A lot of my old Jewish friends are afraid of me, so I try and be chipper, though it’s not my mode. I went to a nice party in New York City. An old friend was there who is much more logical than I am and we talked about the trails near his house. I always think about something he said to me ten years ago: Israel was a just response to the Holocaust, but they should make Israel withdraw to the ’67 border and if it won’t do so, impose a solution. I remember accepting what he said. At the party, I wanted to grab him and say: Guess what, they didn’t do what you wanted, and no one is going to impose a solution, and we’re having a lot of fun here talking about the trails near your house.
Another friend was wearing his jacket like a shawl and giving out samples of his art. He and I walk on eggshells with each other ever since I got in a fight with him about Jerusalem. He said sweetly I had to check out a cartoon in the New Yorker that describes Israel as the occupier, I would like it.
At the melon slices table, a whippersnapper who is going to Brazil for the finals next month ran down Qatar to me as the site for the 2022 World Cup. “They have sharia law. They don’t let gays have any freedom. The women are covered, and you can’t drink.” I said, You can drink. No you can’t, he said. I said, “I’ve been there, people can drink.”
The body of Israel is fetid in the back room of American Jews. They haven’t been there but it’s stinking up the joint, and it pollutes their view of the world. Max Blumenthal tried to tell them what it is, but the Zionists ran him out of town using the Nation; so instead we got Ari Shavit praising anonymous sex in Tel Aviv nightclubs as the latest Zionist revival of the “miracle” that is Israel. When it really is this intolerant rightwing society that rails against intermarriage and beats up journalists of a different race. That’s what it is.
And it’s foreign. That’s why American Jews need to let it go. It’s another country. It’s not the west.
They’re famously rude. Their prime minister has no tone. He looks like a European dictator in black and white photos from the mid-century.
Last Sunday the head of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, David Marwell, beat up on the author John Judis for saying that the Israel lobby compelled Truman to recognize Israel. Marwell looked upset. The undercurrent of the conversation was what my old friend said 10 years ago: that Israel was a just resolution of the Jewish Question of Europe, let’s not unpack that. And last time round the Jewish Question ended in the gas chambers because of the idea that Judis has broached, the idea of Jewish power.
But it wasn’t a just resolution of the Jewish Question; it wasn’t because it is based on racism against the indigenous people, as Judis pointed out repeatedly, including on the part of leading American liberals. Brandeis and Frankfurter and Julian Mack were leading liberal judges, and they were racist toward Arabs.
Israel can’t get away from that original sin because it has refused the many opportunities it had to escape it. It just kept doubling down. Ten years after my logical friend said ’67 borders, it’s still laughing at him. The answer to the Jewish Question in Israel is in the picture at the top of this post from Gideon Levy’s latest column in Haaretz, Levy who has reached the honorable conclusion for a former liberal Zionist after x years of trying to square the circle: he says the world must pressure Israel to build one state with equal rights. Where are the American Jews making the same leap?
The answer to the Jewish Question that so bedeviled Europe is at that good party. It’s the Jewish presence in a democracy, Jews in America doing our thing. That guy at the melons table is going to the World Cup finals, God bless him, with his smart non-Jewish girlfriend. My friend in the shawl has a smart non-Jewish girlfriend too, and leads a big life, music and food and the ocean. My logical friend, the same. Being an elite if that’s what we are, but unmolested, encouraged, not just tolerated, embraced– this is the actual real answer we made to the Jewish Question of Europe.
Why can’t American Jews understand the world we made here. Why can’t we live in the moment and see what we got? How can we turn a blind eye to the oppression of another people for a foreign state that’s warehoused for us just in case, of what? We’re not the only people who have been persecuted and massacred. Other people are experiencing kindred conditions right now. We don’t live there, we don’t want to live there, we live here, we like it here, that’s a foreign country where they praise rudeness and toughness and beat the shit out of a beautiful journalist whose case we should all be screaming about today. Let go of the dead idea. Just let it go.