By Lillian Rosengarten
I have such a problem with Zionism today, some kind of distorted incarnation of what was once created from the ashes of the Holocaust to be a safe haven for Jews within a model of a secular nation state. I rage against attempts to blur the distinction between Zionist nationalism and Jewish religion. Of course some Jews are Zionists but I am a secular non Zionist Jew who strongly believes in the separation of church and state for a country to be truly democratic.
From my view, nationalism in any form is dangerous. It means exceptionalism, an attitude of moral superiority, a hot bed for racism that is heightened by propaganda. Israelis in general do not know Palestinians. They are taught from an early age that all Palestinians are terrorists, that they hate Jews and want to drive them into the sea. This form of Islamophobia has spread through Europe and the US. This is the terrorism of fear. Israelis are taught Palestinians are dirty and they raise their children to be suicide bombers or to be used as human shields. Palestinians cease to be human and Israel behaves to its citizens and to tourists as if Palestinians do not exist. They have reduced them to sub-human monsters.
It all sounds too familiar. Nothing about the caricature of Palestinian life is based on reality. It is a dirty myth used as a means to put an end to the Palestinian “problem.” Tragically, Israelis send their own children into the army to fight the “reviled unknown enemy” and this is considered patriotic. We know Jews have suffered and have been victims. Is it that mentality behind the wall Israel has built? Are they still “victims” of paranoia and fear? I say no! Yet, this is the justification for abominable actions perpetrated on their Palestinian neighbors and gives power to the idea of a Jewish State that belongs only to Jews. This is a dangerous road, as we know. Jews who love Israel must recognize that Jews can also do wrong and they must question and speak up against human rights abuses. The Jewish Community throughout the world but especially in the US and Europe, must distinguish the between secular Jew and Zionist Jew. This gives permission to stand up and say “No” and to debate the issues from a human rights perspective. To support the apartheid directives and the brutal forms of ethnic cleansing is to do an enormous disservice to Israel. To pretend Israel is a peace loving democracy is to be cajoled into a deception that pretends Israel is something it is not. Most important what has been done to the Palestinians by the Zionists in the name of Jews is false. What is being done to Palestinians by the Israeli Zionists will never be in my name as a Jew. To dissent is to rescue Democracy from death behind closed doors. (Molly Ivens) To dissent is not to be an anti-Semite.
I have evidence to exemplify a crucial component of Jew against Jew. As my readers most likely know, I along with six other elderly Jews set out to sail to Gaza. Human rights activists who believe in justice, we know without justice, there can be no peace. Our mission was to show that we were Jews who did not support Zionist Israel’s agenda. In Gaza we were to be welcomed by a waiting crowd. We never made it but from the moment the IDF navy surrounded our little boat and kidnapped us to Ashdot, from the moment our beloved Jonatan Shapiro, an Israeli refusnik who was tasered in the heart, from the moment I watched the Israeli navy in their scary uniforms with high boots and guns I wondered, how could Jews do this to Jews. We were not criminals; we were dissenters who speak out against Zionist Israeli policies. I was deported and cannot enter Israel for 10 years. To these soldiers, we were enemies of the state. For us, it was insanity, a state gone crazy, paranoia startlingly strong: a fear of its own destruction. A military state created by fear and desire for power where dissent is criminal. It is sickening, but torments me as well because I am ashamed of what Israel stands for.
When an American who runs for president states there is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no Palestine, one recognizes both racism and dishonesty. This talk was given to a Jewish audience. A pandering for votes and I suspect an enormous contempt for Israel and Jews. Lies such as this perpetuate man’s inhumanity to man and the failure to acknowledge some of the worst human rights abuses existing right in front of our noses. No, perhaps it was not meant as anti-Semitism but anti-Palestinian. What’s the difference? Hate is hate.
Nationalism has tainted the heart of Israel in its efforts to rid the country of people who also call Israel/Palestine their home. One must visit occupied Palestine and Gaza to see the truth of the deplorable crimes perpetrated on the hated neighbors. Tourists do not see outside the myth of Israel as a beautiful free democracy. Why is it anti-Semitic to shout against such abuses? If there were in Israel a separation of church and state, the boundaries that are now so blurred might be less likely to justify silencing dissenters on charges of anti-Semitism. Dissent against Israel is not anti-Semitic for it is not a statement against Jews. It is a statement against a nationalist Zionist movement that is guilty of gross human rights abuses. Incongruous as it sounds, it is the actions of the Zionist government against its Palestinian neighbors that has shaped a world response. How can this not create anti Jewish sentiments. What blindness prevails that propels Zionist Israel to detach itself from the humanity of Palestinians as people just like them? This is why it is so important to make a distinction between Jews and the rabid nationalism of the government of Israel. One must be awake to the painful intermarriage of religion and politics that has deepened the Israeli crisis and creates a distortion of who is a Jew. How can there be a democracy as Israel continues to hold Palestinians hostage in order to fulfill the fantasy of a Jewish State, a dream that explodes into a nightmare on the backs of the cruel occupation and murder of Palestinians.
Against a background of fragmentation, hate, violence and a police/military run state, as Israel strives to become a Jewish majority Charlie Rose in an interview with Ehud Barak asked, “Is a one state solution the worst thing that can happen to Israel?” Barak’s response reinforces a profound failure for the hopes of Israel as a democratic state. It is Israel’s contempt and intolerance for other religions and cultures and the desire to be a “Jewish” state that is doomed to failure. Barak’s answer is chilling. “Israel has been established to become a Zionist Jewish state and to create a solid Jewish majority for generations.”
In Gaza, where I visited this past October, living conditions are a squalid hell. Hate, racist disregard to human life, harsh, brutalizing collective punishment aimed to destroy, not the lame excuse to target terrorists. What is destroyed is infrastructure required for a viable form of sustained life. What is destroyed are schools, power lines, waste facilities, water supplies, water purification systems, hospitals, homes, killing of families, killings and confiscation of the bare, sad little fishing boats used to catch a meager fish supply that may still inhabit the waste filled Mediterranean. Yet the Palestinians struggle on amazingly. It is something to see, their pride and hopes for freedom. They are a dignified people and to be witness to their suffering as well as the work they do for the Gazan population is beyond anything I have seen. Yet, it is not difficult to understand how brutalization invites hate. We can only guess how the children of Gaza who grow up amidst the endless violence, suffering, death and so much hopelessness, will grow up to despise the people (Jews) who are their enemy.
A Jewish State created through subjugation, occupation, collective punishment and humiliation of Palestinians their neighbors, is not a democracy. This is not news. But these same people cry “Anti-Semitism” to the courageous ones who deplore Israel’s actions and dissent in any form it takes. I wish to reiterate as I have written about many times about a government that has fallen into a black hole without the ability to reflect or empathize. Israel’s hard line has taken away its humanity and poetry. It is not healthy to occupy another country for it violates the rights of individuals to be free, to live their own culture and religion with dignity. Israel’s poets must write of death for love cannot live in the presence of racism and apartheid. Listen before it is too late for hate begets hate until there is no point of return.
– Lillian Rosengarten, a refugee from Nazi Germany is a Buddhist practitioner, poet, writer and a pacifist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: [email protected].