On Blindness by gilad atzmon


Today, knowing that the vast majority of Israelis support the ethnic
cleansing of the Palestinian population; that most Israelis support
Sharon's latest genocide of innocent Palestinians; that the "Jewish
state" is the first "democracy" to conduct an ethnic cleansing within
its borders; that 100,000 French Jews have gone out into the streets of
Paris to show their support for Sharon, we should ask ourselves what is
Zionism? What is modern Judaism is all about?

As I grew up into the victorious world that was the wake of the Six Day
War, I came, together with my peers, to believe that we would never
again be led like lambs to the slaughter. We knew for certain that we,
the "children of the revival", would fight back. We learned that the new
Jew would shoot his Uzi gun from the hip. In those days the person
holding the gun still wore a marines red beret. In time the beret turned
into a settler's skullcap. We were young then and all wanted to shout
"Forward! Attack!" We wanted to capture enemy bunkers, to enter the "Old
City" of Jerusalem through the "Zion Gate" and to weep before the stones
of the Wailing Wall. In our poetic world there were no Arabs, only a
herd of losers, who as they ran for their lives left their shoes behind,
orphans in the desert. We saw pictures with lots of sand and many shoes.
In our narrow world there was no room for Palestinians. We
systematically denied the Palestinian's holocaust (the Nakba), it was
outside our curriculum. It had no place in our history books. I clearly
remember that our then prime minister (Golda Meir) would not even
acknowledge their existence. As far as we were concerned there were no
Palestinians, just a tribe of wicked sinners, bipeds who specialized in
killing Israeli sportsmen overseas. Not once did we wonder what the root
of this hatred was. Not for a moment did we ask whether our hands were
clean. We were Hebrew youths so we were killed because we were Jews. We
learnt that there is something about being a Jew that inspires blind
hatred, hostility, anger and generally irritation. We also learnt what
is apparently so annoying about our very existence. We are clever, we
excel in money matters, we pursue peace, and in general we are the
embodiment of righteousness. It is only natural to hate the truly
righteous, to be jealous of their wisdom and their hopeless pursuit of
justice and peace.

The concept of the Hebrew "I" was also simple: I pursue peace and am
truly righteous and in spite of all this they still want to kill me.
Therefore I must strike first. The Hebrew "I" kills only when "there is
no alternative." I remember those mornings when my father would wake me
with stories of our brave soldiers who had carried out a raid across
enemy lines and had killed because they had "no choice". In those rosy
dawns I was very proud of my origins. I dreamt that I too would one day
kill because I had "no other option." Today, with hindsight, in
self-imposed exile, I look back and search for the secret of my youthful
pride. In doing so, I discover the roots of Jewish identity. Studying
the structure of the narrow mindedness in which I grew up the identity
that led us to such a primal blindness becomes clearer. The blindness
that leads people to their deaths like lambs to the slaughter. The
blindness that leads people to commit crimes against humanity.

Who is a Jew? Or alternatively, what is a Jew? What are the roots of the
identity that became the pillar of fire. The pillar that shows the way
and leads the Jewish people towards Zionist redemption. What is the
structure of this redemption that finally formed such an impossible
Israeli murderous identity? I have come to the conclusion that the new
Jewish identity, the one created after the emancipation of European
Jewry, is a strange and unique mixture of three fundamental components.
These components lead to a distorted and doomed superiority complex.
Each one of the components is sufficient in itself to cause a major
disaster. But my luckless brethren, just because they are born into this
strange Jewish identity, find themselves battered by all three
infuriating and incongruous components. These components give birth to
an identity that does not march in step with the idea of humanity.

The three elements are clearly definable: first the nationalist, second
the religious, and third the racial. Unfortunately it appears that since
the end of the 19th century, if a man perceives himself as Jewish he is
obliged to relate to these three elements by either accepting or
rejecting them. The first Zionists, for example, believed that a Hebrew
identity could be established on a nationalist-racist basis while
disregarding the religious aspect (referring mainly to Z.Jabotisky and
the revisionists school). The non-Zionist, ultra-orthodox sector adopts
a religious and racist identity while rejecting the nationalist aspect.
Some radical groups within that sector even reject the racist
characteristic; for them, being Jewish is just about practicing the
religious laws. The religious-nationalist right wing sees itself as
committed to all three components: religion, racism and, of course,
nationalism. That is why the nationalist right wing can be seen as the
fulfillment of the reborn Hebrew and Jewish experience in all its
aspects. The whole Zionist movement is a continuous shift to the right.
The Israeli left, on the other hand, is not anchored in any Jewish
reality whatsoever. Leftwing ideology is supposed to oppose religious
fundamentalism, it rejects racism and advocates multi-nationalism. Since
Zionist regard Israel as the home of the Jewish people, and Jews,
according to Zionists, are an ethnic group with a very precise racial
identity, religious belief and colonial nationalistic aspirations,
Zionism and leftwing ideologies are in conditional unresolved
contradiction. The Jewish left has now become entangled in internal
self-denial and has disintegrated into its various elements.

Any stream of Jewish thought, which sees itself as part of the new
Jewish world, must clearly define its position with regard to these
three elements. If we examine these aspects carefully we will see that
they lead to an elitist self-image fraught with destruction. Nowadays,
after more than hundred years of Zionist colonialism supported by Jews
all over the world, after more than fifty years of severe Israeli
oppression of its Arab population, when Zionism introduces the world
with a new threat of global conflict, we must scrutinize those three
main ingredients of the new Jewish identity:

Jewish nationalist superiority holds every other nation on this planet
in contempt. "It doesn't matter what the Gentiles say; what is important
is what the Jews do," said Ben Gurion , belittling the western nations
who criticized his militant, racist policy. Israeli history teaches us
that Jewish nationalism is at the basis of the Hebrew repudiation of
other nations in general and the Palestinian nation in particular. This
kind of arrogance can easily explain the complete Israeli denial of the
American president's and the UN Security Council's urgent call for
"immediate withdraw from the Palestinian occupied territories". The
Jewish nationalism allocates Israel above all nations.

Religious superiority provides the Jews with the justification for
redemption of the land of Zion. Religious superiority draws its strength
from an insular interpretation of Jewish source books. We can say that
it is the prime justification for the messianic belief in the redemption
of the people of Israel. All this is based on the assumption that the
Jewish religion is the leading religion, more important than other
religions. Because if this were not the case, what primal right would
the Jewish people have to their land. The Jew, at least in his own eyes,
does not have to give any logical or legally binding justification for
"the right of the people of Israel to their land." This right, which
actually has no legal validity, gets its strength from Israel's
perceived religious superiority both in relation to any other religion
but also in relation to any other legal system. According to the Jewish
religion: "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the
Lord from Jerusalem."

The Jews know better than any other ethnic group, to what extent racial
superiority stands in contradiction to every human imperative. Jews were
slaughtered in their masses because of race laws, and in spite of all
that, not long after the creation of a Jewish state, racist laws like
the "law of return" and the "absentee resident" law were established on
racial prejudices in order to stop Palestinian refugees from returning
to their home. Although Israelis and Jews all over the world were aware
of how patently immoral these laws were, the Israeli parliament has done
nothing yet to change this perverse situation. And, judging by the way
things are going, it appears that nothing will be done. On the contrary,
there are more and more Israeli adherents to the idea of racial
cleansing. Moreover, many members in the current Israeli cabinet openly
advocate ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. The latest Israeli
atrocities in Palestinian cities prove that racial oppression and ethnic
cleansing is in action already.

Following the latest news from the Holy Land it is clear that Israel
arrogance and ignorance is coupled with a strong conviction of deep
superiority. Since the new Jew regards himself as a type of superman, we
can claim that the blindness is nothing but a pathological reaction. The
superman is a loner, has no brothers; he is an orphan, not part of the
larger family of man. The pain of the Other doesn't evoke empathy in
him. Quite the contrary, for him the pain and the tragedy of the Other
is like a window of opportunity, A chance to gain political or material
profit. The superman does not see humanism as a fundamental quality in
itself. For him, humanism is a very fluid and marketable commodity, a
political and economic tool. For instance, the Israeli superman will be
the first to send rescue forces to the most remote places on our planet
but at the same time they can turn Palestinian towns such as Jenin and
Nablus into piles of rubble. The Israeli superman will send cargo plains
full with medical aid as far as Rwanda but will stop the red-cross from
evacuating innocent Arab civilians dying in the street of Jenin, just
twenty minutes from Tel Aviv. I would clearly claim that such behavior
points like thousand witness on the superman's opportunist and corrupted

But, sadly the superman, since he has no brothers, and since he feels no
empathy for the "Other," is also not aware of his own feelings. In order
to learn about yourself you must examine the world around you. To
understand the notion of pain you have to experience the pain in the
face of whoever stands opposite you. So the concepts of empathy is not
part of the Jewish cultural experience. The new Jew demands empathy, he
demands to be the ultimate victim, but is very sparing, even miserly,
when asked to give his compassion. The superman is a cold and
calculating person. His morality is reduced to aggressive pragmatism. He
converts pain into bloody retaliation. The superman avoids looking at
himself through the eyes of the other. Therefore he is blind. He is
blind to the woes of others even when he himself is the one directly
responsible. But the superman is also blind to his own fate. He tends to
believe that "it cannot get any worse," and when proven wrong he says,
"we have survived Pharaoh, we will survive this too." In this way he
lets himself off the hook while rolling down the slope to the gates of hell.

I can say about myself that I grew up into this blindness but, rather
miraculously, managed to escape from it. In recent years I have tried to
ask if it is possible at all for my people to wake from this
intoxicating deep sleep of self-deception. Are they capable of seeing
that they are going to their ruin? How can one penetrate the fortified
wall of their narcissistic superiority? How can my people find their way
back to humanity? How can they learn what regret is? How can people
learn not to be unconditionally righteous? How can they learn to turn
the other cheek? How can they wake from this pathological blindness if
they cannot even see the misery they impose on their close neighbors?

These are the central questions in my life and it seems the only answer
I can come up with is simple rejection, nothing less than the complete
denial of the new Jewish identity. It requires the repudiation of this
Jewish identity, but not, heaven forbid, the Jewish religion. All these
uncompromising perceptions of superiority must be discarded immediately.
The perception of religious superiority must be dumped. We must go back
to viewing the Jewish religion as a belief system and an intimate,
personal way of life. We must learn to regard religion as a relationship
between man and his creator. We must shatter immediately any trace of
racism and racial connection in Judaism. If this is not the case, then
the new Jew has no moral advantage over any other racist ideology.

More than anything else Jewish nationalism must be abandoned. Contrary
to the accepted Zionist belief that it is possible to solve the
existential problems of the Jewish people in a political, statesmanlike
way, Israel proves that Jewish state is an impossible concept. Moreover,
Jewish blindness appears to be a metaphysical failing and a direct
implication of the contemporary Jewish supremacy obsession. These days
when watching the humanitarian crisis created by the Jewish state in
Palestine it must be clear that a Jewish state is an unacceptable option
and an impossible solution for the Jewish nationalistic aspirations.
Israel has managed to prove that Jewish nationalism is based on the
denial of everything that is not Jewish. With deep concern and great
care, we must find a way help the Jew out of his sightlessness and bring
him back into the family of man, one must give him the tools to look the
Other in the face. He must learn how to listen to the Gentile. He must
learn how to accept criticism from the Gentile. Contrary to Ben Gurion's
and Sharon's doctrine, Jews must understand that it really is important
to listen to what the Gentiles say, as important at least as what the
Jews do. We must make sure that Jews learn to listen and internalize
through empathy. It is important that Israelis listen to the claims
being made by the Palestinian people. It is important that Jews learn
what the "Nakba" is. It is important for Israelis to look in the mirror.
It is important for them to look into the face of Abed, Ahmad and
Mustapha, and not only through the sights of a gun.

Is all this possible in the framework of the renewed Jewish experience?
Is it possible in the framework of the Israeli experience? Definitely
not! The only way out of this blindness is emigration - physical and
mental emigration from this elitist system; large-scale abandonment of
the new Jew's centromorphic approach.