Coffee at Isaac Bashevis Singer Boulevard

Middle East
on 25 Comments

Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine, by Remi Kanazi, Haymarket Books
Survival and Conscience: From the Shadows of Nazi Germany to the Jewish Boat to Gaza, by Lillian Rosengarten, Just World Books

As I have a delightful afterlunch coffee near “Isaac Bashevis Singer Boulevard” West 86th Street, “an upper middleclass Jewish neighborhood whose Jordan and Levantine shores are defined by Central Park West and West End Avenue” (Aaron M. Frankel, 1946, Commentary magazine) I think long thoughts about the New York connection to an imagined Palestine, and the real Israel/Palestine.

Lillian Rosengarten and Remi Kanazi are Americans who view Israel/Palestine, in her new autobiography and his new collection of poems, through their ethnicity and also their American eyes. Both writers are New Yorkers mourning their family’s ejection from a homeland.

Manhattan, always a swirl of identities, is an odd home for the faith of Jewish nationalism, the conviction that the Jewish identity is of such potency that Argentinian, Yemeni, French and Indian Jews all share a kernel of nationality waiting to germinate and of such potency that other peoples in Palestine must submit to its rule.

Kanazi and Rosengarten both discard Jewish essentialism defining the “Jewish and democratic” State of Israel, with its odor of fascist race theory, Kanazi writing:

your system of injustice
is coming to an end
and whether you
recognize it or not yet
it will be liberating
for you too

New Yorkers Kanazi and Rosengarten refuse to be only the particular (Arab, Jew), refusing the scheme of the world as kin versus enemy.

Remi Kanazi

Remi Kanazi

New York City, with its multidimensionality and mutability of identity, enjoys cosmopolitan bravura and realism. The freedom that Jewish refugees from the Russian empire found, in the Lower East Side, was both the freedom to be a Jew, and the freedom to be more than a Jew.

Peculiar reality and fantasy link New York to Palestine, in the period of Zionist “pioneering” settlement and today. For over 100 years some American Jews have looked to a New Judea built by cleareyed, stronglimbed, gentle winners– a world apart from their ethnic hodgepodge American reality.

Zionist shekels were given to “redeem the land,” build cities, drain swamps, make the desert bloom, plant forests– later to learn the forests hide ruins of destroyed Arab villages. Drunk on our “national” revival– our “national” music and cuisine so curiously congruent with Arab ways– things seem fictional, should be fictional, would suit I.B. Singer, eulogist of what was already a vanishing world of isolated Yiddishkeit.

But the fiction has meant real violence from the Shomerim, Irgun, Lehi(Stern Gang), Haganah, IDF, security services, in the long century of Jewish nationalist conquest of Palestine, to the most vulgar and chilling instruments of control and surveillance, tested on Arabs to be sold to the world.

In distortion of Time & Space, the fate of villages in Palestine changed because of Zionist clubs in the vast boroughs of New York City. Longings in the 1880s tripped events that brought Remi Kanazi to Brooklyn longing for justice and his family’s lost land and life.

Sunday, October 18, there were two demonstrations at Times Square. At West 48th & Broadway, to “Stand against Terrorism”– for Israel, American Jews waving or wearing the blue and white Israeli flag, with some Christian Zionist signs promising God will bless those who bless Israel, and curse the opposite.

At West 47th & 7th Avenue a counterdemonstration of Palestinians and their supporters, and a contingent from Jewish Voice for Peace NYC. There was widely-reviled, dogged Neturei Karta in their black coats and peyeses– all men– doggedly explaining to the crowd again in Yiddish-accented (not Hebrew-accented) English that Judaism is not Zionism.

New York City– home of refugees from everywhere– is so connected to Palestine that the subway maps should show Tel Aviv and Ramallah stops.

Lillian Rosengarten’s book launch party was on Ludlow Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the basement performance space of a rock bar. The location spoke of the unacceptability of Rosengarten’s stance to the New York Jewish institutions.

In 1888, 127 years and a 12 minute walk away, an immigrant Jewish crowd in a packed hall on East Broadway cheered the “Admirers of Zion” group’s plans for “the idea of Palestinian colonization,” as American Hebrew magazine put it, “creating much enthusiasm among our downtown coreligionists.”

That Zionist meeting was 63 years after the 1825 dedication in Buffalo, NY, of the cornerstone of an intended Jewish homeland of Grand Island, NY, in the Niagara River, organized by the great New York Jew Mordecai Manuel Noah.

Rosengarten describes growing up American after finding refuge in New York with her family in 1937, a toddler in a family driven from Germany by Naziism. The trauma of that ejection colored the family, even in their safety and success. Rosengarten says, “The cycle of paranoia and abuse is playing out its destructive course: this is how I understand Palestinians as the last victims of the Holocaust.”

(Social scientist Irit Keynan has made the same analogy, of Jewish Israel as a trauma victim unable to heal from its psychic damage, lashing out in a victim’s fury whatever the circumstance.)

In the 1990s, visiting at Birzeit University, Lillian saw land grabs and settlements of Israel, and saw parallels between Nazification and Judaization of territory. Rosengarten sought out information of the Nakba, after seeing what was happening to the Palestinians. Rosengarten succinctly summarizes her reaction, the reaction of a Jewish nonZionist:

“Something important changed for me as a result of my visits. The myth of Israel as a ‘beacon of light’ to the world was shattered permanently. It has been a painful awareness for me as a Jew and refugee. The pain is not about a dream of Zionism and a Jewish safe haven, for I was never a Zionist. Instead it is the horrible truth that Jews, once victims of a monstrous ‘Final Solution,’ would reinvent themselves as racist victimizers in order to realize the dream of a safe haven for Jews only.”

She writes that for years, “I still tried to defend Israel…I was not yet ready to explore two separate entities, Judaism and nationalistic Zionism…”

In a poem, she says:

“Imagine what it is like for me
Refugee from Nazi madness,
To see AGAIN proud people
Demonized as evil, driven from their land, ripped from their roots.”

Remi Kanazi draws parallels across time between Palestinians beaten and shot and Americans of African descent beaten and shot, Irish chafing under their occupation, Europeans fighting neoliberal austerity:

bilin. nabih saleh. oakland. athens. #teargas

In a poem about “normalization” with Israel, he writes:

it’s not just the occupation
stupid
it’s the right of return
equality for all Palestinians
it’s the transformation
from an exclusivist
supremacist state
to a nation
for all its citizens

we will return
that is not a threat
not a wish
a hope
or a dream
but a promise

Rosengarten makes analogies of Jewish experience in Germany, and Palestinians in Israel. She says the Holocaust is used by Zionists to create guilt and fear, with a racist underlying concept in Zionism, keeping Palestinians separate “so racist that children are taught that Arabs are dirty.”

Rosengarten’s opposition to nationalism because of her family’s sufferings from it is similar to that of a significant portion of American Jewry, nonZionist Jews after the Holocaust who felt Jewish nationalism meant fighting poison by making poison.

Both Rosengarten and Kanazi work in words, the gestural. In 2010, Rosengarten set sail in the Mediterranean on the “Jewish Boat to Gaza”: “We were headed for the shores of Gaza in an attempt to break the siege and express solidarity as Jews against the suffering of Palestinians.” On a 36-foot catamaran, the group of 9 was intercepted by Israeli gunboats. She says they had “psychotic and paranoid” treatment from Israeli commandos, she at 75 years old, with her unarmed Jewish boatmates.

German-Jewish Rosengarten and Palestinian Kanazi, raised in America, see the treatment of Palestinian Arabs by Palestinian Jews as analogous to that of African-Americans in the US, or nonwhites in apartheid South Africa. They make sense of their struggles by seeing the ideology of ethnic supremacy clearly, brushing away arguments of gradualists and “realists.”

Rosengarten and Kanazi, of one of the oldest diasporas and one of the newest, see Jews in “Aryan” Germany, African-Americans in the US, Arabs in Palestine, in kindred status in the sense they suffer as the Other because of their identities.

A commonplace of Israel defence is that it is blamed for offenses selectively, for things other countries are also guilty– that Israeli Arab status is no worse than that of African Americans in the USA, for instance. The solidarity movement of Palestinians and African Americans accepts the challenge of that reasoning, in an indictment of both countries– “When I see them, I see us.”

(Israeli training of US police in “crowd control” is notable, a crossfertilization of white supremacy, and government as suppression of demographic “undesirables.” As much as the strife in Israel/Palestine is between two peoples, it is between an ideology versus two peoples who have no requirement to be enemies.)

Rosengarten contests Theodor Herzl’s axiom that Jews are never safe among gentiles, never truly safe, with the idea that nonJews are not safe among Jewish nationalists. As she faced the atrocities, she saw the absurdities of Jewish nationalism:

“My own awareness of problems within Israel developed slowly, steadily, and with a heavy heart, for I live with memories that identify with refugees, all refugees made homeless by nationalism…
In my view, a person who is supportive of a heimat, a Jewish state only for Jews, is a Zionist and opposes equal rights for Jews and Palestinians.”

It is a mad concept that the State of Israel embodies the Jewish People (Am Yisrael) and that the Jewish People have nuclear weapons, police batons, “skunk water” and “coercive interrogation” techniques. Sanity means breaking that nexus of absurd beliefs and atrocities.

Abba A. Solomon (abbasolomon.com) is the author of T he Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.”

About Abba Solomon

Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.’” His website is abbasolomon.com

Other posts by .


Posted In:

25 Responses

  1. YoniFalic
    November 2, 2015, 10:44 am

    The more I learn about the descendants of E. European Jewish communities, the less I find any connection to the “Land of Israel”.

    Is there anything Levantine in the following piece of cultural heritage?

    http://blogs.yiddish.forward.com/oyneg-shabes/192003/

    When those descendants want to live in the Levant, the desire seems delusional to me.

    When the descendants of the natives want their country back, the desire simply seems just to me.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    November 2, 2015, 12:27 pm

    RE: “She says the Holocaust is used by Zionists to create guilt and fear . . .” ~ Abba Solomon

    FOR INSTANCE: “Israeli diplomat in Berlin: Maintaining German guilt about Holocaust helps Israel” | By Nir Gontarz | Haaretz.com | Jun. 25, 2015

    [EXCERPT] A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in Berlin recently told Israeli journalists it was in the country’s interest to maintain German guilt about the Holocaust, and that it isn’t seeking full normalization of relations between the governments.

    Embassy spokeswoman Adi Farjon made the comments in a closed briefing session with journalists at the embassy.

    “We were all in shock,” said a female journalist present at the briefing. “The spokeswoman clearly said it was an Israeli interest to maintain German guilt feelings. She even said that without them, we’d be just another country as far as they’re concerned.”

    Others present at the event confirmed the journalist’s account.

    Some added that the Israeli ambassador himself, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, was present for some of the briefing, as were other embassy workers who don’t speak Hebrew. Another journalist commented, “It was so awkward. We couldn’t believe our ears. We’re sitting there eating peanuts, and behind the spokeswoman there are two German women sitting there who don’t understand a word of Hebrew – and the embassy staff is telling us they’re working to preserve the German guilt feelings and that Israel has no interest in normalization of relations between the two countries.”

    “I don’t remember saying that,” Farjon told Haaretz in response. “I can’t vouch for any particular quote, she added. “It was an off-the-record conversation, a briefing talk. The way I speak with Israeli journalists is a little different. These things aren’t intended to get out. I can’t reveal the principles I work by. For example, I don’t say who I go to in order to get good stories out here, or who I pay for things like that.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.662962

  3. JLewisDickerson
    November 2, 2015, 12:47 pm

    RE: “Israeli training of US police in ‘crowd control’ is notable, a cross-fertilization of white supremacy, and government as suppression of demographic ‘undesirables’.” ~ Abba Solomon

    Catalan Police in Israel: repression courses “Tested In Combat” [VIDEO, 05:40]

    CATALAN POLICE TRAINING IN ISRAEL VIDEO February 16, 2014
    “Public security” training in Israel for police from Catalonia – or how to wage war on your own civilian population to protect the investments of bankster criminals!
    SOURCE – http://roblosricos.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/catalan-police-training-in-israel/

    An Israeli Soldier’s Story – Eran Efrati [VIDEO, 40:05]

    Published on Mar 8, 2014
    The talk by Eran Efrati was filmed in Denver, Colorado on March 3, 2014 as part of The Soldier and the Refusenik U.S. tour with Maya Wind. Eran talks about his experiences in the IDF and then more broadly discusses Israel, its relationship to the U.S. and the global expansion of militarism. The talk by Eran Efrati was filmed in Denver, Colorado on March 3, 2014 as part of The Soldier and the Refusenik U.S. tour with Maya Wind. Eran talks about his experiences in the IDF and then more broadly discusses Israel, its relationship to the U.S. and the global expansion of militarism.
    Efrati’s talk is a very powerful testimonial regarding the impact of Israel’s “tested in combat” marketing on policing here in the U.S.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    November 2, 2015, 1:10 pm

    RE: “In my view, a person who is supportive of a heimat, a Jewish state only for Jews, is a Zionist and opposes equal rights for Jews and Palestinians.” – Lilian Rosengarten

    Why “Homeland”? ~ by Thom Hartmann [VIDEO, 09:18]
    Published on Sep 24, 2014
    Thom Hartmann explains the origins of the term “homeland” [i.e., Heimat] and why he doesn’t like it being used to describe the United States.

    • Ellen
      November 2, 2015, 2:15 pm

      I’ve always found the expression “homeland” to refer to the US revolting. From the moment I heard it in that context.

      Prior to that I had only heard it as a reference to Israel as used by, for example, Wolf Blitzer when talking about Israel.

      The word is a translation of Heimat, which was a Nazi term to to refer to Germany. And was this term was adopted, as Hartman says, from the early Zionist movement? Perhaps so, as it is Zio speak for Israel.

      It is no wonder then that Chertoff pushed to name his agency “Homeland Security”

      This disgusting language, with all it’s implications, of fear and war and otherness, must be done away with.

      • W.Jones
        November 3, 2015, 10:03 am

        What is this organization and does it reflect the concept of Heimat you are referring to?
        http://medinatweimar.org/

      • JLewisDickerson
        November 3, 2015, 10:27 pm

        GOOD GOLLY PETE: “Medinat Weimar wishes to establish a Jewish state in Thuringia, Germany, with the city of Weimar as its capital.” – http://medinatweimar.org/

        MY COMMENT: I wonder if a movement to establish a Jewish state in a region/province of France will come next. Then perhaps in South Florida with Boca Raton as its capital? Then maybe Brooklyn becomes a Jewish principality?
        Enquiring minds mimes want to know!™

  5. amigo
    November 2, 2015, 1:27 pm

    “The cycle of paranoia and abuse is playing out its destructive course: this is how I understand Palestinians as the last victims of the Holocaust.” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/11/coffee-bashevis-boulevard#sthash.iHd4CB8z.dpuf

    I disagree.The Palestinians are not the “last” victim of the Holocaust.Jews will again be victims when the Israel that was built as payback for the Holocaust , falls apart and the international community realises they have been used and duped ,and rewards the zionists for their deceit and their supremacist attitude to all others.Never have so many been screwed over by so few.

    I certainly would not want to be a hopknee , unless that coward learns how to meld into the background and put a plug in his heretofore loose voice box.

    One could of course argue that they will be victims of their own greed and supremacist exceptional ism.

    I am sure glad mother nature did not choose me to be a zionist. Imagine having to spend your adult life posting on Internet sites attempting to defend the indefensible and in so doing, making enemies of anyone who supports equality and human right for all.

  6. yonah fredman
    November 2, 2015, 4:06 pm

    Abba Solomon- There was a group called Hovevei Zion in the 1880’s. The translation is normally given as “Lovers of Zion”. Assuming this is the group to which you are referring, why do you offer this new translation of the group’s name?

    • abbasolomon
      November 2, 2015, 11:47 pm

      yonah fredman – You are right. However, in 1888, American Hebrew magazine used the name in quotation marks for the group.

  7. Rafi
    November 5, 2015, 4:14 pm

    Jews should not have nukes
    Jews should just rely on the kindness of gentiles
    Jews should live as a minority in an arab state from river to sea
    Jews should just do what the great lovers of jews in the halls of whiteworld tell them

    You keep saying zionism is about to implode
    Antizios have been saying it for years
    But zionists and zionism will not, can not, have nowhere else to, go
    You promise to return i promise you will not
    And history will show

    • diasp0ra
      November 5, 2015, 4:49 pm

      Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

      History will show indeed. The Boers were once as arrogant.

      • mcohen.
        November 6, 2015, 8:00 am

        diaspora

        i have known a few boers in my time and they have a saying….sout vrek of trek …..look it up,great saying.it is not game over yet.

        what amazes me about liberal american jews of today is the short memory span,especially when it comes to the history of the jews in both america and israel.in america jewish life in american society has been one of acceptance but that was not always been the case.times have changed.in israel it has been a fight to the death.an enormous price has been paid in treasure and lives to secure a safe haven and an army that can protect jews to some extent worldwide…..israel is neccessary.for all jews.to think otherwise is foolish.

        i believe that arabs in israel,gaza and the west bank should be we accepted into israeli society but not at the expense of a jewish state or army.

      • eljay
        November 6, 2015, 9:09 am

        || mcohen.: … an enormous price has been paid in treasure and lives to secure a safe haven and an army that can protect jews to some extent worldwide … ||

        Yup, Palestinians have paid a heavy price for decades – and they continue to pay a heavy price – so that hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists can live out their supremacist “Jewish State” fantasy.

        || … israel is neccessary.for all jews. … ||

        No it’s not. What’s necessary for all people in the world is justice, accountability and equality, universally and consistently applied.

        || … i believe that arabs in israel,gaza and the west bank should be we accepted into israeli society but not at the expense of a jewish state or army. ||

        And you believe this because you’re a Zio-supremacist.

      • Mooser
        November 6, 2015, 10:27 am

        “mcohen, your ellipses are getting tumescent again. Please don’t pull out your five-dotter in public.

        “i have known a few boers in my time and they have a saying….sout vrek of trek …..look it up,great saying.it is not game over yet.”

        Apartheid South Africa will rise again! Yes sir, the Boers may be quiescent, but defeated? Never!

        “a safe haven and an army that can protect jews to some extent worldwide”

        Moshe, Moshe, that Gentile called me a name! Get him!

        “in america jewish life in american society has been one of acceptance but that was not always been the case”

        I’ll translate, I grew up with that language.
        “mcohen” is is referring to the fact that after the Civil Rights laws were passed, American Jews no longer had the right (as they did when discrimination was legal) to keep other minorities out of their neighborhoods.

      • Kris
        November 6, 2015, 10:45 am

        @mcohen: “i believe that arabs in israel,gaza and the west bank should be we accepted into israeli society but not at the expense of a jewish state or army.”

        That is sure white of you, mcohen!

        In the days of Jim Crow, my neighbors in Texas felt the same way about the blacks: they should be “accepted” into U.S. society, but not at the expense of a white-controlled government or integrating the police, etc.

      • diasp0ra
        November 6, 2015, 10:55 am

        Google returned no returns for the phrase you sent me, it did however, return responses for “Werk, vrek of trek” which it says translates to “Work, die or leave.”

        I have no idea what you’re trying to tell me.

        “i believe that arabs in israel,gaza and the west bank should be we accepted into israeli society but not at the expense of a jewish state or army.”

        Then you are advocating for an apartheid state, as you cannot have those conditions and still be an egalitarian democratic state.

        I am curious what a Jewish state means. People keep talking on and on about “The Jewish character” of the “Jewish state” but what exactly does it mean? It’s such a buzzword, I don’t think you’d even find consensus within Israel itself as to what it means.

      • Mooser
        November 6, 2015, 10:59 am

        “People keep talking on and on about “The Jewish character” of the “Jewish state” but what exactly does it mean?”

        My dear “diasp0ra”, I’ve been hearing it all my life, and I can only conclude it’s a lot like “diddy-wah-diddy”. “If you gotta ask, you ain’t never gonna know!”

        But thinking about the “Jewish State” and the imminent victory of the Boers makes “mcohen’s” ellipses get hard.

      • eljay
        November 6, 2015, 11:34 am

        || diasp0ra: Google returned no returns for the phrase you sent me, it did however, return responses for “Werk, vrek of trek” which it says translates to “Work, die or leave.” ||

        Google Translate (Afrikaans to English) translates “sout vrek of trek” as “salt die or draw”.

        “I do not think those words mean what he thinks they mean.”

        (with apologies to Inigo Montoya)

      • YoniFalic
        December 7, 2015, 7:55 pm

        @eljay

        Maybe mcohen means:

        vlug, vrek, of veg == flee, die, or fight.

        mcohen claims that “zionists and zionism will not, can not, have nowhere else to, go.”

        100 years ago he might have been right, but the invaders today could probably easily be relocated within 6-12 months, and the world would be a much better place.

    • talknic
      November 5, 2015, 5:01 pm

      @ Rafi Just correct a few things for you

      “Jews should not have nukes
      Jews should just rely on the kindness of gentiles
      Jews should live as a minority in an arab state from river to sea
      Jews should just do what the great lovers of jews in the halls of whiteworld tell them”

      If you say so …. no one else has

      “You keep saying zionism is about to implode”

      It already has in defying the basic tenets of Judaism

      “But zionists and zionism will not, can not, have nowhere else to, go”

      Bullsh*t. Herzl could have gone to live in Palestine during his lifetime. He could have acquired citizenship, bought land and settled. He didn’t bother. The Zionist Federation didn’t bother until 1936. Jews in the diaspora could have for almost 2 thousand years. A tiny handful did. The majority didn’t bother.

    • gamal
      November 5, 2015, 5:35 pm

      Rafi all our missions are possible

      “And history will show”

      forever didn’t happen yet, you sound desperate,

      anyone expecting liberal or progressive allies in pursuit of revolutionary or liberatory goals is going to be disappointed,

      ” i promise you will not” grandiloquence doesn’t sit well with impotence, you already tried everything and still all our missions are possible, turns out we are invincible, still on the field despite 3 hundred years of defeats, we only getting warmed up.

      https://youtu.be/P54nDErZMwY

    • Mooser
      November 5, 2015, 6:43 pm

      Jews should just do what the great lovers of jews in the halls of whiteworld tell them”

      What on earth is that supposed to mean?

      “Jews should just rely on the kindness of gentiles”

      Go back to bed. And stay there, until there a couple hundred million more of us. Than you can disparage “the kindness of gentiles”.

    • Mooser
      November 5, 2015, 10:35 pm

      “But zionists and zionism will not, can not, have nowhere else to, go”

      That’s funny, I thought about 60% of the people in the illegal settlements have US passports and citizenship. And there might be people there from Europe or UK, too. Don’t worry, there’s an awful lot of people in Israel (or out of it, squatting) who have someplace to go.

      But, just for fun, “Rafi” why don’t you tell us who, of the Israelis, have no other place to go and how they got that way?

      And don’t forget, “Rafi”, it’s you ‘n me against “whiteworld”.

    • eljay
      November 6, 2015, 11:41 am

      || Rafi: Jews should not have nukes ||

      No-one should have nukes.

      || Jews should just rely on the kindness of gentiles ||

      Jews are people just like everyone else and, as such, should rely on the expectation of justice, accountability and equality.

      || Jews should live as a minority in an arab state from river to sea ||

      Jews are people just like everyone else and, as such, should live as citizens in their respective countries.

      || Jews should just do what the great lovers of jews in the halls of whiteworld tell them ||

      Jews are people just like everyone else and, as such, should be entitled to justice, accountability and equality. No more, no less.

      || You keep saying zionism is about to implode
      Antizios have been saying it for years
      But zionists and zionism will not, can not, have nowhere else to, go … ||

      Sorry to shatter your (wet) dreams, but not even Zionism will realize Nazi Germany’s (wet) dream of the “Thousand Year Reich”.

      Zionism will eventually disappear, and Zionists – as unpalatable as the idea of equality may be to them – will become people just like everyone else.

Leave a Reply