Monday, July 18, 2011

Israeli's living on the West Bank

I have no issue with the Israelis who have chosen to live in Hevron, Schem (which the Moslems call Nablus), or any other place on the West Bank / Yehuda veShomron. Jews have always lived in these areas. In fact Jews had lived in Hebron continuously from Abraham's time until 1929, when an Arab pogrom murdered sixty-seven Jews on 23 and 24 August 1929, and the rest of the Jewish community fled. Jewish homes and synagogues were looted.

Yet here we have a clear choice on what to focus on, those historical facts that promote a perpetrator/righteous victim discourse, or others that modify and shift this, such as the nineteen Hebron Arab families who saved 435 Jews by hiding them in their houses at great risk to themselves.

As the reknowned thinker Byron Katie has said "Victims are dangerous" And what is a victim? Anyone who believes and tells themselves they are a victim. Which is what many Israelis and Palestinians do for much of the time, feeding their "pain bodies" (Eckhart Tolle Incorporated Pty Ltd, what does the man do with all the money??), their "victimhood" with selective facts that reinforce it. With so many "victims" wondering around, no wonder the West Bank is a potentially explosive place.

So it is not the presence of Israelis in Hebron - it is the natural and perhaps G-d given right to be there as much as the Palestinians - but their way of being there that I see as gradually dispossesing me of a bold, flexible, creative, youthful open State of Israel in which I would want to live.

It is the narrative of the "returnees" in Beit El and Tekoah and Kiryat Arbah that I have an issue with. Many of them have a triumphalist "my story is the only story"approach, and their understanding of self and other does not seem to be able to accomodate others - be it equally triumphalist Palestinians, or Israelis who do not see it as useful or life enhancing to claim the real or imagined graves of ancestors. The great and oft examined irony is that settler movement claims that it does what it does in the name of an imaginary and idealised "am yisrael" - people of Israel, while loathing, delegitimising and attacking the values of 70% of the real Jews who make up the real Am Yisrael - leftists, secularists, homosexuals, pragmatists, consumers who want the golden calf of a nicer car and a ski holiday, people who insist on trying to see the other's point of view, Jews affiliated with the progressive and conservative movements, modern orthodox Jews with a more pluralist orientation, anti-Zionist Haredi Jews, indifferent Jews, and so forth.

To call someone who disagrees with you a "traitor" and to physically harass (or assassinate or lay pipe bombs at their door in the most extreme cases), or to verbally abuse them over and over again - surely this can only create cycles of reaction and reactivity, hurt and suffering?

It seems to me what threatens Israel as a robust collective more than anything else is the polarisng discourse which instead of expanding to include a broad swathe of opinion, increasingly tries to pretend the other is not there - or has no right to be there. This is as true of the extreme left as it is of the extreme right. If we cannot develop a mechanism to create an Am Yisrael which is not just in our own image, I imagine we will struggle to maintain independent peoplehood (of course I hope I am wrong in this assumption!)

Its also interesting that increasing hysterical "pro-Palestinian" voices in the West (in inverted commas because these so called activists care little for the Palestinians, it is mostly about their own quest for meaning and their own identity needs - a cause bestows meaning and purpose on the leisured class who can afford to hire boats and planes and take off time from work to attack Israeli owned chocolate shops) strangely mirror the internal delegitimising that goes on between Israelis and Jews. We delegitimise each other internally, and then "the world" amplifies this and does the same thing back to us as a collective. Mida keneged mida?

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