Israel's slaughter, and what comes next
As yeshivah students in brooklyn, we were taught about the many places that Zionists had contemplated and debated for a homeland. My favorite was "I [pronounced ee] New York," which means an island in New York Bay or Harbor. I guess Uganda was another place contemplated. Despite my upbringing and milieu, I abjured Zionism at age 14 or 15 and haven't been back to Israel, and am truly repulsed by the behavior of Israeli tourists in various countries and indeed by that of most Israeli men I've met (long story on post 19-45 maleness in Israel)—but I still feel an almost unbreakable empathy for the deaths of noncombatant secular Israeli Jews (despite their army service!) and peaceniks.
But not enough to keep me from last night's Grand Central sitdown, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, to demand a ceasefire .
As a landsman from the same pedigree, but from the Bronx, thank you fro this column.
I feel much the same way as Ross. I used to ponder what might have happened had the Zionists taken up Joseph Chamberlain's 1905 offer to have a Jewish Homeland in Uganda. History would have been very different
Thanks for this. Very resonant. I wrote about Birthright a couple of weeks ago if you're interested! (https://wellactually.substack.com/p/hooked-on-a-feeling-birthright-israels)
Ross, thank you for your honesty. I've reread your piece several times, at first finding your indifference unfathomable, but then coming to realize that your honesty; the simple conviction to live life in the present, shaped by the contours of our shared humanity, is the best way forward. [note: for those seeking more clarity on this subject, I highly recommend reading "Speeding Away from Zion", Ross' review of Joshua Cohen's novel, "The Netanyahus". It is linked in the last paragraph of this essay, "The Burden of the American Jew".
So disappointing. You’re entitled to your beliefs, of course. Yet I’m always surprised when Jews are indifferent to the fate of other Jews. Israel was built post-Holocaust because the diaspora hasn’t proven safe. It’s the ethno nationalist nature of it that enables it to survive when the world has proven, time and again, to blame Jews for everything. The idea that Israel should dissolve - or not protect itself from state sponsored terrorism is anathema to my very being. I appreciate your writing. Just didn’t respond to this message.
This should be renamed “The Privilege of the American Jew”.
It’s nice that you haven’t been targeted due to your culture. Hopefully, the US remains a safe place, but that could change. Israel represents the one place in the world where Jews do not have to depend on the goodwill of non-Jews to exist.
My grandfather fought 4 years for Germany in WW I. I have his Iron Cross medals.
That didn't save my dad's family from persecution or the slaughter of my mother's.
Someday, perhaps soon, your indifference will slap you hard. First the Israelis. After that all Zionists. Then the Zionists, and ultimately the "good Jews," like you.
I suggest converting, changing your name and going full bore witness protection mode. Because it could "never happen here."
The Zionists in the 1920s and 1930s were well aware that creating a nation in the Middle East meant that they would be at continual war with people they considered unworthy -- viz. Palestinians. Shortly after Israel was formed, Israeli militia pushed out approximately 700,000 Palestinians, for them toward the West Bank -- and then bulldozed their homes to ensure that, if factors changed, they could not long to return to their homes because those homes no longer existed. In their place, homes for Israelis were built. One could hardly think of a worse place to plunk down masses of Jews, who would be placed in a dangerous situation. Jews survive because we are and have been dispersed.
Don’t worry too much about your being Jewish Ross. No one cares whether you are religious, secular, have no connection to Israel or love NYC. When they come for the Jews you will count as one. It’s pretty simple being Jewish in that light.
“I, as an American Jew, never demanded an ethno-state.” Israel was not created to be an ethno-state for deracinated American Jews. Zionism was meant to be a lifeline for the millions of persecuted, unwanted Jews in the Pale of Settlement and its successor states, who bore all the characteristics of a nation (common language, religion, ethnicity, culture, etc) but lacked political power, and were treated accordingly in Eastern Europe. Later, Zionism became a lifeline for Holocaust survivors and Mizrahi refugees from the Middle East whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed.
Think of Israel as the ethno-state of otherwise homeless Middle Eastern Jews, of a related but distinct ethnicity, who are after all now the majority of the country. As an Ashkenazi American without any ties, familial or emotional, to Israel, you can then devote your musings solely to the welfare and future of your small New York City block. Both sides will be the better for the arrangement.
Agree with most of this but given that recent events suggest the status quo in Israel is unsustainable, I wouldn’t be quite as sure that those who oppose its ethno-state character will never get what they want. Obviously it would require a radical shift in U.S. policy towards Israel, but given that the U.S. government was not always nearly as solicitous of Israel as it is now, and that there seems to be a concrete shift in public opinion, dismissing the possibility out of hand seems needlessly pessimistic.
However, I do agree that Israel as a nation will not simply evaporate, and those who claim that Palestine will be free (of Israelis? of Jews?) from the river to the sea are either delusional or posturing. There were Jews in the Levant since long before British colonialism or the Zionist project, and there will be for the foreseeable future. But while Palestine will never be “free” of Israelis, there remains hope that the Palestinian people may still achieve liberation, as many oppressed peoples have done before them.
Still waiting for a single Zionist to give their home to a native American.
Also, it seems shocking in this day and age people still need to be told representation based on ethnicity or religion is still apartheid and theocracy.
A quote from Willie Falkner: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
Even folks like my self, can be conflicted about Zion/Israel. My older brother brought home the photos of the death camps that I viewed as a 10 year old. I grew up with all the pro Israel propaganda, but still had the image of the death camps in my mind. I have read some snippets of history about the history of the diaspora Jews. A co- worker told me of his grand mother, as a child, walking from one Jewish home to another, unaccompanied, all the way from the Pale to St Petersburg to catch a ship to New York and then on the Chicago.
It is so very conflicting that there are no clean hands participants in the tragedy.
A beautiful fantasy.
The state of the world now reduces the best among us to fantasists, it seems.