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An answer to the question, ‘Why do you care so much about Israel/Palestine?’

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on 30 Comments

Several years ago, a student in my Israel-Palestine course approached me after class with a question.  Why, he wanted to know, did I care so much about this subject?

The student liked my course, considered it fair-minded and had no complaints about the way I was teaching it. Though he didn’t share many of my critical views about Israel he understood and respected them. But why, he was wondering, did the subject so consume me?  Why did my relationship to this history feel so intense, so visceral?

Had I been a staunch defender of Israel the student probably wouldn’t have found my emotional investment surprising. Especially since I was avowedly Jewish it would have seemed to him “normal” for me to be teaching a class extolling Zionism and Israel. But what could be driving a Jew to invest so much critical energy in the subject?

It was an honest question. The student wasn’t preparing the ground to hit me with the ever-popular Zionist talking point about “singling out” (“What about North Korea and Assad’s Syria and China? Why not focus on and criticize them? What have you got against the Jews?”). Rather, he was simply curious about why I was so focused on this particular history, this particular conflict.

I never got back to him with a clear answer. But I’ve never stopped thinking about his question. Here are my current thoughts on the subject:

The most obvious but, in a way, most evasive response to the student’s query would have been simply to say:  “I have strong feelings because the Israel-Palestine conflict is of immense contemporary importance to the entire Middle East. And because America’s support for Israeli policies has made it deeply complicit in a long history of unjust actions and designs. And because the Palestinians have been victims of  imperial and settler-colonial domination, of exploitation and betrayal by their putative Arab ‘brethren,’ of divided and frequently inept leadership, and of international toleration of Israeli crimes.”

Though I believe all these things to be true, however, they don’t, in themselves, satisfactorily account for the intensity of my intellectual and emotional investment. After all, there are other subjects I am deeply concerned about, many of them more pressing and potentially apocalyptic than the Israel-Palestine conflict, starting with the planetary threat of climate change and the growing menace of fascism in the U.S. and abroad. So why have I been expending so many scarce brain-cells and so much emotional energy in recent years on the subject of Israel-Palestine rather than on these other issues?

A reply to this might be: “It’s true I’ve been especially consumed by the subject of Jews and Palestinians. But so what? Why is it necessary for anyone to account for his/her political preoccupations? It’s one thing to recognize an ethical and intellectual obligation to provide good reasons for one’s political positions. It’s a very different thing to be obliged to explain why one cares so much about any particular subject, e.g., about criminal justice reform or the plight of the Chinese Uighurs or wealth inequalities.

“We all have psychological reasons for paying more attention to one subject than to other deserving ones. So long as the focus of our particular concern is righteous; and so long as we honestly attempt to justify our arguments; what difference does our psychological motivation make?”

Such a response, I think, is entirely adequate. Yet it still feels like an evasion. The student’s question still gnaws.

An answer that many leftish Jews have been known to offer goes something like this: “The Jewish ethical and historical tradition is uniquely or especially committed to social justice and support for underdogs. Empathy for the Palestinians and anger about Zionist depredations is therefore a Jewish imperative. Actually existing Zionism is a betrayal of the essential Jewish tradition. Not only has it been disastrous for the Palestinians, it has been bad for the Jews. It has turned them into oppressors and caused them to abandon their historical ‘calling’ of tikkun olam, repairing the world. As  Jews, therefore, we are specially obliged to take up the Palestinian cause.”

For many reasons, however, this line of thought doesn’t resonate with me.

Is it true, I wonder, that Jewish ethics are really all that different from those of other religions? Do so-called Jewish ethics define Jewishness? And have Jews historically in fact been more just than other peoples?

Accounting for my own ethical and emotional engagement in terms of a putative Jewish ethical “tradition” (the reality of which I find dubious) strikes me as historically problematic and extremely parochial.

Moreover, the ways in which I’ve personally understood my “Jewishness” have never had anything to do with Jewish theology or with any transhistorical or metahistorical identification with an imagined Jewish “people.” But if this is the way I feel, is my “Jewishness” at all relevant to my engagement with the subject of Israel/Palestine? And, if it is, how do I understand this “Jewishness” anyhow?

It seems that if I want to honestly grapple with my student’s question a biographical excursus is in order. So, here goes.

My parents were first-generation American-born secular Jews. I never knew them to step foot in a synagogue except to attend other people’s bar mitzvahs and funerals. My own bar mitzvah was very much my mother’s doing and had everything to do with maintaining propriety and nothing at all to do with “observing the commandments” or joining the “Jewish community.” Apart from Hanukah, Passover and Purim, my understanding of Jewish holy days was just about non-existent, and my associations with these three holidays was aptly summed up by Alan King’s aphorism: “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”

When it came to the subject of Israel, my parents were curiously disengaged, despite their being intensely political in other respects. My father had been an active Socialist during the 1930s and, like most pre-WWII leftists, had been staunchly anti-Zionist. One of my grandfathers had been sympathetic to the Zionist cause and had apparently engaged in heated conversations about the subject with my father. But by the time I was growing up this was all ancient history. Not only was my father no longer a socialist but he had become reconciled to the Zionist enterprise and, as far as I could make out, regarded the State of Israel as a pretty unalloyed Good Thing.

A Good Thing, but a subject neither he nor my mother talked much about. Indeed, when my parents were financially able to afford to travel abroad, Israel was nowhere near the top of their list of preferred (England, France, Italy, Germany, Holland) destinations. True, some years after my father’s death in 1979, my mother became a member of Peace Now. Yet even then she rarely spoke about Israel and I had only the haziest idea of what her thinking was on the subject. I can never recall her uttering the word “Palestinians.”

In sum: Though sympathetic with Israel and ill-disposed to finding  fault with it, my parents never equated their being Jewish with any allegiance to, or special interest in, the “Jewish state.” They certainly never conveyed a sense that it was their or my “homeland.”

So what exactly did my parents regard as their “Jewishness?” They never put it into words and probably couldn’t have. For my mother, I think, it was a matter of filial piety. Her much-revered  father, though an atheist who never went to shul in the U.S., had taught in a cheder back in Poland, had come to America to avoid being drafted into the tsar’s army, and was something of a yiddishist.

For my father the issue was a little more complicated. His parents were German (not Yiddish) speakers from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They had zero connection with any Jewish “community” in the U.S. and were given to looking down their petit-bourgeois noses at vulgar Eastern European Jews, like my mother’s family. My father, who won the German language medal at City College in the 1930s, strongly identified with German kultur, i.e., with what during the Nazi years, became known in the U.S. as the “Good Germany.” Yet though he was never so crass as to suggest for a moment that Jewish-Germans were in any sense preferable to non-Jewish ones, he also never failed to somehow alert me to the fact that paragons like Heinrich Heine, Albert Einstein and Kurt Weill (among others) were not just Germans, but were German Jews. Which was also apparently a Good Thing.

In general, I think my father considered his own Jewish identity to be inextricably enmeshed with an intellectual-cultural-political Mitteleuropean tradition which was significantly but by no means exclusively Jewish. And whatever pride he derived from considering himself an heir to this tradition was implicitly communicated to me. As I grew up, therefore, I came also to feel a strong identification (bordering on a sense of superiority) with a pan-European Jewish-inflected “tradition” of politically progressive thought and action (think: Marx, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg) and radical cultural and literary brilliance (think: Freud and Kafka).

To which I added my own firm conviction that Jews were funnier than other people (think: Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen). Though my parents, like most Jews in post-war America, spoke little about the Nazi Final Solution, I became quite transfixed by the subject and thought often about the lucky accidents that had spared me and my immediate family from Auschwitz or Treblinka.

When I was an undergraduate at Brandeis University (established by largely secular, largely Eastern European descended American Jews in 1948, the same year as the creation of the State of Israel), I enrolled in what was probably the very first college course ever offered on the subject, “The Literature of the Holocaust,” taught by Marie Syrkin, a fiery woman who was the daughter of Nachman Syrkin, an early and renowned left-wing Zionist. Though Syrkin had no success in interesting me in Israel, her course readings  (“The Wall,””The Last of the Just,” Rudolph Vrba’s “I Cannot Forgive,” Piotr Rawicz’s “Blood from the Sky”) left a powerful impression. As, for that matter, did Hannah Arendt’s New Yorker articles about the Eichmann trial (articles which of course Syrkin deplored), whose analysis of bureaucracy and the  “banality” of modern evildoers has stuck with me to this day.

Anyway, by the time I graduated from college, and for many years thereafter, I thought of myself as an utterly irreligious self-identified “Jew,” proud of a Jewish radical and cultural “tradition;” proud to be associated with Groucho, Woody and Mel; acutely aware of the civilization that had been destroyed by the Nazis; and pretty much entirely indifferent to the state of Israel, a place that was infinitely more “foreign” to me than London, Paris or Berlin, and not half so interesting.

So what changed? How did I come to be not just “interested” in Israel, but preoccupied with its appalling treatment of the Palestinians and disgusted by its egregious special-pleading?

Part of the answer, I think, had to do with the changes I began perceiving in the American Jewish community. Starting in the late 1970s the new and distinctively Jewish movement of neo-conservatism openly and vitriolically repudiated the very “progressive” legacy I had reflexively taken to be characteristically Jewish: it was hostile to feminism, hostile to gay rights, hostile to and contemptuous of African-American “special privileges” and cultural assertion, unapologetically hawkish, intensely nationalistic, skeptical (if not repudiating) of the New Deal and Great Society, smugly dismissive of socialism and Marxism . . . and effusively supportive of Israel (this during a decade defined by Begin, Sharon and Shamir, by the proliferation of West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza settlements, by the invasion of Lebanon and by the advent of the First Intifada).

The rightward shift of a vocal portion of the American Jewish community, and especially the influence of neoconservatism on the so-called “New York (Jewish) Intellectuals,” led me to start wondering about the depth, strength and temporal scope of that Jewish progressive “tradition” which had formed such an important part of my own Jewish “identity.” It began to dawn on me that what I had taken to be a long and glorious legacy had been something of an illusion, that insofar as such a progressive legacy had existed at all, it was of very recent vintage (dating from the mid-to-late 19th century), was of very limited geographic provenance (central and eastern Europe) and was exclusively an Ashkenazi phenomenon (having nothing whatever to do with North African or Middle Eastern Jews).

What I had naively taken to be a long-standing Jewish progressivism was in fact a modern and rather ephemeral historical outcropping, shaped by the socio-cultural experience of a few generations of European Jews and with little bearing on any sort of essential “Jewishness” (whatever that might mean). This realization didn’t, of course, make me think any the less of Luxemburg, Kafka or Groucho. But it did induce me to reconsider the nature of my Jewish identification.

There were other cultural developments transforming the American Jewish community which affected me as well. In the later years of the 20th century American Jews seemed increasingly to define their Jewish “identity” in terms of the Holocaust and of Israel. The former was understood as the culmination of a long and relentlessly lachrymose history of victimization which set the Jews apart from all other people and represented a kind of negative “exceptionalism.” The latter was understood as the miraculous redemption of a singular people whose providential purpose was to be a “light unto the nations,” recapture the glory of Joshua, David and Solomon, and produce an endless stream of doctors, scientists and tech-savvy start-up entrepreneurs.

Needless to say, none of this corresponded with my own understanding of being Jewish and, to the contrary, impressed me as being unhistorical, chauvinistic and downright dangerous.

As indeed it was. And is.

The changes in American politics and culture induced me to stop valorizing my Jewish “identity” and to consider my “Jewishness” as simply a morally neutral sociological and historical fact. But these changes didn’t of themselves transform me into a critic of Israel. For that to happen, I had also to call into question the Zionist/Israeli myths that had long been internalized as self-evident truths by American Jews, myself included.

This final step in my personal evolution began to take shape in the late 1990s and then especially after 9/11. As a student and long-time teacher of history I began, for the first time, to read systematically (and then obsessively) about Zionist/Israeli/Palestinian history. Fortuitously, my burgeoning interest in these subjects corresponded with a remarkable efflorescence of new history writing (largely, but by no means exclusively, produced by Jewish-Israeli scholars) which scrupulously and devastatingly undermined one after another pillar of the hitherto sanctified Zionist narrative.

In addition to academic works, I also began to read some of the enormously compelling autobiographical accounts produced by Palestinians themselves, especially the remarkable diaries, recollections and reconstructions of Raja Shehadeh ( Samud: Journal of a West Bank Palestinian; The Sealed Room; Strangers in the House; When the Birds Stopped Singing: Ramallah Under Siege; Palestinian Walks; A Rift in TimeOccupation Diaries; etc.); and the powerful memoirs by Ghada Karmi (In Search of Fatima, Return).

It wasn’t only that these readings punctured myths and opened my eyes to a history that had hitherto been unknown to me. Their effect involved something more, something visceral. They made me feel as I had during the 1960s when I’d been similarly compelled by my studies and conversations to jettison another celebratory myth-laden narrative: an American fairy tale of freedom-loving settlers and democracy-promoting expansionism. In both instances I came to realize that people I trusted and respected had been promulgating a one-dimensional chauvinist history and burying or muting beyond recognition important narratives of injustice.

For all I knew the promoters of these self-serving and moralistic narratives genuinely believed them. It didn’t matter. The whole thing felt like a swindle, a gigantic exercise of disavowal and triumphalist obfuscation. And, worst of all, the primary perpetrators of the swindle weren’t the obvious Bad Guys (the Dr. Strangeloves and smarmy Nixons, the crazy fascist West Bank settlers and the Likudnik captains of the Israel Lobby) but instead were American liberals and Israeli “socialists.”

The feeling of having been deceived by the supposed Good Guys has been at the wellspring of my personal investment in, and anger about, the Israel-Palestine conflict. The emotions evoked by the shattering of Zionist mythologies, together with the feelings generated by the rethinking of my Jewish “identity,” combined to produce the obsessive investment in the way I thought and taught about the Israel-Palestine conflict. And, of course, the drive by American Zionists to ruthlessly shut down any-and-all criticism of Israel with McCarthyite accusations of “delegitimization” and anti-Semitism; and the mealy-mouthed temporizing of American liberals, endlessly invoking a fraudulent “peace process;” has only deepened this investment.

Is this personal history generalizable? Is it edifying? Probably not. If I was a Palestinian I would probably regard a biographical narrative like this one as besides the point and unhelpfully Judeocentric. For what it’s worth, though, this is how I might have answered my student’s question.

Joel Doerfler
About Joel Doerfler

Joel Doerfler is a long-time independent school teacher of history. He lives in New York.

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30 Responses

  1. just
    just on May 21, 2019, 10:53 am

    Wow. I am going back to read for a 3rd time, but wanted to thank you for this and gather my thoughts before I comment further. I don’t think that I can recall how many times that I have been asked: “‘Why do you care so much about Israel/Palestine?’” I have been lectured, browbeaten, and called names since I was a young person when I first felt comfortable expressing my views. I hope that many will read your powerful essay and at least begin to avail themselves of truth & history. Your students are lucky, Joel.

    • Doubtom
      Doubtom on May 25, 2019, 2:44 am

      Couldn’t agree more, with particular emphasis on the luck of his students in benefiting from that most elusive of historic elements,,,truth.

  2. Seth Morrison
    Seth Morrison on May 21, 2019, 1:14 pm

    Fascinating. You will find many other accounts of American Jews who have moved from zionist to non-zionist in a new book edited by Carolyn Karcher, “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism” Full disclosure, I am one of the 40 contributors. Check it out at https://reclaimingjudaismfromzionism.com/

  3. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on May 21, 2019, 1:30 pm

    RE: “For my mother, I think, it was a matter of filial piety. Her much-revered father, though an atheist who never went to shul in the U.S., had taught in a cheder back in Poland . . .” ~ Doerfler

    📷 PHOTO: Cheder 1917 (Poland, place unknown)

    Cheder
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    A Cheder (alternatively, Cheider, in Hebrew: חדר, lit. “room”) is a traditional elementary school teaching the basics of Judaism and the Hebrew language. . .
    LINK – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheder

  4. JaapBo
    JaapBo on May 21, 2019, 1:33 pm

    Hi Joel,

    Although I’m not Jewish (my upbringing was protestant), I feel similarly betrayed by the hasbara I used to believe in earlier.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield on May 21, 2019, 3:21 pm

      Hasbara is only words. It is the people who invent and disseminate it who betray us all.

      It is natural to hate enemies who try to harm us. If we are ‘Jews’ the harm that the Zionists strive to do to us is to our souls. They hunt our souls with a view to molding us into beings that are alien and repulsive to our true selves.

      And yet if we are obsessed by Zionism and only Zionism they are still determining who we are, even if not in the way they want.

    • Citizen
      Citizen on May 22, 2019, 12:53 pm

      Ditto here, although I was a childhood altar boy.

    • Doubtom
      Doubtom on May 25, 2019, 2:46 am

      Unfortunately, you’re far from alone in your sense of betrayal.

  5. Pdxmuscle@comcast.net
    [email protected] on May 21, 2019, 1:41 pm

    Fascinating article. Only problem with it is that he thinks a Palestinian would read it as besides the point and Judeocentric. I’m Palestinian and was gripped though it was Judeocentric. And being duped by the supposed good guys and coming out the other end makes for a great story whether you shares the authors ethnicity or concerns. Thanks for article Joel.

    • RoHa
      RoHa on May 22, 2019, 2:16 am

      “…and coming out the other end …

      Perhaps unfortunate phrasing, particularly when Jackdaw is telling us his (her?) surname.

  6. pabelmont
    pabelmont on May 21, 2019, 3:05 pm

    Well, I guess a lot of folks feel about the same — no real connection to Judaism or any Jewish community but a feeling of revulsion that people claiming a relation to “us” (or “me”) could act so badly. (And we become aware that the USA, which likewise claims a relation to “us” or “me”, has been a miserable colonial imperial power for a very long time. Yech. So “Go Bernie” and “Go BDS”.)

    A point worth making — no-one asks the neocons where their passion comes from and no-one (much) seeks to shame them as “Jews” (assuming they are more or less Jewish neocons). And this is not just “whataboutism”. It is saying — as they essay does — that everyone is entitled to his or her passion, all the more so if they can argue for it cogently.

  7. Keith
    Keith on May 21, 2019, 6:30 pm

    JOEL DOERFLER- “In general, I think my father considered his own Jewish identity to be inextricably enmeshed with an intellectual-cultural-political Mitteleuropean tradition which was significantly but by no means exclusively Jewish.”

    Let me begin by complimenting you on both your introspection and your analysis. Not an easy task. The “Jewishness” which you were brought up in appears to be the modern version of Judaism resulting from the enlightenment which favored liberalism and assimilation while rejecting Jewish peoplehood. Zionism is explicitly a rejection of assimilation and liberal universalism, a retrenchment to the sectarianism of Classical (medieval) Judaism in modern, secular form, with Gentiles as the eternal “other.” Thanks to the Holocaust, Zionism and Israel, Judaism and Jewishness have by and large been redefined consistent with Zionist mythology. The Zionists have turned enlightenment “Jewishness” on its head. I leave you with a Chomsky quote.

    “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 much uglier, often horrifying.” (Noam Chomsky)

  8. wdr
    wdr on May 21, 2019, 10:07 pm

    Why not move to a country where you will feel more at home, like Iran?

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod on May 22, 2019, 11:35 am

      Wdr,
      I think you meant to say:
      “Why not move to a country where you can move into someone else’s home and feel more comfortable?”

    • Tzvia
      Tzvia on June 14, 2019, 8:02 pm

      What a stupid response to a wonderful article.

  9. Mayhem
    Mayhem on May 22, 2019, 1:04 am

    For Doerfler “the Israel-Palestine conflict is of immense contemporary importance to the entire Middle East”.
    Of course it is.
    If Israel were to disappear the Middle East would become a total basket-case. Israel is the only redeeming factor that prevents the entire region from descending into an internecine, self-destructive war.

    • eljay
      eljay on May 22, 2019, 8:19 am

      || Mayhem: … If Israel were to disappear the Middle East would become a total basket-case. Israel is the only redeeming factor that prevents the entire region from descending into an internecine, self-destructive war. ||

      Zionists admire the kindly rapist who keeps women chained in his basement not because they serve his immoral, “self-determination” purpose but because if he were to disappear they would become total basket-cases.

      • CigarGod
        CigarGod on May 22, 2019, 11:36 am

        Right on, eljay.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso on May 22, 2019, 10:31 am

      @Mayhem

      It is beyond me and I’m sure, any sane person, how you and your ilk can spew forth such bull crap. Zionism is a 19th century colonialist settler ideology devised by certain foreign Jews that led to the forced creation of the fascistic/racist/expansionist entity referred to as “Israel,” which resulted in the brutal, (needless to say, criminal) thoroughly documented dispossession and expulsion of about 1,250,000 indigenous Palestinian Arabs between late 1947 and 1967, who including their ancestors, have lived for about 15,000 years between the River and the Sea. Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the region knows full well that Zionism and its spawn, “Israel” have brought death, destruction and chaos to the region.

      In fact, the borderless entity known as “Israel” that also illegally occupies neighboring Arab lands, is a cancer forcibly thrust upon the Middle East and the number one geopolitical blunder of the post WWII era. It’s now 71 years since the monster appeared and it is still dependent on ever increasing funds provided by U.S. taxpayers. In short it is an utter failure rotting within as emigration of Jews far exceeds immigration – no surprise!! Palestine has known many invaders and occupiers over the centuries. In the long run, the Zionist version will prove to be one of the shortest.

  10. Nathan
    Nathan on May 22, 2019, 9:45 am

    One of the stranger expressions of the anti-Israel world is one’s declaration of being “a critic of Israel”. Our author is not a critic of Israel, nor are any of the other writers who present their views in Mondoweiss. A person who believes that there shouldn’t be Israel in the first place is hostile, not critical, to Israel. This hostility is very often cloaked in “criticism”, but rectifying the topics of “criticism” would not bring about a declaration of approval for Israel.

    The theme of this article is an extremely long explanation of why the author is so obsessed with Israel. It would be possible to summarize the answer in a few short sentences. The existence of Israel is a threat to the author’s identity. The assimilationist Jewish identity views one’s Jewishness as a very minor or even negligible aspect of life. The Jewish identity expressed in Israel is of primary importance. It is expressed in Hebrew, and it views itself as the continuity of Jewish history and civilization. Moreover, the Israelis are on the stage of world events as Jews.

    The obsessive anti-Israel perspective ironically is actually the same as admitting that Israel is the only show in town in today’s Jewish world. Of all the many Jewish ideological issues since the 19th century, only the debate around the founding of a Jewish state has the entire Jewish world on its feet. If it weren’t for Israel, it’s quite doubtful if our author would have anything to say about Jewishness. It wouldn’t be important at all.

    • eljay
      eljay on May 22, 2019, 10:37 am

      || Nathan: … The Jewish identity expressed in Israel is of primary importance. It is expressed in Hebrew, and it views itself as the continuity of Jewish history and civilization. … ||

      Huh. One would expect Judaism – the fundamental element of the religion-based identity of Jewish – to be of primary importance to the “Jewish identity”.

      That said, it seems rather anti-Semitic to suggest that “necssary evil” such as militarism, colonialism, oppression, (war) criminality and religion-based supremacism are:
      – the “continuity of Jewish history and civilization”; and
      – of primary importance to the “Jewish identity”.

      || … Moreover, the Israelis are on the stage of world events as Jews. … ||

      Israelis should be on the stage of world events as Israelis but Zionists can’t seem to stop:
      – promoting Israel as a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”; and
      – anti-Semitically conflating Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Israel.

    • Mooser
      Mooser on May 22, 2019, 11:49 am

      Zionism does not have a special immunity to creating enemies and opponents for itself.

    • patz6588
      patz6588 on May 28, 2019, 9:28 pm

      Nathan, Joel’s article struck me as something that aside from the topic could have been written by anyone from almost any other religion. My parents were Anglican but the family had left the Catholic church in great anger over an experience of corruption within the church. I only became aware of a “Jewish” identity when I learned of the genocide of Nazi death camps. I was not raised with anti-Jewish attitudes. (don’t like the appropriation of Semitism in the term anti-Semite). The religious predjudice I experienced was wholeheartedly directed at Papists.
      In my youth I was attracted to the romance and adventure of the founding of Israel–it stirred me.
      Now Irealize that was just a good story, a narrative, not the truth. I am not so much obsessively concerned with the Palestine/Isreal issue as with colonialism, especially settler-colonialism.
      Likewise, as the greatest threat to world peace and stability I abhor the US’s role in supportinng–for it’s own imperialistic interests–the illegal state of Israel. So no, I don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist–AS IT’S PRESENTLY CONSTITUTED. Neither do I believe in the USA’s right to exist as it is. The settler/colonial states all need to come to an equitable and fair agreement with the indigenous peoples. Reparations need to be made in the US for the holocaust of slavery.
      The rationale for the founding of Israel has no more logic and justice than the genocidal founding of the states in North and South America. The historical right to the land that Israel claims is bizarre when one considers the support colonizers such as Britain, Spain and their former colonies like Canada and the US profer. Surely anyone above idiot level can see the contradiction. You think Israel has the right to Palestinian lands. Then give the indigenous people back theirs, NOW.

  11. Misterioso
    Misterioso on May 22, 2019, 10:44 am

    @Nathan

    Screaming reality:

    Newsweek, May 10/18
    “More Israelis are moving to the U.S.—and Newsweek staying for good”

    “Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are Newsweek leaving the country in droves.” By Yardena Schwartz.

    EXCERPTS: “Israel celebrates its 70th birthday in May with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Yet the country is grappling with an existential crisis—one that doesn’t involve Iranian nukes or Palestinian protests. Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves, trying to build their lives elsewhere, mostly in the United States. Many of these young Israelis are moving to big cities, and yet, even in these often expensive places, they see more opportunities to advance.”

    “The available data is telling, analysts say. Between 2006 and 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legalized permanent residents, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That’s up from 66,000 between 1995 and 2005. These figures take into account only those who took the legal route (many Israelis, analysts say, arrive on temporary tourist, student or work visas, then stay). And in addition to the Israelis now living stateside, according to the country’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, hundreds of thousands have moved to Europe, Canada and elsewhere.

    “The country’s brain drain isn’t new. For years, many of its most talented scholars and researchers moved to the U.S., where the salaries are far higher and there are more jobs at top-tier universities. One report by Dan Ben-David, an economist at Tel Aviv University, found that the emigration rate of Israeli researchers was the highest in the Western world. Recently, however, the exodus has expanded to include average young people, many of whom say there’s simply no future in Israel.

    “Though this country has become known as the ‘Startup Nation’ —it has more early-stage tech companies per capita than any other country—the average Israeli has little connection to that prosperous field. According to government data, 8 percent of Israelis work in high-tech, which pays up to seven times the national average salary of $2,765 a month (before taxes). Israel has one of the highest poverty rates and levels of income inequality in the Western world. Meanwhile, it also has one of the highest costs of living. Tel Aviv ranks ninth among the world’s most expensive cities, higher than New York and Los Angeles; five years ago, it ranked 34th. The situation is so dire that a 2013 survey by the financial newspaper Calcalist (the most recent Israeli study conducted on this topic) found that 87 percent of adults—many with children of their own—depend on substantial financial support from their parents.

    “In the summer of 2011, these economic pressures spilled onto the streets, as half a million young Israelis spent months protesting against the high cost of living, as well as decaying health and education systems.”

    Aug. 15, 2017, Haaretz.
    EXCERPT: “More Israelis Left Israel Than Moved Back in Six Year Record. 16,700 left and 8,500 came back in 2015, the first year since 2009 that more Israelis exited than returned.” By Lior Dattel.

    Also of major significance regarding Jewish American youth: “Support for Israel on Campus Drops by ‘Devastating’ 27%: Study” – The Forward, June 21/17
    EXCERPTS:
    “The Brand Israel Group, a coalition of volunteer advertising and marketing specialists, has released a survey that shows a significant decrease in Israel’s approval rating among Americans.

    “’The future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values. This is huge! Devastating,’ Fern Oppenheim, a co-founder of BIG, told The Times of Israel. While approval of Israel among American college students dropped 27% between the group’s 2010 and 2016 surveys, Israel’s approval rating among all Americans dropped 14 points, from 76% to 62%.”

    Furthermore, regarding the USA: http://forward.com/news/ national/376097/study-israel- losing-support-among- democrats-minorities- millennials/ The Forward July 2, 2017
    EXCERPT: ”Study: Israel Losing Support Among Democrats, Minorities, Millennials. ‘It appears that the more Americans learn about Israel, the less they like it.’”

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=20982'%20style='color:#000;The Real News, Jan. 25/18
    EXCERPTS:
    “The bipartisan consensus of support for Israel over the Palestinians is breaking down in the United States.
    “A new study by the leading polling agency the Pew Research Center has found that the partisan divide in Americans’ sympathies for Israel or the Palestinians is the largest it has been in 40 years.”

    Times of Israel, June 21/17: http://www.timesofisrael.com/devastating-survey-shows-huge-loss-of-israel-support-among-jewish-college-students/

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel -news/.premium-jewish-agency- chief-warns-young-u-s-jews- more-turned-off-to-israel-1. 5751616
    Haaretz – Jan 22, 2018, by Judy Maltz
    “Young American Jews Increasingly Turning Away From Israel, Jewish Agency Leader Warns”
    “The Jewish Agency’s CEO and director-general called the trend ‘extremely worrisome,’ and said that a new strategy must be undertaken to engage young American Jews with Israel.”
    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-vast-numbers-of-california-jews-disengaging-from-israel-survey-finds-1.5821675

    Haaretz, Feb. 14/18
    “Vast Numbers of Progressive California Jews Are Disengaging From Israel, Survey Finds.” By Judy Maltz.
    EXCERPT:
    “Only a minority of young Jews in San Francisco’s Bay Area believe a Jewish state is important and only a third sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians.”

    The writing is on the wall. However, Zionist zealots like you refuse to read it.

    • Nathan
      Nathan on May 22, 2019, 7:13 pm

      Yes, Misterioso, you’re absolutely right on every count. Everyone is leaving Israel. Poverty has overwhelmed the population (it’s probably the super-successful BDS that has smashed all hopes for a bright future). Most importantly, the San Francisco Jews have turned their backs on Israel, so really the situation is beyond grim. Of course, the only question that remains on our agenda is why are YOU so obsessed with a country that is so obviously doomed.

      • lonely rico
        lonely rico on May 22, 2019, 10:10 pm

        > Nathan

        it’s probably the super-successful BDS that has smashed all hopes for a bright future

        Got it Nathan – the demand that Israel respect international humanitarian law and justice is screwing up the lovely possibility for your sweet supremacist racist state.

        Of course, the only question that remains on our agenda is why are YOU so obsessed with a country that is so obviously doomed

        The only question is how the cruel violence of racist zionism can be curtailed and erased from the face of the Middle East, how Palestine can arise from the ashes to become a state of justice for all its inhabitants.

  12. CigarGod
    CigarGod on May 22, 2019, 11:09 am

    Son of a gun.
    Love your process.
    It closely mirrors mine and I ended up in the same place.
    The first domino of awareness may have been recognizing the ebb and flow of traditional practices in my youth…depending on where my Mothers convenience inclined mind happened to be.
    But the most abrupt triggering was my semester in Israel in high school in 1968. By then, Israel already had a full-blown case of foundation rot.

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb on May 22, 2019, 11:54 am

    What I care about and worries me is israel’s despicable behaviour towards Palestinians. Jews didn’t suffer enough under Hitler?

  14. JLWarner
    JLWarner on May 28, 2019, 12:11 am

    Joel Doerfler

    Thanks for your very interesting article. I am 5 or 6 years older than you and my Judaism is similar to yours, but less intellectual, perhaps because I am a scientist.

    I never felt betrayed because I never bought into the Israel myths. I remember when Israel won the 1967 war and a Jewish student was quite excited by the Jewish victory. I was unmoved by a war that I thought had no relation to me.

    When I retired 20 years ago, I turned my attention to working for peace, and I soon came to focus on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. My standard response to why is that I am personally offended that Israel, claiming it is acting in my name, oppresses the Palestinians up to and including committing war crimes. I am equally offended that the U.S., my government, enables Israel’s actions. I feel that those actions put me personally at risk. In other words, I work to end the Israeli occupation for my self-interest; to protect myself.

  15. howard lenow
    howard lenow on May 28, 2019, 7:49 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful, compelling essay. I was raised in a religious Jewish family, both of my parents first generation Americans, steeped in Judaism and the synagogue and support for Israel. I was one of the original founding committee that resulting in a national organization, Jewish Voice for Peace and I served as the second Board Chair. My journey as an activist for Palestinian rights started with a lecture by an Israeli Paratrooper who formed Combatants for Peace. As my children became more independent (drivers) I was able to get more involved in a local chapter of a Jewish group that arranged human rights trips to the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. Our trips were life changing, not just for me, but for anyone who traveled with us. My exposure to “conditions on the ground” and connection with local Palestinians and other activists continually reinforced a sense that we had all been fed a bill of goods about the horror and injustice of the Nahkbe and the apartheid state that defined Israel and its structural discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens. For me, the gut feeling, was always seeing a link from my own family’s decision to leave Belarus and Poland in 1921 with the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948. As one Israeli activist and founder of Physicians for Human Rights Israel , Ruchama Marton, once said when explaining how Israelis could be so cruel after suffering at the hands of the Nazis, “We had very good teachers.”

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