Lillian Rosengarten is due to set out soon on the Jewish boat for Gaza.
Within the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the charge of “self-hating Jew” or “Jewish anti-Semite” can only be understood as an ugly way to strike back at those Jews who speak out in protest against the Israeli government’s continuing and brazen violations of the human rights of the Palestinian population.
The insulting accusation “Self-hating Jew” is intended by intolerant dogmatists to undermine and intimidate those of us who speak and act in defiance of the Zionists’ embrace of nationalism and militarism, and the decades of suppression and hatred toward the Palestinians. Those who invoke the label are desperate to quell opposition to the continuing oppression, and occupation of Palestinian lands. By building a psychological wall against their critics, they hope to justify their policies to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this includes those members of AIPAC and many of those who so far have been unwilling to face the painful truths. But the fact is that extreme Jewish nationalists have shattered the once-beautiful dream of Israel as a beacon of hope and light for the rest of the world to appreciate and admire.
Try to imagine what would have happened if the new state of Israel had reached out to embrace their neighbors in a spirit of peace and conciliation. Can anyone imagine the beauty of Israel if compassion and an open heart had healed the hate and fear that marked the Holocaust years? Instead, it seems to me that today’s Israeli agenda is based on a desire for a Zionist Jewish state that diminishes the aspirations of all other populations who claim any right to the land in which they lived for so long.
But when land is taken and occupied, when populations are under siege, and there is no attempt at genuine reconciliation, there can be no peace, only a perpetuation of hate. From this perspective, it is the accused who becomes righteous and the accuser who is demonized as “Self–hating Jew.”
I ache for Israel and its path of blind destruction. I ache for the displaced and brutalized Palestinians who suffer under the hands of their oppressors. But it is not easy for Jewish dissenters to speak out. They are made outcasts within the Jewish communities. They are not supported even by some progressive Jews, who take a hard line position in support of the Israeli government or are too intimidated to speak out.
My disillusionment has been devastating as I have watched how the scalding memory of the Holocaust is now misused to justify and defend appalling acts of injustice, the occupation, the military might, the prisons, the destruction of homes, the containment of the water supply, the wars against Lebanon and the inhabitants of Gaza, the threats of bombing Iran. How can we accept the loss of the human spirit and of hope for generations of displaced Palestinian families? How can we forget the children, born into hate, living still in crowded camps, breeding grounds for endless terrorism and further conflict.
It was difficult for me to observe the demonization of Judge Richard Goldstone, a jurist and South African proud Jew who set out to investigate human rights and international humanitarian human rights violations during the Gaza conflict last year. He concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes. Here was an opportunity to reflect and discuss, to have debates and engage in further investigations on both sides. Shockingly, his findings were met with labels of “self-hating Jew”.
It is a complicated question, how a hunted people became the hunters, how the victims became the victimizers. It may well be that it is the Israelis who feel the most persecuted; many of them still carry generations of hatred inflicted on them and surely it has shaped the direction of their society. In my view, this hatred has been projected onto the “other”– be it Palestinian or Bedouin, Muslim or dissenting Jew.
In order to change the cycle of endless suffering for Jews and Palestinians, the Israeli powers that be can only benefit from self -examination, and honest and open dialogue which includes the “enemy.” The goal must be mutual commonality and an end to demonizing the other. Left unexamined, the projection of hate onto those with other views and with diverse political persuasions succeeds only in perpetuating endless suffering and further hatred that festers, destroys and grows more virulent with each new generation.