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The dysphoria of the victor

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I attended the one-man show “The Forbidden Conversation” at the 14th Street Y, October 15. Developed by Israeli-American Gili Getz during a fellowship at the Y’s “Laboratory for Jewish culture (LABA),” it premiered in 2016 at the Center for Jewish History, and has been circuiting North American Jewish venues.

Its premise is that during Getz’s 2014 visit to Israel during the 2014 Gaza “crisis” and “war” — including killing of demonstrators in the West Bank, the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens, and a run up to a full Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza — Getz discovered he was no longer able to talk with his Israeli father about the pointlessness and criminality of IDF actions.

Another point of drama in the show was Getz’s inspiration and joy in supporting Yitzhak Rabin, seeing him as leading a move to normalization and peace with Palestinians, and his presence at the rally at which Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli November 4, 1995.

In 2015, Getz did a photo essay covering a conference of Open Hillel at Harvard to broaden the acceptable discussion about Israel, contesting Hillel’s guidelines for events which forbade many speakers who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactic or otherwise oppose Israeli hegemony in Palestine.

Getz has a formidable history to do the show. He’s an Israeli-American who served in the IDF as a combat photographer, documenting the violence of the second Intifada and the grinding daily humiliation of the Israeli occupation. He’s also an accomplished working actor, director, American Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate, was editor of YNet US, ”and participated in Obama’s two presidential campaigns, Organizing for America, J Street and Citizen Action of New York.”

In other words, as one would expect, the one-man show has excellence in design and effective brevity to convey its thesis. The thesis is that American Jews, just as he discovered with his Israeli father, cannot talk across divides about Israel/Palestine. That there is a degeneration into accusations and indignant denial, rage at the idea of Palestinian humanity or vulnerability, Jewish State culpability.

14th Street Y, photo by Abba Solomon

The performance was followed by a talk with Rabbi Shira Koch-Epstein, executive director of the 14th Street Y, and Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor of the Forward.

Ungar-Sargon talked about the “red lines” that she is expected to maintain in article selection. She proudly said that the Forward has published more Palestinian opinion pieces than any other large American Jewish publication, resisting a closed environment.

Ungar-Sargon said that, for younger Jews, Trump has spread a taint on nationalism, “and Zionism is Jewish nationalism.”

Batya Ungar-Sargon, from her twitter feed.

Koch-Epstein said that American Jews had “outsourced Jewish identity to Israel for the last 60 years.” Dialog with Israel will improve as American Jews are reestablishing their identity independently, she forecast.

The theme of Gili Getz’s work is that talk must happen between anti-Zionists and the staunch proponents of Jewish nationalism in America, and between American Jews and Israeli Jews, or Jews will fragment as a community — and, presumably, not deal in a more healthy way with Israel/Palestine.

My thoughts after the performance and talk: What does this have to do with Palestine’s agony? Is a dysphoria of Jewish self-image and group comity significant? I may not be a good enough Jew, may not take seriously enough talk of Jewish unity and Jewish life.

Given the 100 year history of Jewish colonial advancement in Palestine, and the extremity of Palestinian conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, under IDF control, and the millions in perilous exile, the concerns for Jewish feelings and communal life seem less than compelling.

As a tactic to soothe the discomfort, I can see it — but have little hope that it will save any Palestinian lives or communities, much less lead to any restoration or reparations.

It seemed both worthy and irrelevant, irrelevant to how to stop the process of nationalist Jews injuring Palestinians. The Zionist regime in Palestine is born in assertion, in blood and iron. Will it be destroyed by anything less?

Gili Getz may be seeing over a horizon I cannot. To try to force a change in the situation so that enough Jews are not only non-Nationalist but actively anti-Zionist, enough to force Federations and major Jewish organizations to join BDS and lobby against US cover for Israel, seems improbable.

The American Jewish Committee in April 1918 approved a statement thanking Britain for the Balfour Declaration on a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, while expressing a demurral with the more militant goals of Zionists. One board member denounced it as a “weak straddle.”

Since then, the American Jewish organizations with claims to “mainstream” inclusiveness have not directly fought Zionism but sought to subtly, supportively guide it. In practice, they’ve been abettors to the crimes, and it’s unimaginable they will change.

In Haaretz, IfNotNow founder Simone Zimmerman writes that this week’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv had the theme “We Need to Talk.”

“The ‘need to talk’ is a recurring theme across the Jewish community today; if we could just have more civil discourse with one another, all of our problems would go away.”

However, Zimmerman says, “The JFNA’s public calls for civility are just a cynical diversion tactic. …We should demand nothing less than full repentance from our institutions.“

 

About Abba Solomon

Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.’” His website is abbasolomon.com

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20 Responses

  1. Mooser
    Mooser
    October 27, 2018, 12:15 pm

    “We Need to Talk.”

    ROTFLMSJAO! ‘C’mon over here where they can’t hear us, and we’ll tell you what to do…’

  2. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    October 27, 2018, 12:32 pm

    “The Zionist regime in Palestine is born in … blood and iron.”

    “Blood and Iron” (Blut und Eisen) is the name given to a speech delivered by Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck in 1862. He was talking about the unification of Germany. Zionist song writer Yaakov Cohen replaced iron by fire: “In fire and blood did Judea fall; in blood and fire shall Judea rise.”

    “Will it be destroyed by anything less?”

    We must hope so — if only because Israel’s nuclear weapons make it very likely that the next time Judea falls the fire will rage far beyond Judea itself. Even if (for the sake of argument) the majority of Jews remain unrepentant until the very end, it does not follow that nothing less than war can destroy Zionism. Because ultimately it does not depend on the Jews, who are a small minority of the world public and a minority even of those who support the Zionist regime by word and deed. It depends on Gentile opinion and that is where our efforts need to be directed.

  3. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    October 27, 2018, 2:38 pm

    “Since then, the American Jewish organizations with claims to “mainstream” inclusiveness have not directly fought Zionism but sought to subtly, supportively guide it. In practice, they’ve been abettors to the crimes, and it’s unimaginable they will change”

    I listened to the panel discussion at:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv-yJK3ICnA

    I was left with the overwhelming feeling that the priority was that liberal progressive call it what you like American Jewish organisations are totally unwilling to grasp the simple nettle that the 2SS is a chimera. Zionists never intended it to happen , it will never happen and to use it as a major prop eg ” I still believe in the two state solution” to get round the guilt over what fellow Jews are doing effectively in their name is disingenuous and despite their apparent embrace of “we must talk to each other” their failure to grasp this nettle means that their inter Jewish conversation is just a variation on the same old same old. The Palestinian gentleman who asked the simple question “What two states.There are no two states. It`s 10% left for the Palestinians” never got an answer because the panelists carried on dancing round the subject instead of addressing the simple truth that whatever the solution( or the denouement) to the problem turns out to be it most certainly cannot be the Oslo 2SS which was and continues to be a cleverly engineered dead end charade.

  4. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    October 27, 2018, 8:23 pm

    It’s not that the author is a bad jew, or not good enough or feels culpable. He is exactly like the upscale and fairly assimilated Jews in 1930s europe who foolishly believed that by appeasing, over willingness to be open to why jews might have.’brought the calamity on ourselves, and other anxieties there would be no calamity.
    . PW himself had made cases for Jewish so-called trauma being inherited in some mystical way if not by DNA then as if like dna . . the natural extension of that would be to thInk the ‘other’ jew has inherited evil (the way trauma was passed down into liberal american zionist jews explained in more then one past MW articles.) as if or by dna going all the way back to the golden calf. and everybody knows that is a fairy tale like Saul, David, Solomon… All fairytales that any thinking jew with a brain cell would every entertain.

    • JohnSmith
      JohnSmith
      October 28, 2018, 9:11 am

      It would be helpful of course if DaBakr’s first language was English, but if I were to try to express sympathy for or attempt to interpret his garbled and incoherent English, I would doubtless be guilty of some act of vile trickery.

      It certainly takes chutzpah for DaBakr to look at the way Phillip Weiss and others attempt to reach some understanding for and historical explanation for the relentless abusiveness and racism that DaBakr and his fellow racists embrace, and to sneer that someone looking at the trauma Jews suffered in Russia and in Germany is merely practicing “mystical” mumbo-jumbo.

      If DaBakr was honest with himself, and decent, he would look at the way Zionists used the suffering and the trauma of the Holocaust to propagandize children after World War II, teaching them to embrace and practice the Zionist racial supremacism that has been passed down in an uninterrupted line to the present day.

      Far from being “mystical,” the continuation of racism and racial supremacism is something that DaBakr sees every day–when he looks in the mirror.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 28, 2018, 4:54 pm

      .” PW himself had made cases for Jewish so-called trauma being inherited in some mystical way if not by DNA then as if like dna “

      Phil had better be careful. Science is getting a pretty good handle on what you can inherit with “Jewish DNA”.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        October 28, 2018, 9:53 pm

        @m

        Whatever they find, you better hope you haven’t inherited the worst of it.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 29, 2018, 1:29 pm

        “Whatever they find, you better hope you haven’t inherited the worst of it.”

        Well “Dabakr” check the “Diseases” list and see if I am on it.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        October 31, 2018, 1:23 am

        @mssr

        Don’t know about diseases but the humour dna? Not so dominant though not for lack of trying

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 31, 2018, 1:45 pm

        “Don’t know about diseases”

        Oh, they probably don’t exist. Just an attempt to scare people away from marrying us.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      October 29, 2018, 11:00 am

      @DaBakr

      Speaking of “assimilated” Jews, – enlightened, courageous Jews:

      https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/90-year-old-twins/

      “90 year-old [Jewish] twins take greater risk-supporting free speech on Palestine”
      Jewish Voice for Labour, 25 October, 2018

      EXCERPT:
      “For their 82nd birthday Frank and Ralph Land jumped out of a plane for charity. For their 90th birthday they challenged the British Jewish establishment for justice for Palestinians.

      “Frank and Ralph Land arrived in Britain from Berlin in April 1939 aged 10 as refugees from Hitler’s Germany, travelling with their parents. Both have had distinguished careers. For their 82nd birthday they performed a joint parachute jump and raised £14 000 for various charities including pancreatic cancer research. They marked their 90th birthday on 24 October by issuing the following statement:

      “‘We deplore the attempts to silence critics of Israel by false and malicious accusations of antisemitism. We know what antisemitism looks and feels like from our Jewish childhood in 1930s Berlin.’

      ”’The relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for his support for Palestinian rights are a disgrace and bring no credit on the Jewish organisations, mass media and Labour MPs who mount them.’

      “‘As long-time members of the Labour Party we welcomed the election of Jeremy as leader and look forward to a Labour Government committed to social justice and combatting inequality and injustice in Britain and across the globe. This includes both ending austerity at home and working towards recognising the rights of Palestinians and the ending the establishment of illegal settlements in the occupied areas.’

      “‘We call on all members of the Labour Party and especially all Labour MPs to work in unity towards these goals.’”

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        October 30, 2018, 2:42 pm

        @m

        And they are totally free to speak their minds and gain your approval. Bravo.

  5. Marnie
    Marnie
    October 28, 2018, 5:08 am

    na·tion·al·ism

    /ˈnaSH(ə)nəˌlizəm/

    patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts.

    synonyms: patriotism, patriotic sentiment, flag-waving, xenophobia, chauvinism, jingoism
    “their extreme nationalism was frightening”

    •an extreme form of this, especially marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.
    plural noun: nationalisms

    •advocacy of political independence for a particular country.

    Historically there’s been nothing good about nationalism. tRUMP isn’t a nationalist like he claims, he’s only a tRUMPIST as he doesn’t see anything beyond the tip of his nose nor does he want to. It’s bad for most everyone but him and a handful of others, and that’s the idea.

    Jewish nationalism is bad for anyone who isn’t jewish, and that’s the idea.

    White nationalism is bad for anyone who isn’t ‘white’, and that’s the idea.

    Jewish and white nationalism is bad for jewish and white children because it inculcates a false sense of superiority, profound ignorance of the rest of the world and all that entails, stifles curiosity and turns them into robots and blinds them to the truth that we all have to share the resources of this earth that are squandered every day both those who have too much to begin with. It’s child abuse.

    What you look like when you wake up to the fact that yes, your shit does stink and no, you aren’t any better than anyone else.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6m1uEUVwAAz1_1.jpg

    • Keith
      Keith
      October 28, 2018, 6:46 pm

      MARNIE- “Historically there’s been nothing good about nationalism.”

      No doubt that we would be better off if the original 13 colonies had remained separate. Oh well, what is done is done.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 29, 2018, 12:18 am

        You could ask the Queen to take you back. She might forgive you all the tax you owe.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        October 29, 2018, 12:44 am

        @Richard – feel feel to jump right in and distort my post, take it to a ridiculously literal degree and ahhhhh, that must be sweet relief. But now that you mention it, fuck the colonies.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr
      October 30, 2018, 2:44 pm

      @…
      you don’t have any opinions on Arab nationalism or specifically Palestinian nationalism. Interesting.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        October 30, 2018, 3:10 pm

        @dab

        Really? I don’t see palestinian desires as being exclusive, unlike the jewish nation-state .

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        October 31, 2018, 1:18 am

        @mrn

        Typical avoidance. You stated that nothing good about nationalism yet the the arabs in the territories are as if not more nationalistic then the israelis. You also fail to acknowledge that wether you write it or believe it, Israel is not exclusive to any race,religion, ethnic group or sexual orientation. The West Bank and Gaza are, jew free and if you want to count the settlements, the PLO demands that Jews be removed from all settlements giving them a jew free state. So you either have no clue what you rant about or conveniently ignore plain undisputed facts to make your Israel-hating comments. A lazy persons method.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        October 31, 2018, 10:37 am

        @dab – It remains to be seen how things will turn out.

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