General Antisemitism

My Zionist Journey

This first person essay about my decision to make Aliyah may seem, to some, inconsistent with the mission of CiF Watch. However, in addition to the anti-Semitism which we arduously combat, one of the challenges of monitoring the Guardian (and the comments of their readers) involves their complete lack of comprehension regarding what truly motivates modern Zionists. They possess, often, an appalling lack of empathy for the thousands year old Jewish dream to “be a free people in a free land”.  While championing other peoples’ inherent right to self-determination, they seem to oddly lack even the most rudimentary empathy towards Jewish nationalist aspirations.  Israel, and Israelis, have become the proverbial “other”.  Jews, who represent 2/10 of 1% of the world’s population, have but one nation to call their own and we have no intention of entertaining the notion that our very existence as a sovereign state is somehow negotiable.  As Abba Eban said:

“Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its ‘right to exist.’..Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and [191] other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement.”

It was March 2006, my first time in Israel. Shabbat had just arrived and, with a gentle breeze at my back, I tentatively approached the Western Wall. I had recently taken the first steps toward observance, and though I was anticipating a journey filled with joy and meaning, my life till then hadn’t prepared me for the emotion that took hold of me then.

I attempted to pray on that mild March evening not to open my heart to the arrival of Shabbat, but to avoid having to take that final step toward the wall, which would require me to wed myself with the struggles and aspirations of the Jewish people.

My mind was racing. The wall was much larger than I had imagined. I looked away, and saw intense davening (prayer) everywhere. I wanted to join in, but the words wouldn’t come.

My decision to make Aliyah was forged that day — one which only came into fruition three years later when I when I boarded an El Al plane for Tel Aviv with a one-way ticket — but the seeds of that epiphany and, indeed, my initial identification with Zionist activism, was a reaction to a “progressive” world increasingly hostile to the Jewish right to self-determination.

The bright-eyed, idealistic and progressive man I was in college and early adulthood was confronted with a stunning cognitive dissonance — that many of my political allies, those committed to freedom, equality and individual rights, were turning away from their traditional identification with Israel – the nation which most clearly embodied these values.

That these Western values — enlightenment values — were, in fact, part of the Zionist vision since the days of Herzl, and were embodied and upheld in the modern Jewish state, mattered less, in many circles, than the new narrative being forged on college campuses, and among the intellectual elite, which saw Israel through the distorted lens of colonialism and imperialism.

That the boundaries of Israel were not drawn, as they have been with most nation states, by the edge of a sword, but by an act of the United Nations, didn’t matter. That Israel was a democracy with progressive policies towards women, gays and religious minorities strangely didn’t seem relevant.

What seemed to matter most was advancing a narrative of Israeli oppression, a caricature of a grotesque and manipulative Goliath that delights in inflicted pain and suffering — a defamation hauntingly similar to the historical caricature of the dirty, hook-nosed, money hungry, plotting villain we know all too well — Israel as the Jew writ large. The 19th-century German social democrat, August Bebel, accurately called anti-Semitism the “socialism of fools,” and this clumsy anti-Zionism was and is nothing less than the anti-imperialism of fools.

My decision to wage war against these calumnies evolved slowly, but during my long rumination a clearer sense of purpose took shape. As my late father enlisted in the U.S. Army at the start of World War II, possessing no doubt that that war  (against fascism) was his war, I, too, knew that this war — against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, the totalitarianism of our age, their political fellow travelers and intellectual enablers — was my war.

I set out to defend Israel, but also to join the 4,000-year journey of the Jewish people, to be an actor in Jewish history and not merely a spectator.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I took the final step and gradually lifted my arm. I moved my hand forward and touched the wall.

With a gentle breeze at my back, I opened my eyes. And I prayed.

9 replies »

  1. This evokes memories of my first visit to Israel after a gap of 35 years, and my first visit ever visit to the Western Wall, with my then 10 year old daughter, in 1995.

    That was also an Erev Shabbos, and I was overwhelmed and moved by the feeling of being amidst hundreds of Jewish people hurrying with joy to be at the Wall as the start of Shabbos arrived, and that this experience was also amongst the experiences of my daughter’s first day in Israel.

    I can still remember the feeling of touching the Wall that evening, the cool, polished smoothness that told of the countless numbers of hands that had made the same gesture of connection, memory, thanksgiving and hope for our future.

    And the 35 year gap? That was my long period when I saw myself as a universalist, as having embraced a wider world, when the then supposed PLO doctrine of peacefully replacing Israel with a “secular democratic state” seemed to me like a good idea. And when I regarded The Guardian as a wonderful newspaper that could be relied on to tell the truth.

    I said goodbye to the PLO & anti-Zionism after the 1975 Zionism is Racism resolution and its aftermath, when it was all about marxism and there was no Islamist anything in the picture.

    I said goodbye to socialist universalism after the 1982 Lebanon War, when I saw socialists and feminists equating Israel with the Nazis and demanding I do the same.

    I said a final goodbye to buying the Guardian in August 2001 when it published an article by Islamist mouthpiece Faisal Bodi, celebrating the suicide bombers engaged in blowing up people in buses and cafes as “martyr bombers”, just two weeks before 9/11.

  2. Judy:
    Re your last paragraph – I have been following the 7/7 Inquiry proceedings as reported in sympathetic Guardian articles, including testimony by the survivors that describe in horrific detail the pain, suffering and terror of those unfortunate to be in the underground at that time. I immediately asked myself whether the Guardian had published similarly sympathetic articles about the personal suffering of Israeli victims of suicide bombings. You have provided the answer.

  3. Thank you, MindTheCrap– and also re the 7/7 Bombings, let’s remember that at the time The Guardian published their notorious staff intern Dilpazier Aslam’s “We rock the boat” article and, re 9/11, that of Charlotte Raven “Sorry about the 9/11 victims” but the USA got what it deserved.” There are many other articles of that type that The Graun has published, and continues to publish, of a similar kind.

  4. Too bad comments were not allowed for the Bodi article – we could have seen the CiF lowlights at their finest.

  5. Thank you, Pretzelberg. I wonder if CiFWatch might consider running an All-Time-Reverse-Pantheon of the Guardian’s very worst articles and CiFWatch pieces. They should never be forgotten, and should be ready and easy for readers to refer to any time the Guardian tries to whitewash itself and/or take the moral high ground re Israel.

    There could also be a Double Standards Hall of Infamy where readers are referred to contrasting Guardian treatments of identical subjects in Israel and in the UK (as per MindtheCrap’s points re their coverage of the 7/7 victims vs the Israeli suicide bombers’ victims).

  6. One day, many many moons ago, I went to El Al office in Rockefeller Center and bought a ticket to Tel Aviv. After four months in Israel or thereabout, I went to Tel Hashomer and joined the IDF. My unit moved to Lebanon a year after that.

  7. Good luck Adam! My experience was mostly the same as yours, except that it was without the praying, without the observance and without the Wall. However, the sheer disgust I felt when I heard the sister of a friend at my own university of Buenos Aires telling me that she applauded when the Twin Towers fell, and the continuous demonization of Israel by the militant students moved me to make aliyah. I could add many more things, like the condemnation I read everywhere of “Ariel Sharon’s policies against the Palestinians” from even before he took office, the coworker who told me that if I wanted a Jewish wife, I was betraying real love (which had to be absolutely free) and also in a sense betraying his trust, since he considered me his equal, and expected me matter of factly to asimilate completely into Argentina’s “melting pot”. Etc…

  8. Fabian:

    Regarding, the sister of a friend applauding when the twin towers fell, words simply can’t express how sick that makes me feel. Anti-Americanism is quite similar to anti-Zionism. Those who trade in such malice inexplicably can’t discern the difference between liberal democracies and reactionary/totalitarian movements. “Shameful” simply doesn’t begin to describe such people.