News

‘Going native’ and Jewish exceptionalism on the left

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Yossi Gurvitz issued a decent rebuttal to Dimi Reider’s call to self-immolation over at 972mag. It’s worth reading the argument in its entirety, and its strengths are self-evident. There is one significant note worth harping on: Gurvitz’s casual racism when it comes to the Palestinians.

I don’t know Gurvitz and haven’t read much of his work. But I’m confident he didn’t intend to employ the language he did in the way that he did. He’s careful about identifying Palestinian victims of Jewish terror by name at several points in the article.

But what I took issue with are the following few lines:

I never even considered the idea of grabbing the nearest Palestinian, burning his property, or beating him up. And most Israelis were just like me. We took the attacks on the chin, gritted our teeth, and kept ourselves from whining. The settlers, on the other hands, have gone native. It used to be Palestinians who brandished bloodied Israeli bodies; now it’s the settlers who do so.

Here, Gurvitz reveals a deeply embedded Jewish-centrism that many of our friends on the left share. The drive to end the occupation and Israeli apartheid stems not from universal human values, but from the drive for the Tikkun Olamization of the Jewish people. Everything else is secondary.

Usually, I don’t care very much about that; I understand that many Israelis and Jewish people are weaned on the idea of Jewish exceptionalism. But in this case, Gurvitz’s language – which by definition belies a worldview – is deeply offensive.

Perhaps Gurvitz really does believe that the settlers have gone native. In this case, they’ve gone savage, like the natives. And his moral imperative is to hold his head up and demand that the Jews not sink into the reactionary sewer inhabited so comfortably by the natives.

The idea here is that the Palestinians behave in a way that is intrinsically “Palestinian” or “native.” The Jewish settlers meanwhile, suffer from aping the apes. They’re acting in a vicious, native way, and that isn’t very becoming of Jews.

At this point it’s probably worth reminding Gurvitz that his Jewish-centrism follows the wearying path of European and Western colonial dehumanization across the developing world. Peoples and governments have navigated and continue to navigate this territory. We can learn from that. There is no Palestinian Caliban and there is no Jewish Kurtz. But there is a history of colonial repression and unexamined racism.

28 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments