Fear, the African refugees and the cost of maintaining Israel as a Jewish state

Israel/Palestine
on 75 Comments
mobfire
An Israeli mob setting garbage on fire and singing “The people wants the Africans to be burned” after a protest against African refugees and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood on May 23, 2012. (Photo: Activestills)

I am a Jewish Israeli woman who was born in Tel Aviv and has been living in Ramallah and Nablus in the occupied Palestinian territories for the last 12 years. When Israelis, or people who have spent a lot of time with Israelis, hear where I live they often ask me “aren’t you scared?” And I tell them the truth. Yes, I am sometimes scared of Israeli soldiers and even more of Israeli settlers. But other than that I feel more at home than I do anywhere else in the world.

But this was not always the case. When I first started visiting the occupied Palestinian Territories I was, like most Israelis, terrified of Arabs. It took me years to chip my way through this fear. Years in which again and again my heart would race, and I would think that the Arabs around me, want to kill me, only to discover time after time, that people had other things on their minds rather than me. And that if they did interact with me it was in a way that was more open and honoring than what I was used to.

It is for this reason that I was shocked, but not surprised, by the images of an angry Tel Aviv mob attacking African immigrants. The vehement racism was very familiar it was only it’s target thats shifted. For example a slogan on a woman’s t-shirt read: “Death to the Sudanese”, an obvious rehash of the well worn “Death to the Arabs”. Ilan Tsion chairman of the Israeli advocacy group “Fence For Life” said in a panel in Ramlah that, “The migration from Africa and the Palestinain Authority and Arab countries is about to sentence every single one of us to death”. Tsion explained:

“I have figures here prepared by demographic experts showing that if the present situation continues then by the year 2030 there will be a drastic reduction in the percentage of Jews in the population of Israel …we are a country surrounded by twenty enemy countries that want to annihilate us. They are just waiting for a moment that our army will grow weak. For the moment that foreigners take control of the army so they can overcome us and murder us.”

You can watch the whole speech here:

“Fence for life,” which has advocated for the creation of Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank and for preventing family reunification of Palestinian families both In Israel and in the occupied territories, is now advocating for the expulsion of African immigrants from Israel. Their argument for all these issues are identical. They maintain that the existence of non-Jews in and around Israel is a mortal danger. This so called logic is something the vast majority of Israelis can relate to, at least on an emotional level. Most Israelis agree with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s statement they are living in “a villa in the jungle”.

I often wondered where all this fear came from? In my case, while it was true that I was exposed to the Israeli media that only presents Arabs as terrorists, was fed similar propaganda at school, and thus saw the world through a Holocaust paradigm, all these things could not explain the scope and depth of my fears. Eventually, I realized that despite the fact that no one talked about the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 while I was growing up, my fear came from knowing that I was living on someone else’s land. It came from knowing that the people who’s houses and graves and trees and cactus plants I see everywhere around me are not allowed to be in this land but I am. I realized that this fear is not different than the fears that any colonialist or beneficiary of a racist system must develop towards the colonized or oppressed people in order to keep his peace of mind. The fact that this process happens unconsciously only makes it stronger.

My Israeli friend David lives with his family on a house surrounded by 5-6 dunams of land in Pardes Hanna near Haifa. David is exceptionally aware of his motivations. He told me that when he considers being engaged or opposed to what Israel was doing to the Palestinians, he asks himself, “Would I be willing to share what I have with a Palestinian refugee?” and since the answer is, “no”, he does nothing. I think that it is essential to understand that it is greed, the desire to possess another’s land and resources, and not fear that lies at the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The fear comes later, to justify having and not sharing what belongs to someone else.

But I no longer feel this way. I feel blessed that choices that I have made in my life have allowed me to remain in the country of my birth without feeling like I am stealing or taking the place of another people. This has allowed me to let go of the fear of the people around me and to enjoy and become a part of the Arab world in which I live.

A two-state solution that does not include the right of return of the Palestinian refugees is not only an unjust solution that would leave Palestinians with a non-viable, non-contiguous, so called state but it would leave Israelis trapped in their ethnocracy. As long as Israel wants to be a Jewish state, every non-Jewish ethnic minority is a threat to the “Jewishness” of the state, non Jewish Wombs are perceived as ticking bombs, babies as weapons in a never-ending demographic war.

75 Responses

  1. bintbiba
    May 28, 2012, 9:32 am

    Respect to you, Neta Golan, from a Jerusalem born (1935) old woman, never to be allowed back! One more Hero in my book!
    I send Love and appreciation to you and yours.

    • Neta Golan
      May 28, 2012, 5:56 pm

      Bintbiba, Respect, love and appreciation to you for keeping your heat open despite suffering the cruelty of exile. The generosity of heart of Palestinians like you never ceases to humble and touch me.

  2. eljay
    May 28, 2012, 9:42 am

    My respect to you, also, Ms. Golan.

  3. Sherri Munnerlyn
    May 28, 2012, 10:03 am

    What a beautiful story this is, about how letting go of illegitimate claims to the land frees a person! We all have choices, we choose how to respond to the Injustice that is the Occupation, from where ever we are in this world, in what ever positive and nonviolent ways we can find to do it. And in this endeavor, there is no shame to face and no real reason to fear anything. Maintaining human dignity and treating others with human dignity and seeing others as all deserving of human dignity and basic human rights requires taking stands, from all of us. We may face painful situations in taking such stands, but it is always worth it!

  4. American
    May 28, 2012, 11:26 am

    ”I think that it is essential to understand that it is greed, the desire to possess another’s land and resources, and not fear that lies at the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict”..Neta

    American May 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm ….
    ……safe haven for Jews bs….it’s clear what Israel is about and that isn’t it…it’s about domination and greed, that’s all.”

    How will the hasbara refute Neta? It’s easy to claim that when non Jew outsiders like myself say exactly what Neta said it’s just because they are anti semitic and want Israel destroyed……..but they can’t dismiss Neta that way can they?
    Greed and domination is what Israel is about…..nothing else. And it doesn’t matter what zionism was, should have been, blah,blah,blah, doesn’t matter how victimized Jews were in the holocaust 65 years ago……none of that matters ‘today’ because Israel ‘is what it is’ right now.

  5. Newclench
    May 28, 2012, 11:30 am

    I distinctly recall some concerns that Palestinians had about demographic changes they opposed. They were concerned that a non-Palestinian minority might grow and eventually displace them.
    Ha. I guess those concerns were unfounded.

    • Danaa
      May 28, 2012, 1:27 pm

      Newclench:
      I distinctly recall some concerns that Palestinians had about demographic changes they opposed. They were concerned that a non-Palestinian minority might grow and eventually displace them.

      Palestinians reacted the way the American Indians did when the waves of settlers started taking over the land. People, natives, know when they see displacement and greed for land. If the earlier Jewish yishuv had any intention of living side by side with the natives, things would have been different. But that was not the plan, was it?

      Israelis hate and fear the palestinians because they can’t help but wonder how they’d feel in their place. Israelis – and Jewish people who support them blindly around the world in that quest for an ethnocentric theocratic state – also know that the trust deed represented by the bible is hog-wash. They know they stole the land plain and simple – their reasons notwithstanding. Now all they want now is to steal some more so in the vain hope they can sleep a little more soundly. That’s the lot of the thief – fear of those they wronged, the nightmares of a perpetually disturbed sleep.

      Neta really put her finger on it, I think. Problem is, neither fear nor greed are curable by rational means. These twin motivators also tend to fuel each other ad infinitum. The appropriation of ever more land will not cure the fear, except momentarily. Then, with every additional dunam extracted and taken from a palestinian farmer, the fear will return ever stronger. It has already expanded to include the entire non-Jewish world (anti-semites, all….). It has now all but taken over American government. Next is what?

      Neta faced her fear and found it a paper tiger. But takes great courage. Something the majority of ordinary israelis will find too difficult.

      • OlegR
        May 28, 2012, 5:29 pm

        Such an easy depiction to make
        those Israelis are either greedy or paranoid or both
        driven by guilt and fear they murder the Palestinians
        and steal their land to build more Hi tech firms to earn more money
        to steal more land and to murder more Palestinians.
        Lovely just lovely.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 28, 2012, 5:39 pm

        Israelis are either greedy or paranoid or both driven by guilt and fear they murder the Palestinians and steal their land to build…..Lovely just lovely

        not really lovely.

      • seafoid
        May 28, 2012, 5:41 pm

        Jewish holidays: Sukkot

        The Hebrew word sukkōt is the plural of sukkah, “booth or tabernacle”, which is a walled structure covered with skhakh (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves). The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt

        Israel is going to send refugees back to Eritrea where they will be tortured and many even murdered. Sukkot has become the Jewish feast of hypocrisy.

      • OlegR
        May 28, 2012, 5:42 pm

        Indeed, not really, but though i used reducto ad absurdum
        in Dana’s case it still sums up nicely lot’s and lot’s of opinions i have encountered around here.

        And Newclench does have a point.

        I am not very comfortable with the mixture that the guy in the video made between the Palestinian issue and the refugees issue.
        The are not related directly.
        The refugees issue regards illegal immigration with which
        most of the western world deals right now.

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 28, 2012, 6:14 pm

        @Oleg:
        “Such an easy depiction to make
        those Israelis are either greedy or paranoid or both”

        Truth hurts, comrade.

      • OlegR
        May 28, 2012, 6:50 pm

        The perfect example Annie ,
        Clowns to the left of me jokers to the right ,
        Here i am stuck in the middle with you :)

      • Shingo
        May 28, 2012, 6:59 pm

        Such an easy depiction to make

        Israelis make it so easy to make.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 28, 2012, 8:11 pm

        Here i am stuck in the middle with you :)

        hardly, you’re free to leave anytime. and there is nothing ‘in the middle’ about your postings. cheerio.

        just realized you may have mistook my meaning, which was my reaction to lovely just lovely, not really…very lovely.

        but it certainly has a lot of truth in it.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        May 29, 2012, 3:54 pm

        - “The refugees issue [unlike the Palestinian issue] regards illegal immigration with which most of the western world deals right now.”- Oleg

        I don’t know whether I agree or disagree. – Who are the illegal immigrants one has to deal with in Palestine/Israel? Aren’t that the Zionist Jews the Palestinians have to deal with?

      • Mooser
        May 30, 2012, 12:33 pm

        “Here i am stuck in the middle with you :)”

        Yeah, his computer caught the Mondovirus, and now it won’t tune in any other website.

        Believe me, Oleg and the rest know that what they read at Mondoweiss is true. That’s why they’re here.

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 28, 2012, 1:44 pm

      “They were concerned that a non-Palestinian minority might grow and eventually displace them.”

      No, they were concerned that the horde of invaders would commit ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. Which turned out to be the case.

    • Hostage
      May 28, 2012, 4:37 pm

      I distinctly recall some concerns that Palestinians had about demographic changes

      That included the resident Palestinian Jews. They were subjugated and treated like second-class humans – especially by the Ashkenazi Jews and Zionists after they wrestled control away from the leadership of the old Yishuv:

      One peculiar phase of the case is that large numbers of the resident Jews share in this dislike to the coming here of more Jews. This is explained by the fact that it tends to the increase in price of all articles of living, adds little or nothing to the wealth of the city, and reduces the proportion of the charitable aid sent here by their wealthy co-religionists from abroad.

      link to digicoll.library.wisc.edu

      A two-state solution that does not include the right of return of the Palestinian refugees is not only an unjust solution that would leave Palestinians with a non-viable, non-contiguous, so called state but it would leave Israelis trapped in their ethnocracy.

      True enough, but in the interim, Jews are livin’ large with all of the legal benefits of “statehood” and UN membership – except for those pesky contiguous borders. Why don’t we go ahead and give the Palestinians those same temporary benefits and status while we’re waiting for a final settlement to magically happen? For decades the Israelis have been crowing about their ability to commit crimes against the Palestinian people that are prohibited in cases involving the inhabitants of another state.

      • Citizen
        May 29, 2012, 8:19 am

        When you live in “a villa in the jungle” you need to take precautions?

    • thankgodimatheist
      May 29, 2012, 6:33 am

      “I distinctly recall some concerns that Palestinians had about demographic changes they opposed. They were concerned that a non-Palestinian minority might grow and eventually displace them.”

      To equate the fears of the natives with the fears of the invaders is baffling..

  6. Annie Robbins
    May 28, 2012, 1:10 pm

    heartwarming article Neta, thanks you so much. i have a question for you. you said I first started visiting the occupied Palestinian Territories I was, like most Israelis, terrified of Arabs. It took me years to chip my way through this fear.

    how did you happen to start visiting the oPT if you were terrified of the people? did you know in your mind there was another, better way and for this reason you pushed beyond your fears? or was there something else motivating your visits, a job or something that took you there?

    • tree
      May 28, 2012, 1:48 pm

      Here’s a talk by Neta from 2002 about her childhood and early fears and the progression of her thoughts.

      My name is Neta Golan. I was born in Tel Aviv. My childhood was scary, and simple. There were good guys and bad guys. We were the good guys. The bad guys… could be anyone, but they were mostly Arabs. Now I’m a 3rd generation Israeli: my grandmother was born in what was still called Palestine. My mother was born in 1948. And yet, I grew up in the shadow of the holocaust. It was always my reference point, for everything.

      As a child, I met Palestinians. They were there, working in construction or sanitation. But there was never a chance to meet as equals. Instead there were fears, being fed by the media, by what we learned in school. I learned always that we were defending ourselves from people who wanted to kill us.

      It wasn’t until I was 15 years old that I learned of the occupation. It was during the first intifada, because before the first intifada Palestinians, the occupation, simply didn’t exist to us. The first intifada made it impossible for Israelis to ignore Palestinians. But I was raised on Jewish history, a history of oppression, dispossession, suffering ethnic cleansing, of being forced out of community after community. Could we really be doing these things to another people?

      I couldn’t believe it because I was a part of the consensus opinion in Israel, that we are morally superior. They are violent. We have purity of arms. If we do kill a civilian or an innocent, it’s by mistake. Even if these mistakes happen every single day. I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. I refused to believe that a soldier would open fire on an innocent child, but I saw it. Unfortunately in Nablus where I live, I see it too often. When I would hear about a child being killed by a soldier, I would think-no, he must have thrown a stone, he must have been doing something that endangered the soldier and forced the soldier to shoot back. I wanted to believe that the children were throwing stones. But when you are in the West Bank, and you see a child throw a stone at a tank, you understand that if that child is killed, that is murder. And very recently, 5 internationals were with Baha, one of the children who we knew well, and soldiers in an armoured personnel carrier picked him out from among the internationals, shot him twice in the chest, and killed him.

      As a child I wouldn’t have been able to believe this. I would say-the proof of their violence is suicide bombing! We would never do something like that. One of my classmates asked me: what’s the difference between a suicide bombing and a Phantom jet bombing a refugee camp? I said-we don’t bomb refugee camps. I couldn’t believe the only difference between us and them was that we had better weapons. But I went home and asked my father.

      “Is it true that we bomb refugee camps with Phantom Jets?”
      “Yes. The terrorists think they can hide in the refugee camps, so we prove that they cannot” he told me.

      But that wasn’t even enough to change me, because the conditioning runs very deep. So deep that when I first went to the West Bank, during Oslo, I would have anxiety attacks. Once a week I would go, and every trip I would be filled with anxiety, filled with fear, thinking: “they all want to kill me!” And it took at least fifteen minutes of seeing people going about their business, talking to each other, working, doing almost anything other than thinking about how much they wanted to kill me, before I calmed down. Seeing their openness, their willingness to accept me, their generosity, that has been the greatest gift of overcoming my fear-the chance to discover the wisdom, the beauty of the Palestinian people. Israelis who can’t overcome their fear are much poorer for not having the chance to do that.

      more at link

      link to zcommunications.org

      Neta’s talk is second, after George Rishmawi’s. Both are worthy of a read.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 28, 2012, 8:44 pm

        thank you so much for the link and the quote tree.

      • Citizen
        May 29, 2012, 8:25 am

        Yes, thanks, tree.

    • Neta Golan
      May 30, 2012, 11:50 am

      Thanks Annie, for your wonderful posts and Tree for posting an answer for me!!

      • Annie Robbins
        May 30, 2012, 11:53 am

        neta! after reading trees link went on youtube and searched for you and watched an interview and everything i could find. thank you so much for all you do! i hope to meet you someday. perhaps when i visit ramallah.

        ;)

      • Neta Golan
        June 2, 2012, 2:25 am

        Ahlan wa Shalan Ya Annie! Unfortunately, I can’t vouch for the Israeli controlled borders but we would love to have you!

  7. pnkfloid
    May 28, 2012, 3:22 pm

    I am reluctant to express any disagreement with the amazing Neta Golan, if for not other reason (like her incredible political work) she is an Israeli insider and I am not. The basis of Jewish Israelis’ fear of Arabs that she describes as being rooted in the knowledge that the Palestinians have a just complaint against them, and the land they have taken, as colonizers, seems totally right. The race riot in south T. A., however, seems like a very familiar case of one economically vulnerable community (of any race) taking their fears out on another (often immigrant but not necessarily). One can find examples of this all over the world, not least in the U.S. It is true, perhaps, that the expressed virulence and “Death to Africans” type threats heard in south T.A. are somehow magnified and “gotten away with” because of the underlying racist nature of the state, and “death to Arabs” is already a familiar/acceptable theme. However, it just strikes me that the root of this hate is a little different – economic that is.

    • Neta Golan
      May 29, 2012, 2:11 am

      Thank you pnkfloid! Is the Israeli fear of Palestinians not economic? While the riots took place in an economically vulnerable community the incitement for the riots come from the economicly cushy seats of power and serve the interests of the wealthy. I agree that this kind of bigotry is an issue these days in most first world countries and think that neo-colonial fears are closely related to the colonial fears of Israelis.

      Israel’s immigration “problems” did not begin with the Sudanese refugees. They began with the breakout of the second intifada when all permits for Palestinian workers were canceled. In need of cheap labour Israel began importing workers from African Asian and Eastern European countries. These workers are employed in often exploitive and sometimes slave-like conditions. If they find employment in better conditions they become illegal. Aided by the already prevailing mindset, that non-Jews are a demographic threat, Israel forcfully deports immigrants that can no longer be exploited and imports new ones.

  8. Mike Jacobs
    May 28, 2012, 3:25 pm

    A majority of Israelis are secular Jews, as they are quick to tell any visitor who asks about faith. Were Israel a nation of religious Jews, the birth rate would keep up with the other, often more religious, peoples that they feel threaten their majority. In recent decades the most numerous group of immigrants has been those from Russia, and a large percentage of those people will tell you without hesitation or embarrassment that that they are atheists. “Judaism is my race,” they say.

    Why do I read so little here on Mondoweiss about this naked contradiction: the very notion of the secular Jew? It would be difficult to read the scriptures of this people and not realize that a severe gender differentiation has always been for this community an essential part of morality, so is it any wonder that a modern Israel where all of that is passé is not destined to last? Is there not a basic contradiction between modern secular democracy and the entire tradition of revealed religion? Behind revealed religion is the notion that in a hundred millennia of human experience we have learned things, seen patterns, that are not immediately obvious to any adult primate using his reason alone, little notions like not having sex with siblings or parents, for instance. According to the secular democrats Moses made a mistake in not gathering the people together to vote on the commandments.

    • Danaa
      May 28, 2012, 5:29 pm

      Mike, Israel IS a contradiction, and always was. Founded by secular European jews who were wedded to socialism, the founders, like Ben Gurion allowed – many say erroneously – Jewish Halachic law to govern the social/familial life of the citizens. They who believed not a word of the bible used the bible nonetheless to justify an act of conquest. In the secular school system the old testament (bible) is taught as history, admittedly fanciful and peppered with grandiosity but full of wise morality tales that show why the jews are and have always been superior. Seculars, long after all grown up, continue to make connections from then to now at a drop of a hat, contradictions be damned, all without alluding to god, other than as a useful invented symbol.

      Religious schools teach the bible differently of course, but the seculars know nothing of those teachings and have zero interest in them or sympathy (except when suddenly convenient….).

      Someone I read not long ago said that the tragedy of Israel is that the justification of its founding was entirely religious based, even as the country they envisioned would run itself as a secular colonial settler state. It’s a tragedy for the seculars because it is entirely to be expected that eventually it is the religious element – the Haredis, ultra-orthodox and Mizrahi orthodox – empowered through the absence of constitution – who will be the ones who take over. When that happens – a trend likely to dominate in less than a decade, it will be the first known modern example of a state founded on a western secular model that will revert back to the religious chauvinist ethno-fundamentalism of ages long gone by.

      This trend will cheer the most fundamentalist/dominionist of Christians – and their ultra-orthodox equally dominionist Jewish bretherns in the US – but it’ll spell the death knell for the modern state of Israel. This scenario will also unleash new, hetherto unimagined dangers upon the rest of the world, unfortunately, as the spirits of Jewish Jihadist zealotry will start animating the land once again. Something that people are beginning to process – the new Jewish mullahs armed with 400 nuclear heads and convinced the world is against them, even as their once vibrant economy is descending into a hole of their own making.

      • Citizen
        May 29, 2012, 8:38 am

        And, Danaa, the Haredis are now increasingly joining the IDF. They recently got their own rabbi so the IDF takes care of their very special needs.

    • Hostage
      May 28, 2012, 5:36 pm

      Why do I read so little here on Mondoweiss about this naked contradiction: the very notion of the secular Jew?

      Because there are so many secular Jews commenting here. Members of Jewish communities became the objects of the national and international public laws of Europe during the Enlightenment. “Jew” was a non-Christian civil status that affected the right of naturalization, residency, and employment. It was assigned regardless of one’s faith in Judaism or Atheism to keep members of a non-Christian alien minority group outside the scope of the laws that applied to the privileged mainstream national ethnic groups, i.e. “aliens of the Christian persuasion alone can obtain naturalization.” — See for example Dr. E. Schwarzfeld, The Situation Of The Jews In Roumania Since The Treaty Of Berlin (1878) link to bjpa.org

      Even today, the European acquis communautaire does not set rules on secularism, but it does protect any cultural, linguistic and religious identity of a national minority. The history of Europe, or “Christendom”, has legated several official models of state and church relations that continue to exist to this very day. So there are similar naked contradictions: the very notion of secular citizens or nationals of states and principalities that are still officially Christian.

      • Frankie P
        May 28, 2012, 8:07 pm

        It’s right up there on the list of my favorite Zen koans:

        What is the sound of one hand clapping?

        How can a secular Jew feel chosen?

        FPM

      • Hostage
        May 28, 2012, 9:56 pm

        How can a secular Jew feel chosen?

        For starters, some Orthodox authorities hold that secular Jews have the same duties to observe the Halachah as any other Jew and that they are subject to the same punishments whenever the authorities have sufficient temporal powers to impose them. Other religious Jews believed in toleration and mutual support of others who suffer persecution on the basis of a shared race, language, customs, traditions, and family ties.

        Religion had nothing to do with the racial theories of Arthur de Gobineau, Social Darwinism, or the nationality laws that were based upon the concept that humans are divided into several mutually incompatible races. Even in cases where religion was a factor, non-Christian Jews were expelled from towns and villages, positions in government, & etc.

        The social movement founded to implement minority rights treaties worked to protect the use of the Yiddish language or aspects of Yiddish culture common to atheist and devout Jews alike and the right to operate schools and other institutions that served “Jewish communities”. In Greco-Bulgarian Communities (Opinion No. 17) and Minority Schools in Albania (Opinion A/B 64) the Permanent Court of International Justice provided a standard legal definition of a “community” in which religion was only one factor. That legal definition applied to Jewish and other national minority communities of the day. It is:

        ” … a group of persons living in a given country or locality, having a race, religion, language and traditions of their own and united by this identity of race, religion, language and traditions in a sentiment of solidarity, with a view to preserving their traditions, maintaining their form of worship, ensuring the instruction and upbringing of their children in accordance with the spirit and traditions of their race and rendering mutual assistance to each other.”

        Those legal principles are a relevant part of the public law of Europe today. See for example the report on “Minority Rights in Albania”, by the Albanian Helsinki Committee, September 1999.

      • MHughes976
        May 29, 2012, 10:21 am

        What does ‘secular’ mean here? Not quite the same as ‘atheist’, as far as I can see. Subject to correction by Hostage and others I’d thought that the word ‘secular’ gained currency to denote those who, while maybe not being atheists in philosophy, declined to live under halachic rules but still wished to be regarded as Jewish, whatever that meant to them.
        An atheist can’t consistently regard him/herself as chosen or rejected by God, since as far as (s)he’s concerned there is no God to do the choosing or rejecting.
        The feeling or sentiment of being chosen or exceptional is still possible, though, even for an atheist. It could appeal to Social Darwinist theories of race or simply to more modern and acceptable ideas of exceptional culture. You may think or hope that the inferiors will catch up some fine day but consider that that day is very far off and that you have to live, with a little hint of modest pride, in the consciousness that you are superior for now. This sentiment is pretty common in many cultures.
        A secular Jewish person (as I understand ‘secular’) could hold to this sentiment and even think that the Jewish religion created a leap forward that no one could equal in ancient times, even if it is a bit antiquated now and its strictures on personal life somewhat odd. I don’t mean to sneer at this opinion even though I would disagree with it as an interpretation of history. I don’t think it’s logically inconsistent.
        I do think that Zionism has managed to be religious and ‘secular’ almost in the same breath. Ben-Gurion was not religious but was for ever interpreting the Bible. That’s part of its power. For those of us who reject it, part of its destructiveness.

      • Hostage
        May 30, 2012, 12:52 pm

        What does ‘secular’ mean here? Not quite the same as ‘atheist’, as far as I can see.

        I don’t know about Mike or Danaa, but I was talking about secularity in the ordinary sense of someone or something separate or apart from religion. “Jew” or “Jewishness” are terms with meanings that contradict or oppose one another – similar to the way the word “cleave” can either mean to split away from something, or to adhere to something. Jewish secularity included people who held opposing views, like those who believe in Zionist particularity and others who believe in a universality of the human condition and experience that transcends the framework of race, religion, or nationality.

        There have been groups of Jewish intellectuals who developed philosophies based upon both of those schools of thought. So while “Jewishness” might conjure-up the idea of narrow-minded nationalism or particularism, to many of us Jewishness represents universalism too. It can be a philosophy that applies to everyone – outside the categories of race, nationalism, or statism. See for example the long discussion about that in Avner Dinur, “Jewish-German-Universal: Judaism in the thought of Hannah Arendt and Hans Jonas” link to hsf.bgu.ac.il

        I simply noted that the orthodox and the atheist could share one of the common Jewish languages, elements of culture, or personal family ties within a Jewish community. People tend to generalize when they are discussing the roles played by religion, racial theory, or national particularism in public life. Many simply assume that the public sphere should be a place outside of those categories. If your point of departure is the impropriety of those factors intruding or trespassing on the public domain, then you should ask yourself how or when religion, race, or nationality became solely private matters in the first place and whether the various efforts to make them private have ever really succeeded.

        Religious people are still exercising considerable control of the public domain whether we like to admit it or not. If you’re familiar with the unsuccessful efforts to adopt constitutional amendments guaranteeing equal rights for women or homosexuals; efforts to overturn “Blue Laws”; reform immigration laws; or repeal prohibitions on gambling, then you know that many times the opposition comes from religious groups that are determined to impose a religious status quo on the public.

        In the past, Jews had the obligation and the right to govern and police themselves. Jewish communities could compel those of a non-religious persuasion to pay taxes into their community coffers. They could command that Jews respect the authority of government-recognized heads of the Jewish “nation,” and that they abide by the legal judgments of the rabbinate. Even after the so-called Enlightenment, there were measures like the ones I linked to above in Romania that dealt in a sweeping fashion with all non-Christian Jews as members of an alien race, nationality, or religion. In egalitarian France, the gentiles threw-off the authority of their Church, but turned around and convened a “Great Sanhedrin” based upon the idea that certain Jewish notables spoke on behalf of communities and still governed them under a hierarchy of ecclesiastical councils or tribunals with judicial powers that answered to the central authorities in Paris.

        There are still orthodox Jews today who consider anyone with a Jewish mother as someone who has an obligation to observe the Halakhah – whether they like it or not. That’s fairly evident to anyone who wants Bar-Ilan Street or King George and Shmuel HaNagid streets in Jerusalem, or HaShomer Street in Bnei Brak open to vehicular traffic on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. See for example Horev – vs -The Minister of Transport. There are disputes here in the US between Jewish sectarians over the need for Eruvs & etc.

        I could ramble-on but there are the two extremes within the Jewish community and every shade of gray in between.

      • Mooser
        May 30, 2012, 12:48 pm

        “Members of Jewish communities became the objects of the national and international public laws of Europe during the Enlightenment. “Jew” was a non-Christian civil status that affected the right of naturalization, residency, and employment. It was assigned regardless of one’s faith in Judaism or Atheism to keep members of a non-Christian alien minority group outside the scope of the laws that applied to the privileged mainstream national ethnic groups, i.e. “aliens of the Christian persuasion alone can obtain naturalization.” “

        This goes right to the heart of all arguments about the “Jewish Community”. Apparently the “Jewish Community” is not actually of Jewish construction, it is a condition imposed on Jews. And now Zionists are telling us that this (a Jewish Community dealing with outsiders through intermediaries, “Jewish leaders”) is the natural state for us. No, it was imposed on us as a product of legal and societal anti-Semitism (in the classic anti-Jewish sense.)

        Ask yourself: if Jews were so eager to live a socially and intellectually (not to mention religiously, economically and the rest) separated life, why did Gentiles have to make laws to get them to do so, and keep them in that place by oppression and legal discrimination?

      • Hostage
        May 30, 2012, 1:15 pm

        This goes right to the heart of all arguments about the “Jewish Community”. Apparently the “Jewish Community” is not actually of Jewish construction, it is a condition imposed on Jews.

        Yes, in Europe the “Jewish community” was usually a legal construct that was part of the laws on residency or minorities. Jewish communities not only had a right to police and govern themselves as autonomous entities, they had an obligation to do so. In Germany, Jewish neighborhoods were governed by codes of residence, aka: Judenstättigkeit. Shofar Volume 15, 1996, page 65 noted that in the 1744 Judenstättigkeit of Hessen-Kassel, 842 Jewish families lived in 177 communities, for the most part (148 communities) in small groups of up to merely five families. Jewish communities in the new states, like Poland, that were established after WWI, retained the right to operate their own autonomous minority schools and religious institutions, which helped preserve their common culture, language, or heritage.

      • Mooser
        May 30, 2012, 1:35 pm

        So it seems to be very important to certain Jews that I live my life according to the constructs set up for Jews by an anti-Semitic society, even tho that’s a really crappy way to live, unless compelled.
        And this is where we get to the cui bono questions about the “Jewish Community” today.
        Of course, it’s nothing but an insult to ask this question when everybody knows that Jews can never take advantage of other Jews, only act in their best interests.

      • Mooser
        May 30, 2012, 1:39 pm

        “Of course, it’s nothing but an insult to ask this question when everybody knows that Jews can never take advantage of other Jews, only act in their best interests.”

        Oh crap, I’m sorry! I forgot how important that shibboleth is to Mondoweiss. Won’t happen again.

      • American
        May 30, 2012, 1:48 pm

        I would guess that the Jewish community legal construct was probably by ‘mutual’ demand in a lot of cases. The recent article on child abuse and the Orthodox group in Brooklyn shows us how these groups in the 21th century still prefer to be insulated, separate and do operate on their own rules and group laws.
        I would imagine some of them thought that if discrimination was part of it it was still worth it to retain their separateness and whatever religious or other customs, untainted by outsiders.

      • Dan Crowther
        May 30, 2012, 2:10 pm

        This goes right to the heart of all arguments about the “Jewish Community”. Apparently the “Jewish Community” is not actually of Jewish construction, it is a condition imposed on Jews. And now Zionists are telling us that this (a Jewish Community dealing with outsiders through intermediaries, “Jewish leaders”) is the natural state for us. No, it was imposed on us as a product of legal and societal anti-Semitism (in the classic anti-Jewish sense.)

        Ask yourself: if Jews were so eager to live a socially and intellectually (not to mention religiously, economically and the rest) separated life, why did Gentiles have to make laws to get them to do so, and keep them in that place by oppression and legal discrimination?

        – Mooser

        I Think this is the point Ive been trying to make for all my time here, what a brilliant comment by Mooser.

      • Hostage
        May 30, 2012, 8:30 pm

        I would guess that the Jewish community legal construct was probably by ‘mutual’ demand in a lot of cases.

        I’m certain that non-believers were not beating down any doors to demand the privilege of paying taxes into the religious community’s coffers, the right to recognize Orthodox national leaders, or the obligation to comply with the rulings of rabbinical courts. I know I’ve never felt the urge to do any of those things;-)

  9. seafoid
    May 28, 2012, 3:32 pm

    “For the moment that foreigners take control of the army so they can overcome us and murder us.”

    That paranoia can never be comforted. there is no formula of words that can reassure people whose whole lives have involved such brainwashing. Israelis have to be saved from themselves.

    • Citizen
      May 29, 2012, 8:42 am

      seafoid, sort of like Americans have to be saved from the Evangelical takeover of the US Military?

      • MHughes976
        May 29, 2012, 10:29 am

        I suppose that people in the ME would remember the Mamluk warriors who somehow went from being slaves to being kings. Or less romantically and more recently how the Alawite minority turned out to compose a decisively high proportion of the Syrian officer class. A futuristic novel about the Evangelical coup in the United States might be fun. Someone must have written it already.

      • gamal
        May 30, 2012, 8:19 pm

        not just the mamluks though,

        ‘Kafur’s status as former slave did not hinder him from rising to power under the Ikhshidids. In fact, his status helped him, as it had become customary for former slaves to enter the military organization and even reach high positions in it.[5] Kafur’s rise to power, from being an African slave to the ruler of Egypt and parts of Syria, is one of the first examples in Islamic history of a sovereign with the lowliest of origins.[3] In Muslim states in general, Africans such as Kafur did not continue to be slaves. They were employed in various occupations and maintained a cohesive culture interacting with that of their hosts.[6]’

        //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_al-Misk_Kafur

      • MHughes976
        June 3, 2012, 9:43 am

        Thanks, very interesting. No Christian parallels that I can think of – unless there’s an evangelical somewhere with a plan.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    May 28, 2012, 3:47 pm

    RE: “Most Israelis agree with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s statement they are living in ‘a villa in the jungle’.” ~ Neta Golan

    A MID-SPRING AFTERNOON’S MUSICAL INTERLUDE, brought to you courtesy of the good folks who make new Ziocaine Über-Xtreme®: It’s guaran-damn-teed to knock you effing senseless!™

    THIS AFTERNOON’S SELECTION: “Baby Elephant Walk”, by Henry Mancini from the 1962 film Hatari! (VIDEO, 03:05) – link to youtube.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      May 28, 2012, 4:05 pm

      P.S. RE: “Most Israelis agree with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s statement they are living in ‘a villa in the jungle’.” ~ Neta Golan

      A MID-SPRING AFTERNOON’S VIDEO INTERLUDE, brought to you by the good folks who make new Ziocaine Über-Xtreme®: It’s guaran-damn-teed to knock you effing senseless!™

      THIS AFTERNOON’S SELECTION: Liz Taylor Stampeded & Slapped (VIDEO, 02:12) – link to youtube.com

      WIKIPEDIA: Elephant Walk (1954) – link to en.wikipedia.org

      • DICKERSON3870
        May 28, 2012, 8:58 pm

        P.P.S. Japanese Victory Dance in Nanjing [from the 2009 film Nanjing! Nanjing!, also released as City of Life and Death (VIDEO, 05:00) – link to youtube.com

        P.S. Netflix listing – link to movies.netflix.com

      • Citizen
        May 29, 2012, 8:50 am

        I notice, Dickerson, that the Chinese and Koreans are still mighty upset by the treatment of WW2 in Japanese school textbooks. I gathered that Imperial Japan’s evil escapades are still significantly whitewashed, that those books drawn no connection between America’s war on Japan and Japan’s war in Asia, especially China, e.g., they never mention a big factor in US motive for war with Japan, additional to, of course Pearl Harbor, and intertwined, was what Imperial Japanese troops were doing to the Chinese. Seems the only lesson Japanese school kids are getting from WW2 is that War Is Bad, and nuclear war, the Worst. Some Japanese scholars have said in public Japanese “sex slaves” should be proud of their service.

      • Mike Jacobs
        May 29, 2012, 1:40 pm

        Nobody teaches straight history as conscientiously as they should. Do European and American students learn of the British moves to intentionally create opium addicts in China while maintaining a monopoly on opium imported from their other colony in India? Are you old enough to remember that one of the reasons the Americans had to win in Southeast Asia was because those evil Communists were running the heroin trade from the Golden Triangle and from Vietnam. We have learned since then, of course, that Air America was highly involved in moving heroin and young people used for prostitution. Now we are expected to believe that the Afghans are responsible for heroin production. Well, I spent most of 2000 in Afghanistan, traveling alone with the Afghans, including months in Paktia, Kandahar, and Helmand, and everywhere the people said that the Taliban government had clamped down very hard and had outlawed all opium production. I am appalled at how often the press goes along with the lie that it is the Taliban and not the CIA that is funding itself through heroin. Remember Iran Contra?

      • DICKERSON3870
        May 31, 2012, 12:57 am

        RE: “…the Chinese and Koreans are still mighty upset by the treatment of WW2 in Japanese school textbooks.” ~ Citizen

        REPLY: Yes, I’ve seen some articles about this. A “comfort station” and “comfort women” feature prominently in the excellent 2009 film Nanjing! Nanjing!, also released as City of Life and Death.

        City of Life and Death, Official Trailer (VIDEO, 01:45) – link to youtube.com

        • Netflix listing – link to movies.netflix.com

        A REVIEWER AT NETFLIX:

        (excerpt) Wow. I am a dedicated historian, but this [the film “City of Life and Death”] is the best depiction of the Nanking Massacre I have ever seen, much grittier than “Nanking”, “The Children of Huang Shui” or “John Rabe”. It is so realistic that it will overpower you, and you will find yourself horrified at the magnitude of violence committed by the Imperial Japanese Army (most of which went unpunished to this day). . .

        FROM WIKIPEDIA [Comfort women]:

        (excerpt) The term “comfort women” was a euphemism used to describe women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.[1][2]
        Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 from some Japanese scholars[3] to as high as 410,000 from some Chinese scholars,[4] but the exact numbers are still being researched and debated. A majority of the women were from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines,[5] although women from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were used for military “comfort stations”. Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya, Thailand, then Burma, then New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and what was then French Indochina.[6]
        Young women from countries under Japanese Imperial control were abducted from their homes. In many cases, women were also lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants. Once recruited, the women were incarcerated in “comfort stations” in foreign lands. Other women were rounded up at gunpoint, some being raped before being herded into “comfort stations”.[2][7] It has been documented that the Japanese military itself recruited women by force.[8] Some “comfort stations” were run by private agents supervised by the Japanese Army or run directly by the Japanese Army.[1][2]
        Some Japanese, such as historian Ikuhiko Hata, deny that there was organized forced recruitment of comfort women by the Japanese government or military.[9] Other Japanese historians, using the testimony of ex-comfort women and surviving Japanese soldiers have argued that the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were either directly or indirectly involved in coercing, deceiving, luring, and sometimes kidnapping young women throughout Japan’s occupied territories.[10] . . .

        SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

  11. Blake
    May 28, 2012, 4:09 pm

    Love your honesty and humanity Neta Gordon. You are a truly wonderful human being.

  12. DICKERSON3870
    May 28, 2012, 4:28 pm

    RE: “I often wondered where all this fear came from…” ~ Neta Golan

    ALSO SEE: Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths, By Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 11/11/11

    (excerpt). . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around *, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
    But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
    Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org
    ALSO SEE – Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine,
    November/December 2010
    LINK – link to tikkun.org

    * The notion that European Jews (or Roma/Gypsies, gays, etc., for that matter) “went like sheep to the slaughter” (during the Holocaust) and therefore would only safe in a Jewish nation-state is what I consider to be one of the most thoroughly disgusting propaganda creations of the Zionists! That is one travesty I will never forgive the Zionists for!
    Learned helplessness – link to en.wikipedia.org

  13. DICKERSON3870
    May 28, 2012, 4:36 pm

    P.S. FROM Ira Chernus, 01/20/11:

    (excerpt)…White Americans, going back to early colonial times, generally assigned the role of “bad guys” to “savages” lurking in the wilderness beyond the borders of our civilized land. Whether they were redskins, commies, terrorists, or the Taliban, the plot has always remained the same.
    Call it the myth of national security — or, more accurately, national insecurity, since it always tells us who and what to fear. It’s been a mighty (and mighty effective) myth exactly because it lays out with such clarity not just what Americans are against, but also what we are for, what we want to keep safe and secure: the freedom of the individual, especially the freedom to make and keep money…

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org

  14. seafoid
    May 28, 2012, 6:04 pm

    “I often wondered where all this fear came from…” ~

    It’s manufactured in Israel, controlled via Hebrew and distributed via the educational system

    • Mooser
      May 30, 2012, 12:55 pm

      “I often wondered where all this fear came from…”

      Some people have suggested that an awful lot of problems like that can be traced to displaced trauma from infant circumcision. Other people find that idea very disturbing.
      Me, I’ve never circumcised anybody, so I wouldn’t know.

  15. Woody Tanaka
    May 28, 2012, 6:16 pm

    “Ilan Tsion chairman of the Israeli advocacy group “Fence For Life””

    This person is an absolute lunatic. I have a lot of bad things to say about the USA, but someone talking like this fool does in the US would be mocked and pushed to the fringes. In the zionist entity, he influences policy. Disgusting state.

  16. Annie Robbins
    May 28, 2012, 8:53 pm

    i don’t know how i missed that video before. perhaps i just skipped over it. he’s the most extreme kind of radical. driving fear in to people that they will all be killed by choosing any other option but his hideous declarations.

  17. FreddyV
    May 29, 2012, 3:25 am

    I’ve got to say Annie, I hope this is the more extreme end of the spectrum for Israel’s sake.

    Do Israelis seriously ever consider why they have a bunch of countries surrounding them that don’t like them?

    If the mentality displayed in this video is the common consensus, it’s time for the world to get involved, clear the settlements, push Israel back to the 67 borders and let them build as high a wall as possible.

    I wrestle with Finklestein’s two state solution, but when I see this, I can’t see that there’s ever going to be an awakening that will allow Palestinians equal rights.

  18. seafoid
    May 29, 2012, 5:23 am

    I like the idea of Israel as a Jewish state of neurosis that will pass
    to be replaced by a Jewish state of calm and respectful engagement.

  19. thankgodimatheist
    May 29, 2012, 5:52 am

    I don’t remember Jean-Marie le Pen being THAT loathsome!

  20. Emma
    May 29, 2012, 6:46 am

    Thank you, Neta Golan.

  21. Shmuel
    May 29, 2012, 7:07 am

    Thanks, Neta. A short story by Ilvo Diamanti, entitled “The Insecure Life of a Secure Man” (La vita insicura di un uomo sicuro) appeared in today’s Repubblica. Ilan Tsion reminds me a little of “Max”.

    link to repubblica.it (Italian)

    Here’s an excerpt:

    I hardly know my neighbours, nor do I see them. I don’t say hello when I bump into them either. Why should I? I don’t know them. And I hardly see them. I leave the house directly by car. The only person I see relatively often is the neighbourhood “rep”. He lives two streets away. I don’t remember the name of the street (or his last name, to tell you the truth). All of the streets in the neighbourhood are named after musicians. It’s very confusing. The “rep” takes care of all of the problems – big and small – in the neighbourhood, including security. Actually, security above all. I don’t deny that I’m a little afraid. After all, I’m almost always alone. And we hear so much on TV and in the local papers. Sometimes, a neighbour, outside the garage door, stops me for a minute, to tell me about some attempted robbery in the area. Fortunately, I’m safe. Yes, safe. With the house and the fence protected by the alarm system and the cameras at every entrance and exit, the two rottweilers in the garden, the floodlights that go on automatically as soon as it starts to get dark. All I’m missing is a moat with alligators (but I’m thinking about it). And the streets around, pounded by the private (and armed) guards. How could I possibly not feel secure? And guarded? I’m in my own house, but it’s almost like living in Alcatraz.

    • Citizen
      May 29, 2012, 9:04 am

      Thanks, for sharing Shmuel. You sure that’s not an American story you mention and quote from? In Italy, can a citizen own guns as self-protection in case somebody invades their home? Where I am, one can; of course in the wealthy gated communities across the USA, they have their own security force; similarly, in the well-off municipalities, the local police are very obliging and responsive. In the lower income and poor areas, basically, one is on one’s own as the police are distant, and mostly after-the-fact arrivals, and will let you know it.

      • Shmuel
        May 29, 2012, 10:19 am

        No, not an American story, but the world’s a village (as the expression goes). There’s more than enough fear to go around.

      • Mooser
        May 30, 2012, 1:04 pm

        “In Italy, can a citizen own guns as self-protection in case somebody invades their home?”

        You keep a loaded, functioning gun easily accesible for “home defense”.
        That’s just, overwhelming evidence shows, asking for an accident or a suicide, or worse.
        Oh, you keep your gun locked up, with the ammo elsewhere, as recommended? Not much of a defense then, unless the home invaders send you an announcement before invading, is it?

        I know, Citizen, how can I have the temerity to bring up the facts about guns, when a million TV shows and movies say I’m wrong?

        You wanna compare the number of times a gun in the home is used for suicide, accident or offing the wife and kids (suicide afterwards is optional, but considered good form) compared to the number of times a gun is used sucessfully by a home-owner to defend his underwater mortgage, I mean home?

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