The more aware I become of Israel and the people who occupy what was formerly Palestine, the more difficult it is for me to be a Jew.
I have never been a religious person but I do enjoy the cultural aspect of Judaism, the music, the humor, and what used to be the values . . . the involvement of Jews in the struggle for the civil and human rights of all people.
But, things have changed. As a youngster, I was aware that Jews were often targeted as “Christ killers,” communists, socialists, less than human, etc. The communist and/or socialist part I do not hesitate to proudly accept.
As a high school student, I played on the varsity basketball team and was, upon graduation, looking to go to college. Being from a struggling working class family, I could not pay my own way through college and, therefore, needed a scholarship. The University of North Carolina expressed interest but after several weeks, my high school coach informed me that the school could not pursue my scholarship any further. The reason, “they already had too many New York City players.” Translated this means they had too many Jews and did not want to add me onto the list.
Several years later, while attending George Washington University in Washington, DC, during a basketball game against Georgetown University, the Georgetown fans began to chant, “Get the Jew, get the Jew,” referring to a teammate of mine. Although I experienced limited examples of anti-Semitism, I am well aware of its destructive existence
Today, things are different. Jews, in many communities, are celebrated . . . Israel is the strongest ally of the U.S. Our national security is entwined with theirs and they are our eyes and ears in the Middle East. Even the fanatical religious right supports Israel. My understanding of this phenomena is that the “Second Coming” will only occur if the Jews are in Israel. Whatever rows your boat!
The Jews have made it, “we” are no longer the outsiders, the “others.” In effect, “we” have become white and with “our” newly found whiteness, “we” now accept white privilege.
This new status is played out every day in Israel. It is a rare day to find that some Palestinian has not been killed by the IDF or Israeli police, or beaten, or arrested. Often, the victims of these killings and abuses are young Palestinian adolescents. The representatives of the Israeli nation are never held accountable . . . Palestinian lives are inconsequential.
The latest of these abuses took place last month when an Israeli soldier, Elor Azarya, shot and killed, execution style, an unconscious and wounded young Palestinian man as he lay on the street in the West Bank. It was videotaped for the world to see, necessitating some response from the Israeli officials.
From across the country, Israelis descended upon Rabin Square, Tel Aviv’s premier venue for large public protests, to express their indignation over the army’s charges of manslaughter against the soldier, 19-year-old Sergeant Elor Azarya.
At another rally in the soldier’s home town of Ramle, rally-goers voiced harsh criticism for those who do not support Azarya’s action and for those who helped expose his deed.
The rallies were videotaped and it was clear that the Israeli people who attended looked upon this 19-year-old as a national hero. Imagine, if you can, that shooting an unconscious, wounded man is considered an act of heroism to be rewarded. Those Israelis who were interviewed expressed angry, hateful rhetoric. The atmosphere reminded me of the many films I have viewed over the years of Nazi rallies in Germany in the mid to late 1930s. I had to keep reminding myself that these people were Israeli Jews, not German Nazis.
What has caused this dramatic change in the Jewish ethos?
We live in a world dominated by capitalism, a system that encourages and endorses private ownership and private property. When a large segment of Palestine was handed over to the Jewish Zionists in 1947, they were not satisfied with the limitations of the agreement and proceeded to invade Palestinian villages, destroying homes and killing the residents or forcing them to leave. Over 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948 and their villages were eventually settled by Jews.
As far as the Zionists were concerned, this was Jewish land, not a land to be shared. Jews felt that the land was originally theirs and they were correct in reclaiming it. Such thinking could lead to the conclusion that Texas was originally part of Mexico and should be returned, or the USA was originally inhabited by the Native Americans and should be returned to them. Suggesting such ideas would probably result in being laughed at and ridiculed.
My point is that ownership, this is ours, is part of the capitalist thinking. Jews and Muslims lived and worked together in harmony in Palestine for decades until the Zionists came along. There was no problem in sharing the land.
Just as the Christian world taught their children, over hundreds of years, the “evils and dangers of Judaism,” the Israeli Jews have spent several decades spewing hate towards the Palestinian people. Teachers, rabbis, and members of the Knesset have publicly denounced Palestinians as being less than human and the taking of their lives is acceptable. The result became very clear during the demonstrations supporting Elor Azarya.
The words of hate, the expressions on their faces make me remember those of the people in Arkansas in the 1960s, standing along the path to the school, when four African-American children were being escorted into an all-white school.
After indoctrinating their children with hate toward the Palestinian community, Israel handed them weapons and gave them carte blanche to kill.
Are we talking about the defense of Israel or are we really talking about the subjugation and elimination of the Palestinian people? How else would this become a true Jewish state?
I have spent years explaining that Zionism is not Judaism. And, it’s not. Zionism is a political construct dealing with power and status within the global community while Judaism is a religious one emphasizing man’s relationship to God. In fact, many very religious, pious Jews vehemently reject the notion of a Jewish state.
The Israeli Jews act and the American Jews unquestioningly support them. Is this who “we” are now? Are “we” satisfied to be the 21st century edition of Nazism and fascism?
After centuries of having to accept abuse and cruelty, Jews wanted a sanctuary where they, as a people, could live in safety. Palestine or Israel can serve that purpose without the need for a Jewish state, a state that can only be maintained by a program of ethnic cleansing and even genocide. The daily videos and news identifying Jews as the perpetrators of cruelty and often murder demonstrate very clearly the results of the Zionist movement. Jews, as a people, do not have to surrender our humanity in order to sustain an arbitrary political construct. I, and thousands like me, should not have to be reluctant to identify ourselves as Jews.
A Jewish state is antithetical to what I and millions of people stand for, the separation of church and state. Israel, as a Jewish state, must cease to exist. To support Israel, by its very nature, is to support ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and genocide.
The rationale most referred to as to why a Jewish state is necessary is that for centuries Jews have been marginalized, ghettoized, scapegoated, brutalized, and murdered in their various host countries. There is certainly truth to those claims but the answer is not in establishing a Jewish state that provides for the Palestinian population those very same conditions from which Jews are trying to escape.
Conditions are very different for Jews today. We are now part of the “In Crowd.” Although anti-Semitism still exists, Jews are not fleeing to Israel. American Jews see themselves as Americans, French Jews as French, British Jews as British and even Iranian Jews as Iranians. The most conflict involving Jews is occurring in Israel, the Jewish state. And, truth be told, the behavior of the Israeli government and military is fostering a growth of anti-Semitism globally.
The territory the Israelis occupy is as much Palestinian territory as it is Israeli, actually more so since they have been there for generations. The Palestinians deserve the same safe haven and security as the Jews have been seeking. But they have had that taken from them by the Israelis.
A two state solution is passé and not the answer to the problem. A one state response is necessary with the Palestinians being granted the right of return, equal access to voting and governing made available to all citizens, both Jewish and Palestinian, the right to travel throughout the country, the right to due process in criminal cases, etc. In other words nothing less than one country occupied and shared by both ethnic groups. This is nothing more than what other countries in our world have lived with, the existence of various ethnic groups living within its boundaries. Is that too much to ask of Israel?
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