Monday, June 28, 2010

Us, us and us

By Nimrod Aloni

Faced with the pictures of the barely conscious and bloody and beaten naval commandos on the deck of the Mavi Marmara, it's doubtful that anyone in Israel doesn't feel heartbroken, with his stomach turning and rage percolating, and the desire for revenge rising. This isn't a matter of political opinion, and it doesn't only apply to people serving in the navy. It also does not stem from knowing one of the soldiers personally. It's part of belonging to a community, to the Israeli family, in which everyone has a human face and a genuine human presence, just like each of us, our children and our close friends.

And now, with your empathy at its height, pain still fresh and rage boiling - think about, even just as a theoretical exercise, our Palestinian neighbors, for the most part enemies for these 43 years, who every day see their children and parents shot, beaten and bloody, barely conscious and completely helpless, under our occupation. And if they are indeed human beings, in the intellectual spirit of conjecture, they bleed when shot, and they scream in pain when beaten and call out to be freed when imprisoned. And when they are treated with contempt they feel humiliated and miserable. So imagine how their hearts break, stomachs turn and rage boils as their desire for revenge fills their lives and daily routine.

There is nothing new or revolutionary about this intellectual exercise. All it requires is a simple step away from a tribal mentality and family feeling toward a universal moral awareness, about which uncounted artistic, philosophical and religious texts have been written. In other words, to look at the other, even if he is a stranger or an enemy, as a human being in the full sense of the term, exactly like you and your near and dear ones.

And here lies our big problem; here is where our process of barbarization begins. This fundamental human value of seeing others as human beings just like us is disappearing; some people even consider it a betrayal. From so much self-love and narcissism about the Land of Israel, the dogma of Israel and the Israeli people, we have sealed our eyes and ears and shut down our minds and consciences until we can no longer see or hear others. We can no longer be attentive to their point of view and give legitimacy to the logic of their claims and cultural narrative.

We are so full of ourselves and so good at understanding our own arguments that others have become invisible; for us, there's no one else but us. No one wants peace more than we do, the Israel Defense Forces is the most moral army in the world, and no one can investigate our actions better than we. As Jews it's obvious that we're allowed to settle everywhere; of course it's our right to wipe out enemies in every country and on every continent, and anyone who denies this is nothing but an anti-Semitic non-Jew or a traitorous Jew consumed by self-hate.

One of the editions of the television news recently showed a group of extremist settlers who arrogantly and contemptuously challenged U.S. President Barack Obama's peace initiatives with the words, "This kushon won't dictate our fate here," using a derogatory term for black people. Some people say these are simply extremist settler youths from the illegal outposts, like those who console themselves that only a small handful of Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans who curse Arabs are really racist and tell themselves that Interior Minister Eli Yishai is an exception in his racist incitement against immigrant workers. Friends, let's not fool ourselves: For some time, this has not been a vilified handful, but rather a large camp of fanatic pioneers. The majority first becomes reconciled to them and then adopts their ways.

The settlement enterprise is an impressive product of every Israeli government and the crowning success of everything connected to the perpetuation of the occupation and the undermining of any genuine option for peace under two states for two peoples. Add to this a survey conducted two months ago in which more than half of Jewish high school students would revoke Israeli Arab citizens' political rights, and we get a clear picture of what people almost everywhere in the world see and we manage to hide from ourselves. We don't see others, especially the Palestinians, as human in the full sense of the word, so, just like the ultra-Orthodox community vis-a-vis secular people, we, the Israelis, seek more rights for ourselves than we grant others.

In sum, when the mind and conscience are enslaved to nationalist narcissism, others become invisible to us, and we look like bullies and become lepers in the eyes of others. One's heart breaks over the insensitivity that's having a field day here, and its many victims - ours and the others'.

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