Saturday, July 17, 2010

Israelis and Their Religion

I am reading Palestine Inside Out by Saree Makdisi. I am being barraged with tales of Israeli discrimination and violence against the Palestinians. The violence and discrimination are sanctioned and encouraged by Israeli police and soldiers. The purpose is to make the Palestinians disappear, either by walking away or by being pushed away. Makdisi’s book may prove to be biased and exaggerated. I will have to wait until later to decide that, but there is enough corroborating evidence to conclude that there is a strong strain of truth in what he is saying.

I am struck by an analogy. Consider a government driven by racial and religious hatred to persecute a specific ethnic group. Police and soldiers look on as people are attacked and houses are destroyed. This group will be forced to leave, either dead or alive. This is all part of a government plan. Does this sound in any way familiar? Jimmy Carter thought it reminded him of apartheid in South Africa. My first thought was of 1930s Nazi Germany. Carter is more correct, but I am outraged and will stick with the outrageous. Considering a comparison between the Nazi’s and the Israelis is something that makes the head spin. Years of built-up sympathy for the historical plight of the Jews sets off all kinds of warning alarms in my consciousness. Nevertheless, the images presented by Makdisi of Israeli actions driven not only by purposeful policy but also by "pure hatred" are compelling—and suggestive.

Having recently read Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World with all its examples of ethnic violence, it becomes easier to consider that Jews are human beings just like everyone else. Being "just like everyone else" means that they are capable of discrimination and violence against another group. Never before have they had the power to impose their prejudices and hatreds on another people. Now they do. One can carry the Nazi analogy a little further. The Germans had twisted theories of genetic superiority that aided them in their belief that others were inferior beings. The Israelis have their religion that teaches them that they are superior. They are God’s chosen people with a special covenant with God. Everyone else is—not chosen. The land Israel wants was given to them by God himself. What is there to negotiate? Whenever a group with political and military power believes that God is on its side, it is guaranteed that discrimination, violence, and death will follow.

Enough with the venting—back to the book—hopefully I will encounter no mention of a final solution.

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