The steep slopes of Wadi Keziv in Western Galilee are walled by squat local oaks and thorny bush. On the streambed, oleanders and cypresses look into shallow ponds formed by its springs. I like this secluded canyon. On hot summer days, one can hide in an intricate deep cave and laze in its cool, clear waters, waiting for deer and hoping for a nymph. On cooler days, you can climb up a steep spur that rises from the depths of the gorge. It is called Q urain, the ‘Horn’ in Arabic, hence the Arab name of the valley, Wadi Qurain. Astride the spur, the Crusader castle of Monfort raises its donjon high and gazes towards the distant Mediterranean Sea.
This place holds many memories. The 12th century Zionists, Teutonic knights of St Mary, fortified the castle on the spur and called it Starkenberg, the Mount of Strength. The name and the remote location didn’t help: they were defeated by Baibars, the Arab paragon of valour, who allowed them to depart with their weapons and honour for Acre.
The stony path leading to the spring was the meeting-place of the enchanting characters of Arabesques, an exquisite novel by the Palestinian writer Anton Shammas. Shammas, a native of nearby Fassuta, is probably the only non-Jew in the world who writes his novels and poems in Israeli Hebrew.
Further west, the brook of Keziv flows into the sea at the ruins of az-Ziv, the Christian village destroyed by Jews in 1948. In this village, in the long-gone 1920s, a local Palestinian girl was visited by another local Palestinian woman, the Virgin. In other words, it is a typical place in the unusual land of Palestine.
These days you can roam the canyon all by yourself. It is as empty of people as the rest of countryside. The land of Palestine is in trouble, the deepest trouble since the black nights of 1948. People do not venture down here anymore, leaving the canyon to its lean and wiry boar. Walking downstream I spotted a few of these gracious animals, so different from their domesticated cousins. It was only outside the gorge, on the plain of Acre, that I came upon human presence. There were a few Thai or Chinese peasants working the fields of a local kibbutz. A middle-aged kibbutznik sat in the shadow, overseeing their work. I joined him for a smoke and a drink of cold water.
He was the epitome of a good Israeli: large, sunburned, with a friendly smile, bushy mustachio and brisk talk. Fifty years ago, he, or rather his predecessor, a fighter with the Jewish Storm Troopers, the Palmach, seized the lands of az-Ziv and expelled its peasants to Lebanon. Thirty years ago, he worked the stolen land with his own hands. Now, he oversees the Thais working this land. Very soon, he told me, he will go to New York to visit his son, a web designer. While he is away, some Russians from Maalot town will be hired by the kibbutz to oversee the Asian workers. Not many Jews are interested in working the land, or even in overseeing Thais working it, he said. The kibbutz hopes to get a building permit, build housing and sell the real estate. It is a valuable site, near Naharia and Acre, and it will fetch a premium price despite the crisis, he said.
I shook hands and bid farewell to him, to the sweaty Thais, to the green fields, to the mountains of Lebanon to the north which conceal the refugee camps where the original inhabitants of as-Ziv dwell, and to the Galilee mountains to the east which hold the Russian town of Maalot, where I woke up this morning.
Maalot is a brand new town for the brand new citizens brought to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union from Kharkov and Minsk, Riga and Bukhara. There are not many young people, but plenty of babushkas, elderly Russian ladies. I asked for the City Hall in Hebrew, but I might have spoken Chinese with the same effect. Maalot speaks Russian, reads Russian newspapers, watches Russian TV and eats Russian pork sausage with Russian beer. What made these ordinary Russians seek the light of Zion?
In Russia, as in the US, there are probably at least 20 million people entitled to become Israeli citizens. One does not have to be Jewish. If your daughter from a first marriage was married to an adopted grandchild of a Jew, you can go to Israel with your new family. Former USSR republics are in dire straits; their workers get no salary for months, so many families send their old folk away to Israel, where they get a few thousand dollars upon arrival, a small pension and public housing, if they are lucky.
The majority of arrivals have had no exposure to Judaism or Jewish culture in Russia, nor are they interested in. Their Israeli ID cards bear the inscription ‘ethnic origin and religion uncertain’. They are not considered ‘real Jews’ and their dead are buried beyond the fence, on a special plot for those of ‘dubious origin’. After the dreadful explosion in the Dolfi discothèque it created a visible problem: the religious undertakers refused to bury the dead Russian girls in a Jewish cemetery, even as the Israeli government was bombing Palestinians ‘to avenge Jewish blood’.
In the blessed air of the Holy Land many of them look for spiritual and religious revival. Judaism attracts but a few, while others turn to the Church for comfort. It is a risky enterprise: by Israeli law they can be deported for their belief in Christ. They gather and pray away from prying eyes, but on holidays they throng the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Nativity Church of Bethlehem, St George of Lydda and St Peter of Jaffa.
In 1991, when Russia’s future was exceedingly opaque, Israel received a lot of young blood from there. Israel-supporters in the US media carried out a two-pronged campaign: they warned of forthcoming pogroms, and they promoted the idea of a beautiful, easy life for immigrants in the US. Whole issues of Newsweek and Time concentrated on the neo-Nazi Pamyat group and rampant anti-Semitism. At that time, I was reporting for the Haaretz from Moscow, and interviewed Pamyat leaders for it. I found this sinister organisation to number about as many members as the Flat Earth Society. Still, a nice Russian Jewish film-maker and his wife came to our countryside house to arrange for protection in case of a pogrom. I tried to calm them down, but I could not fight the mighty media machine alone. Ten years later, I met a Russian Jewish lady writer in Jerusalem who told me that she had initiated the rumour of pogroms.
“You Israelis should erect a monument to me,” she said.
“Certainly”, said I, “Any particular reason?”
“I brought you a million Russians: I announced on Moscow Echo Radio that there will be a pogrom.”
I hadn’t the heart to disabuse her: her announcements would have had no effect if Israel’s American friends hadn’t amplified them. Anyway, the frightened and seduced Russians rushed for visas to the American embassy, and at that moment Israel requested the US stop granting them visas. The US gates were closed, and this mass of people on the move was forced to go to Israel.
They had a hard time, for the Israeli elite subjected them to the unique Israeli method of “de-development,” (as one might call it), a method already tried out on Oriental Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli media described them as a bunch of criminals and prostitutes; they were required to sign contracts and promises in Hebrew which they did not understand; their specialists were set to sweeping streets or picking oranges. Their rate of divorce skyrocketed; and their children were pushed into drugs. In 1991, Israel ceased to employ the Palestinians from the occupied territories, and the yesterday’s elite of Russia was expected to take their place in low-paid menial jobs. But sheer mass allowed the Russians to create their own state-within-state, complete with its own media, shops, and mutual assistance. The Russians survived, and figured out the game. The clever ones went back to Moscow, the adventurous left for the US, the peaceable ones departed for Canada. Since then, Israel has been getting gets mainly old folks, single mothers, and the desperately unemployed.
The Russians are a nice, hard-working but confused community. They hardly understand where they have landed, and incessantly try to compare their situation with that in Baku or Tashkent. Perusal of Russian newspapers shows people at a loss. One writer demands that Palestinians be castrated in order to solve the demographic crisis. Another blames everything on religious Jews, describing them as “blood-sucking parasites.” A third accuses the Oriental Jews of failing to live up to his expectations. They are being taught a brief version of the modern Jewish faith and its single commandment: “Thou shalt hate Arabs.”
Now Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to import another million “Russian Jews.” It is possible: if the American Jewish friends of Israel will put a harder squeeze on Ukraine, ten million Ukrainians may suddenly recover their “Jewish roots.”
There are dozens of townships like Maalot, apparently produced by cloning. Why else would they be so similar, nay, identical? It is built in a beautiful place, a short walk to the Wadi Keziv, but townspeople have never heard of it. Even their children, after ten years in Maalot, do not venture into the surrounding countryside. They spend their time around a pub in the centre of Maalot, dreaming of much better pubs in Haifa.
But that was yesterday. I hitched a ride to Nahariya, and from there, I took a train homewards to Jaffa. The train carried a few Africans, probably illegal immigrants judging by their shy demeanour. A Romanian building-team was gulping beer and burping loudly. They were imported from their impoverished East European land to build the houses for elderly Russian immigrants. In Israel like in California, the Jews do not want to take construction jobs.
A Jewish Israeli lawyer in black yarmulke leafed through papers in his semi-opened briefcase. A group of Moroccans discussed the closure of the Acre steel plant and their slim chances of finding other work. The crisis is deepening, one of them said. It is as bad as in 1966. An Israeli soldier, blond and armed, talked Ukrainian with its fricative aitches to his corpulent girlfriend. Under her admiring gaze he expanded upon his own heroic fight against multitudes of Arab terrorists.
I recalled myself at his age: a young paratrooper pleased with my red boots and Uzi sub-machinegun. I was in training not far away from the places we were passing now, in the remote hollow of Marj Sannur, embraced by mountains from all sides. It was early spring, a time when the highlands of Palestine are as beautiful as anyplace in the Mediterranean. Sometimes I recognize its lovely features in the bare hills around Les Baux de Provence, or in the olive-studded descent from Delphi to the sea, as one imagines spotting one’s beloved in a crowd of strangers. A snow-white thick fog covers Sannur valley in the early mornings, turning every day into a White Christmas. As the fog lifts, green grass glitters under the blossoming almond trees on the rise. Chilly February winds blow their pinkish petals, and they flutter about like snowflakes to cover the stony ground.
Through the wire fence of the army camp I saw a peasant tilling his olive trees. He was my father’s age, a broad-shouldered, strong, suntanned man wearing white head gear. I lowered my gun and greeted him; he replied with a greeting and put down his tools. We sat down on either side of the fence. I took out cigarettes and he gingerly picked one from the packet with his calloused hand. We spoke of olive oil and of thyme, the main local products, of the holy tomb of Sheikh Ali on the hilltop, of a spring of water in the valley. On my day off I changed into civilian clothes and went to his village. I was invited for a cup of strong Arab coffee with a cardamom seed a-float. Neighbours came to greet me, the stranger, and we carried on interminable Eastern conversation, asking in turns whether one is content with one’s life, children, and work. Apparently, they were pleased with their hard but satisfying peasant lives. For them, Israelis were just another set of foreigners, come in the wake of the Jordanians, British, Turks, Crusaders, and Romans. They harboured no hate, and displayed just an ordinary casual curiosity about a stranger. My host’s wife served greenish olive oil, punchy thyme and freshly baked village bread, a common Palestinian meal.
We walked to the nearby well. Lukewarm pure water poured out of an opening in an elaborate centuries-old masonry bearing an Arabic dedication. Beyond the masonry, a hundred-yard tunnel, work of my host’s ancestors, was cut into the face of the cliff. Palestinian springs need permanent attention; they quickly silt up unless their water course is cleaned regularly. It was the job of his son Elias to take care of the spring, but he is in an Israeli jail now, he observed matter-of-factly. Elias had brought home a Communist newspaper, somebody informed the authorities, and they offered him a choice, exile or jail. Palestinians can be detained without a trial: it is called ‘administrative detention’. Formally, it is limited to six months, but it can be extended as often as the military want. Elias preferred jail in his homeland to exile.
Envy is an ill feeling, but I envied him, this Elias from Sannur. I envied his place in this serene landscape, and his devotion to it. Why wasn’t I born in this house near the cool spring, beside the vineyard, on this goat-trodden slope? Why have I found myself locked up in an urban ghetto “for Jews only”? I am entitled to live in a similar village in Greece or Provence, but not in Palestine. And that is not because of Palestinian lack of hospitality, they would not mind my buying or renting a place in this village. But the Jewish state would not allow me, or any ‘Jew’ to live in a Palestinian village. A Jew may reside only in a segregated settlement “for Jews,” where a Palestinian can come only as a menial worker. Outside, a Jew must go armed. A tourist from abroad can walk Palestinian areas freely, but the Jewish state jails an Israeli Jew who goes there, unless he is participating in some armed intrusion.
History has come full circle: by locking Palestinians out we locked ourselves in. The very idea of Jewish emancipation was to get out of the ghetto, and now we have forced ourselves back into it. We really do not deserve this. We Israelis are less ‘Jewish’ than anybody you know. Quite a few people have demanded that we be described as ‘Israeli’ or ‘Hebrew’ in the identity cards we have to carry at all times. But the High Court has forbidden this: we have to have “Ethnicity: Jew” stamped into our documents.
Our fate was forced upon us as it was upon the Young Frankenstein of Mel Brooks. In this horror spoof, Dr Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), an American professor, descendant of the Monster’s creator, inherits his ancestral castle in werewolf-bountiful Transylvania. He is a rational modern American, but the locals expect him to continue the unpleasant traditions of the infamous Frankensteins. He tries to fight his fate, insists on being called American way, ‘Fronk-en-steen’, but the loyal family servants stubbornly stick to ‘Frank-en-schtain’.
Unwittingly, the brilliant Jewish film-maker created the fable of the Jewish state reborn. The founders wanted to begin their lives anew, to become “Israelis,” another of the tribes of Palestine. They dropped Jewish names, dropped the Jewish language, dropped the synagogue and Talmud, and learned to work the land and use the gun. They were joined by many people who never knew their way to a synagogue in the first place. But the Jewish fate descended upon them all and returned them to the ghetto.
And then we began to behave according to the Jewish fate. We treat non-Jews as animals, assassinate their leaders, kill their children by hundreds, forbid them freedom of movement and worship, refuse them employment and confiscate their land. We shoot at churches and besiege mosques. We launder stolen cash for crooks from Peru or France, export torture tools to Latin American dictators, provide refuge for Miami mafia dons. We squeeze American, German, Swiss and Polish coffers. We have the highest rate of interest, four times that of the US, and the biggest social gap in the advanced countries. In short, we fulfil every expectation of an anti-Semite. We even elected a professional goy-killer for the Prime Minister.
The train rolled through Nathania, and I thought of the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Americans, Jews and Christian Zionists, who lobby, pray, support and pay … no, not for the Jewish state, built as they imagine on the ruins of Palestine. That would be bad enough. But the reality is worse. I thought of the millions of Palestinians, rotting in refugee camps and jails, dispossessed, expelled, – victims not of Jewish greed for land, as they imagine, but of something worse: of a ghost.
The Jewish state is a virtual state that is quickly losing all remaining connection to reality. This ghost of a state kills people and collects money in America; it continues some nefarious existence, like the legal term, ‘estate of the deceased’. Its fields are worked by imported guest-workers, guarded by imported Russians and Ethiopians, explained away by the Israeli professors who forever lecture in American universities, and by brave generals on the lookout for a big kickback from American weapon-makers. Unemployment grows daily, vital services are on strike; the tourist industry has collapsed months ago. Hotels are boarded up and other branches of the national economy are close to collapse. Israelis buy flats in Florida and Prague, while houses in Israel go begging for buyers. Sharon’s desire to punish the Palestinians has the sting of punishing one’s own left hand. Palestinians and Israelis are intertwined and integrated, and their separation kills the economy of both.
From far away America, Israel looks like a giant nuclear state, the great ally of the United States, a Jewish state that is a source of pride for American Jews. A visitor leaves our shores with a strong feeling of our identity and prosperity. Only we, permanent residents, know that it is a cardboard sham. Israel is collapsing. Its active citizens emigrate in despair, even as the generals complete the destruction of the country. A cruel fate befalls the native Palestinians: a ghost kills them, that spiritless body that walks the corridors of Congress and the deserts of the Middle East in a zombie-trance.
For the sake of this spectre, important American Jews squeeze pennies from their employees and countrymen, cut down on pensions to the old and on assistance for children, reduce the health and education budgets, dry up help to Africa and Latin America, build improbable coalitions with notorious racists of the Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s kind, demand the destruction of Iraq, bless the bombing of Afghani refugees, keep Afro-Americans in their ghettos, undermine their host society, make enemies for themselves and for America. These deeds would be vile enough even if they accomplished something of value to someone, but they are worse because they are useless.
The Zionist experiment has practically collapsed. It can run for many years to come on life-support, brain-dead and vegetating. It can kill some people, maybe even start the next world war. But it cannot become alive.
The Jewish state of Israel is a state of mind, a projection of the American Jewish mind. The worries and problems it articulates are American Jewish problems. For Israeli ‘Jews’ there is no need for segregation, war, or subjugation of natives. We eat no bagels with lox, speak no Yiddish, read no Saul Bellow or Sholom Aleichem, and avoid synagogues. We prefer Arab food and Greek music. My neighbourhood has seven pork butchers to a kosher one. Forty per cent of Tel Aviv weddings are performed outside of the Jewish framework: young Israelis prefer to go to Cyprus to get married, just to avoid contact with Rabbis. Tel Aviv is the gay capital of the Middle East, though according to Jewish law, gays should be exterminated. Sometimes I wish that our great supporters, American Jews, would give us a stern and sober look and walk away in disgust. It is just a case of mistaken identity. We are not what they think we are. We need their protection against the Gentiles as much as fish needs a pair of waterproof boots.
I reach my home in Jaffa the Maritime, a dilapidated town of crumbling pink mansions built by Arab nobles and traders. My neighbours are out: the imam has gone to his small mosque, the Moroccan family next door is busy fixing old cars in the garage, the Armenian guide has taken his guests to Jerusalem. Another neighbour, a Russian painter, comes to borrow a lump of sugar. We live together, one of the few desegregated communities, in a small sliver of the land between the road and the sea, a remainder of Jaffa of old.
Salinger’s Esme would love this place of squalor. Bulldozers of the Jewish state have torn down every second house and given the town its jagged look. They have also dumped building waste on the seashore, in preparation of big real estate development. They intended to build another Maalot here, but the Intifada tension upset their plans for “Judaising” Jaffa. It has remained semi-ruined and unkempt for local people are not permitted to repair their houses.
Still, it is a good place, reminiscent of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. Drug dealers’ big Cadillacs cruise its unpaved streets; kids in long galabie dresses play at the corner; the bells of St Anthony Catholic church blend with those of St George Orthodox church and with the call of muezzin from the nearby Ajami mosque; fishermen carry their catch to the seashore restaurants for the diners from Tel Aviv; Palestinian women crack seeds and chat outside their homes; the smell of fresh falafel comes from market stalls; ten stray cats stare down a king-size rat; the French ambassador returns to his residence; a film crew shoots a Beirut scene.
Jaffa was once called the Bride of the East, and it competed with its neighbours, Beirut and Alexandria. Surrounded by fragrant orange groves, this city of one hundred thousand inhabitants boasted the first cinema in the Levant, and housed the headquarters of European companies,. Americans and Germans built their red-roofed houses on its outskirts, and in 1909, the East European Zionist Jews established Tel Aviv further to the north.
On an evil day in November 1947, the UN, under heavy pressure from the United States government, decided to divide the land we shared. It was not necessary, not even asked for. The religious Jews were against it; enlightened Jews from Germany, such as Buber and Magnus, were against it. Palestinians were against it. We could live together as brothers, and eventually create a new nation, uniting Jewish fervour and Palestinian love of the land. But American Jewish organisations supported Ben Gurion and Golda Meyer, advocates of partition. Expectedly, it did not work out well.
Three fifths of Palestine were given over to the Jewish rule, and two fifths was supposed to remain Palestinian. Even in the new Jewish state, the native Palestinians were a majority. Jaffa was supposed to remain Palestinian. It was a rough deal for Palestinians, but the new Israeli leaders thought it not rough enough. They besieged and shelled Jaffa, till its population shrank to five thousand out of the pre-war population of one hundred thousand. The rest escaped to Gaza and Lebanon, to the refugee camps where they live to this very day.
The mansions and palaces of Jaffa were repopulated by Arab refugees from the destroyed villages in the hinterland and by Bulgarians, a nice Balkan folk, imported to fill the vacuum. A small part of the city was gentrified and became the Old Jaffa, a neat and exclusive museum piece, the preferred abode of kitsch painters and antique dealers. Our Jaffa remained a lingering memory of One Palestine, Complete, the Paradise Lost. It attracted a few artists, who moved into the ruined mansions, and lived alongside the local Palestinians, sharing their hopes and sorrows.
Before the Intifada, a refugee from a Gaza camp would come to visit his lost home. It was a horrible situation, for present dwellers and for the true owners, since the owners are not allowed back. My neighbour, a nice Bulgarian lady made a noble attempt to return her house to the expelled Palestinian family, but the government did not permit it. It is hard to repay a loan, people say: you take somebody else’s money, but return your own cash. You borrow for a while, but return for good. It is even harder to return stolen goods. Still, sooner or later it has to be done. There was a good opportunity for solving the problem in 1967, when Palestine was reunited.
Many good people see the Six Day War as the “mother of all the troubles.” Without it, Jews and Palestinians would have been able to live separately, they say. But separate states will not bring the refugees back from Gaza into their homes in Jaffa, and I think it would be wonderful to see their return happening. Besides, I think it is better for us to live together – we are rather complimentary types, and person-to-person manage together very well. That is why I do not mind the 1967 conquest per se (as distinct from the occupation military regime). We could return the refugees, settle old quarrels and live together in equality, children of Palestine and newcomers. We would not be an exclusive Jewish state, but we would be happy and content people.
There was once an illusion of a choice: a Jewish state, or a democratic state. We chose neither, for we disenfranchised natives and disdained democracy, and our Jewishness is, at best, a virtual idea. If American Jews did not bribe Israelis on a large scale, we would just forget about the Diaspora and dissolve into the hospitable Middle East as another of its tribes. If they continue to bankroll us, we shall oblige them with a small show of Jewishness.
We are master-sellers of illusion, and as long as there are buyers, we shall provide the goods. In 1946 a group of dedicated men from all over the world came to Palestine under the aegis of the UN. They were sent to prepare the ground for the partition of the land. Among other places, they visited the southernmost kibbutz, Revivim in the arid Negev. There, they came upon a wonderful flowerbed of roses, anemones, and violets adorning the front of the kibbutz office. In their report, the members of the delegation expressed their amazement and declared: ‘Jews make the desert bloom, let them have the Negev’.
As they left, the kibbutz youngsters went out and pulled the now-withering flowers out of the sand. They had bought them fresh that same morning in the Jaffa market and planted them as a stage-prop for the UN visit. They had learned the trick from the Tel Aviv municipal employees, who had rammed trees into the sand next to their Mayor’s house to make a favourable impression on Winston Churchill. This small show had Negev with its two hundred thousand Palestinians transferred to the Jewish state. Most of the natives were expelled across the newly drawn border, to the camps of Gaza or Jordan. It was cruel and useless: even now, fifty years later, the Negev south of Beersheba has a smaller population than in 1948.
To replace the Palestinians, Mossad persuaded the Jewish communities of North Africa to leave their homeland for Israel. The North African Jews are a fine but broken people. They became worried for their future, as the French began to withdraw from North Africa. Only the strongest personalities made the right choice and remained with their people: Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, Libyans. They had no reason to regret it: now they are ministers and advisers to kings. Others, seduced by the great charm of French civilisation, rejected the phantom of the Jewish state and moved to France. They gave the world Jacques Derrida and Albert Memmi.
Those who moved to Israel supply 75% of its jail population. Their income is a fraction of that of European Jews. Their scientists and writers have little chance of tenure in Israeli universities. Their self-esteem is exceedingly low. It is no shame to be a Moroccan, the Israelis say, and quickly add that it is no great honour either.
The North Africans were brought in, sprayed with DDT lice-killer and placed into refugee camps that soon became the towns of Netivot, Dimona, Yerucham. They are still there, in the stark desert outpost towns full of unemployment and misery, drawing social benefits and nursing a deep dislike of the Ashkenazi Jews who lounge in Tel Aviv’s cafes. Some Oriental Jews came to the conclusion that the Holocaust was a fit punishment for the hated AshkeNazi, as they spell it. Israel is probably the only place on earth where you are liable to hear, “it’s a pity you didn’t burn in Auschwitz.” Even the great Sephardic luminary Rabbi Obadiah Joseph recently explained the Holocaust in terms of the European Jews’ sins.
A somewhat confusing slogan, “AshkeNazis to Auschwitz,” adorned my Russian friend’s Jerusalem house for quite a while. He complained to police but received no response. The lowest positions in the police force are occupied mainly by Oriental Jews, and they have no time for Russians’ complaints. They were once in the position of the Russians, but they have been de-developed even more thoroughly.
Whenever an Oriental Jew moves upwards, the system arranges his downfall. Popular Oriental politicians who could possibly threaten the Ashkenazi elite’s dominance find themselves in jail. Arye Der’i, a brilliant Moroccan minister who brought his party from none to seventeen seats in the 120-strong parliament, is still in jail after a ten-year-long police surveillance produced some doubtful charges against him. His predecessor Aharon Abu Hatzera, son of a Moroccan Jewish sainted Rabbi and minister, was sent to jail for financial irregularities, that are quite ordinary in our Middle Eastern country. Powerful Iraqi publisher Ofer Nimrodi spent over a year in prison before his trial, but was quickly released afterwards, when the charges against him collapsed. Yitzhak Mordecai, a Kurdish Minister of Defence with an eye on the Prime Minister’s post, was set up as a sexual abuser. The Moroccan Professor and Minister Shlomo Ben Ami was made a fall-guy for Sharon’s infamous Progress to Temple Mount.
While the Oriental Jews are unhappy, the kibbutz is not managing too well either. Ari Shavit of Haaretz published a beautiful reportage on Negba, the famous and well-established kibbutz in the Negev. It has been a long time since that kibbutz was able to celebrate the birth of a child. The kibbutzim Negba and Ruhama have become old folks’ homes, while their youth long gone to Los Angeles.
Thus the conjuring tricks of Revivim, the conquest of Negev, the expulsion of the Palestinians and the destruction of the Moroccan Jewish community succeeded separately, but ultimately failed altogether. It could be expected: evil and immoral deeds cannot bear good fruit. Zionist leaders dreamed of making Palestine as Jewish as England is English. They failed. Palestine is as Jewish as Jamaica is English.
We children of Jews have a great luxury of choice. An Italian is an Italian; Italian is his language, his culture, his faith, his tradition, his art and his landscapes. He cannot be separated from Dante and Giotto, from Tuscan villages and Madonna, from pasta and Venice. Being a Jew is a matter of choice. An Italian Jew can become an Italian. An American Jew can be just an American. Not many descendants of Jews practice our old religion; even fewer speak Hebrew or other Jewish languages. The majority have parted with the traditional Jewish ways of making a living.
Personal choice remains in the hands of each individual. A rich and powerful American of Jewish origin may feel about his Jewishness as he feels about any other hobby. Maybe he collects stamps, or plays golf, but he probably would not create a Philatelist State on the ruins of Monaco (this Principality prints beautiful stamps), or endow his golf club with the newest F-16. If American Jews would forget about us for ten years, we would sort out our problems and reach a new natural equilibrium in Palestine. If they have too much money and desire to influence, let them spend it on improving the lot of their Afro-American neighbours.
They actually did it before the advent of Zionism. A Chicago businessman Julius Rosenwald, the owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co., supported schooling for Afro-Americans in 1920s to the tune of $2 million a year. (A Zionist emissary complained: “It’s hard for us to accept the idea that one of ours gives his money to backward niggers”.) This tradition could be restored. It is said, charity begins at home, and their home is America.
The land of Palestine is being ruined now, in front of our very eyes. Its beautiful old villages are bombed to oblivion; churches are emptied of their flocks; olive trees are uprooted. Such ruin has not befallen the land since the Assyrian invasion 2700 years ago. Nothing can comfort us in the face of this great destruction. Certainly, the people responsible for it – whether Israeli killers or their American supporters – will be damned forever.
Still, a wry irony of history will remain as a footnote in the books: the Jewish leadership committed these crimes in vain, and failed to achieve its purpose. Even if the last Palestinian were to be crucified on the hill of Golgotha, even that would not breathe life into the virtual Jewish state of Israel.