By David Green
Israeli ex-politician and erstwhile dissident Avraham Burg, interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on February 12th regarding his recent book The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from the Ashes, offered this account of his motivation in writing the book:
“I wrote the first book, which was God Is Back. It’s about the religious dimension of world conflicts and the Israeli conflictual reality. And then when I finished the book, I read it, and I realized that I didn’t write about the other items which support our identity, and this is the only presence of the trauma in our life, which is the Holocaust, which prevents us to trust anybody—to trust ourselves, to trust our neighbors, to trust the world—and therefore creates this kind of a reality. And the minute I realized that this is my inner truth, just published it.”
Near the end of the interview, Burg summarized his perspective not only on the settlements, but in essence on the entire conflict:
“Yeah, it (the settlements) pollutes our morality, and it contaminates our policy. And we became hostages of the messianic and eschatological policy of the settlers, which actually leads Israel into a de facto one-state solution, which discriminates one people over the other people. At the same time, the Palestinian society was kidnapped and held hostage by the hands of the eschatological fundamental—Hamas fundamentalists. And both societies must get rid of their prisoners, get rid of these kidnappers and get over this Stockholm syndrome that I’m in love with my kidnapper. And only then we will be able to talk to each other.”
While Burg, a former speaker of Knesset, is clearly a provocative and symbolic addition to the growing movement of Jewish dissidents regarding Israel and Palestine, I find his analysis evasive if not self-serving in its implicit dispensation to the secular Israeli parties that have supported the occupation since the 1967 war—and have done so willingly and on the basis of ideology and ambition deeply rooted in the Zionist project prior to the Holocaust and throughout the 20th century, clearly articulated and relentlessly enacted. Moreover, these territorial ambitions have been actively and indispensably supported by American governments of both political parties, none of whose leaders have been either personally traumatized by the Holocaust or “kidnapped and imprisoned” by religious fundamentalists of any confession.
(As an aside, Burg’s reference to Hamas fundamentalists as analogous to Israeli religious settlers is undeserving of the credibility implied by a serious response.)
How much political curiosity does it take to add up the seats apportioned to the four major secular parties, all pro-Gaza massacre, in the recent election? I come up with 83 of 120, and that doesn’t include “leftist” Meretz’s paltry total, also pro-massacre. Exactly how is it that these non-believers who control the purse strings and military of Israel have been kidnapped by a minority of settler fanatics? That is, a minority in relation both to religious Israeli Jews and illegal (mostly economic) settlers, who could be returned to Israel in short order by the proper authorities as a result of a phone call from Washington. In addition, in the wake of all the hand-wringing in response to the growing popularing of the more overtly racist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, it needs to be said that what is remarkable about this election is not the “rise of the right,” but what is now labeled as “moderate” or even “left.”
The “religious extremism” evasion in Israel, to the detriment of an effective Palestinian rights movement in our own country, has its correlate evasion in the inflation of the perceived power of the Israel Lobby by those who claim to oppose it; again, a distraction that does little or nothing to explain why the phone does not get picked up by a popular President with a bully pulpit and political capital galore. Moreover, it has its correlate in the manner in which religious fundamentalism in our own country serves as a distraction from liberal perfidy, not to mention liberal support for neoconservative perfidy, relating to a variety of issues.
As for the issues of the Holocaust, traumatization, and trust, it is with some trepidation but ultimately with incredulity that one must at least request some empirical evidence, or else debunk the notion that the 80% of Israelis who (according to actually existing empirical evidence) support the massacre suffer from 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generational reverberations as the result of a genocide to which a majority of Israeli Jews bear no familial relation and from which suffer no material deprivation. As an alternative explanation to Burg’s premise, it should not be necessary to recount the uses of Holocaust memory, politics, and propaganda as incisively explored by Hannah Arendt, Norman Finkelstein, and Idith Zertal, among others. It hardly serves the memory of the Holocaust and its remaining survivors for Burg to offer listeners a dismal choice between feeling that they have been manipulated in a sincere or a cynical fashion.
High-functioning and physically-secure secular Israelis knowingly and overwhelmingly elect representatives who support the systematic denial of Palestinian rights, and worse. High-functioning secular Americans in many if not most cases unknowingly elect representatives who have no serious intent to act as “honest brokers,” and have every intent to prevent the good example of a democratic Palestine, which might encourage similar examples in more resource-rich countries. There’s no reason to believe that an analysis such as Burg’s promotes an effective strategy for those whose uppermost concern is for Palestinian rights, which unfortunately for the Palestinians are at the mercy of fundamental American ambitions in the Middle East, albeit ambitions that are not supported by the American people. Heavily-armed Israelis will only learn to “trust” when the option of violence is decisively taken from their government.
– David Green lives in Champaign, IL. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.