Two stories came to my attention this morning. One was an opinion piece in the NYT about the imminent destruction of Susiya written by Nasser Nawaja, resident of Susiya (‘Don’t Level My Village’, 23 July 2015). The second story, by Raphael Ahren in the Times of Israel is about the apparent decline in support for Israel among American Jews (‘World Jewry ever more uneasy with Israel, major study finds’, 23 July 2015).
As a long-time activist for Palestinian rights and an anti-Zionist, I should have been pleased to read that American Jews increasingly question their knee-jerk support for Israel. But instead, I felt a familiar frustration. Jewish American support for Israel has always been vital for Israel and not just for economic reasons. Among other things, Jewish American money and corporate support have been fundamental to Israel’s creation and to its infrastructure, and they enabled the development of Israel’s thriving hi-tech sector. But Israel also relies on Jewish American support for its feelings of legitimacy. As long as American Jews support Israel ‘right or wrong’, Israel feels justified in its existence and in everything it does.
I believe Israeli Jews feel in the depth of their bones that Israel’s existence the way it is, is illegitimate. This is why the Israeli government reacts with such vitriol to the idea that the BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, for example, is an attempt to ‘delegitimse’ Israel. This is the narrative they use. Losing the support of American Jews means losing the flimsy hold that Israeli Jews have on the sense that they have a right to have the kind of state they have — an exclusively Jewish state created at the expense of, and on the ruins of an entire people, their country, their society, history and culture.
The Israeli state does everything in its power to obscure the true meaning of the Zionist movement, and obliterate the memory of what Israel did back in 1947-1948. In an ongoing campaign of misinformation, miseducation, outright lies, omissions and a manipulation of basic tribal feelings of fear and the need to belong, Israel works persistently to rub out what it is doing right now. The story of Susiya demonstrates that the settler-colonial process is alive and well. Israel continues to erase Palestinian villages and towns in order to spread itself further, continue to conquer and replace the indigenous people with its own.
So when I read this in the article from the Times of Israel, “Half of survey respondents said the Israeli army should strive for ‘a balance between morality and the fact that it is facing ruthless enemies who wish to destroy it’”, I feel deeply frustrated. This says so much about how little American Jews grasp what Israel really is. They want Israel to be ‘moral’? Citing views by American Jews the article also says, “In order for Jews to support Israel it must be better than other countries”, a discussion group participant from Dallas is quoted as saying. In Atlanta, someone said that “Diaspora Jews need to know that Israel is behaving morally.”
This illustrates the deepest problem within the American Jewish community and elsewhere in the West. If Israel behaved more ‘morally’ American and other Western Jews would have an easier time supporting it. But how can Israel behave ‘morally’ when it is a settler-colonial state? When have any settler-colonial societies behaved morally? It is an oxymoron. Settler-colonialism is a crime against humanity. A crime can’t behave morally…
It is this chasm, this disconnect in the minds of Western Jews that infuriates me the most. When they read a story like Susiya they don’t see that it is a symptom of the wider context of settler-colonialism. They think it’s a symptom of how Israel suddenly got worse and became immoral. Still steeped in Israel’s Zionist mythology fueled by generations of Israeli Hasbara efforts, Western Jews truly believe that Israel used to be better but that it has gotten worse, moved to the right. Israel has always been right-wing, if right-wing in this context means committing and then whitewashing Zionist settler-colonialism and its obvious and characteristic evils.
Israel has not changed for the worse, it’s always been bad. The psychological rot in the Israeli psyche runs deep and I felt it from the moment I became aware of myself. In hindsight I know that this is why I left in 1991. I left to save my life and my sanity. Israeli society has always been sick because you can’t build something healthy on a criminal foundation, where so much abuse has been, and still is being inflicted on others. Not everyone in Israel is a psychopath. Ordinary people don’t do so well when they live a lie and cover up evil deeds. Just watch the psychology in families where child abuse is committed and not acknowledged. It’s torturous.
American Jews either do not know or refuse to acknowledge that Israel is a settler colonial project. If they knew or if they acknowledge it, would it make a difference to their opinion?
I will not trust American Jews and their supposed left-liberal values until I see intellectual honesty. I want to see true human courage to cope with the feelings that facing the truth about Israel can bring up. As long as they exclude the Palestinians, I won’t believe or trust any good deeds, or any humanitarian sentiments that Jews around the world have for marginalised, oppressed groups. Until they show true moral courage and conviction indiscriminately, I am just not buying it. I don’t have time or respect for those who are Progressive Except on Palestine (PEP).
I am not being paid a commission by Ilan Pappé’s publishers. But I will not be able to respect Western Jews until The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine becomes an essential read for every member of the Jewish community out there and until things are discussed honestly. Willful blindness means you base your views on fiction or a distorted version of reality, and this leads to a schizophrenic, nonsensical existence. But even more importantly it is nothing less than full collusion with a massive crime against humanity. I hold every Zionist Western Jew who is an apologist for Israel, or who supports it, complicit in Israel’s crimes. The truth is out there for everyone to read about and see in great details. There is no excuse for this kind of dishonesty. It is time American Jews faced the truth and drew the obvious conclusions from it.