After a video came out this week of two young Palestinian women slapping Israeli soldiers in the occupied village of Nabi Saleh, the Israeli leftwing group Peace Now tweeted that the soldiers were “heroes” for not responding violently, and issued a statement commending the soldiers for “demonstrating moral fortitude in the face of an attempted stunt to blacken Israel’s image.”
The day those women slapped the soldiers, their 14-year-old cousin was shot in the face by Israeli soldiers, blood pouring from his head “like a fountain,” and he had to undergo a lengthy operation.
Peace Now didn’t say anything about that.
Both young women were later arrested. The 16-year-old, Ahed Tamimi, faces a possibly lengthy sentence so that Israel can maintain its honor. Peace Now has not issued a statement about that.
I find this so dispiriting it is hard to put one word after another. But people should know: this is the world Zionism made. In which a leftwing organization cares about Jewish soldiers maintaining their honor and purity of arms; and has nothing to say about human rights violations against an occupied, subject people.
This is a story about Jewish identity being rooted in trauma; and how long will it take us to overcome that trauma?
The Palestinian experience today is a lot like the Jewish experience of pogroms 100 years ago and more in eastern Europe. As Jews were beaten and killed by marauding gangs with the blessing of the state — American Jews were not silent. Jews acted. Our leaders went to the White House. Important Jewish organizations were formed. The most powerful Jew in the world, the banker Jacob Schiff, supported the Russian revolution because he so hated the czar. The most brilliant Jew in the world, Franz Kafka came out of his office in Prague to see Jews being beaten and he went to Zionist meetings.
Today millions of Palestinians under occupation are being humiliated, deprived of freedom, their children given no chance to dream of a better life… and the leftwing Zionist organization says a 16-year-old Palestinian woman whose cousin was maimed and who slapped a soldier in the courtyard of her house is carrying out a stunt.
Peace Now urges separation: “the occupation corrodes Israel and its image, and will continue until Israel extricates itself from the Palestinians.”
Jewish separation from Palestinians is a delusion. It is like whites separating from blacks in the U.S. Israel is 20 percent non-Jewish; and it rules territories containing 5 million Palestinians; and though the world has resolved to “extricate” the Jews from the Arabs for 70 years now, the communities are intertwined more than ever, as Israeli Jews flood the West Bank and build more and more Jewish-only colonies.
These Jewish colonies and their military escort have inflicted endless trauma on the subject population. Ahed Tamimi is plainly traumatized; she has been subject to violence again and again in her short life.
Two years ago Ahed Tamimi famously tried to protect her brother from an Israeli soldier.
Two years later she is a young woman put in jail for slapping Israeli soldiers in her village.
And Peace Now cries out about the Israeli soldiers:
The occupation is destroying Israel!
And Americans for Peace Now, the strongest liberal Zionist group, retweets the statement.
The occupation surely is destroying Israel spiritually. But who is it actually destroying, Palestinians. Liberal and leftwing American Jews have known this forever.
Seven years ago video of a Palestinian boy running after his father as Israeli police dragged the father away for allegedly stealing water from Jewish colonists inside occupied territory gained international attention, and then too Israel said the footage was staged– and Peter Beinart wrote a book partially inspired by that moment, The Crisis of Zionism.
And nothing changes. The Jews stay in crisis, and the Palestinian children get older– and more traumatized.
The only question is why Jews do not act? Why, given this endless evidence of persecution, haven’t Beinart and Peace Now come out for something stronger to break the occupation? Does Palestinian human wreckage count for anything?
These liberals mock the idea of bearing witness. Americans for Peace Now is still on the board of AIPAC. It could quit tomorrow and send a message. It doesn’t. And I understand calls for partition. Nationalism is a dangerous force. But partition efforts have crumbled for 70 years, and the last 25 years of earnest effort have been a miserable failure. It is not enough to call for partition.
Palestinians like Ahed Tamimi have called on Americans to support boycott of Israel, the tool that has been used on countless occasions in our progressive history to stirring effect– lately over transgender access to bathrooms in North Carolina. But Jewish Voice for Peace is the only large Jewish group to support boycott, and JVP is renegade; a leader of the official Jewish community, Jeffrey Goldberg, smears JVP for having a “homicidal impulse” for Israel; and he gets away with it.
Because at some deep level older Jews are committed to the idea of a Jewish state as some historical compensation for the greatest trauma of the last century, the Holocaust. That’s an understandable desire, to gain some amendment from the world’s powers for the horrors of the last century.
But it comes down ultimately to a matter of selfishness in the formation of identity. How safe are we today in the west? Safe, and empowered. On what terms are we safe? Democratic principles of equality for all persons. Even Bannon and Trump’s indulgence of anti-Semites has done nothing to curb our powers.
That is the modern Jewish condition; but we cannot acknowledge it, let alone the Palestinians’ condition. No, we are traumatized; so we insist that a girl living right now in an occupied village with no future is somehow on an equal footing with a heavily-armed occupying soldier, who is there to keep her family from going to its spring and who when his three years is up and he’s done his one year decompensation smoking dope in India will go to the Technion and then participate in a tech startup while his little brother replaces him in armor.
This is so dispiriting it can’t be expressed in words. Every young American Jew who goes home for the new year needs to talk to their parents about the persecution of Ahed Tamimi. It is only happening with American Jews’ blessing.
Thanks to Allison Deger.