“I am perhaps the luckiest Jew who ever lived,” bragged Shmuel Rosner in the New York Times. Recently Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary. We witnessed a disturbing display of tribal hubris. I would like to believe that those who are even vaguely familiar with Jewish history know that this level of self-love has been a recipe for disaster.
“I am the Jew who gets to see Jewish ingenuity unapologetically celebrated,” Rosner wrote. And he is certainly right. The sight of Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinian protesters is certainly a unique celebration of “ingenuity”. Rosner feels “lucky” to see “Jewish material success flourish”. I accept that material wealth is important but wouldn’t it be a bit more clever for Rosner to conceal his affinity for mammon?
“I am the Jew who after 2,000 years gets to witness Jewish political independence.” I am sorry to remind Rosner that this sense of “independence” costs the American taxpayers $6 million dollars a day.
Rosner informs us that “in survey after survey, more Israelis choose “Jewish” over “Israeli” as their main identity. And by this they do not refer to a religion (Judaism) but to a nation (the Jewish people).” Rosner is correct in noting that Israel has become increasingly Jewish. Zionism promised to make the Jews a people like all other peoples. It promised to make Israel into a “home” for the Jews. But Israel is not a home. It is a Jewish ghetto surrounded by walls and its politics are driven by hatred, xenophobia and Pre-Traumatic Stress. Israel is a reincarnation of the European shtetle.
Israeli author David Grossman spoke recently at the joint alternative memorial ceremony for Israelis and Palestinian Arabs in Tel Aviv. This event, inspired by reconciliation and harmony, faced many obstacles from Israeli society and government.
Grossman didn’t feel as lucky as Rosner. “What is a home?” he asked, adding:
Home is a place whose walls – borders – are clear and accepted; whose existence is stable, solid and relaxed; whose inhabitants know its intimate codes; whose relations with its neighbours have been settled. It conveys a sense of the future.
And we Israelis, even after 70 years – no matter how many words dripping with patriotic honey will be uttered in the coming days – we are not yet there. We are not yet home. Israel was established so that the Jewish people, who have nearly never felt at-home-in-the-world, would finally have a home.
And now, 70 years later, strong Israel may be a fortress, but it is not yet a home.
The solution to the great complexity of Israeli-Palestinian relations can be summed up in one short formula: if the Palestinians don’t have a home, the Israelis won’t have a home either.
It is hard to argue with Grossman’s ethical insight.
Israel has in fact celebrated seven decades of plunder, oppression and impunity. The voices of peace in Israel, from people like David Grossman, Uri Avnery and Gideon Levi, are fading. Israel, as Rosner attests, is a Jewish State. Israelis choose to bond with their “Jewish identity”. Peace and reconciliation are not something we should expect to see any time soon.
In his New York Times article, Rosner expressed this as a materialistic precept. “The more we [Jews] have, the more obligated we are to guard it and the more afraid we are to lose it.” This is not exactly a call for sharing the land. Instead, it provides a window into the crudeness inherent in Israeli exceptionalism.