Opinion: Living with the Israeli Reality

    December 2010            
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Jews Who Live Beyond Reality

By Matania Ginosar

I have been commenting on the Israeli situation for more than a decade. As I listen to some responses over the years to some of my commentaries I noticed something strange. Some Jewish people in the Diaspora seem to feel ashamed of Israel's ability to defend itself. They feel Israel should do more for peace and it is Israel's fault that most Palestinians support terrorism; the indiscriminant murder of Israeli civilians. They say that Israel is not giving enough land, or is building in the territories, actually Jerusalem itself, or is not willing to tolerate missile attacks from Hizbullah or Hamas. The Israelis, they say, have been too aggressive protecting themselves by fences and walls.

Just a little example: When the second Intifada started some ten years ago, Reform Judaism, the largest distributed US Jewish magazine had nothing about it for several months. I wrote several articles that were very well received and was encouraged to spread my words to a wider audience. But I wanted more. I wrote to the Editor in Chief of Reform Judaism Magazine explaining that we would like some understanding of the brutal events. He wrote me with quite some anger: don't tell me how to write a national magazine.

That was minor compared to what this Magazine did several years later. It had a long discussion about the "Israeli wall" and how much Palestinians were suffering from it. It did not matter that the fence cut the number of murdered Israelis by a significant amount, it did not matter that the Israeli Supreme Court supervised the location to protect Palestinians from the fence' impacts. Reform Judaism Magazine knew better. Its discussions were supposed to be a balance look at the two sides, but instead it did modify the reality against Israel. First of all "the Wall" was almost completely a fence, not a wall, second a large number of countries were using defensive fences to reduce danger to their population, and they were not facing terrorism as Israelis was. Also it distorted the key photograph to demonstrate the "evil" of the "wall". As an experienced photographer it was obvious to me that the picture of the wall was taken from near the ground to exaggerate the height of the w all.

Contrast that viewpoint with other Americans of foreign ancestry, almost all of us. They generally feel proud in their "old country", in its accomplishment, history, and military power. Have you ever wondered why we are so different? I believe it is partially the submissive culture we had to live during the last two millennia.

American Jews are proud in the freedom and independence that the American Founding Fathers brought to this land. But these same Jews are sometimes uncomfortable with the Israeli Freedom Fighters who liberated Israel over 60 years ago. The US gained its liberty by long and bloody battles and considerable amount of killing. Both Israel's and US freedom fighters shared a common enemy- the British Empire. Gaining independence almost always means wars, and wars means killing of your enemy. All the "Good Wars" the US participated in were brutal to civilians then, and are brutal to innocent Muslim civilians now, from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. How many are protesting that inhumanity and with the passion they project against Israel? Why the double standard? We hear very minimal liberal voices condemning US killing of civilians, but hear loud and clear the condemnation of Israel for the collateral killing of Arab civilians; The same civilians the terrorists use to protect them selves. Judaism considers saving human life a critical duty, but at the same time it encouraged self defense: if some one comes to kill you, kill him first.

Understandably since these American Jews feel secure here they do not grasp the urgency to save their own lives first. Their own lives are not in danger. As a byproduct of this kind of thinking they are uncomfortable with the accomplishments of the Israeli military against untold odds, from the creation of the state to these very dangerous days facing nuclear Iran. Over 23,000 Israelis were murdered by the Arabs from the creation of Israel, and 100,000 have been injured. Probably the highest percentage of any nation in recent times. Every Israeli knows the meaning of danger and sacrifice.

If you think about it long and hard it is not surprising. Jews have always desired to be identified with the highest morality possible. It was simple; we did not have military power. We were the victims and did not have to face the dilemma of excessive power. During our long history we paid considerable more attention to our religious holidays and little to wars of liberations such as Hanukah and Bar Kochva.

While we lived in the Diaspora for two millennia we had to bow consistently to the powerful leaders and even the weakest local non Jews or they would have started a pogrom. The history of murdering Jews is so long I had no idea until I read recently a more extended history of mayhem and pogrom over time in the Diaspora. Population experts estimated that if the Jews were not so subjected to the untold murders, pogroms and expulsions we would have had some 200 million Jews in the world.

It is natural that when your very life and that of your family can be terminated at the capricious will of the majority you would carry it in your collective memory for centuries. Remember the fear and hate in prior Yugoslavia; the Croats and Serbs, of events that occurred centuries ago.

Note that our ability to stand erect in the streets of our American cities is a new phenomenon. Friends have told me how they were beaten by their Christian school mates on a regular basis in the 1950's and 60's here in this very land of freedom and equality.

With this short half century of semi equality in the USA, (and discrimination still exist here) we still are looking behind our shoulders often. We feel ashamed when a Jew manipulated the stock market since he represents the Jewish people. Why? We have so many more Nobel Prize winners than famous crooks, but we bend down with shame nevertheless when a Jewish name is listed infamously.

I have experienced the hate: three of our synagogues in Sacramento were torched in 1999. Now we pay extra security fees in my Synagogue to have a modicum of a guard on Friday night services. My wife wanted to go to a Friday service in Australia last month; she had to get security clearance first to attend.

So, it is understandable and natural to carry on our shoulders the fear of thousands of years and feel very uneasy because of what the Goeem may say: we do not like Israel's independence and its ability to defend itself. We point the finger at Israel as the denier of peace instead of its enemies. This tendency may come from our hidden feelings: "it is not us, we are good, it is those aggressive Israelis."

Contrary to the common belief that Jewish political advocacy creates Congressional support to Israel; millions of American Christians have been supporting it. Without them Israel would not enjoy the friendship and support of the US.

Since 1960 more than 98 new countries were created and joined the UN. Just one country is subjected to continuous UN discrimination, accusations, fierce hate propaganda, and globally-spreads lies about its people and nationhood- only Israel. And some of us, the free Jews of the US often add to that intolerable burden on the Israeli people. It is not enough that they are targeted for many years by rockets and terrorism; they have to try to defend themselves from their own well established, protected brothers who hide behind the military power of the US, a military power where morality is a far cry from the morality of the Israeli military.

Our US military inadvertently caused untold collateral civilian casualties have used drones in foreign skies to protect our US homeland, we support these but it is not our Jewish fault. We are not taking part in it. But those militant, aggressive Israelis deserve our condemnation; they are the ones who shame us Jews by their "separation fence", by unsightly walls to stop assassin bullets, by search points to prevent suicide bombers from blowing Israelis buses full of kids and other innocent civilians.

Only Jews who are protected share this odd behavior of condemning their brothers for wishing to live in security without having to rush their kids to the nearby shelters at a moment notice.

Two thousands year of emotional slavery will not be erased in just a half century. The culture of submissiveness may be one reason. The other may be trying to live according to the unattainable Jewish ideals that were never tested in real life until the creation of the State of Israel.

I would love to have a world guided by Gandhi's principal of non violence. He had a good soul, but even he was deeply ignorant of reality. Two sides have to agree to live in peace. In 1942 during the middle of W.W.II he urged the British and American soldiers to lay down their arms and let the Germans take over their countries in peace. What a world we would have had.

It is nice to live in a dream and be free of the reality of this too often brutal world.


from the December 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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