By Lillian Rosengarten
‘What times are these
When a conversation
Is almost a crime
Because it includes
So much explicit.’ — Paul Celan, ‘A leaf, treeless’
Fanatics closed to discussion, believe in their moral superiority without having to justify their behavior and too often portray themselves as victims. Dissent in any form against Israel’s crimes against Palestinians is squelched in a morally repulsive manner. Jews and human rights activists are labeled anti-Semites. This serves to focus away from a brutal occupation in the name of preserving the Jewish state. Israel hides behind its own label as “victim” in an effort to obscure the truth of its political mission to conquer and destroy.
Those who pay attention recognize the buzzword “anti-Semite” and how this label has become associated with inflammatory hatred and destruction. Bizarrely the hatred is directed towards the much-reviled Palestinian population. We are told they are a threat and wish to destroy Israel. In truth it is the “hated” Palestinians who have been made homeless and stateless and who suffer over 60 years from gross human rights abuses.
Tragically, a large part of the Jewish population as well as heads of governments in Europe and the US continues to protect Israel. Anyone who has visited Gaza, and occupied Israel can attest to the suffering and humiliation of Palestinians. To say “Palestinians do not exist” is a deep form of racism as well as gross denial,
Blatantly clear is the fear that to criticize the Israeli government is to be labeled “anti-Semite.” It is a fear based on reality and one needs only to observe how distorted and misused the label has become as a form of manipulation and political terrorism, an agenda to silence and deny.
But to stand up against human rights injustice is not anti-Semitism and must not be confused with attempts to deflect from opposing views through emotional manipulation based on the Nazi pogrom against Jews and others deemed inferior to the concept of Aryan superiority. It is a form of loathsome denial that refuses to acknowledge how Israel has morphed into a violent form of military nationalism. The charge “delegitimization” of Israel requires one to question what the Israeli government is hiding.
In the words of Tony Judt: “The delegitimization’ issue is a fraud. I know no one, however angry about Israel’s behavior who thinks the country has no right to exist/” He adds, “Delegitimization is just another way to invoke anti-Semitism as a silencer.”
Obscene is a letter to the University of Penna school newspaper written by a faculty member, Ruben Gur who opposed the conference, “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” recently held at the University. In addition, the president of the University found it necessary to clarify her opposition to BDS. Surely an academic discussion about BDS, a non-violent movement that works to boycott companies complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestinians in protest to human rights violations, cannot be disavowed. Imagine how threatening for Israeli human rights apologists, to confront political action born to counteract the Israeli myth of itself as a democracy. Israel continues to deny the ongoing massacre and occupation, imprisonment and refugee crisis and it’s attempts to rid Israel of Palestinians in the cruelest manner beginning in 1948. Does not everyone have the right to exist without fear and discrimination? Has the lesson never been learned? We are all witness to how violence begets violence. No amount of denial and silencing of dissent can change this. How long can this pretense continue? The truth must come out and the world cannot wait.
Gur wrote: “The aim of the hateful and discriminatory BDS rhetoric is to delegitimize Israel in preparation for the ultimate goal of its destruction. A relevant precedent for such a movement is the groups organized by the Nazis in the 1930’s to boycott, divest and sanction Jews and their businesses. Sadly, now as then, there are Jews among the posse in the assault on their own people. The macabre sight of the likes of Stella Kübler, (arguably Hannah Arendt) and the Capos in the extermination camps is about to be replayed here at Penn.”
This quote is a disgrace and emotional manipulation of the worst sort. How can one ignore the blatant reality? Silencing dissent has done great harm to Israel and questions the nature of a democracy, free speech the politics of fear. Silencing dissent is what propelled both Nazi and Fascist cruel dictatorships. A crucial distinction must be articulated here. Dissent does not delegitimize Israel as a country that has no right to exist. Many countries existed and continue to exist where dissent is suppressed. We all know who they are. Censorship of dissent creates a closed intolerant society. Israel’s claims to be a democracy are challenged here. Cries of anti-Semitism against dissenters is a gross manipulation of what it is to be an anti-Semite and completely false as well as destructive. The word is tossed around so freely and of course many Jews who hear that, completely turn off to any discussion. Seeds are planted and the mind is closed.
Israel’s actions are likely at least in part to be a response to the delegitimization of European Jews, oppressed and dehumanized by the Nazis. But this cannot justify and legitimize Israel’s cruelty to Palestinians. Why has the Knesset and powers that be, ignored the psychological implications of their unjust and insular behavior? Why have they not confronted their own demons, faced their history as a reminder and guide, a path to build a society of tolerance? Jews and non-Jews who are committed to justice for Israel and Palestine cannot and must not be silenced. Israel has crossed the line as it continues to collectively punish Palestinians. I would argue this is belligerent, uncompromising conduct for any country but doubly difficult to accept as Israeli behavior. They should know better.
Who can be proud of a state achieved through the destruction of Palestinians who also claim the land as their own? A true democratic state is preferable over a Jewish State won through blood, occupations and efforts to take away one’s rights to exist in peace. What cruel irony propels Israel’s actions? Perhaps a combination of collective self- hatred brought on by Nazi brutality has transformed itself into a similar form of racism and hatred. Israel’s strong degree of paranoia coupled with an existential fear of annihilation needs a mandate for reevaluation. Left unexamined, it remains the motivating force behind its actions and will only deepen the seeds of destruction. We who care about human rights must resist and oppose intolerant, intolerable behavior.
– 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]