Wednesday, December 29, 2010
[The following, by Vic Rosenthal, is crossposted from FresnoZionism.]
I have a problem with this.
Gil Troy denounces what he calls "Zionist racism":
...in a strange perversion whereby victims of a smear absorb some characteristics bigots attribute to them, an ugly strain of Israeli racism is festering, threatening to delegitimize Zionism from within. Silent centrists must not stand by, idly watching racist rabbis in Tsfat ban selling houses to Arabs, young Jewish hooligans in Jerusalem beat Arabs, and loud bigots rally against Arabs and immigrants in Bat Yam and Tel Aviv. Zionists must reject these immoral and outrageous acts as unwelcome in our otherwise big broad Zionist tent devoted to building a thriving, democratic Jewish state in the Jewish people's traditional homeland.
Jewish racists betray Judaism and Jewish history. Having taught the world how humane and open religion can be, we must never forget Judaism's sensitivity to others. Having suffered from discrimination, we must never practice it.
Similarly, Zionist racists betray Zionism and the Zionist mission. Zionism's rise is intertwined with liberal democratic nationalism, mixing ethnic and civic nationalism. And Zionism's mandate to end anti-Semitism must never degenerate into discrimination against others.
First of all, I want to say that Troy is a Zionist and I often entirely agree with him. But this is unhelpful.
I really don't want to get too deeply into a dissection of the concept of 'racism', but there is one thing that is essential to it: it is dislike or maltreatment of an 'other' simply because he is an other. And that's not what's going on here.
There is a problem between Jews and Arabs and it isn't related to race, or language, or even -- at least on the Jewish side -- religion.
It's based on the fact that the Arabs believe themselves to be the owners of the land, all of it, and they don't want the Jews on it. This leads to all kinds of unpleasant behavior, from terrorism, to serious or petty crime, to demographic pressure, to merely trying to humiliate Jews in various ways.
This unsurprisingly creates a reaction among the Jews. The poorly-educated ones respond by becoming hooligans, a form of self-defeating behavior. The over-educated ones respond by internalizing the point of view of the Arabs and becoming traitors, also self-defeating.
But the struggle to stay on the land is real. Every neighborhood has a 'Jewish character' or not. If enough neighborhoods lose this character, then Israel isn't a Jewish state any more.
In North America this doesn't make sense (but in Europe it is beginning to). Here in California there is some hostility to immigrants. As more of them arrive, the culture changes. But California is both a patchwork of cultural enclaves and a melting pot. A new culture grows out of the meeting between the original residents and the immigrants. Things change, but it's not an ideological struggle. Nobody in his right mind sees this as a conflict for possession of land.
Zionism is about self-determination for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. The 'Palestinian cause' is about expelling the Jews and taking the land, by whatever means works. Polls have showed time and again that the great majority of Palestinian Arabs, citizens of Israel or living in the territories or in the 'Palestinian Diaspora', support this cause.
The assumption that the behavior of the rabbis of Tzfat or even the hooligans of Jerusalem is entirely motivated by racism, if at all, is suspect. There are much better reasons to want to discriminate against Arabs (but not to beat them up, of course).
So it is probably wrong to do as Troy does, and hysterically accuse Israelis of racism, along with the legions of Israel-haters, like the ones in this video.
There can't be a "thriving, democratic Jewish state in the Jewish people's traditional homeland" if we allow ourselves to be pushed out of it.
This reminds me of a recent discussion in which a friend said that she found the violence of the struggle between Israel and the Canaanites repellent. So I asked her, "out of concern for the Canaanites, should we have stayed in Egypt?"