Do I no longer have the right to be a proud Jew in my own land: standing tall and looking at the world at eye-level? Is shaming and excommunication from the community of “civilized” nations of the world the price of my unwillingness to contribute to my own demise (for example in last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza)? Does loving my country, culture and language mean that I am a Jewish fascist, as a long-time friend essentially accused me of being because I was exploring what the party HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) has to say?
We can read in the New York Times or Haaretz about how Israel is headed for self-destruction, as exemplified in the “Jews first” bill before the Knesset (as it is disrespectfully called by those who oppose it), only one sign of our allegedly growing fascism, according to Roger Cohen, Zeev Sternhell, Eyal Megged, and others like them. For they apparently find it impossible for Israel to be a proud Jewish nation and at the same time democratic and uphold the rights of the minorities within our borders. Megged viciously writes: “Glorification of the race, hatred and aggression toward strangers and a lack of any compassion for the weak and helpless are the characteristics of the majority here.” I would like to know how that is characteristic of the majority and who he calls the majority in this country. And I would like to know how pride in the Jewish character of Israel necessitates hatred and aggression towards non-Jews and the weak and helpless among us. I would like to know why those on the left (and how many of them) actually believe this kind of statement.
I think the majority of this country lies in the center of the political spectrum. That means that the majority of people see our situation as multifarious rather than in terms of either-or. I think life is made rather more difficult when you see things in terms of shades of grey rather than extremes of black or white. There is right and wrong on all parts of the political gradient; however, it is so much easier to just take one side and stick with that and say: to hell with complexities that increase uncertainty and, therefore, discomfort.
Yet, yesterday, I overheard a variety of political discussions in the playground where I looked after my granddaughter, by the kiosk where I sat with a pizza and a coffee, and on the bus: I heard people debating the upcoming elections and questioning their previous voting patterns. Long-time self-professed Likud and Labour voters were wavering left and right, seriously considering both the security issues and the social issues that trouble us today. Opposing views were respectfully questioned and the answers considered. People were perplexed and in a state of not-knowing, something far more appropriate, I think, than the haughty knowingness of those who are stuck in their ways. It takes courage to not-know and to admit it. It takes courage to keep one’s mind open and to come to different conclusions than before if new information comes to light. And I praise those who move both right and left because movement indicates active deliberation. Are these people “the majority” Megged and others refer to? If so, this is a majority a country can be proud of.
I remember a friend’s grandfather, a leader in the Toronto Jewish community, who told me how Jews used to try to hide their Jewishness, but when the modern State of Israel was declared, they could suddenly walk erect on the streets of Canadian cities. Remember how proud we were, and are, when there were news reports on the innovative Israeli kibbutz, the rescue from Entebbe, our sweeping into the desert to bring the Ethiopian Jews home to Israel, and yet another Israeli life-changing high-tech invention. I don’t understand why our own left, once also pleased with the disproportional accomplishments of our young modern nation, is now battering us over the head with increasingly shrill cries of fascism that can only come from a place of shame and fear. How did this happen?
Why can “Black is Beautiful” be a rallying call for pride among Black people, but we Jews should keep our eyes humbly downcast and not call out attention to ourselves? Why can Jews not be proud without being called racist and accused of nefarious intent in the Middle East? Why must we deny our history (regarding: our indigenous rights to the Land of Israel, the land originally promised to us before World War I, our military victories against all odds, the full democratic rights automatically granted to the minorities who have been living with us since 1948, etc) and ascribe to a fable that seeks to appease Arab states and others who hate us? Why must we submit to patently discriminatory behaviours in the UN? Why does our own left swallow all of this and try to strong-arm the rest of us into becoming once more the stereotypical hunched over Jew?