Meet the Post-zionist Zionists: Hanny Ben Israel

This post is part of a week-long series of interviews with Jewish Israelis discussing their connection to the idea of Zionism. We hope this series will spark a conversation over the what Zionism means today. For more on these interviews see this post.

hanybenisrael
Hanny Ben Israel

As an attorney for a NGO that advocates for workers’ rights, Hanny Ben Israel, 29, sees the many faces of Israel’s problems on a daily basis. Though some of the complainants she sees are Israeli and Palestinian, most are migrant workers hailing from places like India, Thailand, Nepal, and the Philippines. The immigration policies these foreigners are subjected to—in particular, the policies that penalize migrant women for pregnancy and childbirth by revoking their legal status or those that prohibit marriage between migrant workers—are, Ben Israel says, psychotic.

“Right now the immigration policy basically says ‘you’re good enough to be a worker but not to be a full person,’” Ben Israel observes.

Ben Israel’s statement illuminates one side of the recent debate regarding the status of migrant workers and their children.

In July, the Oz taskforce, an arm of the Interior Ministry’s Migrant and Population Authority, began cracking down on illegal residents. The Oz unit also began enforcing the hitherto ignored Gedera-Hadera policy, which states that asylum seeks—which, in Israel, means African refugees—must reside outside of the Israel’s center, bound by Gedera and Hadera. The Oz unit was also poised to begin deporting families of illegal workers, including their Israeli-born-and-raised children, as of August 1.

Thanks to public outcry, however, the Gedera-Hadera policy was revoked and the deportation of children has been delayed as the government formulates a policy regarding the minors of illegal residents.

To Ben Israel, whose grandparents immigrated to Israel from Russia and Poland in the 1930s, the solution is fairly simple—let them stay. “If we are going to sustain an economy on migrant workers we should give them citizenship or at least permanent residence,” she says. “We can’t build a society on exclusive and excluding terms.”

The country’s current attitudes and laws stem from “an obsession with demographics,” she says. “If you’re not Jewish, you’re indefinitely barred from joining the collective.”

To Ben Israel, who is secular, being Israeli means participating in a shared culture and language, “Filipinos can join in; Thais can join in.”
Still, she feels that history has proven a need for the Jewish people to be “authors of their own fate.”

“But the moral argument for Zionism, as rooted in the rights of people to self-determination, is gone when you deny the same right to others,” Ben Israel remarks. “The distance that I see between what used to be the promise of Israel and the current state is painful for me.”
 

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 7 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. potsherd says:

    Again we see the interviewee grappling with a question of Zionism. This is good, it makes the series more meaningful.

    A theme emerges: Justice is incompatible with Zionism.

  2. RE: Still, she [Ben Israel] feels that history has proven a need for the Jewish people to be “authors of their own fate.”
    MY QUESTION: As they were at Masada? And Israel certainly seems to have a fetishistic obsession with Masada (as perhaps Texans have with the Alamo).
    RE: “authors of their own fate”
    MY COMMENT: Think about the notion of “being the author of one’s own fate” from both a philosophical and a psychological perspective (at a minimum). Am I the author of my own fate? Is it even possible for anyone to be the author of their own fate? If I commit suicide, am I the “author of my own fate”? Was Adam the author of his own fate? What about Eve? Was Moses? Abraham? Geronimo? Napoleon? Dag Hammarskjöld? The Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski? The Cherokees, Seminoles, etc? The Armenians? The Anglo-Saxons? The Prussians? The Soviets? The nearly 1000 “residents” of Jonestown? What would Camus say? What would Einstein say? Is quantum mechanics relevant? Is God? Will global warming affect Israel more adversely or less adversely than it will Iceland? Will Israel become a dust bowl? Will it then become like Blanche Dubois (but with nukes) and “depend on the kindness of strangers”? Will Russia be willing to give up enough of their newly lush, verdant Siberia so that Israel can relocate there?

    And I have barely even touched upon the psychological perspective: “That way lies madness.”

    P.S. What is the cause of Hamlet’s lunacy? When Polonius finally states the cause of Hamlet’s “lunacy,” a small part of his babbling is “What majesty should be, what duty is,” which unknown to Polonius, really is precisely the cause. Hamlet is mad because duty demands that he become what majesty should be – a king [securing the Realm*]. Yet Hamlet by nature is a man of reason, while kings are by nature “the question of these wars.” Filial duty demands that Hamlet reflect the values of his father, but that way lies madness.

    *A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realmlink to en.wikipedia.org

    • RE: “That way lies madness.”
      MY COMMENT: I have a hunch that a significant percentage of the “homeless/street people” in the wealthy U.S. made being the “authors of their own fates” an inordinate priority. Perhaps I’m wrong, but compulsive behavior (irrespective of its cause) can be very self defeating (even self-destructive). The fact that one may have perfectly good reasons to act in a certain way (perhaps based upon past experiences), does not necessarily negate the possibility they are acting compulsively (and therefore at the mercy of their own compulsive behavior*). But then, who am I to judge? I certainly make no claim of expertise in such matters.

      *P.S. “The distance that I see between what used to be the promise of Israel and the current state is painful for me.” – HANNY BEN ISRAEL

      • RE: The country’s current attitudes and laws stem from “an obsession with demographics,” – HANNY BEN ISRAEL

        MY COMMENT: And why the “obsession with demographics”? Might it actually be an obsession with the need for the Jewish people to be “authors of their own fate” (Hebrew edition, revised)?

        A VERY LIMITED, VERY IMPERFECT ANALOGY
        Obsessive–compulsive disorder @ Wikipedia
        …The cognitive–behavioral model suggests that compulsive behaviour is carried out to remove anxiety-provoking intrusive [obsessive] thoughts. Unfortunately this only brings about temporary relief as the thought re-emerges. Each time the behaviour occurs it is negatively reinforced by the relief from anxiety, thereby explaining why the dysfunctional activity increases and generalizes (extends to other, related stimuli) over a period of time…
        link to en.wikipedia.org

        • RE: “…the dysfunctional activity increases and generalizes (extends to other, related stimuli) over a period of time…”
          CONSIDER AGAIN: “The distance that I see between what used to be the promise of Israel and the current state is painful for me.” – HANNY BEN ISRAEL

      • potsherd says:

        Yes, the original promise of Israel was a false promise. People who still support Zionism fail to understand this. The current state is only the logical development of the original crime throughout the body politic.

        You may not detect the cancer at first, the patient may still look healthy, although a closer examination would reveal the truth. But the metastasis is already underway.

  3. What false promise are you speaking of?

    Haven. Self-governance. New man. Freedom from hatred and suppression.