On Israel’s Mythic History

By George Polley

From the beginning the official Israeli narrative has followed a very simple script: A homeless and persecuted people, the victims of pogroms and genocide, asked for and were granted a homeland in the land that was taken from them nearly two thousand years ago.

Promising that it would “ensure [the] complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; … guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; … safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and … [would] be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” (source: The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948), it was a narrative that most people supported and most people believed. After all, the Israeli leadership sounded sincere, so why wouldn’t they be?

What was buried in the narrative was a sinister narrative of age old persecution: their new Jewish homeland, they are the victims of a vicious attack by Israel’s Arab residents and neighbors. They, the Israelis, are innocent. How could these evil people treat them so badly when they want only peace and grant their Arab residents the same civil rights as they grant their Jewish residents?

Did many people believe this narrative? Most of them did, and I was one of them. Problem is, none of it was true. Israel’s Knesset danced around it by maintaining that the declaration is neither a law nor an ordinary legal document. And since Israel has never had a Constitution, the Knesset and all of Israel’s institutions have ignored it. Israel’s laws openly discriminate against all non-Jews, in open violation of UN standards. And as the truth about Israel’s chronic violence and violation of its legal responsibilities, its leaders defend their behavior, increase their attack of anyone they consider “guilty” of “persecuting” them, and seem, at least to me, progressively deranged.

In a recent article, jazz musician, philosopher and writer Gilad Atzmon made the following very perceptive comment: “Jewish identity politics is shaped by a totally unique psychological disorder. I call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (as opposed to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Jewish reality is shaped by an imaginary fictional future threat. … Yet, the lack of capacity to differentiate between reality and imagination leads to the inevitable emergence of the most tragic possible scenarios” (source: “Gaza Flotilla versus Diaspora Jewry”, 1 July 2011).

“Operation Cast Lead”, the attack against the Mavi Marmara, the seek out, sabotage and if necessary destroy Hasbara mission against people and organizations accused of “delegitimizing” Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu’s “build more settlements” response to the P.A. taking a nationhood petition to the UN, and the demented destruction of ancient Muslin burial grounds are signs of a leadership that has gone seriously off the rails. More and more, Israel’s leadership looks like a suicidal train crew driving its speeding train off the edge of a precipice.

Sadly, it didn’t have to be this way.

Had David Ben-Gurion and the others approached the whole Israeli enterprise actually treating Palestine’s Arab population as equal partners in a nation that assured all its citizens and residents equal treatment under the law, and had they chosen to partner with Palestine’s skeptical Arabs (who had every good reason to be skeptical of Jewish actions), then none of this would have happened.

But that wouldn’t have fit the persecution element in Israel’s mythic history. People who are attached to the idea of persecution swing wildly between the poles of hopelessness and resentment. Since they expect persecution, their resentment causes them to set up the conditions that bring such persecution about. To resentful victims, everyone who disagrees with them is an enemy that their resentment impels them to attack. The result is a descending spiral of hopelessness and self-destructive acts that I see as openly suicidal.

Where will this end for Israel? I wish I knew. I’d like to see my own country begin to take a stand, but with most members of Congress in hock to AIPAC, I don’t see that happening anytime soon, if at all. I’d also like to see a much less self-destructive leadership in Israel, but I don’t see that happening either. Perhaps other nations will develop the backbone to stand up to the U.S. and force the issue with Palestinian Statehood. Or perhaps one day all of Palestine will be a land in which Jew and Gentile live in peaceful harmony. That, after all, is the only thing that really works in life. All the rest is just a repeat of mankind’s very violent history.

And that we can no longer afford if we want to survive as a species on a livable planet.
– George Polley is a Japan-based American writer. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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