Monday, June 7, 2010

Arabiyah Kushkushiyah

I spent the better part of yesterday interviewing members of the old Zionist militia "Haganah" for an article. I fell in love with them, these beautiful, silvery moustached men and ever-young ladies. I believe that they were the right people at the right time and that what their struggle was justified. Zionism was once a neccesity, a reality, a calling.

It no longer is so for me. How does Zionism die in the heart? Here's a review of three major turning points in my experience. In other words: here's how I became a self-hating traitor worthy of being thrown in the sea with all the Arabs, in three simple steps:

1. When I was eleven years old, the first Intifada was raging outside my Jerusalem window. At the time the news was only about one thing: wild, angry Palestinian boy throwing stones at soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets. I couldn't believe the viciousness of the boys. Didn't they know that tossed stones could kill? There was some talk about that in the press too, how deadly a weapon they were. We' on the other hand were humane, using virtual toys as ammunition.

Then one day I saw, in the newspaper, a cross section of a rubber bullet. It was only rubber on the surface, inside it was metal. Yes, Rubber bullets don't tend to be lethal, but they can seriously wound and are the sause of many a lost eye. Toys? not quite. Those were rubber-coated bullets. Using the term "rubber bullets" was a lie, one intended to make us feel better about ourselves. Eleven year olds don't like being lied to. Step 1 was completed.

2. When I was fourteen years old and living in Washington DC, we read an exceptionally interesting book in class. It was “Black Boy” by Richard Wright.

In his record of growing up black in the deep South, Wright recounts how he and his childhood friends would stand outside the store of the town's only Jew and sing:

Jew Jew
How do you Chew?

and also:

Jew Jew
Two for five
That's what keeps
Jews alive

Bloody Christ killers
Never trust a Jew
Bloody Christ killers
What won't a Jew do.

I was shocked that antisemitism filtered also to the ranks of southern blacks, who certainly knew the taste of prejudice. How could that be? I wondered, then suddenly remembered how me and my friends would stand by the fence of our kindergarten's yard and wait for Palestinian women to pass by, on their way to Shu'afat or Anata. Once a lady would pass, wearing an embroydered dress and balancing a full basket on her head, we would sing zestfully, loudly, over and over:

Arabiyah Kushkushaiya
Yesh la Tachat
Shel Gaviyah.

A bozo Arab woman
Has an ass
Like a wineglass.

When my parents caught ear of this they strongly repremended me, but the memory remained supressed for nearly a decade. Once it surfaced, I was changed. I may have accepted rubber bullets for a while, but I didn't shoot them. The case of Arabiyah Kushkushiyah was different. I grew up in an environment in which intolerance was tolerated. I had to wonder how that was possible.

3. Watching this morning a clip of MK Haneen Zoabi speaking at the Knesset made me sick to my stomach. The speaker of the house, Reuven Rivlin, is pretending to silence the restless auditorium, while in fact not letting Zoabi, who was aboard the Gaza flotilla, speak a word. At one point he tells her to shorten her speech to a minute and a half. By that point Zoabi spoke only two sentences. She protests and he tells her: "you've been speaking for five minutes."

In my mind, I add words he leaves unsaid: "You've been speaking for five minutes, Arabiyah Kushkushiyah".

"You spoke enough, shut up or I'll shoot a rubber bullet into one of your dirty Arab eyes. Choose which."

The Knesset this morning stripped Zoabi of certain privilages reserved to its members and the campaign to remove her as public servent is ablaze. Right wing parlamentarians have recently worked hard promoting various initiatives that would deprive non-Zionist citizens of their rights. Today Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai proposed to strip of citizenship "Anyone who acts disloyaly towards the State".

In the days of the Haganah, such move was certainly not unthinkable and indeed no Arabs were members of the Pre-state Zionist establishment. My interviwees of yesterday were at war with the country's Arab population. Hell, one of these sweet grandmothers admitted to burning a village, with dynamite, not rubber or rubber-coated bullets. Yes, but this was in 1946, before the State was founded. It's now 2010. Our national idology has for years not been what it wishes to be, what it pretends to be. We have a bullet, a song and a speech to learn from. Let's be attentive to all three and change our way of thinking.


Anonymous said...

I am disgusted at the treatment of
Zoaab in Israeli Parliment; you were so crude and unpleasent, if you were to; just stop and reflect for just a moment; maybe you could reset your moral compass to realise
a more civalised society. All you appear to want, is to propegate fear in order that people should comply and not for their own good either, and I am a moderate!

Anonymous said...

The birth of Israel was announced to the world like the birth of a first born with such pride, wonderment and the commitment to be the best parents any child could ever want. Its mother’s belly; the remains of war torn European Jewry, the sperm donor was the USA its gynaecologist was Britain and, who could imagine a child so wanted would be so wanting? Fast forward, Israel 2010, the teenage son …rebellious, surly, bad mannered and totally out of control. . That is the view in the short term, you only have to look at your history books to predict the long term

Fairy Tail said...

OK, now let's take a close look at the 3 steps you described:

1. Do you have a better idea? Imagine for a moment that you're a soldier standing at a checkpoint or guarding a base, with no option of running, and people are throwing rocks at you (which, as you said yourself, can be lethal or cause severe wounds). Wouldn't you try to defend yourself?

2. What you and your friends did was definitely wrong, and unfortunately, there's enough racism from our side as well. However, that doesn't mean you should switch sides to try and make up for a stupid thing you did as a kid. There's a huge distance between not blindly hating all Arabs and being an anti-Zionist.

3. Honestly, don't you think it's unspeakable for a member of a parliament to collaborate with the enemies of the country s/he is supposed to represent and participate in a violent act against it?

And finally, Hello! We are still at war. We still need to defend our country all the time, on every front. Zionism is still a necessity. If we don't fight to protect our country, there will be no country left for us.

יובל בן-עמי Yuval Ben-Ami said...

Dear fairy tail,

1. End the occupation and you remove the dillema.

2. I haven't switched sides, I just stopped taking sides.

3. Redefine "enemies", otherwise they'll forever remain your enemies.

and as for your closing comments. Yes we are at war, we must defend ourselves, all of us, including the "enemies". This is why we should think progressively and creatively and break out of old paradigms that do nothing but kill us.

Carol Scheller said...

Thanks to someone in German-speaking Switzerland, I just discovered your blog. I love reading you ! (me - 64, American of Irish Catholic origin living most of my life in Geneva - I also have a blog: Keep writing !