Thursday, May 26, 2011

Maybe I'll be a Zionist.

opposing points of view

Tom Wolfe coined the term, the “Me Decade” in a piece he wrote in New York Magazine, extrapolating the line from the Clairol ads of the day, “If I have one life to live, let me live it as a… ”

I don’t necessarily want to be a blonde. Maybe I’ll be a Zionist. It seems like the time is right. Although, if I don’t get on the bus now, I may miss the opportunity. The chance to become a zealous supporter of Israel through Zionist eyes doesn’t come around every day. Listening to the rants of Ahmadinejad or watching Inglorious Basterds get the juices flowing. Or, more recently, the posts and comments of an Irish woman named Anna on Facebook.

Facebook can be the “six degrees of separation” gone terribly wrong. I know someone who knows someone who idolizes Sarah Palin and still doesn’t believe the president was born in Hawaii.

In this case, it is someone I met in Salem who, along with her husband, publish an online newspaper. I talked to them about writing about the gangs in Salem. We had a lively conversation and I never saw them again. When I got on Facebook, I friended them and the virtual newspaper. On the eve of Israeli president Netanyahu visiting the United States, our president spoke in favor of asking the Israelis to relinquish the West Bank, which they had taken over after winning the 6 Day war of 1967. To Netanyahu, it is simply not a topic to discuss. And this is where Anna comes in…

Under “Basic information” on her Facebook page, where damned near everyone else writes a little bit of puffery about themselves, Anna wrote:

“FREE GAZA... There will only be peace when the Jews leave. They do not belong on Arab land.

They are committing GENOCIDE everyday they are there. They have proven with all the ethnic cleansing and wars that they have no respect for Palestinians.

. . . thanks to all decent peaceloving Palestinians who are suffering so much right now.”

Ah, Hamas children... they blow up so fast.

Really? That's what you want people to know about you, first and foremost?

My heart goes out to all the peaceloving Palestinians, particularly the ones who dress their kids up in explosives. Maybe Anna hasn’t read the Hamas Covenant (or Charter), issued in 1988. According to Wikipedia, the Covenant “outlines the organization's position on many issues, and identifies Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and declares its members to be Muslims who "fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors." The charter calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel."

Anna lists as one of her favorite books, “Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” And on May 18, she commented on Facebook that “Israelis are pure evil.”

So I’ve decided, rather than call this Irish Jihadist what she is in terms of Middle English, without any substance behind it, I would read up on my Israeli-Palestinian history. I’ve ordered three books on the subject. One claims to be unbiased. Another is clearly pro-Israel. The third is a collection of pieces, so it may be more balanced than the other two. I feel a little like Captain Renault in Casablanca, when he drops the bottle of Vichy water into the trash and kicks the can. My Judaism has lain dormant for most of my life. What there was of it was more traditional than religious, more custom than ritual. But if what Anna buys into and spews is representative of even a dozen others, it is dangerous, and far too reminiscent of events and attitudes of the past. Yes, those events and attitudes.

Now, of course, I don’t really want to be a Zionist. Even some Israelis don’t want to be Zionist nor do they particularly like what they stand for. But, at the heart of it, Zionism is simply “the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland.” Zionism takes many forms: Labor Zionism, Liberal Zionism, Nationalist Zionism, Religious Zionism, Green Zionism and so on. In 1975, the U.N. general assembly passed a resolution that designated Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination." The resolution was repealed in 1991. By the way, the topic of accepting "Palestine" into the U.N. is being discussed. They are requesting membership if there is no peace with them and Israel by September. And who said there's no such thing as Palestinian comedy? Within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism is viewed by critics as a system that fosters apartheid and racism. The critics are, no doubt Arab. Wikipedia points out iin their page on Zionism that it “is dedicated to fighting antisemitism. Some Zionists believe antisemitism will never disappear (and that Jews must conduct themselves with this in mind), while others perceive Zionism as a vehicle with which to end antisemitism.”

All of which is to say that one needs to look past the labels and epithets and see people and their groups for what they are. Anna may be right– there may be some peaceloving Palestinians. Both of them may be very nice people. Then, there are the rest. I say that with an obvious tongue-in-cheek. Anna doesn't. From her words, she seems deadly serious, with an emphasis on 'deadly.' The thing is, there must be thousands–no, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands–who feel the way Anna does. I don't know if her comments are directed at all Jews or just the Israelis. Rarely is the distinction made. Did I mention I am Jewish? To paraphrase Jon Stewart, I'm not really a Jew... I'm Jew-ish. I am Jew Lite. But there are certain images indelibly etched in my mind that neither time nor tolerance will erase. When I went to Hebrew School, ostensibly to study for my bar-mitzvah, I had a teacher who had numbers tattooed on his arm. The girl of my dreams in high school was forbidden to date me because I was Jewish. I was assigned to a room in the dorm my freshman year in school with a kid from Sewickley, Pennsylvania who had never seen a Jew before and was driven to stab me or throw me from the nearest window in our room on the 16th floor. And like the hundreds of thousands of Anna's, there are hundreds of thousands of Jews (or Jew-Lites, if you prefer), who have had close encounters with the holocaust, brushes with anti-semitism, and feelings of persecution. The stereotype is nerdy, over-achieving and most of all, sublimating... sucking up and keeping a lid on it. There have been books written on the subject. But I digress. The topic is the hate thrust upon Israelis and Jews for things they have and have never done.

And this is where you should drop the needle down on "Neighborhood Bully," on Bob Dylan's Infidels album.

I will follow up on this topic once I gain insight and the necessary background that will invariably reinforce my dislike of the people like Anna and their ignorant, misdirected hatred.

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