowhere to go; they were never taught that they do not bear their fathers’ sins, but do have to face the crimes themselves and deal with their consequences; they were taught they were born over a bottomless pit. They were taught that exposing the historical truth, what every thinking man knows, is lethal. They weren’t taught, but rather deliberately misled, as to the difference between the ’48 Arabs and the ’67 Arabs, and now they can’t tell the difference, or tell why only some of them have Israeli citizenship. The difference between Jewish and Israeli has been deliberately blurred. The entire past had been made to vanish, and any sliver of it that is suddenly exposed is as shocking as the revelation of a family tragedy.

Some consolation may be found in the idea that the Israeli public cannot face the facts because they are too horrid, because they say shocking things about the foundation of its existence, because it wants to avoid the deep feeling of shame that will justly confront it. But denying history – whether it’s denying the holocaust, or denying the atrocities of occupied China, or the stern denial of the genocide in Anatolia and Syria – is a symptom of a grave disease, of an irreparable rupture between reality as it is and reality as we would want it to be.

And to heal ourselves from this disease, we need a cold and ruthless history of our Independence War, one that will document all the crimes. We need a comittee of truth and reconciliation. We need to know exactly where we live, and who lived here before us. Only thus can we build this place anew, and not on foundations made of broken tombstones.

Perhaps. Because a place almost half of its children want to flee, has few reasons for hope.

(Orignally posted to Friends of George by Yossi Gurvitz. Translated by Yair Mahalalel on July 31st, 2007)