October 24, 2020

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On Revenging Past Injuries: Holocaust Day in Israel, Naqba Day in Palestine


There seem to be two readings of Israel’s place in the 21st Century.

On the one hand, there’s a view, not so popular, even among Jews, that Israel is a light unto the nations, an inspiration to peoples and nations everywhere, about how to surmount the most terrible odds and come out the other side with your humanity not only intact, but thriving. As Edward Alexander put it:

the creation of the State of Israel was one of the few redeeming events in a century of blood and shame, one of the greatest affirmations of the will to live ever made by a martyred people, and a uniquely hopeful sign for humanity itself.

For those who wish to taste of this latter Israel, she who rises from the depths, who bears no malice, for whom the best revenge is to move on with life, enjoy this song with which Israelis mark their remembrance of the Holocaust.

Is COL a common acronym?


On the other hand, there is an anti-Zionist school, much fashionable among “progressives” (GPL) that holds Israel is the embodiment of everything wrong with mankind. If “those who can do what they will and those who cannot suffer what they must,” then the Jews embody the behavior of those who suffered when they were powerless, but no sooner did they get power, than they made others suffer. In this “take,” the Jews embody all the worst instincts for bitter vengeance, for arrogant domineering, and merciless hatred, all in the name of their special (and self-arrogated) status as “chosen.”

Jose Saramago articulated this perspective. After visiting Yassir Arafat at the height of the terror campaign of 2001-2002, he vented his indignation:

…contaminated by the monstrous and rooted “certitude”: that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God and that, consequently, all the actions of an obsessive, psychological and pathologically exclusivist racism are justified; educated and trained in the idea that any suffering that has been inflicted, or will be inflicted on everyone else, especially the Palestinians, will always be inferior to that which they themselves suffered in the Holocaust, the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner. Israeli seizes hold of the terrible words of God in Deuteronomy: “Vengeance is mine, and I will be repaid.”

This school readily sides with the most extreme articulations of the Palestinian narrative of suffering, in which the Israelis are the new Nazis, and the Palestinians the new victims of their genocidal hatreds. And somehow, when it comes to plotting vengeance against the Israelis, nothing is denied the poor Palestinian victim.

Again at the height of the terror Intifada, a Palestinian psychiatrist, Iyad Sattay and Ami Ayalon had a “dialogue of the deaf” that Ayalon, without realizing his own deafness, reported in The Gatekeepers:

“At some point, I was making myself a cup of coffee and I was approached by a Palestinian acquaintance named Iyad Satay, a Doctor of Psychiatry. He said, “Ami, we finally defeated you. “ I said to him, “Are you mad? What do you mean, defeated us? “Hundreds of you are getting killed. At this rate thousands of you will get killed. You’re about to lose whatever tiny bit of a state you have and you’ll lose your dream of statehood. What kind of victory is that?” He said to me, “Avi, I don’t understand you. You still don’t understand us. For us, victory is seeing you suffer. That’s all we want. The more we suffer, the more you’ll suffer. Finally, after 50 years, we’ve reached a balance of power, a balance, your F-16 versus our suicide bomber.” lyad Saraj’s statement gave me a very clear insight. I suddenly understood the suicide bomber phenomenon. I suddenly understood our reaction very differently. How many operations did we launch because we hurt, because when they blow up buses it really hurts us and we want revenge? How often have we done that?

Ayalon, too wrapped up in his we-too-ism, didn’t see what was before him: a completely different notion of  revenge, one that willingly sacrificed its own people’s wellbeing just in order to inflict suffering on the enemy. Ayalon claims this remark brought on a very clear insight. Alas, he missed the point, which he doesn’t for a moment consider, that this “dream of statehood” that he imagines moves the Palestinians as it does the Israelis, was only a projection, a figment of his cognitive egocentrism. Unable to see the cultural chasm, he reasons: “If they’re not like us, then we must be like them.”

Those who feel deeply moved by the first video, may be unhappy with my invidious comparison with Israel’s neighbors. Why contaminate such a beautiful sentiment with unpleasant and demeaning comments about the Palestinians.

Please excuse me, but given the immense popularity of the anti-Zionist narrative, I think it important to spell out for people what they don’t seem to be able to do for themselves.

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