Another example of misleading arguments is that of apartheid and racism. Gordis argues that “Arabs are full citizens” and are represented throughout all walks of Israeli life. There are significant arguments against that, but beyond that, the plans for the occupied territories are fully apartheid in the same context as the Bantustans in South Africa were (and in some ways, still are). The argument then shifts to the “black Ethiopian Jews” without recognizing that racism is not just about skin colour but covers other cultural attributes as well (and other sources indicate that yes there are racist divides within Israeli culture along colour and ethnic lines).
The argument then devolves onto North Korea’s repressions, China’s repression (Tiananmen and Tibet), Russia, Cuba, Argentina, and Iran, asking why there have been no repercussions or threats of dismantlement made against them, why they do not have their right to exist denied. Well, in part, that is simply wrong. Cuba and North Korea have certainly been questioned on their right to exist. North Korea and China have certainly been questioned on their atrocities to their own indigenous people. Russia, in the form of the old Soviet Union, always had its right to exist questioned and if the U.S. had its way, would continue to activate for Russia’s dissolution except that the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism in the new republics would work against their interests in the Middle East. And the argument was not about Israel’s right to exist in the first place, it was about their racist tactics within the state.
Demographics plays a major role in Gordis’ arguments. There is an undercurrent that ‘transfers’ of population would be acceptable, that ethnic cleansing is a means in which the demographic concerns – threat – can be addressed. With that as a recurring element in his arguments, the arguments against racism become even dimmer as the two are strictly connected. He initially argues that “Israel’s strategy was always about more than mere demographics.” Then having stated that, the argument is diverted to “their country’s purpose” which ultimately is a Jewish state on its god-given land. From there, throughout the book, the argument returns frequently to demographics, rendering the adjective “mere” to be highly specious.
Through these convoluted arguments, through the emphasis on the glorious military past of the Jewish tradition, Gordi arrives at a scenario of an ongoing war that necessitates a militaristic state. That naturally abrogates any democracy as any military establishment is antithetical to the reality of democracy. To label it otherwise is simply a lie. The status quo remains – a racist militaristic state that wishes to inhabit the whole of Eretz Israel without having a bothersome Arab/Palestinian population at hand to deal with. It leaves the goal of the author, that of “Jewish recovery, Jewish flourishing, and the possibility of a vital Jewish future,” rather unrealistic.
A society of forgiveness, compassion and love (and let the shoah go)
The same wish for a Jewish revival and recovery with a flourishing society is expressed by Avraham Burg in “The Holocaust is over, we must rise from its ashes.” The title itself provides a significant indicator that Burg’s view differs from much of the mainstream media information received in the west.
The work is a combination of personal anecdotes, strong arguments and a re-assessment of language usage. The personal anecdotes are used as illustrations and lead ins for other arguments. The arguments themselves are written using metaphor, mythology, and fundamental common sense. Burg’s re-assessment of language/propaganda covers many areas, including historical references, historical mythologizing, and contrasting the assumed passive diaspora versus the heroics of Zionism. It is not a history of events, but examines and questions in complex and provoking ways the thought patterns connected to those events.
The end result is “Israeli humanism must understand that the answer to the Israeli occupation is not just withdrawal from the occupied territories, but also the creation of a new Jewish identity.”
The Shoah and Zionism
The centre of the argument is the shoah. Burg does not want to discard discussion of the shoah but to change its significance as an event within the long web of Jewish history. It “has become a theological pillar of the modern Jewish identity and that it is one of the Jewish people’s greatest challenges in modern times….In the arena of war, the Shoah is the main generator that feed the mentalities of confrontation and catastrophic Zionism.” In essence, the holocaust is the philosophical and operational force behind modern Jewish/Israeli society, in effect denying other nations and peoples of their own histories of their own holocausts, making the holocaust, and not fundamental Judaic beliefs, to be the basis of creating the Israeli society:
Because of the Shoah, Israel has become the voice of the dead…war has become the rule rather than the exception. Our way of life is combative, against friends and foes alike. One might say that the Israeli only understands force….In the end we did what the rest of the world’s bullies do: we turned an aberration into a doctrine, and we now understand only the language of force.
American Jews are included within the discussion as “like Israelis, [they] are stuck in Auschwitz, raising the Shoah banner high to the sky and exploiting it politically.”
Zionism is the perfect accompaniment to the shoah:
Few remember that the majority of the Jewish people opposed the creation of a Jewish state well into World War II….united by the fear that a Jewish political entity would create intolerant nationalistic sentiments that would drastically alter the historical character of the Jewish people.
That the holocaust was catastrophic for the Jewish people is inarguable, but in turn Burg recognizes “This is Zionism at its worst: what is bad for the Jews is better for Zionism.” His basic conclusion is, “Israel could not have been born without the Shoah.”
Burg draws references and comparisons to the German Weimar republic. The discussion covers militarism, a system that “is borrowed from Bismarck’s Germany.” The use of language is recognized as very significant for control of the state. He argues that “the modern Hebrew language employs word laundering to mask an arrogant, violent and even racist attitude toward the Arab enemy.” Israeli propaganda or “word laundering is among the most advanced in the world.”
A different look is made of the Nazi approach to Zionism, being “a cynical meeting of interest: neither the Zionists nor the Nazis wanted the Jews to remain in Germany….The Nazis, in their cruel way, were involved in promoting the idea of the Zionist state and fulfilling it.” The end result is that “Israel declared itself the heir of the victims, their sole official representative in the world.” It became a society “connected to its bleeding, traumatic past,” with the result that the Nazi massacre of Jews in Europe and the building of the Jewish state “became intertwined and inseparable.”