Saturday, June 2, 2018

It's Not Even Past #22 - Israel, Gaza, The Impossibility of Dialogue? Part 2 - A Little More

For whatever little it's worth, and I'm sure it's worth very little indeed, I'm going to begin this with something like the creed of Daniel Pearl. My name is Evan Tucker. I'm a Jewish American from Pikesville, Maryland, USA. There is not a single member of my immediate family, and perhaps even my extended family, who is not a fervent Zionist, and that most certainly includes me. On my father's side I have an uncle who followed Menachem Begin to Palestine in 1930 to fight for IrgunOn my mother's side the lion's share of my relatives who were Communists and Socialists when Israel was a cause of the Left, and when Israel ceased to be a Leftist cause, they seemed from the vantage point of fifty years later to convert en masse overnight to neoconservative Republicans almost purely because of the issue of Israel. I am a practicing Jew who was raised in Jewish day schools and in a Kosher home who still goes many weeks to synagogue on Shabbos and even if I don't technically keep Kosher these days, I spend more than a hundred dollars every week at a kosher supermarket. I am conversational in Hebrew and Yiddish, and I at least used spoke both of them rather well. I lived in Israel for nearly a year, and not only lived in Israel but in the Negev desert, the part of the country not even Israelis live in, to be part of a program that was part of David Ben-Gurion's dream of letting the desert bloom. If I'm not Jewish to the foreskin, I'm nothing at all. My concern in the Israel/Palestine conflict is not the Palestinians, they seem to have the entire world to look after them, it's the Israelis. Even if I didn't think that the welfare of Israel is directly relational to the welfare of Jews everywhere, and obviously particularly Jews in the United States, I would be a hundred times more concerned about Israel than I am about Palestine. I have family and friends that move back there for years at a time, and I have  family and friends who were there long before I ever arrived and will never leave. And even if those family and friends did not ever live in Israel, I would still be 100x more concerned about Israel, because the Jewish right to Israel is a right, not a colonial occupation.

But even if I weren't all that, these affidavits of identity have become so cheapened, so meaningless, so obnoxious, that how can they mean anything? It's a complete non sequitur to say that only Jews have the right to opinions on Israel, or only Israelis do, or only Zionists do, because if that's what we're going to enforce, the opinions we don't like we don't like will only grow stronger. If Jews dismiss all criticism of Israel, it will be the most irrational and strident anti-semites who control worldwide discourse about this most important subject to us. What matters more than identity is veracity. And one of the most obvious examples of that in the world is how Jewish antizionists are trotted out these days every time the anti-Zionists need somebody to speak out against this horrible state, and Jewish antizionists are all too willing, because what matters far more than their identity as a Jew is their identity as an asshole. 

We are living in yet another age in which being Jewish is the mirror image of the rest of the world. In country after country, we seem the most prosperous minority who has little reason to complain when so many groups suffer worse than us, until the moment we're slain in the span of a year at numbers that more obviously oppressed groups don't equal in a hundred. We've seen this movie hundreds of times, and while we don't know how long the movie is, we know its ending. And yet there are always Jews, politically conservative ones, who want to crow about Jewish achievements to the world, who think that all it takes is for us to preserve ourselves better is to be more assertive, to antisemites, to gentiles, to anyone whom an antisemitic thought might occasionally cross their mind; and in doing so, they sign our eventual death warrants.
\The antisemitism of the hundred years before the Shoah would not exist as it did without the 19th century's most obvious precursor to neoconservatism: Benjamin Disraeli. How he was precisely that is material for another episode of course, but we won't deal with Disraeli the politician today. Today, we'll just deal briefly with Disraeli the writer. I've never read a novel by Disraeli, I doubt too many people have in a hundred years, but believe it or not, Disraeli was a respected and prolific writer of fiction in his time during a time and place when, for better or worse, eminent politicians had to be intellectually distinguished.

Disraeli's fiction had plenty of hooked-nose Jewish mizers, but he was often quite triumphalist about Jewish achievement and power. He once quipped about Lord Rothschild with pride: "Rothschild is the lord and master of of the money markets of the world, and virtually lord and master of everything else." Rothschild is still the Jewish family around which every conspiracy theory seems to turn, and Disraeli's witticism is still used as though it's an admission of guilt. 

But much more damaging was the novel Conningsby, in which the eponymous hero meets a sage of the forest named Sidonia, a latter-day old testament prophet who believes that race is a heirarchy of pre-destined power, and that Jews sit atop the racial heirarchy - the true extent of their power over other nations unseen by the world. Yes, these are certainly offensive notions according to our day, though hardly as offensive as most of the racial theories going around in the 19th century cause it was fiction, and surely h
is theory was nowhere near so fleshed out. But because England had a long standing conservative Prime Minister who espoused, at least in fiction, a theory of Jewish racial superiority and hidden Jewish power, a century of Europeans were all too willing to believe this fiction fact. This is hardly the only example from our history that Jewish triumphalism ends with Jewish death, and perhaps its the weakest example when you consider how destructive the path to which Bar Kochba lead us, and Isaac of Diocesaria, and Shabbatai Tzvi. 

In age after age, we exist as the model minority, the semi-privileged class who serves as a buffer to the truly privileged, and when the truly privileged need someone to blame, they throw us to the lions every time. The fanaticism of the Likud party has brought us to the most familiar position in all Jewish history - the most protected minority by rulers who allow us to rise to the height of achievement, and then earn the perpetual envy of the underclass. We are therefore can most easily be blamed when circumstances get particularly dire.

Everybody else from every other minority who's enraged with the double standards to which their identity is subject finds themselves on the Left, Jews who are enraged with the double standards to which our identity is subject find themselves on the Right. If most neoconservatives were of a different racial composition they'd have kind things to say about the Black Panthers or the Sandinistas.

History would seem to show that every time a Jewish leader arrives to proclaim that the pragmatic rules of dealing with antisemites needn't apply anymore and that if Jews proclaim themselves a great nation unashamed because people will finally realize that there is a price for attacking Jews, that leader is proven a false Messiah, and we pay for it in blood unimaginable. 

Netanyahu, fanatic though he can be, has at least pragmatism enough in his makeup that he is clearly not that leader; but if Likud keeps following its rightward tread, Netanyahu's stoking of his right-wing base could end up devouring him. Netanyahu, in comparison to his talk, is wisely relatively gun shy. If he launched a military operation every time he threatened to, Israel would know very little but war over the course of his premiereship. There are so many younger Likud candidates who could unseat Netanyahu, and all it would take is to promise that they would back up the words of Netanyahu with the actions he never provided. Naftali Bennet, Ayelet Shaked, Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Erdan, Yisrael Katz, Yuli Edelstein. With so many younger right-wing politicians jockeying for position, how will any of the six distinguish themselves from each other? Every voice in Likud who believed in pragmatism over ideology followed Ariel Sharon to Kadima in 2005 - Ehud Olmert yes, and also Tzippi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Gideon Ezra, Avraham Hirschorn. Likud is now an ideological party that believes in magical thinking - that Israel does not have to accommodate the obvious practical realities of its situation and can still pursue a goal of eventual control over Gaza and the West Bank. Should Netanyahu's successor present himself in the next ten years, he or she will, in all likelihood, be the one who tells the most extreme lies about Israel's situation the loudest. 


 It's easy for hundreds of millions of idealists to wag their fingers and talk about the evils of nationalism when their security in their countries is absolutely unassailable and will be to their dying day. Meanwhile, now that Jews finally have a nation, and we have a strip of land barely larger than a postage stamp while their nations used to control half the globe, or still do, we're still enemy #1 to them. It's certainly not antisemitic to criticize Israel, but it is the definition of antisemitic to be against the country's very existence. Judaism is, at its most fundamental base, about the return to this land, and no people ever paid with such blood to make it happen.  The two concepts are absolutely inseparable, and if you are against the existence of this country, you are an anti-semite. There is no path around that. However bloody colonialism was, imagine how bloody it would be when colonialism was practiced with the convenience of it being upon your next-door neighbors for two-thousand years, and then you begin to understand what our ancestors endured to get us back there. Israel is everything to us. It is worth dying for, it is worth killing for, it is worth hating for, precisely because you all have demonstrated, in literally every single era of recorded human history, that you are willing to kill us to a man, woman, and child, for the crime of being among you. There was once a place where we were relatively safe from your evil, and after literally millennia of suffering from you, there is now a place where we are relatively safe from your evil again. You will have to kill us all yet again before we ever give that up, and we have clearly demonstrated that we will kill some people without overly much remorse to keep it ours. 

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