Monday, July 12, 2010


A 9-Days Post: I.e., Just to Expand a Little Bit ...

... on my "Narrative #2" downstairs and Rev. RMJ's insightful comment regarding it, there is a tendency among some on the left to wonder "the Jews have been so oppressed, why do they not realize how Zionism oppresses Palestinians?". To some extent, this is a fair question, but there is much less irony here than lefties like to think.

The thing is when many of us Jews here about the Nabka, the fact is that, far from helping us to identify with the meaning of such a "catastrophe", our history of oppression makes us completely blind to how such an occurrence would be such a catastrophe. And this goes beyond the "I am more oppressed than you are"(*) issue. In Jewish history, there have been so many 'Nabka's, that they are rather meaningless as individual events.

Yes, it is tragic to be kicked off land you and your family have farmed for generations by armed thugs. But to us Jews, that's no big whoop. Throughout our history, even in locations where Jews have finally settled down and lived, eventually thugs would come and kick us off our land (yes, we Jews are very well integrated into many societies in the diaspora and there is little actual anti-Semitism today, but history shows that such idylls often end violently). The idea that we would have an armed struggle to obtain a "right of return" to every place that kicked us out would be ridiculous.

Another way to put this is to imagine the following conversation --

Palestinian: How can you Jews, who have experienced so much oppression be so insensitive to the catastrophe Israel's very existence has caused us. Why when I was a kid, armed thugs kicked us off land my family has lived on for centuries just so a bunch of Jews, many of whom are, by all appearances 100% European, could have a state

Jew: I don't get what's the big deal here: armed thugs kicked my grandfather off his land, and his grandfather off his land before that ... and then, when I was a kid, armed thugs kicked me out of my home and put me in a death camp

This isn't just a game of Oppression Olympics here (again *) but a whole difference in perspective: if your family had lived on the same plot of land for hundreds of years, being kicked off that land is a catastrophe; if your family were kicked around from place to place every few generations (even being kicked out of a place where you thought you were "safe"), you might not see being kicked off your land as such a catastrophe because it is all too "normal" for your expectations. Of course, the very existence of Zionism certainly testifies to the idea that this constant state of expecting a Nabka for diaspora Jews is wrong and damaging ...

... in fact, that is the whole point of Israel -- we Jews no longer have to live in constant fear of being kicked out of our homes and wondering where we would go next: we would go to Israel. Whether that makes sense or not, is a whole other question. But it seems rather odd to purposefully ignore that aspect of our narrative and to ignore that, for many Jews, the idea -- that being kicked out of the place where your family has lived for generations is the greatest catastrophe ever -- is meaningless as this has happened on a regular basis to us.


Meanwhile, there has been a little bit of bad press about extremist settlers blocking access of Palestinians to their farms and about some land use issues in Jerusalem. I know the attitude in Israel is "why should we bother to stop these sorts of problems when the world will consider us to be racists anyway". But perhaps if Israel would actually try to make sure these sorts of things don't happen, enough people might think enough differently about Israel to make a difference? Does anybody within the Zionist community understand the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

* to be fair, the lowering of a standard for genocide is somewhat disturbing: while we need to stop mass population transfers that cause so much death and suffering, they are not "genocide". There is a big difference between transferring even millions of people in order to establish nation-states which, no matter what you think of them as a concept, where considered an ideal in much of the 20th century, and actually trying to kill a whole group of people.

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