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:
How do you Chew?
Two for five
That's what keeps
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:
Yesh la Tachat
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.