What IS Zionism? – a definition, some corollaries (& 2 personal disclosures)

1  A definition

The clearest, most comprehensive (& simplest) definition of Zionism, as an ideology & as a movement that has spanned & still spans many political parties &/or organizations & has been & is still supported or opposed by many individuals, is, to my mind, this:

Zionism aims at maintaining a Jewish state in Palestine.
(Until May 14, 1948, its aim was to establish such a state.)

I derive this from the key first sentence of the “Basel Declaration”, as resolved at the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland (1897) [see excerpt from Wikipedia at end of post, after my 2 personal disclosures. Note: all emphases in bold type are mine.]

“Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people
a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine.”

A few days after the congress ended, Herzl wrote in his diary (September 3, 1897):
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

& to clarify the different terminology we find in the Basel Declaration & in Herzl’s diary entry, I add this quotation (also from Wikipedia):

” […] when Theodor Herzl who in 1896 wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) giving birth to the modern Zionist movement, he envisioned a state based on European models, which included religious institutions under the aegis of the state. In order to avoid alienating the Ottoman Sultan, there was no explicit reference to a Jewish state by the Zionist Organisation that he founded. The phrase “national home” was intentionally used instead of “state”.

zionism-3-meme

2  Some Corollaries

– Support for a binational state is not Zionism – because a secular, egalitarian & democratic binational state will not be a Jewish state. Even if one views oneself as a Zionist when supporting such a solution. Many who call &/or called themselves Zionists sought &/or seek to fulfill the romantic dream of Jews being able to live in Palestine (Eretz-Yisrael, Israeland) again & to build a Jewish Hebrew community there – without feeling or thinking there needed or needs to be a Jewish ethnocratic state with sovereignty over all of Palestine while half or so of its inhabitants are denied basic civil rights & held under the Zionist State’s military occupation &/or blockade, & millions of Palestinian refugees & their descendants are denied return to their homeland… & though most of them have accepted the realities established in 1948–49–67, this does not mean that they would not accept or even prefer a binational state which assured equal rights to all citizens & cultural autonomy to the two nations & languages of Palestine/Israeland today, were it not for their fears & the absence of any positive blueprint for such a state that is agreeable to significant persons from both nations….


Zionism, if not declaredly, aims for a “Jewish” state in all of Palestine. As Ali Kazak, a former Palestinian ambassador to Australia, wrote in 2015:

‘The aims of Zionism since its creation in 1897 […] was never for coexistence, nor was it to establish a Jewish state on part of Palestine. Instead, the aim of Zionism has been to colonise all of Palestine and parts of the neighbouring Arab states, and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people. / In his Diaries, Theodor Herzl writes that the area of the Jewish state stretches: “from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.” / The Zionists’ acceptance of the partition of Palestine was tactical, to gain international legitimacy. David Ben-Gurion, Chairman of the World Zionist Organisation and Israel’s first Prime Minister, wrote as much in a letter sent to his son explaining his reaction to the Peel Commission Report:
“From our standpoint … How can this land become ours? The decisive question is: Does the establishment of a Jewish state [in only part of Palestine] advance or retard the conversion of this country into a Jewish country? My assumption is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning. / “We will admit into the state all the Jews we can … We shall organize an advanced defence force – a superior army which I have no doubt will be one of the best armies in the world. At that point I am confident that we would not fail in settling in the remaining parts of the country, through agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbours, or through some other means. / “We must expel Arabs and take their place … I am confident that the establishment of a Jewish state, even if it is only in a part of the country, will enable us to carry out this task …”‘

Kazak’s article “Justice, not Deceit, will achieve Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Response to Alan Johnson” is a bit long, but basically gets it right. I think. Well worth reading in its entirety:
http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/07/31/4284463.htm – A “Jewish state” is of necessity an ethnocracy, not a democracy. In a Jewish state, non-Jews are not equal to Jews.
– Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. & Zionism itself fosters anti-Semitism

Zionism, both overtly & covertly, represents itself as representing all Jews. This is Zionism’s “big lie”, which if repeated frequently enough gets to be believed by more & more people. It is implicit in the false & arrogant claim that Israel is “the nation state of the Jewish people” (false, because a people is not a nation; the Jews of the Diaspora are all citizens of other nations, & being Jewish is not their nationality; arrogant, well, that needs no explanation). This lie is spread in every reference in the world media to Israel as “the Jewish state”  —  another misnomer.

Israel is not & cannot be “the Jewish state”. Israel is a Jewish state, or, more precisely a, & the, Israeli-Jewish state. It is an ethnocratic nation-state, the state of the Israeli-Jewish nation. This is a distinct nation, in which vigorous nation-building has been active since the early 20th century, producing a national entity that is different from all other Jews in the world in that it has its own language, culture, economy, government, public & social institutions, armed forces, etc etc.”
[The two pars above are quoted from a response of mine published in 2015: https://medium.com/@thepalestineproject/a-response-to-is-anti-zionism-really-anti-semitism-39b7095ef5a6#.69yxggc2o]

To oppose the Israeli-Jewish Zionist oppression, dispossession, expulsion and occupation of native Palestinians, i.e. to be anti-Zionist, cannot be anti-Semitism (if we continue to use this inept term for what we can’t grammatically call anti-Jewsism). Committing &/or being complicit in such crimes is no more characteristic of being a Jew than it is of being any other kind of person, of whatever race, nation, or religion – so opposing an ideology & a state for committing such crimes cannot be deemed anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic. Actually, the opposite is true: Zionism, by committing these crimes in the name of “the Jewish people”, implies to all the world that all Jews are responsible for them, & thus itself fosters anti-Semitism, more grist for its mill.

– Zionism is (religional/ethnic) racism. In the Jewish state, a Jew is someone born of a Jewish mother: this is thus a matter of race. & I agree with all four statements by Asa Winstanley that I quoted in this meme a couple of months ago.

zionism-meme

3  Two Personal Disclosures

1
I was a Zionist, from 1949 when I was 13 until 1967 when I was 31. & thanks to Zionism I “ascended” to “Israel” in 1959, where I met my wife of now 53 years (she was born in Tel Aviv before there was a State of Israel, to parents who had come to Palestine from Poland/Ukraine because they were Zionists), & we raised our three sons there, & we lived there (though with some years in other countries) until 2001. So that personally, like many other Jews & perhaps more than a few non-Jews, I have much to be grateful to Zionism for. Yet I cannot silence within me – & I also feel I need to share – how I see what Zionism is & does, & my view that only the abolition of Zionist rule in Palestine can bring justice & peace to this tragically tortured country & its tormented & tormenting inhabitants.

2
What triggered this post was a question I was asked by Sol Salbe, who indefatigably continues posting on Facebook (among other interesting items) significant analyses of the situation in & related to Palestine/Israeland, in English translations & sometimes Hebrew updates. Two days ago I shared on Facebook an article from the English Haaretz, with an intro that prompted his question:
https://www.facebook.com/richard.flantz/posts/10157865890645018?pnref=story
https://www.facebook.com/richard.flantz/posts/10157865890645018?pnref=story

Sol asked: Out of curiosity Richard, do you have a definition of Zionism?
& another Facebook friend, Tom Pessah, commented:  R. Binyamin defined himself as a Zionist.
I replied:
Good question, Sol. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. & to Tom’s comment too.
So yes, I do have a definition of Zionism. & some corollaries (there’s more, nut these will have to do for now)  – & this post… (Sol added in another comment that I don’t have to answer, & I accept that for him I don’t but I had to, for me…)

 

The First Zionist Congress

1stziocongress

The delegates at the First Zionist Congress, Basel (1897)

The First Zionist Congress (Hebrew: הקונגרס הציוני הראשון‎‎) was the inaugural congress of the Zionist Organization (ZO) (to become the World Zionist Organization (WZO) in 1960) held in Basel (Basle), Switzerland, from August 29 to August 31, 1897. It was convened and chaired by Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionism movement. The Congress formulated a Zionist platform, known as the Basel program, and founded the Zionist Organization. It also adopted the Hatikvah as its anthem (already the anthem of Hovevei Zion and later to become the national anthem of the State of Israel). (Wikipedia)

Advertisements

The determining cause of the ongoing occupation: ISRAELI JEWS’ BASIC FEAR OF LOSING THEIR CONTROL OF ACCESS TO POWER – & “I have no other country” … / הסיבה המכרעת להמשך הכיבוש: פחדם הבסיסי של יהודים ישראלים מאיבוד נגישותם לשלטון – ו”אין לי ארץ אחרת” …וכ”ה

The words in capitals in the title are drawn from Ran Greenstein’s comment copied below:

ran-fear-meme

(Ran’s comment [& the other 2] are on Sol Salbe’s sharing  of http://forward.com/opinion/352075/if-israel-lets-in-palestinian-refugees-will-it-lose-its-jewish-character/)
הערתו של רן (ו2 האחרות) הם מהלינק הראשון המסומן בתכלת לעיל. תרגום לעברית של הכתוב מטה מופיע מיד אחריו

Kudos to Ran Greenstein for expressing it so incisively. To my mind, there really can be no question that the determining cause for continuing the occupation is Israeli Jews basic fear of losing the access they have to power & to what  it affords them (access  that they have gained & continue to maintain & reinforce through brutal military force & with the support & complicity of the US, the “international community”, & proponents of Zionism in the Jewish diaspora). All the other “reasons” are stories the occupiers buy into & endeavor to sell to others.

& since the underlying  determining cause is a basic fear, then the issue is more than political: it  also has an emotional, psychological dimension, of what looks like a collective psychosis. In using this word I’m not suggesting that what is feared is a delusion. If the occupation ends, & a reconciliation brings about a just compromise acceptable to both sides,the Israeli Jews will lose their exclusive & exceptionalist control of access to power etc. The collective psychosis is in the delusion of privileged entitlement, which allows them to feel justified in continuing to be the real “Neigbborhood Bully” (Dylan really got that so wrong!) & treating their fellow countrymen as they do.

We need to talk about both the practical & the psychological dimensions of this fear.  The majority of Israeli Jews have no other citizenship, or as they often say (& there’s even a popular song with this title & opening line) “I have no other country” (clip of Gali Atari’s rendition, & lyrics + my translation below; the darker & braver aspects of the late Ehud Manor’s lyrics are generally ignored).


%d7%90%d7%99%d7%9f-%d7%9c%d7%99-%d7%90%d7%a8%d7%a5-%d7%90%d7%97%d7%a8%d7%aa-meme

One thing that would help allay this dimension of the fear would be for democratic countries where all citizens have equal rights to offer citizenship to Israeli Jews who choose to emigrate from Palestine. I would even argue that it is the responsibility to do so of all those countries that have given recognition to the unilaterally declared State of Israel since 1948 & that have continued, by their support &/or their default, to be complicit in the occupation . & the sooner they do so the better.

I don’t know how many Israeli Jews would take up the offer, immediately or later. I imagine there are many that won’t, because of the emotional, psychological dimension. Home is home, even if you’ve been a villain in it. &  then there’s the collective psychosis, the whole Zionist meta-narrative. But then they will need to accept the alternative, to remain in a Palesrine where non-Jews too have full & equal rights, where they are no longer the masters. To talk about this,  perhaps we need more input from psychologists, anthropologists & historians, especially social psychologists, anthropologists & historians, on how to “alleviate” or “cure” it.

I also think this basic fear of the Israeli Jews is not unique: surely it has existed & still exists in all settler-colonialist regimes. The experience of the transition in places like South Africa, if analyzed from this perspective, may be invaluable.

Thoughts on this will be welcomed.

cause-heb

Correcting a misleading English translation of a brave Haaretz Editorial on the challenge now posed by the Joint List MKs to “the Jewish politicians who dream of […] stopping Israel’s slide down the nationalist-religionalist slope”

Today’s courageous & insightful Hebrew editorial in Haaretz is not about background, but about the future.
עברית: http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/editorial-articles/1.3086811
English: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.745772

The thrust of this editorial has (IMHO) been watered down (to say the least), a few (one especially, see if you find it) of its statements have been misleadingly mistranslated, & a few somewhat awkwardly translated.
To offer a more accurate translation I’ve therefore made a few changes to Haaretz’s English translation (using strikethroughs for my deletions from that translation, & bold for my changes/contributions to it).

The first misleading moment is in the title.

 

EDITORIAL

BACKGROUND OF A BOYCOTT

A BOYCOTT AND ITS POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The decision by the Joint List MKs not to attend former President Shimon Peres’ funeral stated has established a very highly significant political fact. The leadership of the Arab public rebelled against the narrative of the Zionist majority, which ignores the history and feelings of the minority, and demonstrated dual political independence – vis-à-vis the official Israeli establishment, represented by that Peres represented, and and vis-à-vis Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who came to the funeral.

Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh appeared on the establishment TV Channel 2, our “tribal campfire,” and faced barbs of criticism from the interviewers when he presented an opposing narrative – the memory of the Nakba, the massacre of Kafr Qasem,Qassem, and the Arabs killed during the events of October 2000, commemorated in ceremonies in the Galilee and Wadi Ara. Never has a political figure from the majority Jewish community attended these events and they are not covered on prime-time television.

ayman-odeh

Ayman Odeh MK (Hadash), leader of the Joint List

The boycott of the funeral thus achieved its goal: placing the opposing narrative of the Arab minority at the center of media and public center stage attention, backed by the power of the third-largest faction in the Knesset. The excoriations condemnations of Odeh and his fellow faction members for their impoliteness protest will neither disappear efface nor blunt their principled blur the fundamental demand that they presented: that the Jewish majority recognize, recognition by the Jewish majority of the suffering and the mourning of the Arab public as a necessary condition for the building of a shared identity and for political cooperation in the future.

The Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers to Israel’s Arab citizens more funding, promises of employment integration into the employment market and promotions of advancement in the civil service, in exchange for silence sealing their mouths and forgetting obliterating their narrative. The prime minister often says the Nakba is a lie, that 90 percent per cent of the stories about it are not true and that people who make the events public cause whoever has published its history has caused damage to the State of Israel. No wonder his government insists on hiding the archive files that would expose some of the events of 1948 from primary sources.

Any additional funding and action to close gaps between Jews and Arabs is welcome and important. But they will not buy the silence of the Arab community nor inspire the singing of the national anthem “Hatikva” in the streets of Nazareth, Sakhnin and Umm al-Fahm. Only recognition of a parallel Israeli story, at the heart of which are immoral acts by the majority toward the minority, can be the basis for shared citizenship and true integration. Jewish history teaches us that peoples do not easily give up their narrative, even in the face of temptations and persecutions.

This is the challenge that has now been set before the Jewish politicians who dream of replacing the right-wing government and stopping Israel’s slide down the binational nationalist-religionalist slope. Their goal will not be achieved without the cooperation of with the Joint List and its voters. Instead of automatically taking a knee-jerk stand with Netanyahu and the extreme right, and chiding the Arabs for not being nice, they must find a way ways to win hearts in the heart of the minority community.

My thanks to Sol Salbe who suggested I post the corrections this way.

Questions &/or comments about anything in or about this corrected translation will be welcomed. So will likes!

 

Blessings & Correcting/Repairing an Error / Chapter 2: To the Majority, the Minority, & the Majority of the Minority

Posting again in Hebrew, to my primary audience, with an English translation below.

 

ברכות ותיקון טעות2

This is how I see it, from the other side of the world:

Most of you are mute, ignoring all the violence & injustices of the ongoing occupation and the Nakba, the disaster, of the Arab Palestinians, living as-it-were normally in the “Jewish” state. Occasionally there’s an attack, mourning, bereavement for the bereaved, & for all the rest a return to your agendas in the “Jewish” state.

A minority of you are alert, not silent, courageously active against the injustices of the “Jewish” state in Eretz Yisrael, Israeland, which is undoubtedly also Falastin, Palestine. Not silent, active, expressing your frustration about the muteness, the ignoring, the lack of compassion, of understanding, of humaneness of the majority – & return to your agendas in the “Jewish” state. At least you haven’t been silent.

But it seems to me that the majority of this minority that opposes the occupation & its injustices also doesn’t see the root of the problem (or some see but ignore it): the “Jewish” state itself, in which, besides (although also due to?) all its injustices there’s so much that you love (& that I too love like you), where most of you grew up &/or raised families, where you’ve worked & created & are still working & creating – this state is not (& never was) really “the nation state of the Jewish people” & is not (& never was) democratic (& also never will be such or such).

No, the “State of Israel” is the state of Statist Zionism, the dominant stream in Zionism, a state that this stream (which is also the inevitable engenderer of Israeli-Jewish fascism) has maintained by force since it established it unilaterally & through extensive conquest/occupation in ’48, in Palestine (OK, it’s also Eretz Yisrael, Israeland, always was, always will be, but, dammit, it’s also the country of its inhabitants who were born there & who tilled its land & lived there with love & raised families there & worked & created there).

The state of Statist Zionism is a state (in Palestine) that is the homeland of Jews (only of Israeli Jews, who were born there), which maintains Israeli-Jewish sovereignty by force over the remainder of its non-Jewish inhabitants in their homeland and does not permit the return of the refugees & the expelled &/or their descendants to their homeland.

Isn’t it so? Please correct me if I’ve erred again. I hope to add conclusions and details in following chapters.

The Palestinian Nakba – &… the Jewish Nakba

Sharing this Facebook post from a couple of days ago, both for the pics of the protest march in Dublin marking the 68th anniversary of the (ongoing!) Palestinian Nakba, & for the dialogue that developed in the comments, until the remarking of the Jewish Nakba…
To see the entire post with the comments, click on the date link that appears immediately beneath my name (Richard Flantz) at the very top of the post, or here.

& here I’ll insert some paragraphs of my remarks in the dialogue, in slightly changed order, with a few additions &/or editings inside square brackets:

The UN partition proposal was one no sane self-respecting Arab Palestinian could possibly accept (to reverse what Brando says in The Godfather: “Give them an offer they can’t accept”). Therefore neither the Arab Palestinians nor the Arab League are in any way responsible for the Nakba.

Mass expulsion and intimidation of Arab Palestinians began before the war of the 15.5.48 invasion (a significant proportion fled before it. Ran Greenstein writes ’Benny Morris in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, estimates (based on Israeli military sources) that about half of the total numbers of refugees lost their home BEFORE 14/5/1948, in Haifa, Tiberias, and dozens of other towns and villages.’

Arab Palestinians didn’t initiate or direct the invasions or the actions of the invading armies, & cannot be held responsible for war crimes & atrocities committed by them, such as those of the Jordanian army [in Jerusalem]. How can you suggest that because the Jordanians did that, there is something wrong or dishonest ot dishonorable in commemorating the Nakba that is contuiningly being suffered by the Arab Palestinians?

Permanent war is what Zionism means & does & has to do. Netanyahu wasn’t lying when he said Israel will always have to live by the sword. & there’s little point thinking about solutions proposed in the past. Today the only decent, humane, just solution is to give up the Jewish state idea & keep on living a Hebrew life in a binational state of Palestine (Eretz-Yisrael) as equal citizens with its other inhabitants. But before that can happen Israelis will have to acknowledge their crimes, acknowledge the Nakba, express their deep regret & shame for what they have done to the non-Jewish people who lived in Palestine before the Zionist incursion, offer acceptable restitution, confirm the Palestinian Right of Return & give up the right of Diaspora Jews to “return” and immediately become citizens of this state.
I imagine you’ll say that it’s wrong & dangerous to deprive Diaspora Jews of this privilege they’ve had these last 68 years, because, hey, they might need a haven from antisemitism. To that I’ll say that today there’s no more dangerous place in the world for a Jew than in Israel, the country state that has to live by its sword.

Yes, [&] there [also] is a Jewish Nakba. No, not the Shoah. That was horrendous, immeasurably, immensely. But it ended, after six years. Its impacts & effects haven’t ended, but the crimes committed then stopped being committed there. But beside the Shoah of the Jews there is the Jewish Nakba, which began the moment the Palestinian Nakba began: the Nakba, the catastrophe, of the Jewish psyche, the Israeli-Jewish psyche & the Diaspora-Jewish-Zionist psyche: the degenerative mass psychosis that justifies building a homeland on an existing population’s homeland & expelling & banishing multitudes of them for life & holding the remaining population under military occupation &[/or siege &] so much more that is neither Jewish nor humane… [& living with the suppressed guilt, & robbing Israeli boys & girls of their youth & some of them of their lives & turning them into oppressors &/or beneficiaries of oppression & dispossession, destroying the consciences & the capacity for empathy of generation after generation… & more…]

[& I should have added: & yes, its name should be an Arabic name, the Arabic name for what Arab Palestinians have suffered & are still suffering as a consequence of the Jewish Nakba.]

I’ve made a meme of the par about the Jewish Nakba:

jewish nakba meme

Between the Two Sisters (A Chapter) – by Nitza [Karpel] Flantz

Nitza, my dear life-partner (on the left in the pic below) has just posted this memoir on Facebook, & I want to share it here, also as a small picture from a history of the history that I married into & that has been part of my own history & life for the past 51+ years now:

Between the Two Sisters (A Chapter)

nitzamuniatamar

Something personal I wrote on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016.
I wrote it in English, although Hebrew is the language I was born into, and I asked my devoted life-partner Richard to go over it and help me so it will be readable.
It has to be in English as I want my four grandchildren who are brought up in Australia to be able to read it at some time in their life.

We are two sisters, born three years apart during the time of World War 2.
Not in Poland where the horrors happened, and where all my parents’ families were living, but in sunny, white, modern and young Tel Aviv (the first Hebrew city of modern times), a city that was built with tremendous energies, on the uninhabited sands of the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, north of old Jaffa.

My parents took part in living in and building this city and this dream. They came to Palestine in the early 1930s, like and with many others young people, in their early 20s, leaving their families, following their dream of a new world, a new way of life, in an independent Jewish homeland. Choosing to become pioneers, hard workers, in a hot and unknown land, and to build a new home, rebelling against the old oppressed way of living in Europe. I still keep in my archive letters sent to them from their families, and old photos of their life in Europe, that my father kept all his life in little packages tied with rubber bands, but never shared with us. I found out that my father’s mother also knew how to write in modern Hebrew, I guess she was a Zionist herself, as I also know that his parents helped him with the ticket to Palestine.

My sister Tamar was born in 1940, a year or so after Poland was occupied by the Nazis. Although letters stopped arriving in 1939, I believe my parents did not grasp what was going on.
Tamar is an ancient Hebrew name, it is the name of the tree that bears dates, a tall, strong and nourishing tree which can survive on very little water in hot countries. A symbol of life in the Jewish tradition. This is what my parent wished for her and for themselves. To this day my sister Tamar is strong and tall and was able to raise and nourish her own family and have a stable life.

I was born three years later in 1943, and I understand that by then my parents knew much more. This was the year the Soviet Army managed to stop the Nazi invasion, but the slaughter of the Jews in Poland was enormous. I keep feeling that my grandparents, my two aunts and my little three-year-old cousin David were murdered while I was in my mother’s womb.

They named me Nitzhia, a name which is an invention of the new modern Hebrew, a word that contains in it three powerful somewhat mystical words: victory, eternity, and one of the names of God.
I keep thinking today that this name given to me must have come from desperation of not being able to do a thing in the face of the human degeneration… – to seek comfort in some spiritual power.
I don’t have any memory of them using this name when talking to me or talking about me, as I only remember the name Nitza, which means the season of budding, more optimistic and close to nature. But they kept the official name in all the official important documents, as if to tell me again and again not to forget the name I was given.

They did not talk much, I didn’t understand much until I grew up. My mother was saved by her own motherhood experience, she kept some joyful energies with a touch of cynicism, while my father became more and more closed, detached, depressed, with unexpected bursts of anger.

I don’t know exactly how the events of history, biography and the name I was given influenced who I became to be, but I do know that since early childhood I have recorded memories like short movies in my mind, and I have made it a kind of emotional routine to revisit and see them again and again as in my private video library, consciously reliving what I kept.

I feel my own little victory will be to tell about them in writing, and by this bring them closer to eternity, for me, for my parents, for my only sister, for the family Richard and I made, for my grandparents and family I never knew.

If I forget you, East Jerusalem: a response & a translation

The title above came last. Originally it was to be the same as that of the piece I translated, which I found on Facebook today posted by Rachel Elior, sharing a powerful piece by Ilana Hammerman that I felt impelled to translate. Reading it, & then translating it, was for me a way of living — at least vicariously, & for some moments — with some feeling of what the people of East Jerusalem have to live with every day. & appreciating the piece & feelinע the author’s feelings & translating it & publishing it so others who don’t read Hebrew can feel it too, is my response.
& for readers who can & want to read it in Hebrew, here’s the link.

Rachel Elior wrote: To all who think that the occupation is OK & that the Palestinians can live with it & they’ll get used to it as the people in the parties of the right think, please read this piece by Ilana Hammerman:

Freedom of the Individual in the Shuafat Refuse Heaps

Ilana Hammerman
29 January 2015

On my desk lies an invitation to the 2015 Jerusalem Prize awards ceremony in the presence of the President of Israel and the Mayor of Jerusalem. The ceremony will inaugurate the 27th International Book Fair on the 8th of February. “The Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society” will be awarded this year to the Albanian author Ismail Kadare. If I go to the ceremony, & if I have the civic courage, I’ll raise a handwritten placard in the hall. It’ll say that the Jerusalem Municipality does not have the right to award a prize for the freedom of the individual in society, because it does not respect the rights of the individual of myriads of its residents.

For example, the right of freedom of movement of my Jerusalemite friend. She’s a teacher. The school where she teaches is about five minutes drive from her home, but it takes her a lot longer to get there because her home is in a neighborhood that is enclosed by a high concrete wall. On one side of the wall is the spacious French Hill neighborhood. Not exactly a neighborhood of the wealthy, but its streets are clean, its sidewalks broad, with decorative trees planted in them, and there’s even a bicycle path. When you cross to the other side of the wall, not far from the fortified & cultivated compound of the Hebrew University, your eyes see & your nose smells only ugliness & filth. The alleys are narrow, they have no sidewalks and no traffic signs & no parking places. Trash rolls about in them & piles up here & there into heaps from which stinking black smoke rises. This is the Shuafat refugee camp, which is within the bounds of the Jerusalem municipality. The neighborhood’s residents are the Municipality’s residents, they have blue ID cards [as do all Israeli citizens] & they are required to pay rates.

When my friend makes her way to school, she crosses the wall that encloses her neigborhood through a checkpoint. At times the crossing is quick & at times it’s very slow: every car is checked, everyone in it & all its contents. Not long  ago I crossed the checkpoint in her car, on the way from her home to the university. We were three women in the car, two Arab women & one Jewish. All of us residents of Jerusalem. The soldier at the checkpoint was astonished to see a Jewish passenger. Jews don’t come in here, to this Arab ghetto, &  anyone who does come in and also wants to come out is suspicious.

He demanded our ID cards, glanced at them, and bent down to the window again. & interrogated. Only me: Who am I & where from & for what purpose. I told him that I don’t have to give him any details apart from what’s on my ID card. I’m here in the city I live in, not in an army camp or at an interrogation, & I have freedom of movement. But I didn’t have freedom of movement: the barrier was closed before me & the soldier had my ID card. He looked at me with hostility & ordered us to get out of the car & to take out everything inside it.  We got out & threw everything on the ground, blankets, sweaters, bags & purses. Hurriedly, quickly. Because dozens of cars were stuck behind us because of us. But the soldier didn’t hurry at all. He handed my ID card to his commander, another soldier checked in a computer, another made a call on a radiophone, another went off to eat something. We gathered up our belongings & waited.

For the residents of this imprisoned neighborhood — like the residents of more Eaast Jerusalem neighborhoods that have been imprisoned behind walls & fences &  checkpoints — this limitation of freedom of movement is a routine matter. But this is not the only right of theirs that is infringed every day. They are also denied the right to live in human conditions. The Jerusalem Municipality does not remove the trash from their streets, & does not look after the infrastructures for transport, electricity, water & sewage. Recently four neighborhoods were cut off from the water supply for weeks: Ras Hamis, Ras Shahada, the Shalom neighborhood and the Shuafat refugee camp. All of them, about 80,000 residents, imprisoned behind a wall even though they’re residents of Jerusalem.

But it’s not only the residents of these neighborhoods who are deprived of their rights. Here are some data about the state of human rights in Jerusalem: more than one third of the city’s residents, about 300,000 people, are Arabs. Since 1967 about 14,000 of them have lost the right to live in their city, most of them because they went abroad for several years for various personal reasons. Tens of thousands of others have been denied the right to build a home in their city, for 35% of the areas of East Jerusalem have been appropriated in order to build Jewish neighborhoods. More than 50,000 residential units have been built there for Jews only, while the Arab residents of the city have been given no more than 4,000 building permits.

The rest of the data can be seen with one’s eyes: Jerusalem today is a city with walls & ghettoes & checkpoints at its heart. The Jews mostly keep away from the neglected neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. But there are neighborhoods that they push into, like hoodlums. With the power of finance & arms & with the backing of the police & the municipality  they evict Arab families from their homes & erect fortified compounds, They’ve done this in Sheikh Jarrah, in Silwan, in Bab el Amud.

Does the excellent author Ismail Kadare know the state of the freedom of the individual in the city whose municipality is awarding him the “Freedom of the Individual in Society” prize this year? Perhaps not. He comes from a long way away. But we, residents of Jerusalem, need to know that the giving of this prize by a city that for decades has denied basic rights to such a large public of people who live within its bounds is a mockery of the ongoing & continually worsening tragedy of this public. It is an impudent & arrogant challenge to the very concept of the freedom of the individual in society.