In light of the recent actions of the State of Israel in the Gaza Strip, and, of course, of its conduct for decades, voices have recently continued to be raised to compare it to Nazi Germany and its treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust. In response, those critics have, as before, been branded antisemites.
I can hardly be called an antisemite; I am as Jewish as they come without the black suit and hat, or, in the immortal words of the sadly mortal Graham Chapman, “I’m a Kike! A Yid! A Hebe! A Hook-nose! I’m Kosher, Mum! I’m a Red Sea Pedestrian, and proud of it.” I have also lived in Israel for sixteen years, and when all is said and done it was a good childhood. Nonetheless, having established my credentials, I am impelled, by the force of my conscience, to “betray” my co-nationals and join the chorus. As with everything Jewish, to see why one must first take a look at History.
Israel is a young nation; one only has to look back about 60 years to find a time when it was a province of an empire, groaning under the infamous heel of the British Mandate. In that period, the province in which the Israeli Nation was incubated was called Palestine/Eretz Yisrael, the slash symbolizing the divide-and-conquer approach championed by its overlords.
Indeed, the aboriginal divisions characteristic of the land known in various times and places as Cna’an, Palaestina, Judea and Israel, Israel, and Falastin proved a boon for the British, who needed to secure the occupation of their dearly bought colony (acquired as it was from the previous empire by the might of British arms as well as the celebrated Lawrence of Arabia and his unwashed followers) and to keep their mandate on it justified. It is said, that in a British Police station there was an Arab, a Jew, and a Briton. The Jew would watch the Arab, the Arab would watch the Jew, and the Briton would keep an eye on both of them.
Then it all sort of went out of control.
The canvas is short to paint the subsequent history in any kind of detail, and few painters would dare to undertake the task of fairly representing it; but the general gist is well known: War, refugees, occupation and repression.
The irony is inescapable and vicious: Israel was, after all, built by the refugees of other wars, who sought to escape the camps and graveyards of Europe, where they were considered vermin, to contain if not to exterminate. Perhaps them and their descendants could not get rid of the camps in their minds; the fact remains that once armed and powerful, the eternally dispossessed and persecuted set about dispossessing and persecuting other people.
They escaped war only to find it waiting for them, but now the roles were reversed: years later and thousands of miles away, the prisoners have become the guards. Now there are Jewish soldiers standing at checkpoints, pointing guns at kids forcing young men to play their violin. Now there are Jews sitting in tall towers behind high walls, shooting at people who walk funny. Now there are Jews clamoring for “living space” and the subjugation or “removal” of an entire people. Living in Israel, I once saw a poster inviting the public to attend a lecture at a Jewish center, entitled: “The Final Solution for the Palestinian Problem.” All that for the Homeland.
And who can blame them? During an online conversation with a relative, I was reminded of the reason why my family ended up in Israel in the first place: Like countless others, My family left the collapsing Soviet Union in 1990, fleeing hardship and prejudice; in Russia, few hesitated to remind us what we were. So we ran, or flew, to the only place that would accept us. Weren’t we in for a surprise!
The first thing they let me know I was, was “Russian.” That was when I was still small and adaptable, and in the fullness of time it became reserved for my parents. Despite that, Israel has no shortage of venomous ethnic epithets: Russians and Moroccans, Yemenites and Ethiopians, of all ages, not to mention “Arabs;” but even for those lucky ones, who manage to largely evade ethnic categorization, there is no shortage of other labels. The ones I got was “Leftie” and “Traitor,” not to mention “a failure of the Education System.” I must admit that I wear those epithets as badges of pride.
So much for the Melting Pot; instead we must return to the famous irony of the prisoners-turned-guards. I was called a traitor in Israel because it stands against every value and tradition I have ever embraced, as a human being and as a Jew. Humanity, solidarity, humility, learning, and wisdom have been replaced by cruelty, prejudice, violence, greed, and machismo. Led by a crew of utterly unscrupulous megalomaniacs and bewitched by fear and force, Israel is a fascist entity and anything but what a Jewish state has a right to be.