On Oct 11, Ha’aretz reports, a group of Israeli rioters affiliated with La Familia, a racist Israeli soccer club, stormed a hospital after hearing (baseless) rumors that it was treating terrorists injured on Oct 7. They roamed the corridors spitting on people and shouting ‘Death to Arabs!’
This is not an isolated incident of post- Oct 7 rage. The same article describes a surge of violent attacks on Arabs and “leftists” which, despite being captured clearly on video, are for the most part not being persecuted. These come at the same time that Israeli police have been arresting people for making statements of solidarity with Palestinians and Arabs, and an Israeli Haredi man who said the Jewish prayer for the dead for both Israelis and Palestinians was harassed by both civilians and police.
Meanwhile, in the Occupied West Bank in the last year settlers have seized another 110km square of Palestinian land, more than they had seized in total since 1967 (80 square km). 122 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed either by the IDF or Israeli civilians since Oct 7, as Jewish settlers have been engaging in vandalism, revenge killings, and acts of terror including breaking into Palestinian homes and accosting families.
It is a sad fact that some of my Jewish friends, staunch defenders of the policies of the Israeli state, are not paying attention to this. The only word they seem able to speak is “Hamas,” the only vision they seem able to see is that drilled into their minds by the North American purveyors of apologist hasbarah, by which I mean the endlessly repeated mythologies and deceptive talking points of pro-state propaganda.
It is an even sadder fact that they weren’t paying attention to what was happening before Oct 7 either. Not the settler attacks on Palestinians lives and property, nor the rise in attacks on Christians and churches, nor the Palestinian children killed by the IDF, nor the police brutality against African refugees, nor the thousands of Palestinians held by the IDF in administrative detention (ie prison without trial), nor the creeping (and illegal) annexation of occupied land, nor the discriminatory and Jewish supremacist changes in Israeli law, nor the sales of weapons and spy technology to secret services and dictators.
Why are all of these things ignored? As someone who grew up a Zionist and has spent a fair bit of time in the center-right communities of Jewry, I think I know. All of these bits of information contradict a deeply cherished narrative that modern Israel is a miracle, a sign of the goodness and intelligence and strength of Jews, “the only democracy in the Middle East” with “the most moral army in the world,” a safe haven for Jews, a place where you never have to hear Christmas music in December, a wall against anti-Semitism. With the exception of Israel being in many ways a startling and brilliant accomplishment and a place where you are free from feeling like a minority in a strange land, all of the rest of those claims are, sadly, false, but to confront this take considerable courage.
It requires the courage to deconstruct aspects of your own identity and a deeply cherished belief system. I know from personal experience that one can come out the other side with belief in God, Torah, and Israel intact, but all understood in different ways. The benefit to the difference is that one is no longer struggling againnst the facts as they present themselves, but one finds oneself also no longer in the happy camp of false prophets who flatter the King and in a situation more akin to Jeremiah in exile.
A Right To Israel?
There is one thread that runs through all the sicknesses of Israel today, in my opinion, and it is the belief that a Jewish supremacist ethno-state is morally justified and necessary, and therefore all manner of things can be done to defend it. The fact that other people have centuries old roots in the land as well — Jerusalem was a Muslim city for twice as long as it was a Jewish one — is denied, Palestinian refugees are refused the right of return because it would change the demographics of the state and force it to be collaborative and binational. Massive funds — which remember, could go into the righting the massive gap between the rich and poor in Israel, or a plethora of other good causes — go into the military, and we are faced with what to me is an unspeakable reality: that the “Jewish state” is and has been a major purveyor of advanced weapons and spyware to tyrannical and human rights abusing regimes all around the world (Myanmar, Chile, Burundi, South Africa, etc etc).
Some of my friends feel that Israel is the eternal, God-given possession of the Jews, and therefore we have a “right” to it. For those who don’t hold the Torah as authoritative, this argument makes no moral or legal sense, of course. The Torah does not, however, actually say that Israel is the eternal possession of the Jews and one which we have a right to.
Quite the opposite, actually. The Torah clearly states that the land belongs to God, and that it’s giftedness to the Jews depends entirely on whether they act in accordance with God’s ethics while in position of the land. The loss of the land in the 2nd century CE was seen by the Rabbis as a result of Jewish failure. The opposition to Zionism among Orthodox Rabbis, which was nearly ubiquitous before the trauma of the Holocaust and the heady wine of Jewish military and political successes in the land, was based in the fact that God had not given the land back to us.
He still hasn’t.
There has been no messianic return to the land, no revelation of God’s will to hundreds of thousands of Jews en masse as the Torah says there was before the land was given over three thousand years ago. On neither secular nor traditional religious grounds do Jews currently have a “right” to be sovereign in Israel regardless of demographics or justice.
We are faced with an extremely dangerous situation in Israel today. On neither secular nor religious grounds are Israel’s actions legitimate, and the offences the Israeli government are guilty of are an offense to both God and human beings. Heaven help us.
For those interested, below is an interlocking series of articles that I’ve written on Medium on Zionism and Judaism: