Culture, Israel, Justice

Uncovering Histories and Zochrot

The 4th of July has forever been one of those occasions where I wish we could just take giant X-rays of this place, this country – turn the layers inside out, uncover its history. What did this street used to be named? Over whose home was this highway built? From whom was this neighborhood stolen? And at whose expense was this city, this country built? Literally looking at those x-rays might be the most potent way to understand the many fraught and disturbing answers to those questions.
While this is certainly not the same as talking about similar history-layer-uncovering work being done in Israel/Palestine, it still feels connected to me – and I thought that posting about it would be an opportunity to engage some of the comments on my last post (particularly, the questions about what it really means to be an anti-Zionist, which I appreciate, and hope I can continue to address in coming posts). So in that light, I want to mention the work of Zochrot – a group whose goal is just this kind of uncovering, of reminding. As an anti-Imperialist US citizen, and as an anti-Zionist Jew, it’s important to me to be a part of making visible the history that governments, history books and popular discourse try so desperately to erase – both here, in the U.S., and internationally – and this is central to Zochrot’s work.
For me, one big part of being an anti-Zionist is to remember – and to bring into public conversation as much as possible– that what’s happening in Gaza and across Palestinian communities today started the moment the state of Israel was founded. While it is widely accepted to talk in our Jewish communities about 1967 being the year that marks the beginning of Israeli occupation of and military violence against Palestinians, it’s so important to remember that 1948 was the year that more than 500 Palestinian villages were depopulated and/or destroyed, and 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands, communities, and homes, so that a Jewish-majority state could be created.. Israel’s continued violence against and repression of Palestinian communities today is a continuation of the project of 1948 – a Jewish majority state at the ongoing expense of another people.
Zochrot does an excellent job of uncovering the history of the place we call Israel that is so rarely publicized or talked about. They bring tourists and locals to see where Palestinian villages used to stand, what streets used to be named, and what that map of Israel that some of us know like the backs of our hands used to look like. This is a vitally important and creative way to help insure that this history stays a part of the conversation – the colonization of Palestinian land did not start with sieges or with settlements, but with the vision for a Jewish majority state that initially drove them out in 1948. And talking about, staying rooted in this history, and in the ongoing fact that ethnic cleansing is not a Jewish value – for me, this is one big part of what anti-Zionism is about.

9 thoughts on “Uncovering Histories and Zochrot

  1. Maybe you mentioned this in your last post, but I didn’t remember: is your anti-Zionism a matter of principle (i.e. any physical manifestation of Zionism would be unacceptable to you) or is it a matter of the particular issues associated with this particular Israel (occupation, etc)? What I mean is, imagine that the founding of Israel and subsequent events had taken place in a different way; would that ameliorate your anti-Zionism?

  2. You seem to come to some kind of conclusion based on logic I assume. As a consistent minority viewpoint among the Jewish people, perhaps you, as well as your anti-Zionist predecessors, have been hedging your physical &/or moral investments while looking forward to the eventual destruction of Jewish dreams and hopes so that one day your last words before facing death might be Hear O Israel…I told you so!
    Its interesting to see how you transcribe these same moral assumptions about the founding generation of the modern State of Israel to the American enterprise of manifest destiny. Its as though you look to the east and say they went that way, then look to the west and say they went that way, then look at yourself and say I have not moved and because I am still here I went the right way(meanwhile ignoring 6 million lives that stayed in one place). Either way, any kind of expansion is tantamount to heresy in your world view, which is the same type of attitude which caused parents to foolishly force their children onto Nazi trains after foolishly denying them the option of joining cousins in Eretz Israel or even Argentina before 1938.
    If you are a Jew, you have no right to be Anti-Zionist. You have no right to deny another Jew his freedom. You have no right to invoke Hashem’s blessings in favor of those who conspire to murder our young and old. You have a responsibility to love your own people in order to show humanity what it means to love unconditionally and perhaps save the earth by doing so. With the same amount of pride that you flout your anti-Zionism and the fact that you are Jewish you wave your American citizenship and the fact that you are Anti-Imperialist. All of the above labels with the exception of Jew are meaningless pieces of yellowed paper in the eyes of the Lord you are commanded to pray to. None of those labels would have excluded you from a horrible fate in 1938, and the only place in 2008 where the label Jew offers you protection is in… you guessed it- “the place we call Israel”! That’s we- the Jewish people.

  3. Following up the previous question by Miri:
    Seems that the issue is:
    As long as Jews would just live in this land as a minority and not create a Jewish-majority state all would be fine.
    Well, actually that is real anti-Zionism.
    He is in good company — that is with Neturei Karta.

  4. formermuslim:
    If the writer were to go live on the moon, he/she would be stealing land from people. By treaty, the land on the moon belongs to the collective people of earth.
    Not only would the writer be stealing from the Palestinians, he/she would be stealing from every earthling!
    I find it ironic reading this post that Israel’s declaration of independence specifically requests the Arabs stand with them to build the new country. Either the Zionists were liars or the author has a warped understanding of history.

  5. Hi temim…I just want to send you a big yasher koach on your writing. I’m sure you know this, but there are other anti-Zionist Jews who are reading Jewschool. My anti-Zionism often keeps me feeling marginalized in Jewish spaces and it’s empowering for me to see expressions of Jewish politics that I can relate to. Creating safe Jewish spaces for anti-Zionist is not the primary end of my own politics (though it’s one I’m engaged in)…pursuing justice–real justice–for both Palestinians and Israelis is how I envision that end. But it makes it easier for me to take a stand when I see folks like you doing so…so thanks!

  6. For me, one big part of being an anti-Zionist is to remember – and to bring into public conversation as much as possible– that what’s happening in Gaza and across Palestinian communities today started the moment the state of Israel was founded.
    How do you figure? A real anti-Zionist ideology means opposition to the existence of the State of Israel regardless of whether it’s doing anything you find objectionable, i.e. even if Israel weren’t oppressing the Palestinians. Criticizing the past and present actions of the State of Israel is not, in itself, anti-Zionist.

  7. One big mistake: saying that the early zionists were dreaming exclusively of a Jewish majority state coupled with sovereignty. Actually, the history is more complicated.
    One hundred years ago, the model for colonization involved a small minority of Europeans working the land by overseeing native labor. Israel has quite a few historical ‘moshavot’ established for this person. Every have Rothschild wine? It might well have come from grapes raised on such a historic moshava. Hertzl himself was quite open about the civilizing mission that Jews might play in the Arab east.
    In other words, not a state of by and for the Jews, but an agent of European civilization taking on a sliver of the white man’s burden.
    But not all agreed; Ahad Ha’am wanted Jews to make of eretz yisrael a cultural capital, an oasis of what Judaism and the Jewish people could be judged on parameters of science, literature, art, and religion. Sure, his brand lost out in the end to more politically astute folks, but it survives to this day. He is taught to every Israeli high schooler.
    I guess I’m an anti-Zionist as well, but not because I oppose the existence of the state of Israel. Actually, I’m tolerant of it’s existence, flaws and all; it’s the ideology I oppose. The idea that a state-centric notion of peoplehood should dominate the other notions of Jewishness that existed before. Zionism is the capitulation of the Jewish people to European notions of race, empire, and power. How awful! Were Israel purely a survival project, divorced from religious or ideological pretensions, it would not be so obscene.
    But then, that has never been true. It’s well documented that Ben Gurion actively prevented the rescue of some European Jews that he called ‘avak adam’ or ‘human dust’ that he judged as not fitting with the Zionist ideal of the New Jew.
    This ideal, of the New Jew that Zionism championed, carries within it another idea, which rarely has the spotlight: the death of the ‘Old Jew.’ Zionism is to the world of Jewish ideas and ideals as Nazism was to our physical survival. They are born of the same central European fabric. Explaining perhaps, why when Hitler shut down the organs of German Jewry, he allowed the Zionists to continue to operate….
    A friend of mine is exploring the connections of Zionists to eugenics. It would be good for our people if one day Zionism was as far from our minds as eugenics is today.

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