Revolutionary Mythology

Shiri Raphaely is an American-Israeli currently living in Israel and working in the human rights field with the Mossawa Center and Friends of the Earth, Middle East. She co-writes on where a version of this article originally appeared.
I think I may have lied to someone.
After speaking at a a conference in Spain, I got heckled for the first time in my life by a Palestinian refugee from Nablus who left at the age of 20 over 30 years ago. “Why do Jews and the US and Israel remember the Holocaust and not the Nakba?!” he said. “If you’re American and Israeli, tell me why America and Israel do the horrible things they do?!” I avoided his questions — I’m not the government, I told him, there’s a difference between the government and the people.
I tried to understand why he said this to me-I was the first Israeli he ever had the opportunity to ask these questions that have touched his life in a way he has not been able to move past even after living in Spain for the last 30 years.
But the next day, when he said that he and I could never find common ground and there was no point in working for peace because Israel, and Israelis wouldn’t change, I needed so badly for that not to be true that I may have lied:
I told him that if I agreed with him, then there was no point in what I was doing. And that even though it seems like Israeli society and “leadership” are only getting more conservative, racist and ethno-nationalist – I have to believe that slowly people are catching on and at some point will confront the question of Jewish nationalist vs. democratic and choose democracy and human rights over isolationism and conflict. Things are getting worse for liberal citizens of Israel, and maybe, just before things get too bad, there will suddenly be a rising call for deep change.
Is this true? Or am I lying to myself? Is this too much faith in Israelis and people in general?
A while ago, when it seemed slightly more relevant, I started writing a post calling for revolution in Israel. I then decided I was being silly but tonight, I would like to go back to that irrational, idealistic and perhaps necessary call for revolution.
Wikipedia says revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.
So being that I think we don’t have much time in Israel/Palestine before an unfortunate “revolution” occurs on its own in a bloody and horrible way, and in order to avoid this, there must be a deep, fundamental, political and social shift: viva la revolución.
Around my house there is some mainstream political campaign ads. The poster said: “Netanyahu is destroying the country- Kadima” If a mainstream, centrist political party supports the idea that the current prime minister and coalition are DESTROYING the country… then maybe we should start going off this very beaten path? Particularly
because in Israel, an existential threat is not one to be used lightly.
From the conversations I’ve had, most people realize that some pretty serious things need to change for the sustainability of the country called Israel. Occupation for example. Racism? It’s no secret. “We live in a racist country! We know it’s not good but…” What about too many non-Jewish foreign workers? Guess that doesn’t go well with Jewish State, so why don’t we deport their Israeli raised children, who speak and read Hebrew, attend school here and who would be encouraged to stay if only they were Jewish.
And then there are things that seem most people just choose not to know not to know even when it’s right in front of them. Like Arab citizens inside of Israel living in walled neighborhoods.  And what? Rabbis are saying that we can’t rent homes to Arabs? Yesterday two more discriminatory laws passed in the Knesset: One that prevents public funding from any entity that commemorates the Nakba, and another which allows small communities in the
Negev to screen potential residents for their compatibility to the community.
In the last week we in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories have seen some incredibly tragic events. The murders in Itamar, the rocket and mortar fire on Gaza, Qassam’s and mortars hitting Be’er Sheva , a bomb exploding by central bus stops in Jerusalem – all resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians. In response, it seems that Israel may enter what will be a tragic cycle of violence.
How can I tell someone that I still have reason to be positive when this is the norm?
Discrimination and overt brutality and violence are not secret. They are thankfully being protested and condemned by small sectors of the population on all sides. But, they are being ignored, I think, by the majority. Sadly because, as many have told me, we’re going to die anyways. Or it’s just not worth it. Or, they just want to lead a normal life. And why not?
Why not? Because change is in the air throughout this region, and it’s not too late for Israel to follow in the same vein. I want to go back to that man in Spain and tell him that I didn’t lie to him or myself. Instead of being afraid of our Arab neighbors, instead of crumpling under threats of violence, let’s for once become a part of the region that we call home and be inspired by people who have shown limitless tenacity, decided enough is enough, and have risked their security to fight for human dignity.

6 thoughts on “Revolutionary Mythology

  1. I am happy to report that all of the buddies over here at Midthought are getting along swimmingly. Being that two of us currently live in Israel, we buy Israeli products regularly. We also make friends with Palestinians AND Israelis (and sometimes more-than friends). Normalization say what?
    Amazing post, Shiri, as usual!

  2. ISRAEL IS NO RIGHT EVERY SINGLE TIME HOWEVER JEWS IN ISRAEL MUST ACCEPT THE FACT THAT THEY ARE UNDER FIRE AND MUST DO THE DIRTY WORK TO DEFEND THEMSELVES.throughout history,jews paid others to love them like them accept them defend them.Nowadays jews pay no one to invite them to the party or to defend them.After 2000 years paying others ,jews maybe lost the ability to accept the idea that sometimes you have to kill someone who wants to kill you to defend yourself.Weve maybe evolved to think that force is bad and if we use it we are wrong and racist.
    Id tell you that theres nothing wrong with defending yourself.Jews neednt feel a sense of guilt in doing it only when it is needed.Do it right.Dont do it out of revenge. Do it to eliminate the person who wants to kill you cause your a jew.Feel guilt if you kill innocent pple to take their land but feel blesses if it is agianst pple involved in killing you or adding to that finality.

  3. @Lili: Foiled again by the sisterhood! Curses!
    Still wondering about FOEME though. It’s an excellent test case.

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