Quieter than I

After leaving the coffee shop where I had been reading the news, getting depressed, and writing blog posts, I dropped by a friend’s house, where we sat outside musing about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. We flitted between politics, political ideologies, globalization, the death of the nation state, the yuppie-ness of environmentalism, the legitimacy of social ecology, Marxism, capitalism, intellectual property, the political apathy of our generation in America (I still maintain that this is a legitimate phenomenon)…the list goes on and on.

Of all of this, the most interesting to me, as someone who often feels that their voice is in the minority seldom heard, is what follows. I asked my friend – a secular Israeli Jew – if he felt oppressed here. He said yes, he feels oppressed. “Mostly depressed, but also oppressed.” He elaborated: “freedom of speech doesn’t really exist here. If you want to express any kind of leftist sentiment – any kind at all – it’s not just a political statement, it’s personal, too. I can’t make a leftist statement and then go home and tell my family what I think.” Here, politics are personal. You can’t have a non-mainstream opinion because it is a personal affront to someone else. It’s also a threat.

There is no freedom of expression. There is no freedom of speech. These freedoms only exist if what you are expressing, saying, thinking, believing, and doing fit within the rigid ideologies of “national security” and “Israel as a Jewish State.”

I don’t care who you are or what you think, you should be allowed to state your opinion publicly and without fear.

It occurred to me that as my viewpoint is seldom heard in this debate, neither is his. We both fit into the broad category of “not in the interest of national security” and as such are either targeted or ignored. But we are not crazy.

I go back and forth between apathetic and passionately enraged, but I’m still working through the newness of this whole situation. I probably always will be. For those who grew up inside this system, it’s no wonder there is so little political vocalization of dissidence.

It’s not apathy, it’s defeat.


4 thoughts on “Quieter than I

  1. To want a ‘jewish state’ is unescapably racist. It is an Israeli state. You cannot say France is a ‘christian’ state, it is a french state the majority of whose population happens to be christian. The same goes for Germany, Switzerland (where I live), and so on. But the Jews are a special case, they need a refuge, a place they can go to if antisemitism flares up in the country in which they live. Fair enough. So the solution is: Jewish homeland, but Israeli state. Second big point: it is true that for the large majority of Israelis — including my Israeli relatives who boycotted me recently when I was in Israel — freedom of speech does not exist. If they think that what you are saying is against Israeli ‘security’ interests, and the ‘Jewish’ state, they will reject or ignore you. Yes, it is a tragedy, but the true left has become marginal in Israel …

  2. The point is that by implicit definition, by default, and by the sentiments of the vast majority of Jewish public opinion, Israel is a Right Wing state.

  3. I came to your blog from your Only Democracy? article about the NIF. The comment section is “closed”, as usual. Your other commenter here repeats your main points as though you had not made them.
    My theme in response is violence, but hope beyond it. The former Israeli high judge, Mr. Barak, does violence to logic in a brief statement, as does the NIF statement of July 16 you quoted. He was writing, maybe ten years ago, about the Basic Laws phrase “Jewish and democratic state”.
    “Equality is a complex right.” That is one of his subheadings. You can see where he’s going with that.
    I would say that the proper sovereign expression of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination is a civil rights regime–which guarantees the same (whatever “sovereign expression” means) to all persons and groups.
    Violence in language–mangling logic–goes with ad hominem attacks (your experiences in Israel quite resemble my experiences in the peace movement in Maine and on the internet), and one is excused for wondering a bit about bricks coming through windows one of these days. That verbal violence seems to be increasing.
    But the whole situation (I came up with “no-mention zone” today to describe the contradiction Mr. Barak tries to paper over) belongs in a textbook on conflict resolution. The worst conflicts are the totally suppressed ones, where grievances are not spelled out, so parties to the conflict have no vocabulary to supply terms to either their own views or their opponents’. I just repeated myself. The grievances need to be “surfaced”. For instance, a Zionist might very properly find proof of current hatred of Jews in the support given to the Jewish state from the “Establishment” in the US and Europe, as if the Establishment believes that arbitrary rule is all that a Jew could understand, whether she is ruling or being ruled.
    The textbook would emphasize that surfacing the actual terms of grievance is not a pretty picture. Vomiting is a salutary process, bringing health and pain-relief. Sure, but not on my new carpet. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist, went from practice to authoring popular books on psychiatry to writing “People of the Lie” to establishing a foundation teaching peace. His doctrine there is (was?) that social links have a three step formation cycle. People mingle politely, perhaps you might say “fraternally”, then identify differences and fight bitterly about them, and only then reach accommodation. “The worst biting insects are in your own clothes,” is a proverb in Kenya. Civil wars are the most brutal.
    Given that the Jewish democratic state is a no-mention zone that’s been in effect in stages for from sixty-two to ninety-three years, there’s a lot of stuff built up that, when it comes out, is not going to be pretty. Not on my new carpet.
    Best wishes on your time in Israel. A postscript: I departed for Kenya and the Peace Corps from Carleton College in 1978, going to the UCC Congregational Church across the street for maybe the second or fifth time just before I took off. I stood up and asked the congregation, the other people in the pews, to pray that I might accept Kenyans and they might accept me. A Union Theological Seminary professor had come in his old flannel suit to a lunch meeting at Carleton a while earlier and given me the most rewarding hour of my student career there, by uttering one little idea. He’d said faith, piety, whatnot, is a matter of accepting things. So that was my request for prayer. Now, UCC is not big on ecstatic outbursts or whatnot, the power of prayer to win lotteries, the like, as I have subsequently learned, but I thought the silence that greeted my request was excessive. I have to add a sequel. I got back from Iraq and being slightly blown up in the Mosul dining facility to a UCC church in Portland which, one Sunday five years ago, hosted an Iranian from the university to speak on regional issues. After the service, the music room was packed. I asked him about the theory I’d heard in Iraq from a Kurd that the US intention in Iraq was to create a weakened state. He said I should be the one up there speaking. He said this candidly and in a friendly tone. I said, “They don’t want to hear about it.” Nobody said a word. He went on to say that the theory of the weakened state was in play in the region. And that, as they say, was that.
    So what you experience in taboos and ad hominem issues in Israel, well, it may be the chickens coming home to roost of what was never anything Jewish but rather a WASP plan to get the Jews out of England (quoting a retired BBC radio producer), bring on the second coming of Christ (she also suggested the Christopher Hill (speaking of left-wingers) biography of Oliver Cromwell, who apparently had that idea in the 1640’s but didn’t get around to it–bringing back the expelled Jews and sending them to Palestine, etc.), play hell with the owners of the oil-lands, and generally make the most of a dying empire.
    Welcome to WASP-dom. The NYT magazine had a cover story a year or so ago about foreign minister Livni’s chances for the top job, and it was called, in the cover story, “Her Jewish State”. Our politicians love to use the phrase, well, less and less. Because it increasingly raises the question, I don’t know whom I’m quoting now, of what’s at all Jewish about the Jewish state.
    For eighteen hundred years you could have asked that about christendom’s Christian qualities. So a lot of junk needs to get vomited up here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s