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To tell you the truth, I didn’t know where I was born

Activism
on 40 Comments

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.

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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40 Responses

  1. Gryfin on December 30, 2019, 12:34 pm

    A beautiful piece and a nice way to end 2019.

  2. Liz on December 30, 2019, 12:45 pm

    Beautifully written, Jonathan. Thanks for this.

  3. annie on December 30, 2019, 2:28 pm

    thank you Jonathan

  4. Misterioso on December 30, 2019, 3:21 pm

    Bravo Jonathan!!
    You write from the heart and the mind. You and enlightened couragenous Jews like you will play an ever increasing role in shaping the future. To state the screaming obvious, Zionism is a long since proven massive blunder for Jews and a horror story for the native Palestinians.

  5. Ossinev on December 30, 2019, 5:19 pm

    Thoughts from the heart which will no doubt be denigrated as “self hating” and/or “self denying”.
    Keep the faith Jonathan and by that I mean remain true to the central tenets of humanity which is respect and love for others – tenets which have been washed away by Zionism and its brutal occupation and oppression of an innocent native population.

  6. James Canning on December 31, 2019, 11:18 am

    Ofir makes a number of important points, including the fact the 1973 war in which his uncle was killed, was the result of Israel’s refusal to end the occupation of the Sinai. Henry Kissinger encouraged Israel to refuse to end that occupation, and thereby helped to bring on the 1973 war with Egypt.

  7. Jackdaw on December 31, 2019, 3:18 pm

    Jonathan, you’ve made the decision not to live in an Arab State.

    Why force ordinary Israeli Jews to do what you won’t do?

    • Talkback on December 31, 2019, 5:23 pm

      No Jew is forced to live in an Arab state. They can do the same that Jonathan did.

    • eljay on December 31, 2019, 6:03 pm

      || Jackdaw: Jonathan, you’ve made the decision not to live in an Arab State.

      Why force ordinary Israeli Jews to do what you won’t do? ||

      Jewish Israelis shouldn’t have to live in an “Arab State”. Non-Jewish Israelis shouldn’t have to live in a colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State”. All Israelis – citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally – should be able to live in a secular and democratic Israeli State.

      Do you advocate anti-Jewish supremacism elsewhere in the world?
      – If ‘yes’, why are you so anti-Semitic?
      – If ‘no’, why are you such a hypocrite*?
      _________________
      (*Rhetorical question. You’re a Zionist so, by definition, you’re a hypocrite.)

      • echinococcus on January 1, 2020, 11:39 am

        RoHa,

        “Insofar as there is such a right, it is the right of all the residents of a particular territory.”

        The right of all the legal / legitimate residents / citizens of a particular territory, just to be accurate.

        Invasion under the skirts of British colonial arms with the stated purpose of subverting the territorial sovereignty, stealing the land, physically eliminating the legitimate inhabitants and replacing them is not the appropriate ground for claiming legal / legitimate residency, at least in the 20th Century.

        Also, for the sake of accuracy, most if not all the illegitimate invaders of Palestine do retain the claim to legitimate citizenship / residency in a largish number of other countries. They may, for example, vote for “reunification” of Alsatia with Germany or the secession of the Don basin.

      • RoHa on January 1, 2020, 11:03 pm

        Yes, in general.
        I didn’t have time to go into my ideas of legitimate residence, and they might be a bit more generous than yours, but the Zionist invaders do not qualify.

    • Jonathan Ofir on December 31, 2019, 7:27 pm

      Jackdaw: “Jonathan, you’ve made the decision not to live in an Arab State.”

      I have made no such decision, and I keep it as an open possibility that I may one day live in an Arab state.

      Your assertion is of course the typical Zionist racist scaremongering, which is unfortunately very common, even Amos Oz did it.

      The thing with Israel is, that most of the population under its control is Arab Palestinian, and if it allowed the return of the expelled population, which it should, the ratio could be 2/3 Palestinian. Also, many of its Jewish citizens are Arab Jews, but it seeks to sever the Jewish from the Arab.

      In fact, Israel should be an ‘Arab state’ by its nature and location, but it seeks to avert this by expulsion and Apartheid. As if there’s something wrong with being Arab.

      • Talkback on December 31, 2019, 7:44 pm

        jonathan: “In fact, Israel should be an ‘Arab state’ by its nature and location, but it seeks to avert this by expulsion and Apartheid. As if there’s something wrong with being Arab.”

        Oh, there’s nothing wrong with being an Arab in particular. It’s just that they are not Jews. And not being Jewish is gentile terrorism. ROFL.

      • Nathan on December 31, 2019, 10:30 pm

        Jonathan Ofir – Here and there you can run into the phenomenon of a Jew who sees himself as an “Arab Jew”. It is, of course, very rare and very unusual. When the Jews still lived in the Arab world and they spoke Arabic (or a Jewish dialect of Arabic), they didn’t call themselves Arabs or Arab Jews. They were Jews, period. It seems to be rather obvious that the term “Arab Jew” is simply part of the anti-Israel vocabulary. It’s a way of denying the fact that the Jews are an ethnicity. So, you have to pretend that the Jews are Arab by ethnicity and Jewish by religion, even if you have never come across a Jew in Israel who told you that his ethnic identity is Arabic. Moreover, in the reality of today, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Jews who immigrated to Israel from the Arab world don’t even speak Arabic. They are Hebrew-speakers, as you know. Why in the world would you call them Arabs? The answer is really quite simple: In the anti-Israel ideology there is a necessity to pretend that time stands still. In the anti-Israel argument, the Jews are not a national community (even though it is more than obvious that the Jews of Israel are indeed a national group). But it’s unthinkable that the Jews of Israel are a national community, because that would mean that they have the right of self-determination. So, let’s pretend that they are “Arab Jews”, or let’s pretend that they are “settler-colonialists” in perpetuity.

        You complain in your article that some peace activist hates Arabs. That was really ironic. There is so much hatred of Israel and supporters of Israel in this website, and I wonder if you have ever noticed. Anyway, you should note that taking upon yourself the right to define someone else’s identity (in total opposition to how that someone would define himself) is not exactly an expression of “love thy neighbor”. It’s haughtiness. The Hebrew-speaking Jews, descendants of those who immigrated to Israel a very, very long time ago from the Arab or Islamic countries are Israeli Jews.

      • Jackdaw on January 1, 2020, 1:05 am

        @Jonathan

        “I have made no such decision, and I keep it as an open possibility that I may one day live in an Arab state.
        Your assertion is of course the typical Zionist racist scaremongering ”

        You have many Arab countries to live in, yet you’ve made the decision to run off to Scandinavia, where there are very few Arabs.

        ‘Scaremongering’?
        Why do you associate Arabs with fear? Sounds prejudicial to me.

        Jonathan, you are too sensitive by half.

        Where can you find peace of mind? Not on this Earth.

      • RoHa on January 1, 2020, 3:05 am

        “But it’s unthinkable that the Jews of Israel are a national community, because that would mean that they have the right of self-determination.”

        National communities do not have the right of self-determination. Insofar as there is such a right, it is the right of all the residents of a particular territory.
        And it is not an absolute right.

      • Talkback on January 1, 2020, 5:57 am

        Nathan: ” It seems to be rather obvious that the term “Arab Jew” is simply part of the anti-Israel vocabulary. ”

        Yes, yes: It’s an “anti-Israel” conspiracy to claim that there are Jews who live(d) in or originate(d) from Arab majority countries. Therefore they neither fled nor were expelled from these countries either.

        Next thing that Nathan is going to tell us is that the term “European Jew” is simply a part of the “anti-Israel” vocabulary, too. I mean, what isn’t according to Nathan? “Anti-Israel” is basically everything that makes him uncomfortable like snow in June.

        Nathan: “It’s a way of denying the fact that the Jews are an ethnicity. ”

        Yes, yes. That’s why Jewish history doesn’t know forced or voluntary conversion to Judaism, right? You can’t do that when Jews are just an ethnicity.

      • Jonathan Ofir on January 1, 2020, 6:29 am

        Nathan: “they didn’t call themselves Arabs or Arab Jews.”.

        Oh, but people like for example the celebrated Israeli author Sami Michael still consider themselves, proudly, as Arab Jews.

        Anyhow, I am not suggesting that the younger generations, who grew up on Hebrew, mostly consider themselves Arab Jews. Israel institutionally severs the Arab from the Jew (considers the two as two different ‘nationalities’), and has another term for Arab Jews – Mizrahim – to be able to disconnect from the Arab.

        So, I acknowledge that Israel has worked towards this end. There are some who defy it. I acknowledge the history of it.

        I wonder whether you, Nathan, care to call Palestinan Israeli citizens ‘Palestinians’, since about two thirds of them identify as such, or merely as ‘Arabs’ (or ‘Israeli Arabs’?).

        You say that in the ‘anti-Israel argument, Jews are not a national community’. Well, they aren’t – it’s only Israel which defines them as such. I would think it to be pretty anti-Semitic to define a Jewish citizen in say in USA, as a foreign national, just because they are Jewish, wouldn’t you?

        https://www.972mag.com/author-sami-michael-israel-is-the-most-racist-state-in-the-industrialized-world/

      • Talkback on January 1, 2020, 7:39 am

        Jonathan “Oh, but people like for example the celebrated Israeli author Sami Michael still consider themselves, proudly, as Arab Jews.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Shohat
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Memmi
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naeim_Giladi
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sami_Shalom_Chetrit
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Rabeeya

      • Jonathan Ofir on January 1, 2020, 7:45 am

        Nathan (to me): “You complain in your article that some peace activist hates Arabs. That was really ironic. There is so much hatred of Israel and supporters of Israel in this website, and I wonder if you have ever noticed.”

        Nathan, you must really come to understand that that there is a difference between racist hate, and hate of racism.

        You juxtapose “Arabs” and “Israel”, and thereby suggest, by the assumption that people hate Israel as in “hate Jews”, that the two equate each other.

        But you see, to hate Israeli policy and even ideology is not to hate Jews. To hate Apartheid is completely legitimate, even morally sound. It is not the same as the bigotry of simply “hating Arabs”. But you conflate “Israel” and “Jews”, and promote the Zionist “Jewish nation” line, so for you, it all adds up to a one big soup, and in effect, you add up critique or condemnation of Israel to “hate” of “Jews”. It’s sad, but I expect nothing more of a Zionist.

      • Talkback on January 1, 2020, 7:59 am

        Nathan: “But it’s unthinkable that the Jews of Israel are a national community, because that would mean that they have the right of self-determination.”

        “National communities” don’t have a right to national self determination per se. If that were the case any “national community” could create a state within any other state, which is obviously nonsense.

        But I can understand, if the racist exclusivist anti-Nonjew-crowd needs to imply that it is different, if the “national community” is Jewish. According to your ludicrous reasoning not only the Jews in the US would have a right to create a state within the US, but also the less then 600 Jews in Indonesia within their state.

        Now there’s another problem with the so called “Jewish” state. “Jewish” is neither the term of a nationality/citizenship, nor is it one that was transfered ipso facto to all of its citizens. To the contrary. The “Jewish” state claims that only Jews belong to the nation of this state and the Nonjews don’t, especially those they expelled. The Nazis pulled of something similar by legally and physically excluding Jews from their nation.

        But that’s the kind of racism you support, Nathan. Shame on you!

      • Nathan on January 1, 2020, 8:31 am

        Jonathan Ofir – Identity is an abstract concept. It exists in the consciousness of human beings. There is a very substantial group of people who share a common self-awareness, and these people define themselves as being of Jewish nationality. Since this is their way of seeing themselves, this is their identity, period. It could be that in the USA there are others who don’t share this way of thinking. So what? It doesn’t veto the identity of those who do see themselves as Jews by ethnicity.

        It’s very important among the anti-Israel activists to define the identity of others. If the Jews are a national community, this would entitle them to realize their right of self-determination. Since an anti-Israel person opposes the very founding of a Jewish state, from an ideological point of view he must claim that the Jews are not a national community, pretending that they are just a religious community. But the Jews see themselves as an ancient people, and so that’s what they are. Actually, if you go and visit the local library, you’ll find plenty of books entitled “The History of the Jewish People”. You won’t find “The History of the Protestant People”. The Jews are a people, and it’s a common perception. You’ll often hear a suggestion that a bi-national state be founded, and it is generally (but not always) a suggestion of an anti-Israel activist. “Bi-national” means that there are two nations in the land – the Jews and the Arabs. Notice, too, that the UN Partition Plan suggested the founding of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine. Jewish is parallel to Arab; i.e. it’s an ethnicity (a national community).

        Yes, there are Jews who define themselves as Arab Jews. It’s very rare and unusual. I would imagine that during your years in Israel you never ran into a person who told you that he’s an Arab Jew. Your referring to the Jews of Israel whose grandparents immigrated from the Arab world as Arab Jews is ideological. You define for others what their identity is in accordance to your agenda. You oppose the very concept of Jewish ethnicity, so you decide what is the collective consciousness of others. They are for you Arab Jews, even if they themselves never thought of themselves as such. It’s more than haughtiness. It’s actually rude and disrepectful.

      • eljay on January 1, 2020, 9:32 am

        || Nathan: … There is a very substantial group of people who share a common self-awareness, and these people define themselves as being of Jewish nationality. Since this is their way of seeing themselves, this is their identity, period. … ||

        People who choose to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish have every right to share a common self-awareness that they have chosen to be Jewish, to define themselves as Jewish and to have the identity of Jewish.

        None of this gives any of them the right to be supremacists, to have a supremacist state or to do “necessary evil” unto others.

        || … But the Jews see themselves as an ancient people, and so that’s what they are. … ||

        Setting aside for a moment the fact that you constantly and anti-Semitically refer to Jews as an undifferentiated mass, the fact that “the Jews” – ordinary human beings, living in homelands throughout the world, who have chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish – see themselves as ancient doesn’t make them ancient and it doesn’t give any of them the right to be supremacists, to have a supremacist state or to do “necessary evil” unto others.

      • eljay on January 1, 2020, 9:44 am

        || Nathan: … It’s very important among the anti-Israel activists to define the identity of others. … It’s more than haughtiness. It’s actually rude and disrepectful. ||

        It is even more important among the Zionists to obliterate the identity of others. You know, saying that there’s no such thing as Palestinians, constantly referring to Palestinians as “Arabs”, claiming that geographic Palestine was a “land without a people”, etc.

        And they do this to help justify the acts of injustice and immorality – terrorism, ethnic cleansing, land theft, military occupation, colonialism, oppression, torture and murder – they deliberately and with impunity have done and continue to do to the indigenous people of geographic Palestine.

        That’s more than haughtiness and rudeness and disrespect – it’s actually evil.

      • Jackdaw on January 1, 2020, 10:02 am

        @Walkback

        “Yes, yes: It’s an “anti-Israel” conspiracy to claim that there are Jews who live(d) in or originate(d) from Arab majority countries.”

        But your (warped) logic, Arabs who live in Jewish majority Israel, are ‘Arab Jews’?

        So sad what the I/P vortex has done to a mind.

      • Talkback on January 1, 2020, 11:37 am

        jackdaw: “@Walkback”

        Yes, infantile Zionist.

        Infantile Zionist. “But your (warped) logic, Arabs who live in Jewish majority Israel, are ‘Arab Jews’?

        So sad what the I/P vortex has done to a mind.”

        “Arabs” is not a religion and “Jews” doesn’t refer to everyone living in Israel or within a Jewish culture while speaking Hebrew. So much for “(warped) logic” and “what I/P vortex has done to a mind.”

      • Talkback on January 1, 2020, 12:16 pm

        eljay @ Nathan: “You know, saying that there’s no such thing as Palestinians, constantly referring to Palestinians as “Arabs”, claiming that geographic Palestine was a “land without a people”, etc. ”

        Well. the narrative of the anti-Nonjew-crowd is highly twisted.

        On the one hand we have Palestinians who have been a constitutive people=nationality=citizenship since mandate times which implies the right to national self determination.
        On the other hand we have Jews who are none of that, will never be and who actually are at most a “nationality” WITHIN citizenship. And most of them in Palestine were foreign settlers or refugees who entered Palestine without the consent of its citizens.

        But Jewish racist exclusivists claim that Jewish “ethnicity” outweighs Palestinan nationality and that the latter doesn’t even exist. It just demonstrates their fundamental reacist approach.

      • Talkback on January 1, 2020, 12:20 pm

        Nathan: “If the Jews are a national community, this would entitle them to realize their right of self-determination.”

        I have to assume that our comments overlapped and that you are not a compulsive liar.

        Again, “national communities” don’t have a right to national self determination per se. If that were the case any “national community” could create a state within any other state, which is obviously nonsense. According to your ludicrous reasoning not only the Jews in the US would have a right to create a state within the US, but also the less then 600 Indonesian Jews within Indonesia.

        Nathan: “Your referring to the Jews of Israel whose grandparents immigrated from the Arab world as Arab Jews is ideological.”

        It’s actually ideological that you have to deny their origin to fabricate a national right to self determination. It doesn’t matter if they are “Arab Jews” or not. People don’t have a right to self determination per se, simply because they identify as an ethnicity or nationality within citizenship.

        Your pathetic idiocy leads to the conclusion that there are no “American Jews”, because that discription would be “ideological”, too.

      • Mooser on January 1, 2020, 2:11 pm

        Zionists can blather on and on about what Jews are, or should be. Who on earth are they trying to fool?

        The demographic and historical facts say something quite different about how Jews think of themselves, and Zionists can’t change that.

      • annie on January 1, 2020, 2:12 pm

        Here and there you can run into the phenomenon of a Jew who sees himself as an “Arab Jew”. It is, of course, very rare and very unusual.

        and yet just last decade if you googled “mizrahi” the wiki page said *Arab Jews*. i think the assault on the definition or identity of Arab Jew began not very long ago, relatively speaking. there must have been some effort by the israeli government to eviscerate the term.

        but it’s certainly not rare or unusual yet. give it another few decades.

        It’s very important among the anti-Israel activists to define the identity of others.

        oh that’s rich, as if there aren’t think tanks supported by 100’s of millions set up to weaponize antisemitism and define us. what hypocrisy.

      • annie on January 1, 2020, 2:28 pm

        Hebrew-speaking Jews, descendants of those who immigrated to Israel a very, very long time ago from the Arab or Islamic countries are Israeli Jews.

        i’m trying to figure out what this means. mostly, israeli jews from arab countries came after the founding of the state, recently. nobody immigrated to israel a very very long time ago because it didn’t exist then. do you mean arab jews who immigrated to palestine before the founding of the state? or do you mean descendants of the original jews who inhabited the land thousands of years ago? they shared the same forefathers didn’t they? arabs and jews?

      • echinococcus on January 1, 2020, 2:42 pm

        “Hebrew-speaking Jews…”

        Yarright. The first native speaker of the constructed language “modern” Hebrew was born in 1882, as everyone knows (as offspring of invader bandits from Baltic Russia, not the Middle East.) A “a very, very long time ago”? This guy could make more money as a comic than as a propaganda drudge.

        That Arabs of the Jewish persuasion illicitly immigrated to Palestine call themselves “Israeli”, by the name of the illegitimate Zionist entity, is not news: he didn’t have to tell us. They remain Arabs, of course, nature being what it is, as no one can erase one’s conditions of birth or ancestry.

      • Jonathan Ofir on January 1, 2020, 3:12 pm

        Jackdaw (to me): “You have many Arab countries to live in, yet you’ve made the decision to run off to Scandinavia, where there are very few Arabs.”

        You do not know my persuasions of emigrating to Scandinavia, nor do I feel a need to explain them to you – or is emigrating from Israel necessarily “running off” for you? I am certainly not here because there are “very few Arabs”. It would be strange, because I have befriended quite a number of these “very few Arabs” here.

        Anyhow, to borrow Nathan’s expressions, your assertions are “more than haughtiness. It’s actually rude and disrepectful.”

      • Mooser on January 1, 2020, 4:03 pm

        Sometimes I just don’t know about being Jewish. I wonder if it is wise for something which involves so many inescapable obligations to be entirely voluntary.

      • annie on January 2, 2020, 2:02 am

        i share your concerns mooser. but not sure what you mean by “entirely voluntary”. aren’t you just born into all these obligations whether you like it or not? a burden to bear?

      • Mooser on January 4, 2020, 12:35 pm

        ” aren’t you just born into all these obligations whether you like it or not?”

        It’s a regular battle of the wills to get out of them.

  8. jon s on January 1, 2020, 3:39 am

    Nathan, good comment, well done!

    • Mooser on January 1, 2020, 2:02 pm

      “jon s” has Israel formed a government yet? What’s it been, a year or more now?

      But don’t worry, not forming a government and rule by the IDF-Rabbinate junta should be fine for you.

      Or is Netanyahoo still in charge?

      • annie on January 2, 2020, 2:05 am

        jon is probably too absorbed in cheering on nathan’s hasbara to answer that question,

      • Mooser on January 4, 2020, 12:37 pm

        “jon is probably too absorbed in cheering on nathan’s hasbara…”

        You know it. Those Israeli leftists stick together, and back each other up.

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