A Lament for Israel


Oh Israel, “You built your towers strong and tall, can’t you see they’ve gotta fall someday?“ (Townes Van Zandt) Israeli architect Eyal Weizman describes your fortress-like character, marked by towers and walls, as “an archipelago of enmity and alienation”. (Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation @ p.155.) You have ghettoized yourself, become the “tough Israeli” in service of “Never Again”; you have lost your bearings. You have blindly believed that you could somehow keep your boot on the neck of a population until they simply submitted and perhaps forgot they once had land and liberty. You have deluded yourself that your iron- clad military rule in the West Bank, your 17 year siege on Gaza, your 2019 “Nation-State Law”, your settler enforcers, would make you safe. You’d be fine with your imperial protectors, the UK & then the US. You could falsely teach your children that Jews have always been hated, take them to Auschwitz to keep the Holocaust trauma alive and the guilt going. You could silence criticism by shouting “antisemitism!”, and thumb your nose at the global community as represented by the UN. You have failed to listen to the brilliant Jewish philosophers, journalists, & artists who have lovingly warned that you are headed for disaster – Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Ilan Pappe, Gideon Levy, Marjorie Cohn, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Haas and so many more. In fact, you have tragically dismissed these caring critics as “self-hating Jews’”.

The world is not out to get you. The world does not hate you. The Palestinians are not going to “drive you in to the sea”. In fact, you did that to them in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe); the photos show it all. But in your fear, you are now conducting a “2nd Nakba” on Gaza, as one of your government ministers described it. But what about all the other Palestinians in Israel, in the West Bank, in the diaspora? Will you have to eradicate them as well to secure your Jewish- supremacist state on their traditional land? Will it ever be over?

It will be eventually over, in the sense of using the same violent approaches to accomplish your legitimate goals of security & safety. The global community won’t stand for it. You will have to do a deep reckoning and a reset.

For now, Big Brother, the US, is giving you cover for your genocidal actions in Gaza, for your use of starvation as a weapon of war. As Netanyahu bragged many years ago: “America is a thing that can be easily moved”. Yes indeed. You are in fact calling the shots, and the bumbling, flailing US politicians have become objects of shame and ridicule. The country itself has lost stature worldwide; people watched in utter disbelief videos of US missiles raining down on a ravaged Gaza at the same time as heavy, expensive bundles of US aid were dropped from the skies. Humanitarian aid actually killed 5 people by landing on them, when thousands of fully- supplied aid trucks wait just across the border with Egypt. Aid that could be driven in and distributed by those trained to do so, UNRWA workers. By not allowing that to happen, what are you thinking? Are you imagining the world is not watching? That the peoples of the world are not seriously distressed by witnessing suffering on an unprecedented scale? When you could stop the madness tomorrow?

Oh Israel, the days of “Exodus” are over. Your transfixing creation myth has been thoroughly exposed for the land grab and dispossession of a people it was. A people who did not cause your oppression, who are not to blame for the Holocaust, who had lived on that land for millennia. And who were promised a state by the British. Just as you were promised a state on the same land. Your state was specifically not to be created at the expense of the local indigenous population, but you forgot that part (Balfour Declaration, 1917).

The Western imperial powers have made many catastrophic mistakes with their hubris, their racism, their greed for resources. Their complicity in the creation of the State of Israel on Palestinian land was one of their greatest missteps. Zionism began not with Jews, but with early Christian Zionists in Britain, and in a time when antisemitism was common, creation of a State for the Jews seemed like a good idea. The problem was, as one early Zionist scout reported back to Theodore Hertzl (father of Jewish Zionism), after a visit to Palestine: “The bride is beautiful, but she’s married to another man”. Nonetheless, the arrogant settler-colonialist mindset got behind a traumatized Jewish population desperate for security and safety. The UN pushed through a fatal resolution in November, 1947, without consulting the Palestinians, who have never accepted their dispossession.

And now here we are. In an impassioned but devastatingly clear analysis, Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs asserts the UN must immediately vote a Palestinian State into being. His compelling interview is really worth seeing. (The Bottom Line (Aljazeera, 17 March, 2024, https://youtu.be/krznHIAgwcY?si=Qnl2J83kBy6_UWL9) He says that only with international recognition on a State level (not simply “observer status”) will Palestinians have the bargaining power they need to create a just & equal society of two peoples sharing the land. Oh Israel, imagine truly becoming “a light unto nations”. The possibility is there.