This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Empire Detox – is there a one size cure-all? Where does one go for the cure? Or do Jews retain our singularity even in detox?
The United Nations vote yesterday on Palestinian statehood should be part of Israel’s empire cure, don’t you think? The vote was overwhelmingly against Israel and for Palestine. The big three that voted against Palestinians statehood were predictable – Israel, of course, plus the United States and Canada. The others were also predictable but hardly major: Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.
Germany abstained – which considering its Holocaust past can be seen as a victory for Palestine. The United Kingdom abstained – which considering its colonial past in the Middle East is also interesting. The vote was taken on the 65th anniversary of the United Nations vote that recognized the original partition of Palestine. This, in turn, harkened back, to the 1917 Balfour Declaration which committed England to prioritizing Jewish settlement in Palestine.
Will Palestine in its new status be part of Israel’s Empire Detox? History is moving that way but it looks like Israel – and mainstream Jewry – might be the last ones to get the message.
If the UN vote doesn’t do it, I wonder if Obama-care will cover the Empire Detox treatment. Most psychological treatment that’s insurance covers is Empire Adjustment Therapy (EAT). I’ve been there on more than one occasion. Obviously, it didn’t work out that well.
Imagining my doctor’s visit in Cape Canaveral: ‘Yes, sir, you’re here for Detox Jewish – it’s down the corridor, turn right and you’ll see the sign, first door after the stairs.’
Maybe each community has its own special detox formula. Of course, you have to graduate to empire first (Jews) or fall from empire’s perch (WASPS) to need the cure. Communities can be split and often are.
Take African-Americans as an example. The privileged few who make the empire grade over against the majority who are nowhere near that fortunate few need special treatment. The tension between the African-American haves and have-nots is constant. Empire Blacks can’t evade that tension on the outside or the inside. The have-nots are internalized by the haves. They know they just barely, and for the moment, escaped the fate of the majority of their community.
Empire Detox can’t be simple minded. The same cure applied to whites who are dealing with empire withdrawal and African-Americans who have just made the grade and see what the costs involved won’t do the job. Women who are experiencing the empire blues also need a special program.
When you pass into empire you’re in the same boat – Jews and African-Americans for example. Even there, though, the boat has different sections. Naturally, Jews and African-Americans want to be closest to the captains of the ship. Otherwise, when the sea gets rough and weight becomes a factor, you might be the first one’s thrown overboard.
Those who pass into empire know that empire is about power and triage. The newly arrived are a stone’s throw from being tossed back into the general population.
Is that why Jews cling to empire as if it is salvation?
This is why Jews in America identify white. Likewise, that’s why our empire status is more important to us than money and power alone. Jews fear that we’ll never really be accepted as part of the empire elite. We fear that a step down from the empire elite is another Holocaust. It’s a lot like African-Americans who see slavery in their rear view mirror.
On the one hand, these fears seem outlandish, special pleading, emotions gone absurd. On the other, they make perfect sense. Any Empire Detox program worth the money has to factor in the history of the oppressed.
Our newly arrived status may also have something to do with how bellicose we have become. Shouting and threatening about this and that is for those who aren’t sure how long their empire member’s card is good for.
Behavior modification is part of the Empire Detox process for everyone. On the Jewish front, we could begin by toning down the threats, the ‘if you do this, we’ll do that’ theme that is so unbecoming and counterproductive. Like the UN vote on Palestinian statehood yesterday. How silly Israel – and America – looks on the international scene. How many times can you threaten to bomb Palestinians into oblivion because they take symbolic steps that call Jewish power to task?
Returning to Gaza for a moment, Israel’s claims that she, like any other nation, will protect its borders, thus who can criticize Israel for assassinating Palestinian leaders and destroying Gaza’s infrastructure – is so transparently ridiculous that only a leadership with an empire mentality can make that claim with a straight face. Again, it’s like claims about what America can do to protect (self-defined) American interests abroad. Form the outside looking in its hubris on the global screen.
Empire is IMAX stuff. What happens when the movie is over and the screen goes dark? The inflated imagery is gone. We’re left sitting in a theatre pretty much like any normal theatre. Our eyes adjust to the darkness. With others, we look for the exit sign, and watch our step.
Strange thing, too, once you identify with empire and, to boot, you have one of your own, the lobby you walk back through to get to your car may be redecorated.
After yesterday’s vote in the UN, Israel should think twice. The International Criminal Court in The Hague lobby décor may have been designed just for you.