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This essay is partly a rebuttal and elaboration on A.B Yehoshua's
recent comments and writings regarding the roots of Anti-Semitism. It
is also an exploration of the roots of Jewish anti-Zionism. More than
that, it is an exploration of the nature of the 'other', indigenous
people, the concept of the 'west' and it proposes a radical theory
regarding the Palestinians, namely that leftist anti-Zionist Jews have
created a motif whereby the Palestinians have become the New Jews.
They have created the imagery of an Islam that is 'native' to Israel
and a Palestinian nation that is 'indigenous' to Israel. This essay is
a ruthless assault on the very foundations of liberalistic secularism,
the concepts of Orientalism and moral-relativism. It posits the theory
that Jewish power and the creation of a Jewish majority in a state has
necessitated the creation of a new Jewish identity among
internationalist humanist Jewish thinkers and intellectuals.
Just prior to the founding of the state of Israel a group of left wing intellectuals became concerned about the implications of what having a 'Jewish' state would mean. What were the moral implications of having a state run by Jews where Jews were the majority. For intellectuals used to seeing Jews as the struggling suppressed weak, pathetic, always pogromed minority it was an unsettling thought. The moral high ground is always with the minority, the 'other'. Once the Jews became a majority they would lose their moral high ground. The first attempt to avert this catastrophe was made by the president of the nascent Hebrew University, Judah Magnus, the leading Jewish intellectual Martin Buber and a variety of others. It didn't work.
Since the failure to prevent the creation of a Jewish state Jews have had to struggle with the idea that a Jewish state exists. A.B Yehoshua, one of Israel's most celebrated authors, has taken the recent rise in Anti-Semitism as a signal to explore the enduring nature of anti-semitism and he has come up with the following view: "I think a 'defined identity' has more responsibility; it has limits, it is responsible for what it does. Amorphousness is a way to get away from responsibility," he says, adding, "I describe the facts. The Jew changes all the time. He can be assimilated without any visual indications of his identity, or he can distinguish himself, as does an Orthodox Jew. At the same time, he assumes the identity of whichever nation he occupies." Thus for A.B Yehoshua the existence of Jews necessitates anti-semitism. One engenders the other.
Other leading Jewish intellectuals have interpreted things differently. Tony Judt, a leading European intellectual, one of the foremost scholars on post-war Europe and who, as the Economist reminds us was "born in Britain into a family of Jewish refugees" sees things differently. For him the role of Israel in the world is endlessly pernicious. He claims in his recent book Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, after noting that his opinion is a 'lone voice' that Israel "is widely regarded as the-leading threat to world peace." The italics are his. Forgetting about how Mr. Judt has used both the argument that he is a 'lone voice' and the argument that 'most people agree' in the same sentence, his perception that Jews, or Israel, is the greatest threat to world peace is not necessarily an anti-Semitic notion. One could just as well conclude that Mr. Judt is simply ascribing astronomical powers to his own people. He is thus a philosemite.
The view of Judt and Yehoshua, both of whom are Jewish, is interesting. On the one hand the existence of the amorphous Jew and his country, Israel, which, according to Yehoshua after the Six-Day war became amorphous because "Israel's clear-cut borders faded, as the nation once again started mixing with another people," creates anti-semitism and on the other hand Judt perceives Jews as an all powerful source for evil, a nation of 13 million threatening the peace of the world.
But what is most fascinating is the question of the minority. For Judt and Yehoshua the power of Jews threatens the world and engenders the hatred of them. So let us return to the period of the innocent Jews, the Jews who died in the Holocaust or the pre-Holocaust pogroms of the Catholic church and the Cossacks. These Jews are universally liked by Jews and gentiles. Jewish historians rarely condemn these people as engendering their own deaths or accuse them of threatening world peace (Bar Ilan Prof. Ariel Toaff's book Bloody Passover in which he claimed that Jews really did murder Christian children for human blood is an exception).
In her book Healing the land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine Sandra Sufian argues that the project of eradicating malaria also took on a metaphorical dimension—erasing anti-Semitic stereotypes of the "parasitic" Diaspora Jew and creating strong, healthy Jews in Palestine. Sufian shows that, in reclaiming the land and the health of its people in Palestine, Zionists expressed key ideological and political elements of their nation-building project. But what is most fascinating is the fact that Sufian examines the "affects of land reclamation on the indigenous Palestinian population." It is the word 'indigenous' that is most interesting here. Jane Kramer, a Jewish journalist and commentator recently authored an article in the New Yorker entitled 'the Petition: Israel, Palestine and a tenure battle.' In it she writes that Israeli archeology "dismissed or destroyed the evidence of other [non-Jewish] settlement, including fourteen hundred years of native Islam." What is this 'native Islam' and who are these 'indigenous' Palestinians? Is it a coincidence that Jews, left wing intellectual Jews at least, have discovered indigenous Palestinians and 'native' Islam in Israel?
Leftist secular Jewish intellectuals in the early 20th century were primarily interested with either Socialism or the suffering of Jews. Secular Jews were interested in the fate of Jews in North Africa and the suppression of Jews in Eastern Europe. Through organizations such as the JDC or in France the Alliance Israelite, these Jewish minorities became cause cé:lèbres. They were the Darfur refugees of the 1920s. But with the destruction of European Jewry, the expulsion of the Jews of Muslim lands, the creation of Israel and the burgeoning wealth of the Jews in other countries the Jews lost there status as beleaguered minority. They simply were not the minority anymore because there were so few of them left in places such as Europe or North Africa. There were no more pogroms because there were few places that Jews still lived, outside the U.S and Israel, by the 1970s.
So Jewish intellectuals took an interest in Israel. They examined it through the new lenses of Anthropology and Sociology. They tried finding minority groups among the Jews in Israel. They discovered Mizrahim and Sephardim. But by and by these groups became uninteresting. They were suffering and there was much in the 'Zionist narrative' that could be condemned regarding their treatment at the hands of Israel, but they were part of the Jewish 'hegemonic' majority.
The generation of Jane Kramer and Sandra Sufian needed to find a Jewish minority to sympathize with. They found the Palestinians. This may seem strange. How can the Palestinians be a 'Jewish minority'? The Palestinians were turned into Jews in order to suit the needs of Jewish leftists. The suppressors of the Palestinians took on the form of those who had long suppressed the Jews and Israel became an 'Apartheid' 'Nazi' state. Such labels are not rare among Jewish intellectuals. From Ilan Pappe to Noam Chomsky, Baruch Kimmerling, Norman Finkelstein, Neve Gordon and other well known Jewish academics and intellectuals the 'Jewish State' has become the new 'Nazi' and 'Apartheid' state, the sum of all evils. For Tony Judt it is the greatest threat to world peace.
Palestinian academics have become the new Jewish academics in the west. Edward Said and Walid Khalidi are widely adored by leftist Jews to the extent that one can even buy 'I love Walid Khalidi' T-shirts on Amazon.com. Jewish leftists invented the Palestinians. They didn't invent them in the sense that they invented their existence but they helped invent their struggle and give them the stamp of 'native' and 'indigenous'. Is it a coincidence that Jews found indigenous people in Israel? There are indigenous people in many countries in the world. But how is it that leftist Jews miraculously found indigenous people in Israel? It begs the question: what country are Jews indigenous to? For a leftist Jew like Jane Kramer, Tony Judt or Sandra Sufian there is no country that they are indigenous to. This is because they need to be members of the majority, the 'hegemonic' majority. It is not a coincidence that the same leftist Jews who describe Palestinians as 'indigenous' to Israel and describe Islam as 'native' to Israel are the same ones that describe themselves as 'white'. Gerald Sorin, a Jewish Professor in New York, described himself in a recent Haaretz book review he wrote that he was "a white...Jewish guy." He is not the first one to notice that Jews have become 'white' in the U.S. In How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America. Karen Brodkin explores the issue as has Eric Goldstein in The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity. Thus while secular leftist Jews have increasingly identified themselves as white, thus becoming part of the majority in America and Europe, they have increasingly discovered indigenous people who are not Jewish in Israel in order that the majority Jewish population can be defined as both 'white' and 'colonialist' and 'racist'. Islam, a religion founded in the 7th century, has become 'native' to Israel. Certainly Judaism, which is 3,000 years old and Christianity which is 2,000 years old is not 'native' to the land of Israel.
Leftist Jews have a fear of being 'native'. Ironically this amorphous identity is the one Yehoshua identifies as the one that is responsible for anti-semitism. Apparently Yehoshua is familiar with the basis of the Nazi hatred of Jews, which accused Jews of not being attached to the blood or soil of Germany. It is a fascinating story that has come full circle. In her polemic Jews and Power Ruth Wisse analyzes this very problematic conundrum, noting that "the way in which diaspora Jews' 'harmful pattern' of accommodation to majority power led them to look inward for culpability rather than outward toward their enemies."
In the end the facts speak for themselves. Palestinians are not indigenous to Israel and Islam is not native. Both are invaders and colonists, albeit ones that showed up 1400 years ago. Israel is not the greatest threat to world peace, it is not possible that a country of 6 million can truly cause conflicts among 6 billion people (unless of course one adheres to the writings of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Jews have created the idea of indigenous Palestinians in order to avoid the question of Jewish power and the problem of being a majority and enjoying the notion of having their own country. Instead they have hidden behind extreme self-hate, delusion, blaming themselves for why people hate them and discovering other people that they can extend their sympathies to as the 'new Jews'. It is no surprise that so many people compare the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza to the sufferings of the Warsaw ghetto and people say things like "how can we as Jews treat the Palestinians like this after our history of suffering." Arnold Toynbee predicted in the 1950s that the Palestinians, because of their love for the land, would become the 'new Jews' if they were kept as refugees (he was also one of the first western writers to compare Zionism to Nazism). He couldn't know how right he would be.
To some this idea seems far-fetched and ridiculous. But how else can one explain the way in which those who hate Israel so much and blame it for causing all the conflicts in the world, people like Tony Judt, will also complain that it is unfair that Jews accuse them of being anti-semites. They say 'on the contrary we believe the Jews should be a light unto the world, Tikkun Olam, Jews must be an example to the world.' For them Israel is not Jewish and its people are not Jews, the Palestinians are the Jews because Jews are victims. They identify with the Palestinians and they compare their suffering to the suffering of Jews of old. The fact that the Palestinians have become 'indigenous' to Israel, the word Tony Judt also uses to describe them, shows how true this perception is. Modern leftist Jews aren't the first to notice the connection. The Englishmen who worked for the Palestine Exploration Fund in the 19th century used to comment in the fund's quarterly that the Palestinian peasants had 'Jewish features'. It is no surprise that modern day archeology and especially the European and Palestinian variety supported by the 'Denmark School' and Israel Finkelstien argue that Judaism was neither monotheistic and nor was it ever indigenous to the land. Instead the Israelites, so these archeologists claim, borrowed their religion from the Assyrians, they even stole the so-called 'Babylonian Job' and co-opted it. Instead the Canaanites were the true inhabitants of the land of Israel and their blood flows in the Palestinian veins. Nadia Abu El Haj, who Jane Kramer defended in her New Yorker article is of such a belief. For Ms. Abu El Haj, Israeli archeology is the height of colonialism because it does not recognize the 'native Islam' and thus destroying sites Israel has deemed 'Jewish' such as Joseph's Tomb (as the Palestinians did in 2001) is an act of resistance by Palestinians. Destroying history is thus 'struggle'. Liberal Jews who see the Palestinians as the new Jews desire that this new Jewish history have its stamp on the land, what better way then to destroy the history of the other, the Israelite history.
The strange way in which Tony Judt sees the Israelis as being responsible for world conflict and at the same time writes so passionately about his fellow Jews such as Hannah Arendt and Arthur Koestler demonstrates that for him there is nothing Jewish about Israel. He cannot be an anti-Semite because he only hates Israel which would be like hating Somalia, it is so distant in relationship to him (except no one would be so far fetched as to blame Somalia for conflict throughout the world). In the film The Believer which depicts a Jewish Neo-Nazi in the U.S who is confronted by a former classmate turned Zionist, the Nazi says of the Israelis "those people aren't Jews" and then notes "they act like storm troopers in the territories" to which another Jew replies "so do you hate them because they are Jewish or like them because they are like the Nazis?" Perhaps more poignantly the Neo-Nazi is later confronted with a right wing financial supporter of his group who he accuses of being a Jew and the man says to him "perhaps we are all Jews now." The identity of Jewishness for Tony Judt, Sandra Sufian and Jane Kramer, is about being good. A Jew is good. A Jew heals the world. When a Jew does not live up to this expectation of being both good and a victim and an example then he ceases to be a Jew and scorn should be heaped upon him as a 'Nazi'. A Croatian journalist living in Israel who was confronted once on why she would never visit a religious Jewish area and dress modestly but would wear a headscarf while visiting a religious Muslim place noted that "I expect more of the Jews." Exactly. Religious Jews with their dirty sidelockes, their poverty stricken way of life. Those can't be Jews because the Jew is intellectual, the Jew is always campaigning for some cause and he is a light unto the nations, healing the world, a humanist and an internationalist.
The recent letter signed by more than a hundred Jewish intellectuals in England merely proves the point. In the letter printed in the Manchester Guardian they noted that "We're not celebrating Israel's anniversary they will not be celebrating Israel' independence day... [Israel is] a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land...What the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba is to the Palestinians.... We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land. We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations." Signatories include playwright Harold Pinter, and internationally known doctor Steven Rose, British Radio 4 broadcaster Mike Rosen, Daniel Machover, the judge who filed charges against IDF reservist Doron Almog, and Haim Bresheeth, the professor of communications at the University of East London.
But what no one asked was why would they celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary? They are not Israeli. They are British citizens. They are not indigenous to anywhere. Their religion is not native to anywhere because they are of the opinion that the Palestinians are indigenous to Israel and that Islam is native to Palestine. Thus these Jews would never celebrate Israel's independence day. They aren't Israeli. But it does beg the question why these British Jews celebrate any of the national holidays in the U.K given the fact that English history is also replete with massacres and the dispossession of other peoples. What rings true mostly is that here are Jewish people who are obsessed with a country that is not theirs. They don't issue statements in the Guardian decrying the independence day of any other country. Thus these people have come to view the Palestinians as Jews. This is clear because this level of vindictive visceral scorn towards Israel and its treatment of the native Palestinians is unique. Even before the Holocaust, with anti-semitism and the Nuremburg laws in Germany the Jews of England did not express such distaste for Nazism or Nazi Germany. These Jews have found an indigenous people in the one place where Judaism was born and that indigenous people they have labeled 'Palestinian' and they have put their national Jewish aspirations into the Palestinians and have an emotional bond with Palestinians to the degree that they support Palestinian self determination but never supported Jewish self determination, they label the Palestinians as 'native' but cannot label themselves as Jews as being native to anything, they learn Arabic and call Mohammed 'prophet' but they cannot speak Hebrew. This is the gulf that separates Israel from the Jews, especially leftist intellectual Jews. All over the world Jewish activists, for instance South Africa's Ronnia Kasrils and Nadine Gordimer, identify with every group that is not Jewish and they put their emotional love into these groups and identify so wholeheartedly with them that one must note that for these Jews these 'others' have become Jews.
Jewish philosophers were at the forefront of creating the theory of 'the Other'. Emannuel Levinas who was born in Lithuania in 1906 and emigrated to France where he became a philosopher was one of the central figures in fashioning this idea. He was an admirer of the philosopher Martin Heidegger (as was Hannah Arendt) but was dismayed when Heidegger worked hand in hand with the Nazi regime during the war (Hannah Arendt however was not dismayed, she continued a sexual affair after the war with this leading Nazi, testifying on his behalf even when she was penning Eichman in Jerusalem, an essay in which she blamed the Jews for their 'responsibility' for the Holocaust and in which she defined the Germans as merely 'banal' for their involvement). It is no surprise that the 'Other' was something Jews took note of since they were the classical other in European history. European anti-semites saw themselves as rooted in the soil and manly and brave and saw Jews as hook-nosed, rootless and cowardly. But what happens when Jews become a majority in their own country? Suddenly the 'other' becomes the majority that country and a new 'other' must be created. In Israel that means the Arabs. Thus the Arabs become the Jews. This is why Martin Buber and Judah Magnus were so afraid of having a Jewish state and why they formed Brit Shalom and argued for a bi-national Jewish-Arab state. For them the idea of a Jewish state was horrific because Jews would then become responsible and Jews would be to blame for having created an 'other' and that would necessitate Jewish intellectuals striving to skewer the Jewish state for its wrongs and its racism the way Jews had skewed European states for their wrongs towards minorities and Jews. But Israel was born.
For Tony Judt and his ilk the breaking point was 1967. For Yehoshua the breaking point is also 1967 because it is then that the Jewish state became like the Jews of old in Europe: amorphous and without borders, rootless and nomadic, unattached to a soil. Twenty years. That was the gestation period. But in truth it is not twenty years. Already at the Eichmann trial in 1961 Hannah Arendt was noting the Jewish 'responsibility' for the Holocaust and already she was calling the hanging of Eichmann a 'crime' while making Eichmann's crimes merely 'banal'. It had already started, the drift of Jewish intellectuals away from Israel and towards the definition of the Palestinians as the classic 'other', or the New Jews.
To understand the connection between Levinas, Magnus, Buber, Arendt, Judt and Yehoshua one does not have to step back to far. This is a small world of intellectualism. It is a world whose views should be obvious. But it is not obvious. Instead the views of these people are taken at face value. The views of the Jewish intellectuals in England who condemn Israel's independence day is taken at face value. They are merely concerned that Israel is not living up to her Jewish potential and they oppose her actions because they oppose all human rights violations.
But no one dares ask: "do you celebrate independence day in the UK?". No one dares ask of Sufian or Judt or Kramer "What are you indigenous to? Where is your Judaism native?" Inevitably these are uncomfortable questions. But they are important questions. Anyone who claims the Palestinians are indigenous to Israel and Islam is native to the Holy land must then ask themselves "where am I indigenous to?" If Nadia Abu El Haj can be indigenous to Palestine, even though her mother is a Christian European, then Jane Kramer and Tony Judt and Sandra Sufian must be indigenous to something. Or is it, in Yehoshua's view, proper to hate Sufian, Judt and Kramer because they are not indigenous and therefore amorphous.
But anti-semitism today is not directed at the rootless
Jews such as Chomsky and Sufian. It is directed at the rooted ones in
Israel. So Yehoshua has turned the whole state of Israel into a Jewish
state, arguing that it does not play well with others. Judt too makes
this claim in his book, asking Israel to 'grow up' and claiming that
Europe has 'grown up' in the last sixty years. He means that Europe
has become secular, has low birthrates and has no sense of
nationalism. It has been easy for Europe to grow up. Europe already
committed its crimes. But what type of putrid festering blood-dimmed
soil has Europe grown up on but the soil permeated with the
destruction of European Jewry wrought by the Holocaust? Blood and
Soil. That was the Nazi ethos. The Nazis did indeed soak the soil with
blood, theirs and others. Judt cannot root himself in that soil.
Israel has tried to mature but it is held back by others who accuse it
of being 'conceived in sin' for its treatment of the Palestinians. One
just wonders, are not the Europeans equally conceived in Sin because
of their crimes in the Holocaust?
Haim Bresheeth is not a name that is well known in anti-Israel circles. He is not on the level of a Pappe or a Chomsky. But he is part of the second tier of anti-Israel intellectuals (the third tier is the groupies and students with the 'I love Khalidi t-shirts). Haim Bresheeth's name came up when he signed the letter in the Guardian declaring that he, along with 100 other Jewish anti-Zionists, were not celebrating Israel's independence day. His letter included references such as asking us all to "acknowledge the narrative of the price paid by another people for European anti-Semitism and Hitler's genocidal policies." But to understand Mr. Bresheeth and see how he is a case study in our discussion we must examine him as a specimen of an anti-Israel fanatic.
His B.A and MA were from Tel Aviv University. His PhD, which he received in 1979, was from the Royal College of Arts and his PhD topic was "film language". He is the chair of Media and Cultural studies at the University of East London. He has taught in Israel at Sapir College and at Hebrew University. According to his biography he wrote a best selling introduction to the Holocaust called 'Holocaust for beginners in 1993. He also publishes regularly in Cairo's Al Ahram newspaper. His most recent scholarly publications have been on the subject of "The Continued Trauma and the Palestinian Struggle: Recent Cinematic Representations of the Nakba." He has written such edifying editorials as 'Sharon's Willing Accomplices' (a play on the famous book Hitler's willing executions) and 'Resisting Israel's Apartheid.' He has also written an editorial entitled 'Its not anti-semitic to criticize Israel.'
He also considers himself an expert on "subjects such as Nazi films and their historical representation strategies, Fascist cinema of the spectacle." As an expert in film and television he authored a study commission by Israel's Ministry of Science and Culture entitled 'A comprehensive report on the state of Public Broadcasting in Israel, and outlining the necessary changes required in order to modernize the system.' In 1989 he authored a scholarly article entitled "The Israeli Self and Palestinian Other." In his research on the other he became interested in Vampire movies and wrote ' Marking the Social other by Blood: The Vampire Genre.' As an academic he has received various grants including one research grant ($27,000 per annum) from the Israel Science Foundation, The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities for research on 'The Other and Stranger in Recent European Cinema.' Despite receiving this money he is not, as he made clear, celebrating Israel's independence day. In the letter he signed that appeared in the Guardian he noted that the 'indigenous' Palestinians who fled Ramla and Lod referred to their ordeal as a 'Death March'.
Prof. Bresheeth is a fascinating case precisely because he combines so many interesting contradictions and themes. He is an expert on the Holocaust and has written about the development of the 'other' in European cinema. Thus he exhibits the classic Jewish interest in the 'other' which portrays Jews as an 'other' in Europe. He is very sympathetic to Jews who were victims of Europeans, the 'good Jews' who died in the Holocaust. He received his credentials from Israel. In fact Israel, the country he hates so much, has provided him with sustenance and teaching opportunities. This is a classic liberalistic reaction: bite the hand that feeds. When it comes to Arab daily newspapers such as Al-Ahram he preaches to the converted, instead of asking them to learn about the 'other' he preaches to the converted, calling upon them to hate Israel and asking them to care for their 'brothers' the Palestinians.
The theory of the 'other' does not go for all societies; some societies, such as Muslim societies, get to wallow in the self. This is another classic liberal way of doing things. The liberal preaches self-critique at home, he opposes religion at home and he supports gay rights and recognition of the other, but when he is abroad in a place like Saudi Arabia he dons the necessary clothing and marches in lock-step with the prevailing opinion. He is the nationalist for the other. In Israel he is interested in Sunni Arabs. In Egypt he is interested in Sunni Arabs (as opposed to the Egyptian 'other', the Coptic Christians).
What is fascinating to note is how the narrative and dialectic of Nazism permeates the thinking of Bresheeth. He is an 'expert' on the Holocaust and he uses that imagery to define the things he hates today: Israel. Thus the Palestinians suffered a 'death march'. He claims that they called it a 'death march'. But it is not they who used this word, it is him. He created this element of Palestinian historiography in order to make the Palestinians into the Jews, since the Jews of Europe suffered a 'death march' then the Palestinians must have suffered one at the hands of the Zionist Nazis.
Israel is the 'apartheid' state, a term that has been borrowed from radically like Bresheeth, Dugard, Gordimer, Virginia Tilley, Tutu and Kasrils by Palestinian activists. For Bresheeth the Jews are positive when they are the 'other' in Europe, but when they are known as Israeli then they become negative and a new 'other' appears; The Palestinians. Bresheeth is interested in the Holocaust and the Nakba because for him the two peoples are the same. The Jews who went to the gas chambers are like their Palestinian cousins who went on the Death March from Ramla. They are linked.
Bresheeth is the case study. He is not indigenous to anywhere. He
notes that the Palestinians are 'indigenous' to Israel. He doesn't
celebrate Israeli independence day but he takes $50,000 a year from
the Israeli government and the Israeli taxpayer. For someone who
compares Israel to a Nazi Apartheid state he is quite a collaborator.
Luckily for Bresheeth his type of collaboration is not punished the
way Palestinian collaborators (accused of giving Israel information)
are by their fellow Palestinians. They are made to kneel on the ground
and they are shot in the back of the head. Their families are exiled
and their daughters raped. But those who shoot them in the back of the
head are part of the 'armed struggle', they are 'freedom fighters' and
they are the intellectual fellow travelers of Mr. Bresheeth, they are
the 'other'. When an 'other' shoots someone in the back of the head it
is called 'armed struggle'.
Judt wants to drag Israel kicking and screaming back to Europe. He claims that Israel is a European state made up of Europeans with European ideology, wrongly noting that the Ashkenazim are a majority in Israeli society, he claims that these European Jews (Ashkenazim as opposed to Sephardim) created a European state in the Middle East. Yair Sheleg, author of a recent editorial in Haaretz also says of Israel that "Israel is indeed discriminated against by the criticism leveled at it; not necessarily because it is a Jewish state, but rather mainly because it is a Western state." But Mr. Sheleg (whose name means 'snow' in Hebrew) would do better to note that it is perceived as a Western State. Ina Friedman of Holland wrote recently in a review of A Grave in Gaza that "for Western and especially Israeli readers, who have been isolated from their Palestinian neighbors by fiat, fear or enmity, it [the book] humanizes a community that's largely been reduced to stereotypes and caricatures in our minds (in this description the Israelis are even more western than the westerners)."
The dialectic of Israel is constructed so that it is Western so that its critics can continue the tradition, invented in the West, of finding an 'other'. Since Israel is European and Western there should be Jews in Israel, there should be an 'other'. There are no more Jews in Europe, since the Holocaust, so Israel, being the last European country, the country that ceases to grow up, must have Jews, and those Jews are the Palestinians. There is no doubt in the minds of Sufian, Judt, Chomsky or Kramer or all the others that Israel is European. Demographics won't fool them. Even if they are forced to admit that of the Ashkenazim in Israel an ever increasing number are made up of religious Jews, the Shtetle Jews of old, the 'Ostjuden' who were so despised by Intellectual German Jewry (so despised in fact that after the Holocaust in Munich when some Ostjuden survivors demanded to have a share of the remaining Jewish assets in the city the 70 remaining German-Jewish survivors that had lived in the city before the war refused to share anything with their cousins from the East), the leftist will not admit that Israel is decidedly un-western.
But how many 'western' people exist in Israel? Outside of the 25,000 Europeans who reside full time as aid-workers in Ramallah there are few Westerners in Israel. There are the aging Yekkes (German-Jews), but these make up a tiny segment of the population and their cultural flowering, which took place in the 1930s, and their attempt to dominate the academy, has long since run its course. There are French Jewish immigrants, but 90% of these are descendants of Algerian Jews, not Ashkenazim from France. There are the American Jewish immigrants but these are made up to a great extent of Yeshiva students or the newly religious, all of whome have embraced decidedly non-western views of the state and of life. The Russian Jews cannot be called Western as historically Western-Civilization has seen the Russian, the Orthodox Mongol Bolshevik horde, as an 'other'.
In order for Israel to be western the leftist must ignore the decidedly brown features of many of the inhabitants of the country. Such is the reason that historiography of Israel latches on to the period 1948-1969. Judt speaks of the German-Jewish moshavs where the Jews spoke German and replicated Germany in their building materials (perhaps a fanciful belief, he is probably thinking of the actual German Templar communities of German Christians who became Nazis and were forced to leave Palestine by the British. Their five moshavs such as Bethlehem of the Galilee, Sarona, Wilhelma, and the two 'German colonies' were turned over to Jews in 1948). Judt remarks that the German-Jews looked down on the Arabs or ignored the existence of the Arabs, thus creating 'colonies' where Judt recalls them 'sipping lemonade' much as the British did in Kenya's 'white highlands'. Thus the German Jews become the Nazis, the colonists, the Yekkee immigration of the 1930s, which was caused by the Nazi rise to power, replicated the Nazi racism in Israel. So Israel is forced to assume the guilt of having allowed the German-Jews in because it is German-Jews who brought their European civilization to Israel. This is fanciful. Judt would say that Zionism is a version of European nationalism bred of the 19th century. Thus Israel becomes European. But by this logic so to the resistant movements of Africa, almost all of which were devoted to Socialism and Nationalism, were 'European'. But no one today would characterize Robert Mugabe or Laurent Kabila as 'western'. Why not?
This motif is a circle. It is a circle of self-definition and re-definition of the self and creation of the 'other' in order to please the self. It is the innermost need of every western self-hating leftist to find the 'other' to find something that he can blame himself for creating, to find some simple definition of the world that divides people into disadvantaged 'black' people and oppressive evil 'conceived in sin' 'white' people. He will go to any lengths to do it. He will re-define Jews as white. Then he will re-define Hispanics as white. Whatever it takes. He will turn non-western people into westerners. He will turn Sinhalese Buddhists and Indian Hindus into 'radical fundamentalists' just so that he can say 'all world religions have fundamentalist terrorism'. Within every condemnation and every 'human rights report' and every protest and every editorial and every lecture one must find the seed that is the lie, the central problem that always reveals the truth behind seemingly benign intellectualism.
When someone uses the word 'indigenous' or the word 'native' one must vigorously oppose and question the meaning of such words. When the word 'other' crops up it must be assaulted and brought out so that it can be seen for what it truly is. Words like 'so-called' must be examined to find their inconsistency. The mother of all insults 'western' and 'nazi' and 'fascist' and 'fundamentalist' and 'colonialist' and 'imperialist' must always be questioned and critiqued. The word 'race' and related words such as 'multi-racial' and 'diversity' and 'multi-ethnic' and 'multi-cultural' and 'moral-relativism' must always be latched onto so at to not allow people to infuse their beliefs with such strange ideas that Barack Obama is a 'mixed-race, multi-ethnic African American' (An actual quote from Gerald Sorin). When Obama's pastor, the now infamous Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was speaking recently to a black congregation he gave a convoluted explanation of how the 'white brain' is subject-oriented and the 'black brain' is object-oriented to convey his theory that standardized testing and teaching is racist. But Mr. Wright, You are half white so which brain are you thinking with today? It reminds one of the old riddle. A man comes to a cross roads and there is a man there. The person declares that he lies every other day. What question can you answer him to find out which way to go (assuming he knows the way)?
'If I asked you yesterday which way to go what would you have said?'
Whatever he says, do the opposite. The same could be said for
liberalism. Whatever it says, whether it is telling us that
prostitution is actually feminism or that genocide is justice or that
terrorism is armed struggle or that Palestinians are native. Do the
opposite. Assume the opposite.
 My argument is that Israel is not a western state and that the perception of it as a Western state is used to make it non-native to the land of Israel and thus make it a 'European colonial entity'. The left, and even the Jewish left, made Israel into a western state in order to hate it. They ignore the fact that Jews were never considered part of the West when Jews lived in Europe. So how is it that Jews before 1948 were not 'western' and yet after 1948 suddenly became 'western white Europeans'? In truth Israelis became, in the minds of leftist Europeans and Jews, 'white' and 'western' so that Europeans could hate them. This is the great irony. When Europeans considered non-whites to be 'sub-human' the Jews were considered non-white. When Europeans suddenly became 'anti-racist' the Jews then became white and Israel became 'the new chosen race...the real racist, nazi, apartheid, crusader state'. This is not a coincidence.
It is not a coincidence that whatever the fad is in Europe Jews always end up being the opposite. When racism is good, Jews are the wrong race; and when racism is bad, Jews are the racists. There can be no coincidence in the fact that Jews are accused of being the very thing Europeans invented: Nazism, Aparthied, Crusaders. What is worse, is that Jews have come to believe these things about themselves and in this dialog of the 'other' they have created this new 'Jewish' minority in Israel: the indigenous Palestinian people. That is what is tragic and fascinating and it is why the greatest critics of Israel are Jews who so love the Palestinians and exalt them above all others to the extent that Palestinians become the 'native' people of the land.
Seth J. Frantzman is a graduate student in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His master's thesis was on the 1948 war. Contact him at email@example.com This appeared May 3, 2008 in Issue 33 of Terra Incognita Journal,
http://journalterraincognita.blogspot.com/ It is archived at
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