Tag Archives: Haaretz

The Middle East Inversion

10 Nov

Last Saturday’s new episode of Doctor Who, now featuring the 12th incarnation of the lone and loved Timelord, drove a bulldozer from the last demolished Palestinian home right through my chest. If you live in a peaceful, stable nation that merely exports weapons to less stable nations and cashes in on the death and destruction they sow, you may have seen just another profound speech by a fictional TV icon, on a fictional war.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is pointing at us.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is pointing at us.

When you live in Israel, or across the fence, the wall, the checkpost, you have seen your people and those on the other side. You’ve seen youngsters throwing rocks and firebombs at soldiers and settlers, and you’ve seen soldiers shoot those kids, you’ve seen settlers attacking soldiers for failing to shoot and kill those kids, you’ve seen those kids’ parents drive into a crowd or stab a passer-by. You’ve seen bulldozers razing the homes of a terrorist’s family – not the terrorist’s home – and you’ve seen crowds shouting for bloody revenge.
And if you’re not completely jaded to what’s happening all around you, a bus ride from your doorstep at most, it hurt. It hurt having the Doctor pointing at you, your people, your government, your friend with that army-issued rifle or that home-made firebomb. Your cousin who takes the order to bulldoze the home of a terrorist’s mother, when nowhere else in the civilized world, family would be punished for their kin’s deeds. Your brother driving that borrowed car into a flock of children.

But while you may know those who do the deed – the Israeli soldiers, settlers, bulldozer drivers, the Palestinian stabbers, bombers, road ragers – you never know who they’ll hit. Does it feel right to know it’s none on your side? Or do you just feel numb, knowing at least you won’t be mourning anyone, for now? Is it not being someone from your side, good enough to sleep at night, knowing a person you know, is destroying a family who is also a person someone knows, someone loves?

Truth: You don’t know who the next Naftali Frenkel or Muhammad Abu Khdeir is going to be. You don’t know. But someone is going to die at someone else’s hand.

Consequence: This will never bring us peace. This will never free Palestine, this will never give the Jewish people a rest. You can’t expect people not to retaliate against perceived wrongs, much less when those wrongs precede a funeral. The consequence will be more death, and if one of yours has killed one of theirs, then one of yours will die. It will always be this way unless someone starts forgiving.

Two days ago, I was shopping cat food at my pet shop. The staff and I were having pizza and a laugh when the new girl got a call. There was some agitated talk in Russian, and I was just going to do an impression of angry Russian speech, when she hung up, and, staring blankly ahead, said: “My friend died.” The 20-year-old border guard, Binyamin Yakobowitz, who looks like 14 in Haaretz’s article, had been the “someone I know” of “someone I know”. You may just cringe, make a sad face, even feel a stab in your chest when you read names of casualties on your side, but you don’t know them, so you mourn them as you would Heath Ledger. Somehow you keep telling yourself: it’s never gonna be anyone I know. Yes, my friend at the pet shop told herself the same, I’m sure. Most Palestinians, those who hate Israelis, but abhorr violence, don’t want youths going out to attack soldiers or civilians, they hate hearing someone from their neighborhood has committed an attack. Not just because they know someone who isn’t the perpetrator, will suffer for the actions of the latter, but also because they might one day find themselves too close to the Israeli retaliation squad. However, they reall start internalizing how bad these attacks are, when it’s their own flesh and blood who eats retaliation. They, like us, tell themselves it’s never them, always the others. It’s always the others’ fault, and it’s always the others’ losses.

No.

We are all the others. And we never know who’ll be mourning whom next. But what we all must internalise, is that the mourning will continue, and one day hit too close for comfort, unless either of us, any of us, stop making others mourn.

Dear Ilana Hammerman

6 Sep

In response to this article by Ilana Hammerman in Haaretz.

I thought I was bad for begrudging my exes their newfound happiness. Hammerman, you sound like Tardar Sauce aka Grumpy Cat, except, Tard is truly an adorable little kitten who merely has a perpetual bitch face and has words put into her mouth by the Internet. You, on the other hand, are for real and that is why I am writing this.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire what you’re doing. I, too, wanted to stay and fight for change. But you know what they say – YOLO. I don’t want to fight. I want to walk my dog in the afternoon sun without burning, and eat whatever the hell I want without kashrut or over-inflated prices for the most basic foods. I want to sit down by the river and read comics. I want to talk to anyone I want without worrying about social media outrage for having picked the wrong friends. I want to spend my hard-earned money reasonably, not carefully. I want to have money left after filling my belly and paying my bills. Surely so do you, but I simply have, at this point, less motivation to help others before myself – much less do I have the means. I don’t even have a driver’s license, or money to get one. Other than write and educate, there is little I can do for a better Israel. And I can perfectly write from the comfort of a pretty home in a mild climate where I am not distracted by the thought of what the airconditioning is going to cost me.
But, I do wish I had your juice and your means to stay and help. I really do. But I am tired.

I can’t say I can’t believe I’m saying this because I have actually made peace with the thought and it seems obvious and sensible to me now.

I am hoping to leave Israel. Oh no, I immorally announced doing what many people haven’t got the means to. Mean ole me. Well, as I have said in my comment on the article, boohoo. And also, you are the one who is immoral for begrudging people their good news because, imaginary god forbid, others may feel bummed at being reminded that they can’t have what he – Rogel Alpher – is having. Well, boohoo. Am I writing angry letters to happy couples about how immoral they are to rub their happiness in my single and sex-starved face? Am I whining at Haaretz because I cannot afford a subscription to their articles if I want to feed my cats and dogs? 
You write that many who would love to leave, cannot do so for lack of money, language, foreign passport, or whatever. I wanted to write “boohoo” again here, but for the sake of the fancy look and feel of this article, I will be more mature than that and merely pick up some of your points.

Money – you know… I have seen very few Israelis not walking around with the newest smartphone and making their children fat, lazy and stupid by parking them behind a tablet. Should have made a choice then – buy gadgets or save up for your grand exit. And Israeli banks just love to bait the struggling with ridiculously big loans. Just take the offer and run. Banks exploit us, the 99%, all the time, talking us into ruining ourselves by offering credits, loans, and limit inflations we cannot pay back, ever. Exploit them back! Nothing immoral about kicking someone whose foot is always ready to kick you right in the teeth, and that is what the banks are. Yes, I did just say that.

Fluent English – I’m sorry, but for lack of awards and careers and wealth, I can only assume that I am not that gifted or super-smart, so how come I manage 6 languages and the oh-so-advanced Israelis who throw education and technological progress hasbarah all around, don’t even manage the most common language we are exposed to in everyday life, through music, television, social and other media, etc.? English is basic these days. How can you not pick up sufficient English to manage, and then follow some formal courses to perfect it? I thought Israelis were so very educated? Get to it! I knew a man once, a Yemeni from the Krayot, who went to live and work in Panama for 7 months. He had planned for it to be forever. The point is: he was not really an educated, intelligent, or  intellectual individual. He was rather simple, the type of simple that believes that lesbians can be cured through decent sex. He learned managable Spanish within less than half a year, by conversing with his fluent cousin on Skype. He got on his plane – leaving me heartbroken – and immediately found a job as a store manager in Panama. Spanish, not the English modern people OD on every time they open Facebook. He came back for missing his family, but he would have managed in Panama in terms of language and culture.
On the other hand, way too many Hebrew-raised Israelis cannot even manage their own mother tongue. Which is tragic and an affront to what Israel pretends to be: a petridish of genius.

Foreign passport – most immigrants don’t have one. They manage. So can the ever so advanced Israelis, unless of course we’ll just admit that we’re not that brilliant a people and we wouldn’t want that now, would we? Hasbarians love to parade around the image of the resilient Jew who can manage anywhere, against all odds. Well – be resilient and manage!

Education – if you don’t need a formal degree, education floats around free of charge on the Internet. How do you think I became fluent in conversational Japanese? Watching downloaded anime. How, do you think, did I perform a decent castration on a live rat? Google Images. HTML? Whatever Google spat out! Knowledge and skills don’t need to cost money and don’t require entrance exams. Hey Israeli, be ever so advanced and educated and figure something out! What sets humans apart from animals, is our superior intelligence. The major definition of intelligence is to be able to figure out solutions to problems and challenges. So don’t be an animal – isn’t that simple?

Now, the point of this post was that I meant to rub some immorality in your face by announcing that I, too, am itching and able to leave Israel. Let’s see, how did I get to Israel in the first place?
In 1983, little Anna Giladi, granddaughter of the notorious Naeim Giladi, was born in Tel Aviv, back when it was still affordable to the average Israeli, not just glorified immigrants with a lucky break or exceptionally good paycheck, or the desperate who will live like sardines, sandwiched between fifteen more roommates compromising the meaning of “home” (me-space). But since the economy was going to the dogs and my parents didn’t really fit anyway, my German mother took me back to Germany via a few years in both Poland and Ireland. After Germany, I lived in Belgium for 12 years until the age of 27 when I realized that many of my problems stemmed from not belonging. So at my breaking point, I took my mother’s advice and returned to Israel where I could at least be one of the native people and not an immigrant, a diplomat, or downright illegal. I could finally belong, or so I thought. Wanting to belong to a defined group also changed me into a rightwing Zionist faster than you could say “Occupation”, and Zionism makes life in Israel very gratifying indeed. You feel like you got a claim on the land, you belong to each other, and you’re there to protect it with words and weapons against any attacks. But Zionism soon showed me its ugly “other side”, one I could not get myself to embrace. When a good, hard-working, loving, funny young man feels like he has to hide the fact that he is Arab in order to be loved, Zionism has clearly done something abominably wrong. I woke up and realized that while I do believe that Jews should be able to live freely in the land of Israel, this must not be at the expense of other people. But it is. And I could not continue to pretend to be fine with that. I was not raised to be a bigot or a parasite. 

So the years went by and the hate mail from total strangers in my Facebook inbox accumulated. I could not even acknowledge the humanity of a Muslim or any Arab without being called a treasonous whore. New immigrants with little factual knowledge on Israel other than hasbarah, turned out to be blind government loyalists who valued their delusions above my friendship. I quickly became as hated as my grandfather for being a lot less aggressive in my criticism on Israel. Free speech is great, unless of course tyrannizing you with threats and insults day in, day out, is also covered by this right. Am I leaving because of idiots on Facebook? Hell no! But these idiots represent something bigger and way more invasive, way more present and influential than one message on Facebook. They represent an attitude impossible to escape in Israel, be it at the workplace, at university, at the coffee shop, or even the bedroom. And to perpetuate this and keep The Conflict going, mothers get to bury their sons after every war. A waste of young lives for a safety our own government helps jeopardize.

Israel has negatively shocked me before when it dropped cluster bombs (“precision attacks after sufficient warning to civilians” my gigantic ass) on Gaza in 2008. It continued to occasionally rattle me, but I always managed to justify it some way or another. But then, 2 suspects in the murders of the 3 settler boys had not their own, but their families’ houses bulldozed by Israel which also very brutally arrested hundreds for questioning, and basically unleashed a rain of terror on mere suspects thereof. But then, when 6 murderers of a Palestinian boy were wanted, Israel proceeded very gently and civilized. Due process every step of the way, lawyers, insanity pleas, underage leniency… No houses of suspects or their families were bulldozed, no bones of neighbors were broken during arrests. No social media shit storms howling “Death to (the murderers’ ethnic group)”. And while I believe that any murderer of an innocent child deserves maximum brutality, why do only Arab killers of Jews feel it? Because they killed three and those Jews only killed 1? But the killers of the 3 boys didn’t get three times the harshness, they and their towns got an utter hellraising. Because it was an act of terror? Well, then what was the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and what does it matter why children were deliberately and brutally murdered? Parents got to bury what was left of their hearts, that is all.
And then, when there were just talks of a reasonable approach of Gaza – offering Gazans a reason to live rather than to die and take Jews down with them – Netanyahu announces a gigantic land grab.

I see so very much racism and hatred from the very people I love – the Israeli Jews. I specify Jews because while I love the Arab population just as much, “Israeli” should include anyone with an Israeli ID, Jew or gentile, yet is often used to refer to only Jews and I refuse to encourage such falsehoods. Israel is NOT exclusively Jewish, deal with it. I cannot seem to find Israeli patriots who are not hate-filled and racist towards Arabs, and as Haaretz has so tragically reported, Israel’s Zionist youth is actually proud of being racist. Even people who are not blatantly hate-filled will find excuses for citizens and law enforcement to brutalize and oppress Arabs. Never have I understood how a country that shows itself to the outside world as so very inclusive, tolerant, modern, advanced, and educated, can harbor and encourage so much stupidity and racism. I am surrounded by it, and ever since I have renounced my own part in it, I see how ugly it is. 
If I cannot live happily and freely in my own country which doesn’t even allow me to marry for lack of a Jewish mother (but is happy to take my taxes), if I cannot express my opinion without being slandered, insulted, and threatened just because I do not hate Arabs, then my people, despite being my people in my homeland, disgust me. If only the far-right can count on being able to freely express themselves without being labeled traitors or whores, then Israel has a problem and it is similar in essence to the problem Germany had not too many decades ago. Irgun Lahava is one example of the sheer and perfect ugliness of this problem. Not just for its bigoted and aggressive nature, but for its members: even the sweetest, otherwise most open-minded and anti-racist people I know, are members. In a group that terrorizes and bullies interfaith couples to break them up. In many other countries, members of bad organizations, are also otherwise bad or at least stupid, small-minded people, yet in Israel, even the best and the smartest tend to flock to hate groups. I was surrounded by academics when one of them gasped “You slept with an Arab? Oh my god, I hope you got an Aids test!” and the other degree holders joined in. After that, Gasper 1 kept forwarding my number to male friends who needed a quick lay, because she assumed I was the volunteer whore in town because of one Arab lover. What the..?

And from my observation, in order to be happy or at least content in Israel, most people need at least one of the following three things: passionate Judaism, Zionism, and/or money. Because when you neither care for religion and tradition, when you lost Zionism to uncensored history documents and a good look around, and when you make 25 Shekels an hour working 6 hours a day, well, life stops being all milk and honey. You have nothing to sugarcoat your relative poverty with, you have nothing to gain from the ugly sight of the predominant political attitude, and you have not even got your imaginary friend, God, to turn to. Open-mindedly living reality in Israel is very damned hard. And even my life before Israel, has been hard and I’m tired.
But I never felt compelled to take a stance against the people I love before. And I had never been punished for it before. I never before felt lumped in with a group who manages to wish death upon a minority, and squeal “Never again” in the same sentence. I never before felt so betrayed by the government I’m stuck with, a government aggravating the relations with the Palestinians while letting its 99% go to the dogs when the state’s massive budget is funneled into settlements, bullying or tyrannizing Arabs, and paying the ultra-Orthodox for doing exactly nothing to help. Have you seen Haifa? Have you seen the south of Tel Aviv? The streets are dirty and behind closed doors people flip coins for either a third meal or a new pair of socks. Every country has its problems, but I have not lived in one where the government so blatantly and scornfully disregarded the true wellbeing of its majority for the sake of staying on the good side of a wealthy and influential minority and PR. And well, the “First Lady”. In none of the other four countries I’ve lived, have I felt compelled to leave for being unable to reconcile my own ideals with the reality around me, and believe me, I’ve been wanting unicorns and Hobbit houses. In Israel, all I asked for was less bigotry and hatred, and more social justice – and especially, Israel living up to its own hasbarian standards… Never have I been a government loyalist, anywhere, but my current government is taking what little money we, the Israeli 99%, have, in order to piss off the Palestinians every step of the way, actively and directly putting our lives in danger as a reward for our sweat. I cannot stand for this any longer.

Wasn’t it also Haaretz – and my mother, and I – who observed that all the liberal intellectuals are itching to leave? I know the rightwingers will happily see us out, but “never forget” that “liberties” and “liberalism” have the same root .Your liberties are not achieved by people with your attitude. Israel has shot way past the Jewish dream and became a victim-gone-bully. With all the “sechel” (brains) leaving, Israel will degenerate more and more into a rightwing, bigoted, unequal society where the Arab is to the Jew what the black man is to the white american – guilty until proven innocent and to be treated accordingly. Where values are for PR only, while people struggle to survive and can’t really fill their bellies  with the lyrics of the Tikvah, which were so obviously written by a drunk. We cannot be a free people if we need to oppress a minority we angered and turned against us in the first place. My only morally right choice at this stage is hence to follow my grandfather’s example: get over my broken dreams and expectations of the loving, welcoming Israel where all people have an equal chance, and leave this cesspool of hatred behind. 

Obviously, I will cry on that flight, as I will miss things, and people. I will miss walking the ground I was born on. I will miss referring to the people around me, as my people. I will miss my Iraqi-Israeli family, especially my baby nephew who has grown on me like a heart tumor. I will miss the many lovely cats I meet everywhere. I will miss the gruffy, straightforward nature of Israeli encounters as I don’t really love the European politeness most of which is fake. I love how nobody cares what you look like. I will also miss Israel’s fuckedupness, as I call it – the sight of sloppily clad young soldiers with their guns and their oversized pants, the many buttcracks and the overall attitude of not giving a fuck. No decorum, whatsoever. I like that. I will miss that. I will also miss my workplace, that petshop with the fun and funny coworkers (two of whom are perfectly sweet, harmless, respectable Muslims) and its stupid customers who cannot tell a ferret from a hamster when their toddler’s life literally depends on it.

I will not miss, however, aforementioned bigotry and hatred, the everyday struggle, the cost of living as opposed to my paycheck, and I also will not miss the blatant and seemingly willful ignorance of the oh so educated average Israeli who still thinks it’s smart to buy dogs and cats in stores, Arabs are STD dispensers, or sushi makes sense in a Chinese restaurant. When I moved to Israel, I had been looking forward to meeting the hasbarah-propagated Israeli: intelligent, intellectual, and worldly. Yet, I keep genuinely impressing people with what I thought was trivia. As I said, humans versus animals and all that…

And also, I really, really hate the climate.