One Jew’s Hard Awakening
By Phil Rockstroh
Although my mother fled Nazi Germany, as a child, on a Kindertransport, with a few family valuables sown into her clothing, and I was brought up on the myths and hagiography of the Zionist state, I, over time, came to recognize the folly of the whole colonialist enterprise — the folly of ethnic exclusion and expulsion, the inherent tragedy of nationalism based on the delusion of religious birthright. With much sorrow, I came to the sad realization that the dream of the State of Israel was based on European chauvinism and exceptionalism. This reckoning has been a difficult one for me to bear — the hardest awakening of my adult life.
My father was born on a Reservation in the American mid-west. His people, like the Palestinians, resisted invaders of European ancestry and were crushed. At present, both peoples remain exiled and caged in their native land.
The Jewish side of myself understands the historical traumas that gave rise to the yearning for a tribal Homeland. Atavistically, I suffer the Jewish state’s collective night terrors and reel in its daylight rationalizations for its brutalities. But the Native American in me knows the rage of those crushed by the heartless force of an invading people.
Neither my father’s peoples’ bows and arrows nor the “threat” of metal rods, clutched by a few activists aboard the illegally seized Gaza-bound Peace Flotilla, nor Hamas’ small rockets will change the tragic trajectory wrought by a tribalist land grab. History reveals a conquered and caged people will starve, in both body and soul, as they watch their hopes wither to dust. But I will not condemn them for their struggle, and even their “provocations” — dangerous and outrageous provocations … such as the desire not to live out their lives behind ghetto walls, and the actions they take accordingly. (Even though, a provocation will never soften the banal mind of a bully to end his reign of brutality.)
To this day, within me, there are traits of cultural Judaism that have not been washed away in the deluge of shame I experience when confronted by the actions of the state of Israel and the casuistry of her apologists. Deep in my genetic structure, I carry tribal memories of Diaspora and its concomitant feelings of alienation from majoritarian culture. Most often, I still apprehend human existence from the perspective of an alien and interloper, believing my survival is dependent upon knowing where I stand in hostile terrain. By rote, I play the role of the outsider, wary and savvy in my dealings with a hostile gentile world.
In this, I understand the paranoid nature of the Jewish state and the reasons underlying her supporters’ rationalizations of her many crimes. Self-deception is at the root of habitual deceit. Sadly, the true believers of the Zionist cause have become case studies in that tragic trait.
The archetype of the eternal outsider and his involuntary wandering still resonates within me. In this manner, I feel kinship with my urban Ashkenazi/Sephardim ancestors … those who knew a just society, structured on social justice and civil equity, was the Jewish minority’s best hope for living in safety among a gentile majority — not this narrative of grandiosity and exceptionalism one hears muttered by bearded boneheads (and other Bronze Age cultural throwbacks) at the Wailing Wall and posited on the editorial pages of the Jerusalem Post.
By stealing those parcels of arid acreage in the Middle East, Zionists will match generations of hostile Goyim in the harm they level upon future Jewry: By having chosen mindless might over justice and fairness, they have bestowed a wasteland upon the human hearts of their descendants.
Every human being is born, powerless and vulnerable, into a world they did not create. Ergo, for the awakening heart of the young, it can be a barren land, a dreamscape of ghosts, built by the bony hands of the dead … their mouldering myths carrying the cold of the grave not the eros of the breathing moment. Ghosts such as these curse at the present with the imprecatory psalms implicit in the foundation of the Zionist state — and, as the nation’s history unfurled, became explicit in her policies. Israel’s collective brutalities are the blind thrashings of traumatized souls who, in their agonies, wound all near them.
Such forces of toxic, displaced vehemence can uncouple us from our humanity, warping libido into murderous intent, reducing meaningful endeavor to selfish striving, and twisting our exuberance into zealotry, thereby achieving a form of ass-backward alchemy by transforming living human beings into resentful shades — those seemingly no longer here … reacting rather than responding, reciting propaganda as opposed to seeking meaning, squandering the golden, eternal moment before us by transmuting it into leaden habituations of the mind. For all appearances becoming a ghost, haunting the moments of one’s own life — non-responsive, sans retrograde resentment, to the élan vital of the world — dead, but for the redundancy of one’s breathing.
In this way, the spirit of a culture can become a mob of resentful, vicious ghosts. With ghosts, the context of their suffering is misplaced. They cannot haunt those who gave them injury. Their tormentors are long dead as well. The raging spirits of the Zionist state can no longer locate the historical oppressors of the Jewish people, for they have long since been conscripted to dust. Hence, the adherents of Zionism reap vengeance against those living souls who misfortune has placed near them.
The Jewish state demands its neighbors make amends for crimes they did not commit — to cower before the steel-toe might of its military and make perpetual penitence for the sins of Europe.
Even if they did so: Such an act would not restore my mother’s childhood … would not return to flesh the ashen remains of the millions who made their graves in the winds of twentieth century Europe.
For the Jewish people, as is the case with all humanity, survival in the present age is not dependent on military prowess nor the blessing of an imaginary father in the sky. Awakening to new realities restores meaning and resonance to our lives. Felicity to the putrid, Bronze Age admonitions of a savage sky spirit involving the ownership of desert real-estate only entombs the heart and mummifies the mind.
Accordingly, the most putrefied and pernicious of these fallacies — the delusion that there exists a “Chosen People” — must be the first to be toppled.
God’s Chosen People? Chosen for what reason: First, divinely bestowed entitlement to a parcel of parched landscape, then exile, persecution, extermination? And now for what purpose: Simply to join the brutal ranks of history’s bullies?
When the ashes of the Holocaust cleared, this is the world my mother’s tribe built: A right-wing state that believes its godly mission is to lord over and oppress a militarily weaker people. Moreover, if they resist — starve them, murder them in their homes, drive them into exile. The Israelis seem to be demanding this of the Palestinian people: Why don’t you simply accept your lot as being compliant lessors and stay confined to your ghettos?
Furthermore, if you object, then leave — go into exile — wander the earth without a home. It would seem, over the course of the lives of the last few generations of Jewish believers, the ancient myth has morphed: The desert god has become more of an earthly ironist than wrathful sky-daddy.
In fact, mirroring the ways of their invented father in heaven, some of my blood relatives have become such inadvertent ironists, as they, at this moment, squat in Palestine, bristling with misplaced rage, manic with delusional entitlement, and, on the whole, casting a curse upon future generations that will poison their hearts and cascade through the generations with a terrible symmetry.
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