Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Ex-Jewish Camel's Sad Epiphany on Israeli Fanaticism

As some of my readers may know, I was raised in an upper middle class Jewish family. My parents were  reformed Jews, as secular as can be, although my father  had in his bedroom closet a velvet pouch containing his prayer shawl and  phylacteries, a leather strap with two leather boxes containing scripture from the Torah that one wrapped around one's forearm during prayer.  I actually saw him don the shawl and phylacteries only  once in my life during attendance at some high holy day service at temple.  Family attendance at synagogue trickled down to never once my older brother was bar mitzvahed and before I reached my teens.

By that time I had already begun to question religion and the existence of God, although it was only a casual perception and did not occupy my preteen mind.  I opted out of Hebrew school and the offer of a bar mitzvah

I did however retain a very strong identity with the Jewish people, and empathy for their two thousand years of persecution and injustice heaped upon them by the Christian world. My mother lost some distant relatives to the Nazi extermination camps.  I could easily personalize the fear of the European Jews. The horror of the holocaust and pictures of the victims, children and adults, both the dead and survivors, easily brought me to tears.    Given this background it's not hard to imagine that my support for a Jewish homeland  has been adamant and unwavering for my entire life. 

Fast forward to the fifteenth year of the 21st century ...

Today I received an invitation to "like" a facebook page entitled "JEWS NEWS".  I followed the link to that page and immediately realized I cannot in good conscience endorse it. Not only because  it dishonors and demeans President Obama, implying he was an enemy of the Jewish state at worst, or a Neville Chamberlain to Israel at best; and not only because the "news" it reported was tantamount to  FOX News with its politics being so far right and  with a pro-Israel / pro-Jewish slant so steep that it was no better than propaganda thus making impartial reporting utterly impossible; but because in the last few weeks I've come to reconsider my half century of undying and unshakable support for Israel born of my upbringing and empathy for my distant kinsmen.

I have come to realize that the Israeli Jews have more in common with fundamentalist Dominionist Christians, and Jihadist Muslims than they do with me.  They share the commonality of extremism.

I can not ignore the mindless fanaticism of Netanyahu's disavowing the thirty-five year understanding of the West's and  Israel's commitment to a Two Nation solution to the never ending Palestinian/Israeli conflict.  I can no longer support a people who, by their vote for Netanyahu's hawkish and uncompromising mentality, endorse that reversal and who insist that continued conflict with the Palestinian authority and all out war with Iran is the only path, let the peacemakers be damned. 

No longer does this reality permit me to keep on the blinders of the history of Jewish victim-hood, with clean hands and in search of peaceful co-existence. They destroyed that facade forever now that their partnership with the End Times Prophecy seeking Christian money men in the US Congress has been openly declared.   

This epiphany was long in coming, but for the first time in that over half century of unyielding and uncompromising support for everything Israeli, I see them in the same light as I do any other flavor of  religious and nationalistic fanaticism, and it disgusts me.  Times have changed, and so too have the Jewish people of Israel. I'll have none of it anymore.



NewEnglandBob said...

My background is similar to yours, except we belonged to an orthodox synagogue.

I have never liked Netanyahu even bofore he was elected. I feel he is the worst PM that Israel has ever had. I am also disappointed that Israelis elected this horrible man.

Mike Meyers said...

Although I cannot relate to your up bringing (I was raised catlick and started having doubts about religion sometime around 6th grade), I have always felt that America's love for Israel was superficial and only a tool to get what they want in the Middle East, and that's a powerful ally that won't hold black gold over our heads (although the US does give them billions, it's more of an investment for the war pigs in the US).

That being said, I agree with you Hump that Netanyahu is nothing but bad news. Like the fanatic xtian tea bags in the US government, he will push harder for a more aggressive military campaign. Gone are the days of "defending ourselves against the PLO". I expect more insurgency into Palestine with the excuse of some made up bullshit. Then, when they are called out by the rest of the world, their PR will put a nice spin on it, and the aforementioned tea bags in our government will applaud. Anyone who speaks out against it, will be labeled unAmerican and told to pack your bags you commie bastard and find someplace else to live.

I can also see upcoming Sunday services in churches and synagouges across the country, praising Jesus, the lich king, on how he had a hand in the elections. Makes me sick to think that we have such a love affair with a country, not because of some export the US loves to consume, but because of the same imaginary friend that will bring about the end of the world.

Anonymous said...

I am 83 years-of-age and a life-time militant Atheist. I support Israel because I am sick of them getting picked on by the world. Six million murdered by the Nazis was enough for me. To me the Arabs are the uncivilized bastards. Just look at the Middle-East now. For example, Jews have won 165 Nobel prizes, while Arabs have only won six, and one of those was Yassar Arafat, a terrorist. Jews have contributed immensely to the world in medicine and science. I'll take the Jews and Israel any day compared to the Muslim named Barrack Hussein Obama. (Pardon the misspelling).

NewEnglandBob said...

You started off reasonably, Anonymous, but your ignorance shined through at the end of your comment. It makes your comment a joke.

Lisa said...

Ari Shavit's book "My Promised Land" is a wonderful book about the history of Israel, begins in 1898. Shavit writes how the ultra conservatives (too holy to serve in the military but willing to take public assistance) are ruining the country and any hope of peace with Palistineans. And the middle class has to carry the ball, just as in the US.

Gregory W. said...

Well said. Had no idea you were raised Jewish. I think Bibi's antics will keep them in the dark ages and continuing conflicts for years to come. What I can't understand is why he doesn't try and negotiate with Iran. Why are six other nations doing this? I for one, am getting really tired of our involvement over there and now this whole ISIS thing, which is pretty terrifying. I'd like to see Saudi Arabia take the lead with them (ISIS).

Thanks again--always look forward to your writings.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated your essay on current-day Israel. Rather than a “two-state” solution, why not a “one-state” solution. That one state, on the current territory of Israel and Palestine, would be secular, non-religious, democratic, and multi-ethnic. It would embrace current Israelis and Palestinians within one nation. It may be that after all these years, Israel has become a failed state, unable to establish peace with its neighbors and unwilling to embrace real democracy.

Also, you might look into Jewish Voice for Peace, a relatively new group that is capturing the moment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bart,

Israeli Jews? Some of them are as disgusted with Netanyahu as you are. It is unfair to condemn them all. I am also an atheist who was raised Jewish and is disappointed with Israel. Ethnic nationalism is attractive. Mazzini thought if each people had their own nation the resulting polities would be democratic. He was terribly wrong. Germany and Italy united in the nineteenth century, and the result was fascism in the twentieth.

Tony Judt labelled Zionism the last of the nineteenth century nationalisms. Jews entered enthusiastically into the national movements, but they often found that there was no place for them in the resulting ethnic state. Therefore they created an ethnic nationalism of their own.

Any country should not discriminate among its citizens on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Every country should have separation of religion and state.

I feel great sympathy for those who reject Netanyahu but live in a country where he rules. I feel great sympathy for those who support Netanyahu because they have bought or have been sold a nasty bill of goods. I feel great sympathy for Israeli Arabs and Arabs under occupation as they are the target of hatred.

It’s a mess, but I was never for two states. I am for one democratic state which does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religion and has separation of religion and state. I think the two-state solution was a no-brainer from the start.

Although I have been a Zionist I am now against Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim states. The religion or lack of it in the citizens of a country should be no business of any government.


longhorn believer said...

Hump, I've been going thru the same thing, not because I'm Jewish, but because I was raised as a fundamentalist xian and the politics of staunch, unexamined, unwavering support for Israel because they were "chosen". Ya know, until the rapture comes, and then it would be Jesus' job to defend them. Any slight disturbance in the Middle East was always used as an excuse to preach that Armageddon was coming any day now. So I was trained to keep a wary eye on the news from that region, and most of it produced anxiety and dread.

When I became an atheist, of course that thinking had to be reexamined like everything else. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict still produces dread for me, but not the existential "it's the end of the world" type of dread. Just the normal sadness about the human condition that seems inextricably entwined with tribalism and never ending war.

I agree with your analysis. I can't take a side anymore, except the side of reason. And discarding the Two State Solution is not just unreasonable. It's insane. If the war between the Palestinians and Jews does cause the end of the world, it will only be because of stupidity, tribalism, and as you stated, religious extremism.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thank you all for your feed back and for sharing your perspective on this issue. Well,,,everyone except the "83 year old" anonymous asshat who referred to the president as a Muslim.

Interestingly I saw this article today. It seems I'm not the only one who has come to the conclusion that Israel isn't worthy of mindless lockstep support, due to political changes and their right wing bent. As someone said: "This isn't
your father's Israel anymore."

Tim Dunnigan said...


A colleague of mine who lost many Jewish relatives during the holocaust got me interested in the history of this very dark time. I found the historical and narrative literature very moving and morally instructive. But nothing affected me as profoundly as the documentary Shoah. Being from Detroit and raised a Catholic, I can remember the pernicious anti-Semitism of Henry Ford and Father Couglin. (Obviously, I’m not a young guy.) The founding of a Jewish state made sense to me, at least so long as loyal Palestinians would also eventually have their own country. Now that Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected such a possibility, I have to rethink my loyalties. My quandary, however, does not compare to your anguish. Thank you for your steadfastness to humanistic principles.


Anonymous said...

Subject: Re: The Atheist Camel. support
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 01:04:47 +0000

How they can vote for / support a policy of never ending war is lost on me, and can only be explained by the cancer of belief in extreme politics and religion.

Anyway my wife is secular Jewish and has come to the same conclusion, understand that you will get a flood of hate mail , cooked up and organised by these fanatics, that is intended to silence people who believe in justices or all, it is the fanatics that will at some time find themselves on the wrong side of history. Be strong
Paul Bicknell

Dromedary Hump said...

|Tim, Thank you for the kind words.

Paul, let 'em bring it. If I can handle death threats from fundie Christians pissed off over my "Eternal Earth-Bound Pets" post rapture pet rescue site from a few yrs back, I can handle some radical Zionist Jews. ;)