Israel's identity crisis
In my mailing from Jewish Voice for Peace the question arises "just where is Israel?" Geographically it's in an area called rather loosely "The Middle East". A few years ago my friend worked at Heathrow Airport in the days of BOAC (aka "Better On A Camel) the airline covering the region was known as "Muddle East Airline".
In terms of continents I'd been taught to believe Europe ended at Instanbul which was divided between Europe and Asia. On the other hand next door Egypt is actually in Africa (there appears to be doubt about this judging by the way the topic of "Ancient Egypt" is dealt with in schools). Well it seems that Israelis see themselves as essentially European, as white people, surrounded by despised Arab and Asian people. Certainly Israel is involved in matters European like the Eurovision Song Contest, which it won in the year the event was held here in Birmingham. One thing it does have in common with Europe is a firmly entrenched racism, institutional and all.
Uri Avnery reports on the 15th Asian Games held in Qatar and television coverage of what was regarded as a quaint event. He recalls:
"WHEN I followed the event on Aljazeera television, I suddenly remembered a private anniversary that had slipped my memory.
Exactly 60 years ago a small number of young people founded a group that called itself in Hebrew 'Young Eretz-Israel' and in Arabic 'Young Palestine'. With money out of our own pockets (at the time we were all quite poor) we published occasional issues of a periodical we called Bamaavak ('In the struggle').
Bamaavak stirred up a lot of stormy waves, because it voiced infuriatingly heretical opinions. Contrary to the dominant Zionist narrative, it asserted that we, the young generation growing up in the country, constituted a new nation, the Hebrew nation. Unlike the somewhat similar group of 'Canaanites', that preceded us, we proclaimed that (a) the new nation is a part of the Jewish people, much as Australia is a part of the Anglo-Saxon people, and (b) that we are a sister-nation to the resurgent Arab nation in the country and throughout the region.
And, no less important: that since the new Hebrew nation was born in the country, and the country belongs to Asia, we are an Asian nation, a natural ally to all the Asian and African nations that strive for liberation from colonialism."
More significantly he goes on:
"I BELIEVE that one of the most profound causes for the historic conflict between us and the Arab world in general, and the Palestinian people in particular, is the fact that the Zionist movement declared, from its very first day, that it did not belong to the region in which we live. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the fact that even after four generations, this wound has not healed.
In his book 'The Jewish State', the founding document of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl famously wrote: 'For Europe we shall be (in Palestine) a part of the wall against Asia…the vanguard of culture against barbarism…' This attitude is typical for the whole history of Zionism and the State of Israel up to the present day. Indeed, a few weeks ago the Israeli ambassador to Australia declared that 'Asia belongs to the yellow race, while we are Whites and have no slit eyes. ' "
Footnote: 3 times more Palestinians killed in '06 than in '05 by IDF while Israeli death toll fell.
Posted by John Tyrrell at December 29, 2006 4:07 PM