After two days of driving from Boise to Los Angeles I had a lot of time to reflect on what today means (or at least what’s left of it in Pacific Standard Time). I have generally managed to avoid mainstream media the last few days, which has been a relief because I just don’t want to hear what they are saying about Israeli “independence.” Just exactly who did they receive/obtain independence from? How would the world react if there were celebrations for commemorating the anniversary of the Nazi Holocaust? Because that is what Americans and others around the world are doing by celebrating the anniversary of Israel’s statehood, which was built on sixty years of ethnic cleansing, massacres, and various forms of human and cultural genocide. I cannot imagine the U.S. Congress celebrating Nazi Germany, but they did ostensibly that when they commemorated Israel’s statehood recently in H. CON. RES. 322. Only one American Representative, Dennis Kucinich, had the courage to stand up to this legislation, albeit in an unfortunate manner that continues to acknowledge the Zionist state. Others, groups of Jews in England authored an op-ed in the Guardian entitled, We’re not celebrating Israel’s anniversary. A group of American Jews created a website and petition called “No Time to Celebrate.” But really I have serious doubts as to what good can come of these efforts.
I think that Palestinians must be the most patient people in the world. Because really it’s not sixty years. If we really want to talk about what today means–ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land–we’re talking about 126 years. We’re talking about ethnic cleansing that has never stopped, including most recently in Yaffa. We’re talking about the earliest of Zionist operations that removed Palestinians off their land by a number of different methods, which , of course Ilan Pappe has documented extensively. I actually was fortunately enough to find a meaningful way to spend part of today since I’m in Los Angeles now. Ilan Pappe spoke at UCLA tonight and I met some friends there to attend his lecture. As we walked through campus I saw a student poster “celebrating” Israel and tore it down, ripped it up, and threw it away, which felt great. Really the Star of David, and particularly the Israeli flag, has become for me what the swastika was when I was a young girl. Seeing that symbol scares me and horrifies me all at once. I can only imagine what it does when Palestinians must confront it.
At Pappe’s talk he said a couple of amazing things, which I think are worth sharing. First, he has a new book coming out at the end of the summer which I cannot wait to read. It is called The Bureaucracy of Evil, an allusion to Hannah Arendt’s discussion of the “banality of evil” in relation to Nazi Germany in her Eichmann in Jerusalem. But the golden nuggets, as Laila used to say, of the evening were wrapped up in one particular point: We should no longer use the word “conflict” to refer to the situation between Palestine and Israel. He argues that a “conflict” is between two national movements and there is no such balance here. And here is the icing on the cake: he made an analogy between Palestinians and Israelis and rape. He said just as there is no shared responsibility between a rapist and a woman who is raped, so too is the case with respect to Israelis (rapists) and Palestinians (raped). He argued that Israelis thrive on the discourse of “conflict” and that we need to end it by calling a spade a spade.
There were some great radio documentaries on Pacifica today in Los Angeles and Berkeley that some of my friends helped put together that are well worth the listen:
And for a real treat listen to for the Arab Summit’s amazing new song called 194(8), which does a beautiful numerical play on words/numbers with UN Resolution 194 and the year 1948. It’s on the Radio Intifada broadcast linked above.
I’m so grateful that I’ve been down here in Los Angeles and able to be around this sort of energy–around people who understand that today is a day for mourning. To be able to listen to Israeli Jews who say proudly they are not Zionist. Who work for real justice for Palestinians and who don’t need to somehow justify that work by maintaining that somehow Jewsishness is connected to conceptions of justice that are embedded in the religion (for selective readers, perhaps). I’m alluding to, in part, a very small talk I attended before moving away from Boise (for good!) last week. Rabbi Arik Asherman, from Rabbis for Human Rights, spoke at the Boise synagogue and I went with two friends from the Idaho Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid. I had not expected a lot from Arik as he continues to think that there is some element of Zionism that is okay and so he sees himself as a Zionist. But he does work in Palestine, has been arrested there, has witnessed Israeli army and settler violence and so I wanted to see how Boise Jews would react to such a speaker. To my shock, this rabbi, who is a rabbinical school classmate of Rabbi Dan Fink, was invited to speak to a room full of maybe 8 people. If I were him and I were on a fund raising speaking tour (as he was) I would be extremely insulted and pissed that there was such a low turnout. I’m not sure why Fink invited him in the first place as there was absolutely no advertising in local Boise media nor on the synagogue website. And when we called to double check if it was even happening the woman who answered the phone was very suspicious and wondered how we knew about it (we who are outsiders to the synagogue). Interestingly, however, at the talk Fink was unable to respond to my comments about the work of Israeli historians–in contradistinction to the hateful propaganda Fink distributes in Boise–because there was an Israeli in the room who knew better. In the end the talk was certainly not the least bit enlightening and there was certainly not a room full of people who may have been able to begin to question all the hateful rhetoric and lies Fink fills their heads with. In any case, I am happy to be rid of this scene and these people once and for all. I think I realized one thing about this talk and about what rubs me the wrong way about Jews who do activist work in support of Palestinians. This argument that somehow Judaism teaches justice I find quite ironic given the reality of so many narratives in the Bible and what Jews have done to their neighbors over the centuries (read Israel Shahak’s work on this), but in particular it seems to me to be another form of Jewish supremacy. There seems to be no way to get around Jewish people asserting their sense of superiority in ways that make their suffering–and at times even their activism–seem more important or more valuable than any other group of people. It all comes down to the chosen people. I reject this.
And I reject the state of Israel, its celebration, and its existence.