Saturday, August 28, 2010
The Zionist condition
Today I am sick, so I am going to write about something that makes me sick. Not about the virus that infected my body, but a virus that infected someone else.
In one of my previous posts I explained why it was no picnic being an Israeli, so consider this post a second installment. Or third... I kind a' have a feeling it is not the last posting on this issue.
To begin with, let me say that I have no problem with being Israeli. I am completely comfortable being who I am. Been like that long enough to know all the ins and outs, ups and downs of having this condition. But I do have a serious problem with the American self-righteous left. I think that by definition I can be considered as lefty, but I am not a stupid lefty. I am Israeli (and American, too), therefore, more pragmatic in my views. But in America, and in Europe, if you are a lefty, you have to hate Israel no matter what. It is the main litmus test to be accepted into the lefty ranks, and it makes me sick!
I used to watch Amy Goodman on Democracy Now until Sharon was elected prime minister. Now, I am no supporter of Sharon by any measure, not a tiny bit; I participated in every protest against him on the streets of Tel Aviv before I left. But I never once thought of him as General Sharon; whatever his rank was, I never really thought about it. But Amy Goodman did. And every time she mentioned him, she called him General Sharon, as if he were Pinochet. This was the most ridiculous thing to call him, and it showed the total cynicism and one-way thinking of the American Left. No one in Israel referred to Sharon as "general" even when he was one, because as many of you already know, Israeli society is very informal, and many politicians and high ranking military commanders have rather idiotic nicknames. It is also true that Sharon (aka Arik) was a general when he was in the military, but once he was out of the military, no one called him General. Israel is not governed by a military junta, but by calling citizen Sharon "General" Amy Goodman was insinuating something totally sinister about the Israeli government. So I stopped watching her program. But I'm digressing...
So here I am, living in America as you know now, for more than two decades, professing some of my unkosher views in public, and I hear from a colleague at work that she has this interesting friend who was educated in France and got a PhD in literature and so forth. So I tell her I would love to meet him (not for romantic purposes, as you will see from her email to him.)
So here's what she write to him, in French:
J'ai parle de toi, a Galia, ma collegue-copine israelienne (bien plus leftiste que moi) et elle a super envie de prendre un cafe avec toi (comme elle le dit, in English in the text, elle adore bavarder avec des intellectuels europeens..:))
I don't really know how to read French, but here is my attempt at translation:
I told you about my Israeli colleague Galia (who is a lot more lefty than I am), she wants to (unrecognized word) with you in a cafe (as she said it, in English in the text, she would love to (unrecognized word) with European Intellectuals..:))
And here is his answer:
Euh... oui... seulement si elle est pas sioniste!
English: Ehh... yes...only if she is not a Zionist!
OUCH. OUCH. OUCH.
Let me tell you, this was a big huge enormous kick under my bellybutton. And boy, it hurt.
My friend was very upset to read this. I kind of went blank. Then I regained my senses and you should be glad you were not there. My colleague remarked painfully, after she let me see his email: "you scratch a little under the surface and that's was you find." And I said aloud and without apologizing: "Antisemitism pure and simple." And believe me, I am not a paranoid Jewess; I don't see antisemitism in every corner, but when I see it, I say it.
You can argue with me until you are blue in the face that the man is not an antisemite, that the man has serious issue with the way Israel is treating the Palestinians and he has a right to disagree with the Zionist project (whatever you think Zionism is; I realize people have different definitions for Zionism, many of which are quite wrong) and bla bla bla.... And I will tell you, no one can agree with you more. I have very serious issues with the way Israel has turned out to be. Hey, I left Israel not because I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth, and I never once voted Likud or even centrist Labor. But I would never ever judge a person I never met by his/her origin or put any conditions on that person's political nuances before I meet that person. Remember that my friend already said I was even more lefty than she was.
Let me put it this way: Let us assume that a colleague tells me that there is an Austrian guy who has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and he wants to meet me and talk about stuff, and I say, Well, sure, only if he is not a Nazi (because for the intellectual left the Zionists are equal to Nazis, BTW). Or let's try this: Someone tells me there's a guy from Rwanda who wants to ask me about Israel, and I say, only if he is not a Hutu sympathizer. What kind of person would that make me?
People, where does this crap come from? This is seriously the ugliest shit I came across in all my years in America. This is f***ing unbelievable. This is coming from an educated man, a European intellectual who will argue that he is not antisemitic. Sure, people have to hide their antisemitism, I understand. It is very uncool to declare such abhorrent inclination, especially when you are educated and hold degrees in high-brow thinking about things. But to hate Israel and to blame all the ills of the world on Israel and Israelis and even former Israelis is considered the cool thing to do only by the highly-educated, self-righteous American and European lefties.
Yes, we have problems with the Israeli government and the radicalization of many Israelis (quite similar to what happens here in the States with the Tea Party and the GOP); yes, we should be able to criticize the impotence, short-sightedness, and stubbornness of all the sides involved in the regional conflict; yes we should fight to stop injustice and violence and stupidity in all their forms. But by barring me from civilized discussion just because I might be a Zionist, well, that will not usher peace unto the world any time sooner, I can promise you.
Regardless of the narrative, who is more militant and more blood thirsty, the Palestinian or the Jew, I would say to people like this French intellectual who snubbed me: Look into your heart and dig as deep as you can - if you are truly honest with yourself, you will be aware of your deep-seated antisemitism. It is not a pretty thing to look at, but it is better to know it is there because once you see it, once you become aware of it - it will be much easier for you to start the house-cleaning your soul so badly needs.
We all have our prejudices. The sooner we become aware of them, the sooner we can rid ourselves of them.