Simone Zimmerman, a Brooklyn-based blogger who contributes to Haaretz has written an important article on the disaffection of young diaspora Jews over Israel. Haaretz daily runs critical articles never to appear in Canadian papers. She begins:
The anxiety in the American Jewish establishment over “what is happening to our young people” is reaching a fever pitch of absurdity, as communal leaders and spokespeople frantically try to remedy the symptoms while refusing to acknowledge the true root of the problem: We’re not disengaging from Israel, in fact we’re paying attention to what’s happening in Israel – and we are angry. The latest edition in this ongoing category error is Ari Shavit’s epiphany (‘Only a ‘Jewish Peace Corps’ Can Save Zionism From Its Millennial Crisis’) that, to save the Jewish future and Israel’s public image, we need a “Jewish Peace Corps” which would be “a joint venture between Israel and the Diaspora,” that will engage young people in “universal do-gooding,” from Yerucham to Rahat to Ferguson. Shavit dreams for the day that Israel will be identified with human rights and “the effort to make the world a better place,” instead of with, “occupation, oppression, settlements, fanaticism and reactionary-ism.”
Shavit is the darling today of liberal Zionists but to anybody who has read his book My Promised Land he badly misses the mark. He utterly fails Judaic values and replaces them with Zionism. He justifies the creation of Israel at the expense of ethnically cleansed Palestinians. This was Zionism’s“original sin” and intent from the beginning. This can not square with ethical demands of Judaism and the prophetic cry for justice.
In a review of his dishonest book Norman Finkelstein asks the fundamental question: what indeed is Jewish about Israel? The Hebrew language. Not good enough. Jews speak many languages. Shavit admits that his Hebrew identity “detached Israelis from the Diaspora, it cut off their Jewish roots, and it left them with no tradition or cultural continuity…. Lost were the depths and riches of the Jewish soul.”
Finkelstein lampoons the secular “Jewish” culture Shavit prizes.
He devotes a cheesy chapter of Time Out-like prose to boasting of Israel’s torrid nightlife (“The word is out that Tel Aviv is hot. Very hot”) and no-holds-barred gay life (“the straights now envy the gays,” “it’s the gays who are leading now”), the anthem of which is, “Forget the Zionist crap. Forget the Jewish bullshit. It’s party time all the time.” His book’s only points of comparative reference and ranking are the fashionable districts of Western metropolises: “Tel Aviv is now no less exciting than New York.”
The sad conclusion for Shavit is distilled through the secular values he prizes, Israel is also just another narcissistic Western consumer society. Indeed, consider Shavit’s own description of the “typical Jewish Israeli city of the third millennium”:
[T]he real Israel is…a shopping mall: cheap, loud, intense and lively…. West Rishon is all about its malls. Consumption is its beating heart. I walk into Cinema City, a gaudy temple of twenty-six theater.
Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors and possibly the most prolific exposer of Israel’s crimes, a researcher non pareil ( coming to Toronto March 23) writes:
The fact is, there is no “ultimate argument” for Zionism, let alone one that justifies ethnic cleansing. Zionist ideology originally possessed a superficial plausibility. A century later, it lies in tatters, nowhere more so than in the pages of Shavit’s book.
And beautiful young Jews like Simone Zimmerman are calling out the hypocrisy and blindness of pseudo-heroes like Ari Shavit and the deaf mutes in the Jewish establishment in the diaspora.
Here is Simone Zimmerman’s challenge:
Shavit blames the Israeli government because it, “refuses to understand and internalize,” the crisis among Jewish millennials. Yet, it is Shavit himself, and every Jewish establishment leader peddling similar arguments, who refuse to understand and internalize this crisis. My peers and I don’t need any more multi-million dollar ventures to save us. What we need is for the community to wake up. What we need is for the community to stop willfully blinding itself to the disastrous reality of holding millions of Palestinians under military occupation. We need the community to stop justifying policies that deny Palestinians the ability to move freely, to sleep safely in their homes without the fear of a military raid, to access water and resources, to live without terror that their homes could be bombed to rubble, and to protest the unjust conditions of their lives nonviolently. None of these policies are moral, and none of these policies make Jews safer. Moreover, we need the community to stop policing and demonizing those of us who say these truths in public and are fighting for change. We need the community to stop holing itself up behind walls and tanks and guns, as well as behind redlines and standards of partnership.