The toxic downfall of the Jewish dream of a safe homeland

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We’ve run a couple of accounts (here and here) of Israel’s killing of a 20-year old Gazan for herding his animals too close to the buffer zone in the prison that is the Gaza strip. Now an American responds to the news.

From the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza:

Yesterday morning Salama Abu Hashish, 20 years, was herding his sheep and goats in Beit Lahya, in northern Gaza, when the Israeli Occupation Forces shot him without any warning. The bullet hit his back and went straight through one of his kidneys. He had surgery and was in the intensive care unit at Kamal Adwan Hospital, where he died at 5.30 pm. The IOF has not only taken a life away from the Abu Hashish family; it widowed a young woman and orphaned a baby that was only born the previous evening. Salama Abu Hashish had just become a father, but has not even been able to name his first born.

In 1945 the war against the Nazis ended. I was 10 years old and had emigrated with my parents to New York. For years and well into adulthood, I had pushed the debauchery of Germany by the Nazis undergound and assumed my role as a “good” American. I am an assimilated Jew as were so many German Jews so that my “Jewishness” as a religion meant nothing to me. I haphazardly identified as a “cultural” Jew. In this way I held onto some vestige of my Jewish identification. I married a socialist and politics became my religion.

Some years later when I was well into my fifties, a creeping torment began to nag at me, a direct result of numerous visits to Israel to visit relatives, refugees from Germany who were supportive of Israeli politics. But most influential, beloved and life altering for me was a first cousin of my father who became my mentor and role model as both a critic and lover of Israel. Hans Lebrecht, a former human rights activist and journalist now in his 90’s, taught me the truth about Israel’s human rights abuses to Palestinians, the insatiable hunger for land not theirs and the racism towards Sephardic Jews and Bedouins. I was shocked out of my love for the Kibbutzim and the idea of a democratic, safe Israeli homeland. How could they have built Socialist style communal living on someone else’s land? It did not make sense. I am now fifteen years later accustomed to feeling torment as I pursue the question of Palestinian liberation and the abuses perpetrated by the Israeli State. I feel in me an aspect of the “reviled Jew who must be cleansed out of Germany and Europe.” This part of me had remained dormant for many decades of my life. This “hatred of Jews” and others deemed to be “inferior” was the driving force created by the monsters of German nationalism.

We know Germany was not alone. Cambodia whose killing fields I have seen, created a similar holocaust where toxic hatred was displaced on an entire population of intellectuals and professionals who were systematically murdered to create a subservient country of submission.

Suddenly I have become a staunch advocate of Palestinian rights and liberation from occupation and hatred. The torment now conscious, does not go away but accelerates on a daily basis for I am every Palestinian who is reviled, murdered and pushed from their homeland into occupied ghettos of despair. I am every refugee without a home.

Racism is a disease. It spreads as a malignancy, a hatred that assumes another person is less than human. Islamic teachings condemn racism and tribalism and promote equality and brotherhood of all human beings. Furthermore, Islam teaches that racism, nationalism, ethnic discrimination or considering oneself superior over others in any way is forbidden, not acceptable and not permitted. These are similar teachings of what it means to be a Jew. They are religions of compassion.

What we see in Israel is a distortion of Judaism and an attempt by the Israeli State to insist that Israel professes Jewish values as well as moral superiority (note the oxymoron “moral army”). Nothing could be further from the truth. True Judaism opposes the stealing of land, the occupation and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. The hallmark of Zionism in Israel is a harsh nationalism that has imposed itself in a completely illegitimate and amoral way on the Palestinian population. Jewish Americans and those who call themselves progressives (with the exception of their unquestioning support of Israel) have been brainwashed through the power of the Israeli lobby and The American Jewish Committee that has control over the American news media. Only the Israeli side of the story is heard, Muslims are demonized and the occupation of Palestinians on their own land is justified. I believe the emotional relationship of Jews as victims of the Holocaust also plays a powerful role in obtaining support for Israel’s cruel subjugation. For example, the Israeli story line asks for support of a democratic Israel in its quest for peace and security. What is not debated is just how does Israel’s claim to be “democratic” state where people enjoy human rights and dignity coexist with the truth of it’s apartheid racist and degrading relationship with the Palestinians. And then there is another piece that assumes it is a hate crime to criticize Israel using the Holocaust to evoke guilt and shame. 

For all of us who desire a peaceful co-existence in the middle east, we must have the courage to stand against any forms of racism no matter how it is justified. Racism tears a society apart in a toxic irreversible manner. Stand with me please, I ask you once again.

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