Israel, ideology of trauma

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Originally published on the Unapologetic Mexican

MANY AMERICANS OF JEWISH DESCENT find themselves torn in two by the tyrannical and cruel actions Israel levels upon the Palestinians. Perversely, for these people, it is not so much rampant Anti-Semitism that causes us shame at our roots, but the actions of the Israel state. I am one.

In this place, my writing touches on a specific realm, and while I certainly exercise flex and fluidity, the range remains limited. I began the blog for a purpose, and I hue to that. For example, while I do talk often about identity, family, history, and borders, I don’t spend much time talking about the side of my family that came here from Poland. For a few reasons. Mostly, the tangle with that part of my identity was simply not as painful as growing up of México. For the record, I wasn’t raised as a Jew (although I did eat latkes early on, and Matzoh was always in the house) nor do I practice a formal religion today. Both sides of my family, and the stories to be told about them, are very important to me, in any regard.

Recent events—last night, Israeli commandos opened fire on peaceful activists who were attempting to bring relief and aid through the Gaza blockade—prompt me to comment on the Israel topic at length, finally. Ultimately, of course, this is no more than my point of view, though I feel in this case morally compelled to offer it.

insaniyardim on Broadcast Live Free

I suppose the 600 humans who braved Israel’s wrath felt similarly compelled to do what they did. Though I am under no illusions that writing a blog post compares to—

The Mavi Marmara was carrying around 600 activists when Israeli warships flanked it from all sides as soldiers descended from helicopters onto the ship’s deck. Reports from people on board the ship backed up by live video feeds broadcast on Turkish TV show that Israeli forces used live ammunition against the civilian passengers, some of whom resisted the attack with sticks and other items.

The Freedom Flotilla was organized by a coalition of groups that sought to break the Israeli-led siege on the Gaza Strip that began in 2007. Together, the flotilla carried 700 civilian activists from around 50 countries and over 10,000 tons of aid including food, medicines, medical equipment, reconstruction materials and equipment, as well as various other necessities arbitrarily banned by Israel.

International solidarity and the Freedom Flotilla massacre

Late last night, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships in international waters carrying food, medicine and other aid to Gaza, killing at least 10 civilians on board and injuring at least 30 more (many reports now put the numbers at 19 dead and 60 injured).  The Israeli Defense Forces is claiming that its soldiers were attacked with clubs,  knives and “handguns” when they boarded the ship without permission, but none of the Israeli soldiers were killed while two are reported injured.  Those on the ships emphatically state that the IDF came on board shooting.  An IDF spokesman said:  ”Our initial findings show that at least 10 convoy participants were killed.”

The six-ship flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid along with 600 people, all civilians, which included 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85.

—Glenn Greenwald, Israel attacks aid ship, kills at least 10 civilians

Again, there is no way I can compare that act with writing this post! Those people are heroes, to my mind. Nonetheless, believe me when I say that writing this doesn’t come easy to me.

Reading From An Esoteric Text of Pain

Watching, over time, this situation with Israel (US aids and funds a ’secretly’ nuclear state that is oppressive and cruel and gets special treatment that appears less and less valid over time) leads me to believe that those who make decisions about Israel’s military and political stances operate on a different plane, and are reading from an esoteric book that the rest of us do not. It doesn’t seem they realize this yet. But I imagine the painful truth is beginning to dawn on them, and if they are anything like the USA (which they are) they will not admit wrong, but only clamp down harder.

Every day, every year, every time their guns are fired, and aid to the Gaza strip is blocked, and the disgusting, barbaric oppression of Palestinians rolls on with much a wink and a nod and a dollar from Uncle Sam, so many of us of Jewish descent here in the USA) grimace and flinch and hide our faces in shame.

Short and sweet, Israel: This is the new legacy you create. You are reading from an old, dusty text of pain and then imagining it still strikes a righteous light on you today. But to younger faces and minds, there is a drastically different perception. We look out and the biggest shame we feel is not so much people hating our Jewish lineage, but people hating what Israel is doing and is known for in this current era.

How perverse.

If I had any hope it mattered or those in power would consider it, I would beg you to take a whole new direction so that we can again have pride in our people. But I fear this stance is rigid.

An Ideology of Trauma

Never Forget, it is said. But what has been said about Never Obscure? Because that is what has happened. The righteousness you read from; the pain and struggle our people endured and met (my great grandmother was lucky enough to stow away a ship and escape the mass murder in Poland); the great oppression and nightmare that you ask all to Never Forget has not been forgotten…but it is safe to say that this memory is being clouded over and replaced with a new reality. A reality in which you are the oppressor.

And honestly? I hate you for that.

Are we—is anyone—to hold a memory—one they did not personally experience—in sharper relief and having greater weight than the reality playing out before our eyes as we live and breathe today? This is not possible. Or if it is, one might call it a hallucination. Or a persistent delusion. A fugue state. Or…

Or trauma. And that is the probably the best choice. Rather than an individual’s trauma, the notion of Israel as signified by her repeated deeds and consequent or underlying justification is but an ideology of trauma. Like an individual victim of horrific violence, the Pro-Blockade Isreal mentality is a consciousness of trauma: she cannot see a new day; lives in that violence, still. (There are distinctions to make between Israeli citizens and the military, but again, this is my point of view from where I live. It is what I see as “Israel.” The state. Of course it is the ruling class and military who wage these wars, just as it is they here in the US who mire us in international violence.) In that state of trauma, Israel cannot discriminate who is worthy of violence. Israel is locked into a bad memory, and now is revisiting it upon others.

And expects that the rest of us can see the same ghosts dancing in our crosshairs?

This Is What You Have Taken

As is clear, I feel an anger toward Israel’s actions. I am angry that you steal my cultural pride, Israel.

I’ll share a tiny piece of a story I almost didn’t share here because it feels far too precious to be exploited for any political means…but it’s real. And it is part of my feelings and why I’m so angry, and should be spoken.

There was a man who was kind to me and a friend for a while before he died. I was four or five. He was a Jew. I’ll keep his name to myself, though I’ve written it before. He asked my mother to marry him (her and my father has since divorced), but it wasn’t to be. Sometimes, he would speak fondly of Israel. I’d look at pictures through my Viewmaster and imagine the place. This was Israel in my world, a world that existed a long, long, long time ago.

You have stolen that image. You have stained that memory, Israel.

In my own life, it is not Anti-Semites who make me feel any shame at my lineage. It is Israel. You are the one who makes me want to shy away from, to abdicate my history, to turn my back on what should be a story and roots I embrace loudly and proudly. But everywhere I go, I fear that look will come upon me, that look filled with the feeling that I harbor for you, and for any people anywhere who use guns, or even superior might to crush the hungry, the helpful, the weaker.

I feel the same revulsion at what Felipe Calderón’s government does to the indigenous and poorer peoples of Mexico; the same feeling for what the law in Arizona does to those vulnerable Mexicans who only want to work and live and breathe. Which of course highlights the fact that the heart of this struggle is timeless, and is not, at bottom, about Israel. Just as the BP catastrophe is not about BP specifically. So if we want to talk about the struggle, the big struggle, that appears under and over everything, it is this feeding upon the weak by those vampiric forces that would siphon resources and power and land away from others for notions of self-importance, greed, economic might, or other such forms of dominance. And this battle can be fought on many levels. We should always be ready to meet it, in whatever guise it chooses to appear.

But back to you, Israel.

Shoot down or wreak violence upon as many ships who attempt to bring help or food to those you are torturing and slowly starving, but know that this is what you are today.

Don’t be fooled or become breathlessly euphoric breathing recycled air within your small circles of self-affirming attendants, all exchanging and exhaling and reinhaling the same esoteric effluvia. The reality of the day is that more and more of us here in the USA see Israel for what it has become. An instigator of suffering, a willing participant in violence and terrorism.

Nothing to be proud of.

Photo: AP


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Author: Kirwan Institute (434 Articles)

Kirwan Institute

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