Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crazy As...

A salutary 'I told you so' from an extremely ex-Israeli:

Israel has always been crazy by Avigail Abarbanel*

"It's not a big claim to fame, but I've been saying for years that Israeli society is crazy. I escaped from Israel for that reason.Phil Weiss's analysis (Psst! Is Israel going crazy?) is correct except for one point, and that is that the sentiments he describes have always been there. It's not something new that emerged only recently.

"I grew up with this craziness all around me. I recognise the language. I was brought up (I was born in 1964) to believe that the 'Arabs' (the word 'Palestinian' was generally not used in my childhood) could not be trusted, that 'they' are not like 'us', and that they are treacherous and would stab me in the back if I relaxed and trusted them. We were always kept apart from the Palestinian citizens of Israel, let alone the Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. Gaza in fact was a symbol for a cursed place. When someone annoyed you said, 'Go to Gaza', the equivalent of 'Go to Hell'. That was normal, day-to-day Hebrew in my youth. The first time I met a Palestinian as an equal was in Australia in my early thirties.

"Without knowing it, I grew up with classical colonial rhetoric. Colonisers motivated by fear, and possibly guilt, have always demonised the people they have hurt. For some people it is easier to inflict suffering if if they don't see the other as a fellow human being. Dehumanisation helps to reduce empathy and shut down the conscience. It happens everywhere there is injustice and abuse.

"The difference now is that these generally informal but widespread social attitudes to the colonised are now in power. Drunk with their new-found freedom, out of the shadows with no need to hide themselves any longer, free from worry about 'world public opinion', they're now celebrating and feasting. Politicians are outdoing one another, acting out and giving life to their most depraved and murderous fantasies. And they are out of control. But please don't make the mistake of thinking that these feelings and urges are confined to a lunatic fringe. They are not. They are supported by the majority of Israeli Jews, and, as Phil says, they are led from the front by top politicians who are changing the legal system in order to create an environment that better caters to these attitudes so that they can be unleashed legally and thrive.

"Israel has always been mad and bad. How can it not be when it is based on a fearful, traumatised, paranoid, settler-colonialist culture with a sense of eternal entitlement, and built on the ruins of an indigenous culture it has worked so hard to eliminate? Israel has always done bad things, terrible things. Ask the Palestinians, the asylum seekers, the poor, women. But previously things were done in secret. When Israel was young and poor and needed the world, it was keen to project an image of legality, reason, refinement, intellect and democracy to fit in with the Western world it so wanted to be part of. What was always just underneath that thin veneer, but which every Israeli Jew knew and supported, is now out in the open. Israel and its culture is simply heading toward its logical conclusion. What is happening now was inevitable, the logical next step. It is impossible to sustain the split reality of a civilised, law-abiding, educated, cultured, refined, enlightened society while colonialism, with its injustices and atrocities, continues to rage. Enlightenment can only truly exist on a foundation of justice and freedom. Anything else is self-serving and short-lived nonsense. Most Israeli academics not only support their regime, they benefit from it. Watch as the majority of them say nothing about these new developments.

"As ugly and as dangerous as these developments are, it is a good thing that the truth is finally out. Israel should never have been supported in the first place, but it'll be increasingly hard for anyone to continue to support a country that is following the path Israel is on. Like all sick societies Israel is its own worst enemy. It feels invincible and justified and simply doesn't care what others think about it. This is a lethal cocktail.

"I never trusted that country. I was always terrified of it becoming truly and openly fascist. As a woman I never liked the way religion played a central role in Israeli society, and was always worried that it would eventually take over. I always felt oppressed by the atmosphere of suspicion and harshness and the obsession with 'security' and control, which has tragically infected the entire Western world. I was afraid of it 23 years ago when I left, and thought it'd come sooner than it has, but it is finally happening. Fascism cannot take hold unless the sentiments that feed it are widespread. Watch how many secular Jews with dual citizenship will start leaving, and then it's time to really start worrying about the Palestinians. It's quite possible that we'll begin to see a trickle of Jewish refugees from Israel, members of more enlightened groups who've begun to be persecuted and hunted. It would be a chilling irony for Jews to be seeking asylum from a 'Jewish' state.

"And to think that once upon a time I was worried that I was too extreme or unreasonable with some of my predictions about Israel. It's all in its psychology and it has always been there. I told you so." (, 2/12/14)

*Avigail Abarbanel was born and raised in Israel. She moved to Australia in 1991 and now lives in Scotland. She works as a psychotherapist in private practice and is an activist for Palestinian rights. She is the editor of Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (2012).

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