Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On my return from Israel to the United States

My impression is that those Jews who want a Jewish state have concluded that Jews and Palestinians cannot live together. Thus, the separation wall, harassment and humiliation of Arabs on the West Bank and in Israel proper, killing and starvation in Gaza---all in an effort to create a space for Jews in which Jews will not be threatened by Arab resistance, violence, or population growth. There are laws in process that will make it illegal to portray Israel in negative ways, and that will make it impossible to join the Knesset if one is not willing to swear allegiance to Zionism.
I conclude that there are only two options going forward: two states, or a continuation of violent conflict. I suppose we could also have both.
My reaction to Zionist supremacism has been revulsion and shame as a Jew, but I have further concluded that as a citizen of the US, I have plenty to be ashamed about as well. I can't imagine where I could live where there wouldn't be plenty to be ashamed of and revolted by. The difference is that in Israel the ethnic cleansing is happening now, before our eyes, the blood is running in the streets. I returned to the US yesterday morning, came home in the subway. I saw no Native Americans. They are mostly dead or on reservations. I saw plenty of African-Americans, but one has to remember that their ancestors were brought here as slaves and forced to give up all things African---even their names and family members, often their lives. The end of slavery brought the kind of harassment and humiliation that Arabs are suffering now in Israel, as the price for a "one state solution" in the US. The ghettos and prisons bear witness to the continuation of this situation for many. Other Americans of African descent have bought into the capitalist dream and thus integrated themselves more or less, as some Arabs have within Israel (as long as they don't challenge Zionism).
I also remember that one state solutions haven't worked very well for Jews elsewhere: certainly not in Europe. Evidently one state solutions worked for a while in the Arab world, but not indefinitely. Post holocaust, I can understand the insistence on a place to try to feel safe. Elsa First said at the conference which I just attended: "Can we hold Warsaw and Gaza in mind together?"
The Bush administration set in motion the events that create an acute sense of danger in Israel now---leading to the ascendancy of the forces for ethnic cleansing. By simultaneously alienating Iran (by constructing an axis of evil) and empowering it (by empowering their Shiite allies in Iraq) the neo-cons set the stage for Ahmadinejad and his support for Hezbollah and Hamas (even bringing about Shiite-Sunni alliances against Israel and the US).
I believe Obama understands all this. It will be fascinating to observe how he proceeds in the effort to create two states in which Jews and Arabs, the ancient half siblings and potential allies (see Sari Nusseibeh's Once Upon a Country) can all feel safe enough.

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