“It’s not a big claim to fame but I have been saying for years that Israeli society is crazy. I escaped from Israel largely because of that…
“Phil Weiss’s analysis is correct except for one point, and that is that those sentiments he describes have always been there. It’s not like it’s something new that just sprang up recently. I have grown up with this all around me. I recognise the language. I was brought up (I was born in 1964) to believe that the ‘Arabs’ (the word ‘Palestinian’ was largely not used in my childhood) could not be trusted, that ‘they’ are not like ‘us’, that they are treacherous and would stab me in the back if I relaxed and trusted them. We were always kept apart from the Palestinian citizens of Israel, let alone the Palestinians living in the West Bank or in Gaza.
Gaza in fact was a symbol of a cursed, hellish place. When someone annoyed you, you said to them Lech le’Aza, ‘Go to Gaza’, the equivalent of ‘go to hell’. That was part of normal day-to-day Hebrew in my youth. Like I mentioned in the past, the first time I met a Palestinian as an equal human being was in Australia, in my early thirties…
“Without knowing it, I grew up with classic colonial rhetoric. Colonisers motivated by fear and possibly guilt, have always demonised the people they have hurt. For some people it is easier to inflict suffering if they don’t see the other as a fellow human being. Dehumanisation helps to reduce empathy and shut down the conscience. It is being done everywhere where there is injustice and abuse.
“The difference now is that that these largely informal but widespread social attitudes to the colonised have now found themselves back in power. Drunk with their newfound freedom, coming out of the shadows with no need to hide themselves any longer, free from the tyranny of worrying about ‘world public opinion’, they are out celebrating and feasting, politicians outdoing one another acting out and giving life to their most depraved, murderous fantasies. And they are out-of-control. Continue reading →
Exciting news from an otherwise uniformly bleak picture of Israel’s upcoming elections. Published online today by Challenge magazine.
Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka, Tel Aviv, September 2011.
Photo: Challenge magazine
A little context: When I was in Palestine-Israel writing Our Way to Fight, veteran labour activist Michal Schwartz introduced me to the Workers’ Advice Centre and the Organization for Democratic Action, now called Da’am Workers Party. An enormously stirring revelation.
At the WAC farm-workers’ office in the Galilee village of Kufr Qara, Michal told me: “We are not people who lack patience, who think we can change history with our own hands. We look around, we see how things have gone in the past and how they are going now, and we work at the tempo that history forces on us. Sometimes you have to run very fast to remain in the same place. But experience shows that when you’re active you build something, and if you don’t stop in the middle and leave in despair, it will bring results. Even if you won’t live to see them, at least you know you’re doing something that’s needed.”
Here’s a glimpse of what Michal Schwartz means:
A new left arrives in Israel
by Shany Littman. Reprinted by permission from the January 5 Haaretz Weekend Supplement, translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Rosenstein.
2645. That’s the number of votes the Da’am Party received in the previous elections. But since the outbreak of social unrest, the socialist Da’am party has become a hot trend in Tel Aviv. Party leader Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka explains why poverty is no less an evil than the Occupation, why she wouldn’t have sailed on the Marmara, and why there is still hope in the Middle East.
Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka is ecstatic. For the first time she sees clearly that the way to the Knesset in Jerusalem is shorter than ever. She is convinced that this time the Da’am Workers Party, which she chairs, will cross the threshold, despite the fact that tens of thousands of votes stand between success and the 2645 votes received by the party in the 2009 elections. In an interview I conducted with her before the last elections four years ago, she seemed more introverted, more serious, working diligently yet without hope. But something has changed in four years, something that even she never envisioned would happen so quickly, although she had been waiting impatiently.
This change has filled her sails with a wind that she herself defines as “wild”… Continue reading →