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I am Israeli

Israel/Palestine
on 28 Comments

The other day James North did a post on the Ayatollah Khamenei’s call for an end of the “Zionist regime,” and two commenters, Elliot and DaBakr, had a dialogue about the threat posed to Israel by anti-Zionism in the Middle East. DaBakr repeatedly accused Elliot of misreading Israeli history. Elliot allowed us to publish his response as a post:

I assume you know that I am Israeli. I was indoctrinated with so many distortions of history that left me cold to Palestinian suffering. I would see the empty houses of Lifta every day at the western entrance to Jerusalem, I played in those houses yet I never made the human connection to the people who built those houses and lived there before I came along; in all my years in Israel I never befriended a Palestinian; it took me until just a few years ago to really own the simple fact that over 750,000 Palestinians had to leave Palestine to make way for me and my fellow Jewish Israelis; I had no sense that Palestinians had roots in the land, that it was their land that I was taking.

The best I could do was find overt anti-Arab racism distasteful, reject the occupation and generally try to be nice. I was the successful product of an education system that – to use your word – brainwashes as essential mental preparation for every Israeli’s first job as an adult, i.e. enforcing the Occupation and terrorizing other Palestinians in Gaza and Lebanon. Because that is the main job of the Israeli Defense Forces.

I never understood that the Jewish National Fund’s forests are literally a coverup for the Nakba. These wonderful green forests (“look how brown and bare South Lebanon is next to the green Galilee”) were planted on the ruins of hundreds of Palestinian villages. I never questioned the fairness of bringing millions of non-residents from around the world into an already populated land.

I could go on and on. And I am still uncovering more of my prejudices born in ignorance. If I could lay my hands on even a small part of the supposed’ billion (dollars?) that you say the Palestinians have earmarked for PR as payment for the time I’ve spent undoing the damage of years of Israeli and American Zionist indoctrination, let me know who to go to for that. Much appreciated.

Xpat
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28 Responses

  1. Krauss
    Krauss
    September 14, 2015, 9:48 am

    Good comment. I missed the initial exchange so I went into the thread and read it. I think Elliot wrote very movingly about the necessity of unmooring himself from a racist “education” system whose primary aim is to indoctrinate the kids with Apartheid justifications.

    P.S. Man those forests sure look like they belong in the Middle East! Is it a coincidence that they look more like Switzerland or Canada than they do of Palestine?

    And what does it say about the mentality – or cultural belonging if you will – of those who planted them there?

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      September 14, 2015, 12:03 pm

      “Unmooring.” Good word.

    • Xpat
      Xpat
      September 15, 2015, 9:14 pm

      Krauss –
      Thanks. There is research that shows the arborists who provided the know-how for the JNF in its infancy had previously worked for the British administration in India and the German colonial project in Africa. In other words, Israel’s landscape was manufactured by the scientists of other European colonists. This is a European use of trees to disrupt village life and indigenous agriculture in foreign lands. As Ritzl pointed out, this European fantasy projected on to a Middle Eastern climate continues to hurt Palestinians today. The colonists’ trees are living thieves of Palestinian water.
      The epitome of the good life in Israel is having a house with a garden in the suburbs. Flat roofs or the Arab domed roofs are more appropriate for the climate, but the sloped, red-tiled roofs are means to look like European houses. On the West Bank you can spot an Israeli settlement from miles away by cluster of red roofs against the olive green landscape.

  2. bintbiba
    bintbiba
    September 14, 2015, 10:23 am

    Thank you for your comment, Elliot…

    ” I would see the empty houses of Lifta every day at the western entrance to Jerusalem, I played in those houses yet I never made the human connection to the people who built those houses and lived there before I came along; in all my years in Israel I never befriended a Palestinian; it took me until just a few years ago to really own the simple fact that over 750,000 Palestinians had to leave Palestine to make way for me and my fellow Jewish Israelis; I had no sense that Palestinians had roots in the land, that it was their land that I was taking. “

    • YoniFalic
      YoniFalic
      September 15, 2015, 6:49 am

      At this point, I as a European person whose great-grandparents practiced Judaism (I’m secular) don’t believe I have any roots in Israel even though I was born in that state founded after Auschwitz by committing a genocide of the native population.

      After reading Sand, I realized I have no more roots in the country than a European Christian does.

  3. ritzl
    ritzl
    September 14, 2015, 12:23 pm

    Well said, Elliot.

    FTR, just ONE of those mature pine trees uses as much or more water that Israel allows a Palestinian family of four to use (~100 gal/day; 400 l/day). And the trees get it cheaper.

  4. lonely rico
    lonely rico
    September 14, 2015, 12:30 pm

    I too missed the Elliot/DaBakr conversation, went back to read the former’s moving testimony of his enlightenment, in marked contrast to the latter’s shrill incoherence in defense of racism and supremacism.
    I can only wonder that the cleavage between the Jewish population in the US which largely subscribes to universal humanist values, and the Zionists in Israel, minds closed and locked against the other, will continue to widen until the connection finally breaks. A crucial step forward for justice and peace in Palestine – it cannot happen too soon.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      September 14, 2015, 3:11 pm

      I won’t hold my breath

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 14, 2015, 4:40 pm

        “I won’t hold my breath”

        Yes, in order to cause a factionalizing and then a hardening of the differences and rejection, it needs to be over something really important. You know, like food, like putting the wrong plate of food in front of somebody. Over screwy catering, sure.

    • Xpat
      Xpat
      September 15, 2015, 9:24 pm

      “I can only wonder that the cleavage between the Jewish population in the US which largely subscribes to universal humanist values, and the Zionists in Israel”

      Bizarre, isn’t it? The ability of the human mind to effortlessly compartmentalize seemingly contradictory areas of thought is amazing. It’s a feat of mental self-preservation.

  5. Danaa
    Danaa
    September 14, 2015, 3:23 pm

    Elliot – good responses – and I too missed the exchange. Sometimes, great things happen in the comments section but are missed by many who do not necessarily read all the articles.

    As you know I second your experience and then some. And you are right about the process of peeling off the brainwashing layers being a long and oftentimes a painful one. When great prejudices are implanted in young minds, they grow roots and the branches grow out to touch and intertwine with the building blocks of identity itself. One prejudice wraps itself around another in a seemingly seamless tapestry, becoming effectively one. Trying to undo them uncovers endless knots some laden with moth balls, others hardened into a tumor like shell that lodged itself in vital organs.

    Perhaps the most obvious example is the way anti-palestinianism (which can start out as a relatively “simple” process of obliterating records of the indigenous people – at least the way this is taught to children), morphs in adulthood into general racism against people who are darker, and/or islam as a religion. Tackling one prejudice in an attempt to slap it down only leads to another popping up that one did not even realize was there.

    To me this became quite obvious when vising israel before Obama got elected. The prejudice against him as a black man (even if mixed) went really deep. I heard some of the strangest and sometimes viciously racist comments offered, unsolicited, from the mouths of the most civilized and educated people in Israel at the time. Comments that the most conservative republican in the deepest of the deep south would be ashamed to make aloud. Comments that the vast majority of jewish Americans (at least the non-orthodox) would not be caught dead uttering. But in Israel those epithets and snide comments rolled off the tongue, with nary a thought given to the fact they might be offensive. Yet, these were all “nice” people, who would be horrified to learn they share commonalities with the Ku Klux Klan.

    I may be further ahead of you, Elliot, in this process, but the place where I am now is kind of barren. De-programming cannot unfortunately be done successfully without nipping off some healthy tissue along with the diseased ones. Where there was a tumor once, there is now a scar, which refuses to heal. In rediscovering compassion for the Palestinians, I seem to have lost for example, some of my empathy for the jews of israel. I look for it sometimes, trying to feel a sense of spiritual “balance” but all I find is the cold surface of a hard shell. As I’ve written about before, the main casualties for me were my good memories of growing up in israel, and being happy enough much of the time. I lost almost all my original friendships and what’s left is a field of humpty-dumpties where one walks on egg shells trying not to stir up dust blowing in from dark attics.

    Still, despite the losses there are gains, I should say. One discovers new people, new histories and makes new friends with fresh eyes, so the overall effect may be an enriching one. May be I just need to set up an appointment with Avigail Abarbanel. She might have a good apothecary for me to rummage through…..

    • eljay
      eljay
      September 14, 2015, 3:36 pm

      || Danaa @ September 14, 2015, 3:23 pm ||

      Thanks for your post, Danaa. Much respect to you.

    • annie
      annie
      September 14, 2015, 3:49 pm

      refuses to heal

      thanks danaa. not a lot to add there except i hope that scar doesn’t grieve you too much ..

      i thought you (and everyone) may want to read elliot’s comment in the context of the conversation – it even makes it more interesting. begins here:

      http://mondoweiss.net/2015/09/misrepresents-prediction-zionist#comment-795770

    • Keith
      Keith
      September 14, 2015, 4:11 pm

      DANAA- “And you are right about the process of peeling off the brainwashing layers being a long and oftentimes a painful one.”

      The same is true for all citizens of empire, propaganda and myth-history all pervasive.

      “We live entangled in webs of endless deceit, often self-deceit, but with a little honest effort, it is possible to extricate ourselves from them. If we do, we will see a world that is rather different from the one presented to us by a remarkably effective ideological system, a world that is much uglier, often horrifying.” (Noam Chomsky)

    • Chu
      Chu
      September 15, 2015, 6:53 pm

      I always thought, somewhat joking, that there needs to be a Betty Ford-type clinic for post-zionism. There are obviously a lot of people that may feel the same way as you and Elliot, but may not have the ability to grapple the task of deprogramming. A sad instance this summer was a young woman who jumped off the roof of a building in mid town who was an ex Belz Hasid. She ended her life because she felt alone and did not want to be part of her religion and all that it entailed. Her letter told the story: http://gothamist.com/2015/07/23/ex_hasid_email_suicide.php
      A lot of people are not as independent as others and need some sort of group to link to to make it in this world.

      HBO recently had an impactful documentary about Scientology, the Prison of Belief that interviewed so many well intentioned people within the group that were led astray by their leaders. And they encountered the same tactics of ostracization from the leaders and the collective group. It was the same type of goldstoning tactics at hand, albeit a different religion.

    • Xpat
      Xpat
      September 15, 2015, 9:27 pm

      I don’t have current meaningful relationships in Israel outside of immediate family. For me, it’s not so much the prejudices themselves but uncovering warped thinking predicated on those prejudices. Like a liberal American suddenly realizing that a term they always used is tainted with racism or that the place they live has a Native history that was obliterated by Europeans. So, it’s more about trying to clean that stuff up. But how do you know you have that way of thinking when you don’t yet know you have that way of thinking….

  6. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    September 14, 2015, 4:07 pm

    RE: “I assume you know that I am Israeli. I was indoctrinated with so many distortions of history that left me cold to Palestinian suffering. . . I am still uncovering more of my prejudices born in ignorance. If I could lay my hands on even a small part of the supposed’ billion (dollars?) that you say the Palestinians have earmarked for PR as payment for the time I’ve spent undoing the damage of years of Israeli and American Zionist indoctrination, let me know who to go to for that.” ~ Elliot

    URI AVNERY ON HOW THE ISRAELIS HAVE BEEN “BRAINWASHED”:
    “Israel’s Weird Elections”, by Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 1/04/13:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . The Israeli media are already to a large extent neutralized, a creeping process not unsimilar to what the Germans used to call Gleichschaltung. [SEE: Gleichschaltung @ Wikipedia – J.L.D. ]
    All three TV channels are more or less bankrupt and dependent on government handouts. Their editors are practically government appointees. The printed press is also teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, except the largest “news” paper, which belongs to Sheldon Adelson and is a Netanyahu propaganda sheet, distributed gratis.
    [Naftali] Bennett repeats the ridiculous assertion that almost all journalists are left-wingers (meaning traitors.) He promises to put an end to this intolerable situation. . .
    . . . In the coming four years, the official annexation of the West Bank to Israel may become a fact. . .
    . . . If the government continues on its present course, this will lead to certain disaster – the entire country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will become one unit under Israeli rule. This Greater Israel will contain an Arab majority and a shrinking Jewish minority, turning it inevitably into an apartheid state, plagued by a permanent civil war and shunned by the world.
    If pressure from without and within eventually compels the government to grant civil rights to the Arab majority, the country will turn into an Arab state. 134 years of Zionist endeavor will come to naught, a repetition of the Crusaders’ kingdom.
    This is so obvious, so inevitable, that one needs an iron will not to think about it. It seems that all major parties in these elections have this will. Speaking about peace, they believe, is poison. Giving back the West Bank and East Jerusalem for peace? God forbid even thinking about it.
    The weird fact is that this week two respected polls – independent of each other – came to the same conclusion: the great majority of Israeli voters favors the “two-state solution”
    , the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and the partition of Jerusalem. This majority includes the majority of Likud voters, and even about half of Bennett’s adherents.
    How come? The explanation lies in the next question: How many voters believe that this solution is possible? The answer: almost nobody. Over dozens of years, Israelis have been brainwashed into believing that “the Arabs” don’t want peace. If they say they do, they are lying.
    If peace is impossible, why think about it? Why even mention it in the election campaign? Why not go back 44 years to Golda Meir’s days and pretend that the Palestinians don’t exist? (“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…It is not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away. They did not exist.” – Golda Meir, June 13, 1969) . . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/04/israels-weird-elections/

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      September 14, 2015, 4:12 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias” ~ By Harriet Sherwood, guardian.co.uk, 8/07/11
      Nurit Peled-Elhanan of Hebrew University says textbooks depict Palestinians as “terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers”

      [EXCERPT] Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli academic, mother and political radical, summons up an image of rows of Jewish schoolchildren, bent over their books, learning about their neighbours, the Palestinians. But, she says, they are never referred to as Palestinians unless the context is terrorism.
      They are called Arabs. “The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don’t want to develop,” she says. “The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.”
      Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, “Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education”, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism– but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service. . .

      ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/07/israeli-school-racism-claim

      VIDEO of interview with Peled-Elhanan (08:48)

      P.P.S.
      “Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education” (Library of Modern Middle East Studies)
      Kindle Edition (Free sample available)http://www.amazon.com/Palestine-Israeli-School-Books-Propaganda-ebook/dp/B00D5VOJM6

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        September 15, 2015, 1:26 am

        A bit OT, but it seems odd to me that she is described as “a mother”. Why? What relevance does it have to her study?

        Would anyone write “RoHa, a totally unimportant Australian academic, father, and political radical, has again exercised his zealous pedantry …”?

        I think not. The fact that I have a son is not relevant to my unappreciated efforts to maintain the English language as an effective means of communication.

        So why did the Guardian writer include “mother”?

        (And I can’t find an easy way of asking the writer.)

      • mariapalestina
        mariapalestina
        September 15, 2015, 12:28 pm

        @Roha A bit OT, but it seems odd to me that she is described as “a mother”

        Whenever I read anything by or about Nurit Peled-Elhanan I confess I think of her first as a Mother, though I know she is so much more. I can’t begin to imagine the pain she must have endured when her young daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber, and I am humbled at her ability to embrace parents of murdered Palestinian children, and to recognize that all are victims of the Israeli system.

        This is a wonderful piece by Elliot, and I am moved by Danaa’s response. It’s people like Elliot and Danaa and Nurit Peled-Elhanan who give me hope that some day Palestine might be free.

        (I also went back to read the original Eliot/DeBakr exchange, though I had read the original piece and the early comments. I wish there was a way to sign up to receive additional comments without making one myself. Sometimes when I have nothing to contribute I am tempted to post a line just so I can check off the box that allows me to get notifications of newer comments.)

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        September 15, 2015, 4:54 pm

        RE: “A bit OT, but it seems odd to me that she is described as ‘a mother’. Why? What relevance does it have to her study?” ~ RoHa

        MY REPLY: I see it mostly as being a fairly insignificant ‘rhetorical flourish’. It is not one I would have used, but I am an unmarried male (though I confess to once having had a mother). I assume Harriet Sherwood is a woman. She might even be a mother herself. And we have an article having to do with the education of children (given birth to by mothers).

        P.S. I occasionally see articles written by men (and possibly women) referring to the male subject of the article as a “the father of [insert number] children” where I am at a loss to understand the relevance of fatherhood to the subject of the article.
        But then, I’m a childless male.
        Perhaps if I was Married with Children I could peruse the latest issue of “BIG UNS” and I would understand everything! ! !
        But perhaps not.

      • annie
        annie
        September 15, 2015, 5:49 pm

        anyone read my bio lately? i don’t use it as a rhetorical flourish. it’s not just a primary feature of my self identity. it’s probably what means most to me in my life, an integral feature of who i am. it comes naturally for me to identify as a mother because that’s just how important my son is in my life and what being a mother to him means to me. although i think it’s natural for a child, especially an adult child, not to prioritize their parents in their life (for example i don’t self identify as ‘a daughter’) but for a parent it can be different. as a childless person i can understand how that may not resonate with you and every person has a unique personal relationship with their own self identity.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        September 16, 2015, 12:43 am

        Perhaps Harriet Sherwood thinks of Nurit Peled-Elhanan the way you do, Maria, and so put that in as a sort of reflex action. She fails to show that it is relevant to the research. I’m pretty sure that Peled-Elhanan’s results would have been the same even if she were childless. For that matter, they would probably be the same even if she were not a political radical, so mentioning her radicalism is not a lot more relevant.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        September 16, 2015, 12:46 am

        That’s in your bio, Annie. But when you write your posts, you do not start them “as a mother, I think…” or anything like that. You stick to the subject and leave your bio out of it.

  7. YoniFalic
    YoniFalic
    September 14, 2015, 6:36 pm

    I recently began to learn real Jewish history from Shlomo Sand. Later I realized that Sand repeats historical Jewish oppression and suffering narratives that simply are not true. Maybe, he included such dubious material to moderate reactions to what he wrote, for his writings cannot help but undermine many dearly held beliefs.

  8. Marnie
    Marnie
    September 15, 2015, 12:21 am

    Elliot, I hope that your words will inspire many other Israeli Jews.

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    September 15, 2015, 2:46 pm

    As much as I love nature but…not a single cent of mine for anything in israel.

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