“De zogenaamde ‘Joodse, democratische staat’ is een synoniem voor dagelijkse wreedheid, landbezetting, militarisme, nederzettingen en onteigening.”
WHY I AM AN ANTI-ZIONIST JEW
The Israeli government deliberately invokes terrorist attacks, rockets, and frightening brown men in headscarfs to stoke the population’s fear, but I am scared of the racism Zionists use to justify the occupation.
“I was in prison for eleven years,” says Munib, angrily. He explains how his Israeli jailers would make him stand in water: “Up to my neck, for three days”. He gesticulates, showing how he was also electrocuted on the leg, as we drive the narrow road to Bil’in, a tiny Palestinian village south of Jerusalem, next to the separation wall.
I am in the West Bank to understand why everything I have been taught is wrong. Munib is there because – though constantly under attack – Palestine is his home. The facts are casual to him, but they are told with fury.
Later I speak with Ertefaa, a self-deprecating Palestinian woman who works at the refugee centre in Aida camp near Bethlehem, where 5000 Palestinian refugees live in cramped confines: “My husband was in jail twice, six months. My brothers were imprisoned. The brothers of my husband, two brothers, were killed – four months in between both of them. My daughter’s husband was also imprisoned.”
As a child I learned that “the Israel/Palestine conflict” is highly complex, with a long history of wrongs on both sides. Growing up as a member of an orthadox synagogue, pro-Israel politics were the norm, and certain kinds of questions frowned upon. Zionists – those who believe Israel should be a Jewish homeland – say it is us vs. them: the victimised Jews against the murderous Arabs. To condemn Israeli human rights abuses is to ignore the Jewish history of persecution that makes the modern Israeli mentality intelligible.
But the reality is much more simple. Today the so-called “Jewish, democratic state” is synonymous with daily brutality, land occupation, militarism, settlements, and dispossession. Though varying forms of Zionist thought exist – each imbues the worthwhile aim of protecting the Jewish people with nationalist imperative. For us to be safe, the thinking goes, we must have our own country. To keep the country safe, we must use force to keep out threats. Because the people living there don’t like us pushing them out, they are by definition threatening, and in need of suppression.
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Ray Filar is a freelance journalist and an editor at openDemocracy, working on the Transformation section. Their writing has been published in The Guardian, The Times, and the New Statesman, among others. They are the editor of Resist! Against a precarious future (Lawrence & Wishart, 2015), a book about young people and politics.