The State of Israel ‘My Promised Land,’ by Ari Shavit


The New York Times has the book review titled The State of Israel ‘My Promised Land,’ by Ari Shavit.  Thanks to Jacques Benkoski  for bringing this review to my attention in relation to a discussion we have been having on Facebook.

The reviewer states:

There is love in “My Promised Land,” but there is no propaganda. Shavit knows how to express solidarity and criticism simultaneously. He proposes that Zionism was historically miraculous and he proposes that Zionism was historically culpable.
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The fact that liberty and sovereignty are often won with violence cannot justify anything that any state or any movement might do in the name of liberty and sovereignty. But surely there is also no justice in dying with clean hands instead of living with dirty hands. Palestinians should be able to understand this. Israelis should be able to understand this about Palestinians.

While extolling the “miraculous history”and mentioning the historical culpability, I don’t  think the reviewer (and I assume the book) give enough weight to the issue of the present day culpability for  present day actions.  It is one thing to talk about the dirty hands that brought about the history, but what I focus on is what steps need to be taken now to stop continuing to dirty the hands. Is it too much to ask Israeli Jews to contemplate trying to even try to clean-up some of the dirt from the past?

In my utopian view of the recent history of South Africa, I like to think that the Afrikaners came to understand that they just could not keep going and continuing to dirty their hands.  I realize neither the Israeli situation nor the South African one is a simple story.  Please forgive me if what I am trying to write succinctly in this post gives the impression that I think any of this will be simple.  I know it won’t.  (That is one reason for admitting that my description above of South Africa is utopian.)

Yes, I know that even though there are similarities between the South African situation and the situation in Israel, there are differences, too.  The point is not that Israel should follow the South African solution.  What I want Israel to do is to come to the realization that they just cannot in good conscience continue to subjugate their Palestinian neighbors, citizens, and colonies.

Instead of trying to beat people into submission, they have to start thinking of how they are going to transform their behavior into treating everyone with humanity, equality, and without racism.  Rather than just insisting the other side change its behavior, they have to give serious consideration on how they are going to change their own behavior.

There is no way to guarantee that a solution is possible that will allow Israeli Jews to live in peace with their neighbors.  I certainly  hope there is.  However, it could turn out that the only way to bring peace is for the Jews to leave after they return power to everyone equally.  That will be an individual choice for each person to make.

I don’t expect a person to ever choose to commit suicide.  However a country is not a person, just as a corporation is not a person.  Disbanding a government (or a corporation) is not the same thing as a person committing suicide.

I know that there are some Israeli Jews that feel that having a homeland of their own is the only safe way to preserve their religion, their culture, and themselves. They feel that having an influential population of Jews living a good life in another country is not enough of a guarantee. However, this is a delusion.  If that influential population in another country is not enough, then having Israel is not enough either. If Israel didn’t have the backing of a huge foreign power, be it the USA or some other power that may come into being, then there is little safety in Israel.  At some point you have to face facts no matter what miracles you want to believe in if you truly don’t want individual people to have to commit to a policy that leads to suicide.

I think history shows that no society or culture will survive forever without change.  People have to be wise on how to manage change, but change will come no matter what you do.  Sometimes you have a choice, and sometimes you don’t.  Managing change is the process of preserving as much choice as you can.

I don’t see Israel’s behavior as doing as good a job as possible in managing its change.

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