As a non-religious Jew brought up in Spain, and pretty much integrated, in Umberto Eco’s spirit, I grew up surrounded by mainly anti-Israeli mainstream rhetoric, one that equals grossly Jews and Israelis to settlers, Orthodox and/or right wing voters. But I thought I was above indoctrination.
Today, living in Israel, when I hear a Jew has been stabbed, as if I was in Madrid, I still immediately imagine a settler or an Orthodox. I have been successfully indoctrinated. And, therefore, since I imagine it must have been a settler or adjacent I don’t feel empathy and can’t call the perpetrator a “terrorist”. First, I confess I don’t confess this. Then I work on myself, ignite the reason and not the emotion, and sometimes find out it was a secular Jew, just like me, stabbed a few streets from where I live in Tel Aviv. In that case I might feel empathy. Not sure if the psychological premise of acknowledging ones “issues” is the right path to salvation from oneself, but if yes, at least I have taken that first step: I have been indoctrinated, not by a rabbi, not by an imam, but by the context, unknowingly. Unfortunately.
And for an individual with my kind of indoctrination living in Israel today is a challenge. The new integration process in Israel starts at the ulpan, a charged place for someone with this kind of sensibility: where lots of very Zionist students gather, kiss mezuzot obsessively and probably wonder why there are non in the bathroom. The ulpan as a Hebrew school, but also a hub where the new immigrants get acquainted with Israeliness, a certain type of it. An Israeliness of Jewish festivities and Jewish songs and of Jewish identity based in our proverbial moral superiority.
This atmosphere hovered above me in real-life-after-ulpan too. And I only got more allergic to the surroundings with the pass of time.
It took me years to start seeing humanity in Orthodox Jews, in traditionalists, in all those sorts of people who, for me, were not really people…
Now, dear reader who fears Palestinians as a block, whose argument is that they should be thankful that they live here and not in Syria and that force and fear are the only ways to keep them at bay, what makes you think you have not been indoctrinated?
If you grew up in a castled Jewish community somewhere abroad or in Israel for the last sixty seven years chances are you have been heavily indoctrinated. No one questions Palestinians have.
Israeli mainstream society boasts a strong tradition of inflexibility when referring to their Palestinian other, under right wing or left wing governments. Stereotyping is a way of strengthening the otherness, that is well known, and when the other is a radical other, his/her humanity is blurred. When at the beginning of this new wave of violence the bleeding Jewish woman who was stabbed in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem was yelled at “die!” by Palestinian passersby and their Jewish counterparts lynched the Eritrean wounded in the Beer Sheva attack and yelled at him “die!” thinking mistakenly he was the attacker, that is dehumanization. A direct consequence of indoctrination through stereotypes.
The depressing panorama in Israel seems to be that as of today, there is no way a pro-Palestinian, pardon the cliché, will feel empathy with the assassination of a Jew. As there is no way someone will convince a pro-Zionist, same apology as above, that the assassination of a Palestinian is equally morally wrong. The other is a Jew (a settler, a Zionist, an occupier) and the other is a Palestinian (a terrorist, a terrorist, a potential terrorist).
And pro-Palestinians and pro-Zionists, roughly put, are the majority in this territory.
The apocalyptic, not the integrated, again in Umberto Eco’s words, all those who see human beings in both sides, those who believe that religion fuels and is used in a Machiavellian way in this intractable conflict for way too long, that terrorism is horrifying and will never go away unless the status of occupation is dealt with once and for all –which doesn’t mean it’s its cause-, those don’t count because they’re the minority.
I dare to talk about this because I’m within, not above the situation. And the noise here is too loud and it doesn’t let us hear beyond.