Several months ago, within a few days of each other, I began email dialogues with two Jewish men, each 50 years of age. My intentions with these exchanges was to gain a clearer understanding of their thinking, and to present to them the case of Islam. With the first, an American, politics was strictly forbidden (by him) from the conversation. Admittedly, I was using him as my psychiatrist. With the second, a Russian Israeli, the conversation was strictly politics.
In the past, I discovered that Jewish friends I’d known since childhood had kept their Zionist membership secret from me all those years. I visited Dachau with one of my closest friends, completely unaware that to her, “Never again” meant “Never again, to us.” As with many Jewish friends before, questioning the legitimacy of the State of Israel led to the abrupt dissolution of the Muslim-Jewish dialogue. It happened to me repeatedly that merely asking a closet Zionist to explain to me why s/he supports Israel put them in such a hysterically defensive state that, no matter how deep the friendship or how far we go back, s/he preferred to break up with me rather than discuss politics! I am not the first person to be totally baffled, hurt, and bewildered at the Jewish hypersensitivity to discussing Israel, needing at all costs to avoid this subject of conversation.
It seems to me that if you truly believe something is true, you should be willing to state your belief openly and if necessary, support your argument. But silence is one of the protocols of Zion. Jews normally do not defend their beliefs, nor do they explain them to anyone else, individually or collectively. Lacking a Constitution, Israel is the only modern nation in the world that refuses to make a clear statement of what it stands for.
This seemed also to be the case with my American friend, the Jew who spoke only of peace and love, while he steadfastly refused to apply his abstract reasoning to any plan workable in real-life situations. He shared with me his philosophy that any time there are two people disputing, and each of them is sure that he is right, they are both wrong. He felt very strongly about the virtues of non-violence, and was proud of being a consciencious objector during Vietnam. He fancied himself a peacenik while viewing me as an opinionated extremist. He admitted that he found my words “frightening” but refused to explain what exactly he thought was frightening.
This was not the case, however, with the Israeli Jew, who was very clear in his opposition to the Zionist enterprise. He preached for the voluntary dismantling of the Jewish State’s apartheid structure of government and the granting of full democratic citizenship to all inhabitants of the Holy Land. He was deeply troubled by the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Jews. He hated the defensiveness of the American Jews which serves to cover up the crimes of Israel. He condemned the liberal Jews’ insistence that they are pro-peace, while refusing to condemn in principle the colonization of Palestine to create an artificial Jewish state.
I learned a lot from these two very different Jewish perspectives. Although my mind had begun to stretch in order to include “the Jewish reality” in my analysis, it began to frustrated me how the “neutrality” of the American Jew caused him to delegitimize the Palestinian cause. By reducing the Israel-Palestine conflict to “versions of history” that are both false, he was absurdly disputing the obvious confiscation of Palestinian private property by Jews to create the State of Israel. He was equalizing the Israeli legitimizing myths with the Palestinian experience. He did not want to listen to me prove the Palestinian claims, even though these are clearly proveable through maps, photos, and extensive, meticulous documentation of evidence. His position of neutrality could only be based on refusal to acknowledge the forest for the trees. All he could see was the endless reciprocal revenge attacks reported by the media. He did not see genocide in progress.
With self-contradicting and ambiguous phrases, he insisted that he was not supporting either side. I wanted so much to believe that he was indeed thinking independently, but it became increasingly apparent that he was trapped in a fundamentalist paradigm. Although he could not see it, he was using all the typical Zionist cliches and methods of dispute; for example, when asked to clarify his ambiguous statement, he merely restated his original contradiction and refused to continue the conversation any further. “Think of me what you will,” he said, denying that he was a Zionist.
But far from being an independent or pro-peace stance, the “blame both sides for violence” position is a political manipulation by Zionist-financed media to get around their inability to cover up Israeli war crimes. This standard news analysis helps prevent potential Palestine sympathizers from linking with the opposition and keeps the discussion of whether Israel even has a right to exist safely under lock and key.
A similar method was employed by the news media in regards to the sanctions on Iraq, blamed for the deaths of 1.5 million civilians, primarily children under 5. For years, the major networks kept the public ignorant about the US/UN-inflicted genocide in Iraq. But due to the pressure caused by alternative media reports and the activism of American citizens, the news reporting was forced to change strategies. Since the US could no longer deny the mass death in Iraq, it shifted its position to denial of responsibility. Thus, the public opinion went from blaming Saddam Hussein exclusively for starving his own people to believing that the Iraqi president’s inadequacy somehow forced the US to deprive the entire population of clean drinking water.
But in case I truly wanted to cling to the hope that he was using “higher reasoning” that was incomprehensible to me due to his greater wisdom, his explanation of the Palestine Wall revealed that he truly had no idea. He wrote: “The leaders of each respective community decided to build a fence to protect the two friends (a Jew from New Jersey and a Palestinian) from each other. It separated their backyards.” I noted a painfully deep, deep need to shift the blame from Israel. There is no Palestinian leader who ever advocated building a wall to enclose the Palestinian population. Such a claim constitutes blaming the victims. Using the usual Zionist invocation of bad leadership and dual responsibility, the speaker actually believes himself to possess a fair and balanced view of the conflict. But this perception is deeply flawed, as it is based on false assumptions.
Rather than allow me to deconstruct his arguments, my American Jewish correspondent abruptly ended the conversation and revoked his friendship, but not before accusing me of stereotyping him, bursting into tears, and calling everything I had told him “lies from the pro-Palestinian propaganda machine.” He blamed me for causing a division between us by trying to discuss intimate political issues. In a breathtaking display of oxymoronic irony, his parting words to me were, “Together, there is peace. Apart, there is nothing.”
I knew then, figuratively speaking, what it was like to be a Palestinian, marginalized and silenced, blamed for disturbing the peace, and then cut off! The American Jew is all emotion and confusion. Rather than looking to the US-financed politicians on both sides to speak for them, I wish the Palestinians and the Israeli people would find a way to deal with each other directly.
For the one thing that kept me from total devastation was the reassurance from my Israeli friend. I found it ironic that the only Jew with whom I could openly discuss Israel with was an Israeli. He had no sympathy whatsoever for my American friend’s complexities. He said there is no controversy about whether or not the Israelis have committed genocide against the Palestinians. I questioned him extensively about the psychology of Jewish denial. He advised me, “Maria, Jews are like that. He does not wish to discuss his politics with a non-Jew. There is not much one can do about it! Try and accept this reality.” So I did, and felt much better about it.
A few days later, I received another message from the person I thought was my one remaining Jewish friend. “I am now a Palestinian Christian!” he proclaimed with elation. After years of feeling deeply disturbed by the cruelty and hypocrisy of Jews in regards to Israel, my friend had finally gone over to the Orthodox Christian Mother Church in Jerusalem and gotten himself baptized. Despite his family’s lifelong attempt to indoctrinate him into Zionism, he rejected his “Chosen” ethnic status and did the one thing that Jews find more offensive than anything else on earth: he accepted Jesus as his savior. Now, he believed, through Christ, the barriers to legitimate citizenship of the Holy Land had been removed.
I have to admit that I was deeply disappointed by his choice of Christianity over Islam, despite my previous attempts to call him to the way of the Last Prophet. But perhaps he was not interested in being a world citizen. He longed for a connection to this holy soil – he wanted to be Palestinian. And so he had joined the oldest institution of the Palestinian folk culture. I think it must be much easier for a Russian Israeli to be integrated into the Palestinian Orthodox Christian community than into the Palestinian Muslim community, for cultural reasons. And of course, a man has the right to believe what he wants to believe. I sincerely celebrated his joy.
Still, I cried more for the loss of my Israeli friend’s Judaism than I did for the loss of my Jewish American friend. It was deeply moving to see how far a Jew would be willing to go to admit the wrongness of the Zionist ideology, and to join the Palestinian community. But the sense of loss I felt, while irrational, was also very real. I had clung to him as the only Jew I could discuss politics with. Now I had lost a Jewish ally – although, praise be to God, I gained a Christian one.
The loss of two Jewish friends in one week due to the Israel-Palestine conflict was an eye-opener for me. It seems that, despite the peace activist’s traditional habit of separating Zionism from Jewishness, the vast majority of Jews make no such distinction. They are offended by the idea that a Jew would not love Israel. Their identification with their “homeland,” even when tempered by humanist sympathies, puts them in the troubling position of moral ambiguity. Therefore, while every one of them will insist, “I’m not a racist” and not uncommonly, “I am not a Zionist,” upon further inquiry one finds that they accept, or at least tolerate, the idea of Jewish domination over the Holy Land. They accept, but do not discuss the Zionist mythology of manifest destiny. The overwhelming majority of Jews have been indoctrinated to believe that Israel is the land of the Jews. Therefore, they cannot even accept the good will of those who wish to love them as Jews, while condemning their Israeli nationalism. For most Jews, it is useless to make the politically correct distinction between “Jew” and “Zionist.” If they are not directly supporting and benefitting from the Zionist colonization of Palestine, they are justifying it in their minds and silencing criticism of Israel.
That puts the peace-loving Jew in a precarious predicament. To truly stand for peace, one has to acknowledge that the war is the direct result of Israeli occupation and systematic destruction of Palestinian civilization. But to acknowledge this is to question the legitimacy of the Jewish state. My friend clearly felt that the only way to escape from Zionism was to reject Judaism.
Is there any form of Judaism left today which exists apart from the romantic longing for a nation-state? Due to the Zionist desecration of pre-Zionist Judaism and obliteration of European Jewish history, anti-Zionist Jews have very little ground to stand on, quite literally, in Israel – for they too are imprisoned and persecuted along with the Palestinians by the Zionist “authorities.” The most staunch anti-Zionist view comes from the ultra-orthodox sects of Judaism, with their emphasis on Jewish self-imposed exile and repentence. But the secularization of Judaism makes it nearly impossible for mainstream Jews, even if they support Palestine, to feel comfortable with the ultra-orthodox Jewish lifestyle.
The average Jew is then left with two possible choices. Either he has to be defensive about the indefensible, or else he has to defect from Judaism. For to follow the anti-Israel argument through is to conclude that, “since I do not wish to be a racist, therefore I do not wish to be a Jew.” The moral contradictions within modern Jewish thought represent a catastrophe for Jews: It reveals the replacement of Judaism as a legitimate religion with the hollow shell of Israeli chauvenist nationalism. Looking at the big picture, we should grieve more for the Jews than for the Palestinians because the Jews have lost their faith, whereas the Palestinians have only lost their homes in this world.