Friday, November 6, 2009

Converging Narratives

So, last night I went to an event at the JCC. It began with a few short film clips and then broke into discussion groups.
Join other young social justice and Israel activists for an exciting evening of short films and an open, facilitated dialogue, which will grapple with the Arab experience in Israel.
A lot comes to mind, including just how open the Jewish community can be to such things. Afterall, this and the previous event were both at the JCC in Manhattan. Also, it's always worth noting how solidly even the leftwing Jews who come to these things stand behind Israel. They're critical but not anti-Zionists by any means. One person, a journalist stationed in Israel for a few years, offered an experience of seeing IDF "purity of arms" in action. At the same time, I'm also participating in a Jewish social justice discussion group, where people are similarly critical but not anti-Zionist. I forget where, but in comments at a blog post discussing this article, someone claimed that when Hannah Arendt thought Israel was truly threatened, in the '73 war, she donated money to the JDL. (For those unfamiliar, the JDL is a reactionary Jewish group, listed by the SPLC as a hate group.) I think most Jews, even many who are awfully critical will similarly turn to hawkish defense if they actually perceive Israel as threatened. Much of the difference between the Jewish "left" and "right" (I'm coming to hate those terms as applied to Israel) is simply the perception of how serious the attack on Israel is.

Anyway, the event was largely about Palestinian narratives. I was a bit surprised none of the clips mentioned the Nakba or dispossession (though the speaker who introduced the event did mention it). I don't know if that's an oversight by the organizers or not, but I do feel it helped me a lot to be less defensive. Instead, two of the three clips focused on the problems of identity. In the third, a Bedouin woman complained specifically that Bedouin children are assimilating, even as she herself was quite thoroughly assimilated.

I wanted to say to her that I understand that complaint, because that's my history, but it's also why I'm a Zionist. Jews everywhere for three thousand years since the Babylonian conquest have had to deal with that very problem. And it's been terrible for us. I want Israel to be a multicultural state where she doesn't have to deal with that, but I also want it to be a Jewish state so Jews don't have to either. Or, at least, so Jews have a choice, in either Israel or the Diaspora, of what kind of society to assimilate to.

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