“Why don’t you share good things about Israel?”
A few days ago, a very good Palestinian friend of mine shared a post on Facebook, about Israeli Skinheads. It referred to activists of the fascist Kahane Hai movement. Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was convicted in 1971 for a terrorist bomb-plot of the Jewish Defense League, became a member of Knesset in 1984, until his party was banned from Knesset in 1988. He inspired some of the most radical religious-nationalism in Israeli history.
A Jewish-Israeli kibbutznik contact responded with the comment: “Why don’t you share good things about Israel, we are many more than these few idiots?”
It is worth noting here, that my friend is actually involved in quite serious and close debate with prominent Zionist Israelis, including leading editors.
The response intrigued me because I was just planning to write this article, circling exactly around this question, which I had been asked in various forms over the past few years. This comes in various forms, but the nerve is similar – it is the suggestion that this is not representative of Israel as a whole.
Whilst I cannot reveal the sources of the following quotes, I would like to provide a few examples to demonstrate what I mean:
In general response to my writings over the past year, many of which concern the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I got this from a young Israeli responder:
“I believe the message would pass also if you moderate your words slightly….in my opinion there are far more grave issues, such as discrimination, racism, poverty, hate – which are more important for me to deal with before our political-military situation”.
Going further back in time, in July 2014, when I posted an article concerning Israeli Knesset co-speaker Moshe Feiglin’s (Likud) 7-point plan for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza (notably, without further comment from my side), I got this response from an Israeli Jew:
What’s your point? That this is our point of view as Israelis? That this is what everyone here hopes for?
The man is a crazy extremist, with opinions that nobody takes seriously. Most Israelis would agree with you on this point. I don’t really understand what you are working so hard to prove in the past few days. That we are all hoping for the death of Palestinians? That we all want them gone? That we all think that war is the solution? Our hearts are torn apart in the past few weeks seeing all these young lives, on both sides, taken by this endless conflict. All this while trying to keep our own families safe from rockets flying above us or from terror attacks through tunnels, which go right under your family’s kibbutz in the south.
I assume you are doing this because you care about what’s going on here and because you feel connected, otherwise you might be more concerned about other conflicts such as the thousands dead in Syria, for example. But doing this, without actually being here and facing the situation, with your own children, feels patronizing and insults me personally, as it seems you are trying to show the world we are monsters.
You don’t know what people here actually want and hope for. Most of us want peace, want a diplomatic solution and want the Palestinians to be able to live peacefully and prosper as our neighbors. But yes, we also want our families to be safe. If you want to actually help, or make a difference, you are more than welcome to actually fulfill your democratic right to vote for government and come here and help us change this reality. Otherwise, the only thing you are helping is maybe clearing your own conscience”.
(It’s important to note, as I already did on the 4th of August 2014, in the wake of Siha Mekomit (Local Call) article in Hebrew that day, that the whole claim of Hamas tunnels reaching into nearby villages was a hoax at governmental level, deliberately made to stir hysteria and muster wide popular support for the ground invasion of Gaza on the pretext of what was portrayed as “terror tunnels”. See coverage in English from a week later on at 972.).
It is true that I have family in a kibbutz just near the border with Gaza. The response thus contained an emotional plea not only for national solidarity, but also family solidarity, as it were.
This was a long time ago, but I find it useful to copy here what my response was at the time:
“I’m happy you’re following and commenting my links, really. Yet I find your response a bit paranoid – no, I am not trying to suggest that everyone in Israel thinks the same or hopes for the same, why would you think I would think so? Have I ever expressed anything that even suggests that or anything close? And certainly not in relation to the subject of this post. You suggest that I don’t know what it’s like, but I’ve been in Israel in times of war and under rocket fire.
The views I bring are often linked to informative sources, and some of the most critical articles posted are actually by Israelis, for example Journalist Gideon Levy and [former] politician Yossi Sarid.
So now, why do I tend to bring so many articles and views which are critical towards Israel’s conduct and social tendencies? Is it because I want to hurt you, or destroy Israel’s PR for fun? Are my posts about military misconduct construed in order to weaken IDF morale and endanger the lives and security of my family near Gaza?
No, the answer is completely different, and I hope you will have the courage to believe what I am about to write:
It is because I care. I think that the way in which Israel is acting is endangering you, our families, the lives of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and is certainly causing death and misery for Palestinians. Besides, this conflict affects the whole world in no uncertain ways.
It is my educated view, that Israel needs a radical shift to alleviate this suffering, and that as internal pressures within Israel generally seem, in my view, to keep things either in a harmful status quo or worsen [it], then I choose to put my voice in.
Yes, I have the right of vote. But more importantly, I have my mind and ability to think, write and enter discussions also with various Israelis as well as non-Israelis.
These are my views, and as mentioned, they are not more critical than those aired by [other] prominent Israelis.
I wonder, If I were to forward the numerous official IDF and ‘support Israel’ propagandas that I get forwarded even by close family friends, whether that would go down better and I would be more popular with the family? Honestly, I think it would.
Yet whilst I am aware of the dismay and even hurt this might cause in you, and whilst I am aware of the possibility of losing friendships because of my views (and this has happened), I choose to express what I feel is essential.
I suppose I write a lot about Israel both because of my personal Interest and care, as well as my actual ability to engage in meaningful discourse about it with my various Israeli contacts, as well as non-Israeli ones.
I dare say that after 7 years of actual research intro the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as continuous follow-up up of news and currencies, I actually know more about these matters than the average Israeli.
If I can possibly contribute to greater understanding, to a more lucid debate, to possible changes and most of all to peace and freedom for the region, in my small ways, why would I not do that? Would that not be for everyone’s good, also yours?
If you or anyone else disagrees with my views, you are free and welcome to comment them. Mine are written solely for peaceful purposes, and I intend to continue, as my conscience bids me to.”
Indeed, the nerve of these comments either just asking to ‘moderate’, or even to ‘say nice things about Israel’ (rather than just negative, as it were), is about the PORTRAYAL that Israel gets by the focus upon its nationalist elements.
But returning to the first mentioned, recent comment, “Why don’t you share good things about Israel, we are many more than these few idiots?”, I would like to copy my own response which I had posted:
“I share things about very much else than the Kahana Hai or Lehava or Al Yahud Judeo-Nazis. I still note them sometimes, like when I focused on the murder rally, or the murder wedding. So does [my contact]. She’s even in touch with some pretty leading Zionist editors, and has a perspective on a wide range of matters regarding Israel.
But we cannot dismiss, that the genocidal ‘fringe’ as you would have it, is far from being a fringe really. I mean, it’s probably already cliché, but what would you say about government top, like Lieberman? Drowning and beheading Palestinians by thousands? Bennett? Killing lots of Arabs and having no problem with it? Shaked? Killing those “little snakes” [Palestinian children]?
I’m afraid it’s a matter of national ideology that is so egregious, that we have to relate to it with great thrust. I mean, there will be time to talk about nice things, but how can you chat about such stuff when such things are on the go? Yes, I know there should be space for “other things”, but isn’t it good to apply a major focus to affect this atrocity? I would love to be able to drop all such focus. It’s a torture to witness. But it’s also a responsibility to note.
The other matter is that when even the left warn of the danger of being perceived as “Arab lovers”, you begin to get that this is a state that has pretty much lost it. And who will change this, the same Israelis who for the most enjoy the privilege of this madness? I’ve given up on that. And I’m one of those Israelis. We should be so happy that there are those who still care enough to not resort to trivia in the face of crimes against humanity.”
In risk of repeating myself, I would say that the major problem of liberal Zionists today (a description which, I believe, encompasses all three responders), is one of perception – perceiving Israel as a more or less ‘normal’, ‘democratic’ country. It appears to me that the outcry is not so much about the fact that these extremist expressions are shared – but that they are ‘excessively’ shared. But I am an activist. I am not a PR spokesman for Israel. I have a political outlook, and a political motive. And in my view, the situation Israelis, and particularly Palestinians, are in, requires nothing less than a radical focus and radical change. This is not the kind of change that is bound to come from Israeli ‘democracy’, because that ‘democracy’ has been conditioned by ethnic cleansing and Apartheid to serve the needs of its ruling majority, with a minor ‘permission’ for representation of the ‘others’ on strict condition that they do not challenge the Jewish State. That is not democracy. That is a very dangerous construct. The acts that ensue from this construct and its growing fascism are its fruits, and evidence of its inherent danger. In the light of this grave danger, it is not ‘obsessive’ to focus upon these matters.
I have also been asked by Israeli responders why I write so much about the occupation. Left-center leader Yitzhak Herzog also chided Gideon Levy for “obsessing” about the occupation. But it is not the focus that is the problem. The problem is the problem. And as long as you think the problem is just a ‘little problem’ amongst many other ‘little problems’, you’ll have a problem with that.
I think the problem is that the problem is diluted by those who would rather have it disappear than directly challenged. That’s not what I’m about. And there is absolutely no need to apologise for that.