I thought I was born in Israel. I never had a doubt about it at the start. It was obvious to me also, that the army was the most moral. Who would question this? I believed that my uncle died to protect us all, they didn’t even have to spell it out, because the army is the Israeli Defense Forces.
I had been nurtured and inculcated to believe all this from my birth.
Those ‘Arabs’, they were hardly visible. And when they were heard of, it was mostly because they were terrorists – ‘mehablim’ in Hebrew, that means ‘sabotagers’. They were sabotaging our brave and moral national project. How evil – didn’t they have better things to do than to hate us?
It all took a very long time for me to learn that I was born in Palestine, and that Israel was the name of the settler-colonialist project that I had been born into and raised upon. This project denied and rejected Palestine, because it was and is eliminationist. So actually, the two names, Israel and Palestine, are about the same place, but represent two different paradigms: one of nativity, one of settler-colonialist takeover. Ostensibly, the colonialist allows a certain potential existence of this “Palestine”, but that’s also under its occupation and is at most a form of lip-service.
The army that I at first thought was a defense force, is thus an aggressive colonialist militia. Sometimes it ‘defends itself’ against the response to its occupation, but that’s mostly the response to the aggression. That’s how my uncle died – trying to defend the occupation of Egypt in 1973, an occupation that began with a war and invasion of choice in 1967. We keep trying to frame these aggressions as wars that are forced upon us, but they basically never are. Even that 1973 war that caught Israel by surprise came after Israeli refusal to accept peace overtures from Egypt’s Sadat.
I was born in an aggressive place, where people spoke the language of force, yet projected that very trait upon the ‘Arabs’. And the hate for ‘Arabs’ has really been immense, if you listened to the private conversations where Jews thought other Jews agree. And we were awfully good at hiding that, because there is an understanding that we shouldn’t appear racist. I once confronted a ‘peace activist’ with the fact that she had personally told me she ‘hates Arabs’, and she denied it vehemently. The denial is another part of that societal psyche, it’s extremely heavy.
And the denial is not only personal, it’s national and externalised, unto Palestinians. It’s all about denying them what we believe we deserve and are entitled to, because after all, we are special.
In so many ways, I grew up in a diminished place and under diminished upbringing, upbringing which came from people who thought they were doing me a huge favor and ensuring me a great life.
Indeed, the life of privilege has given me opportunities which many do not have. I also worked hard to enhance some of these opportunities, and I do not regret all of it. But my rejection of such a central feature of my upbringing – Zionism – is a pain that permeates the essence of many of those who have invested in me, it tears that essence and breaks many hearts. This is a price that I have decided to pay. Many would no doubt have me speak more quietly, or shut up totally about this. But I chose to shout it from the rooftops. Because the injustice is calling for a thunderous roar, not a whisper. And I think that if I shout, maybe another person who didn’t even dare to whisper to themselves about this, may finally find their words.