Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Prisoner X Marks the Spot
Two weeks ago a new starter at work started talking to me about Israel. Obviously Jewish, they were mentioning, amongst others, that Israel must be a great place to live in. I told them what I think of Israel; signs of heartbreak could be seen on their face.
Yesterday I took part at a numeracy workshop held by my son’s school in order to help parents with their children’s studies. Our two hour long tour's guide told us they just came from a visit to Israel. There were only two guys in a room full of mothers, yet the instructor “volunteered” yours truly first. They then moved on to ask where I’m from in Israel, I answered, and then they told me how great Israel is. You know me, I don’t muck about; I told them in one sentence what I think of Israel. Yet again I got that sad look on the face.
As the above two examples demonstrate, the pattern repeats itself rather too often. Non Israeli Jews recognize me, either by name or accent, to be a member of their exclusive club. With that recognition comes the automatic assumption that I regard Israel as the pinnacle of creation. When they realize they are in the wrong something cracks; second thoughts about everything they believe in creep in. For at least a brief minute their entire perception of reality is on the brink.
No, I do not understand this automatic association between non Israeli Jews and Israel. It is as if a Jewish person is not allowed to criticize Israel. Worse, it is as if Israel is the true representation of these people; yet, if that is the case, why don’t they pack up to go and live in the country of their dreams? Maybe then they would realize there are some significant differences between being Jewish and being an Israeli.
Me, I want neither Judaism nor Israelism. After all, I left Israel for a reason and at a hefty price. As for Judaism, while I cannot escape the cultural impact it had on me, I think describing the culture I grew up on as Israeli would be much more accurate. Racially I may still be Jewish (definitely so by Hitler’s standards), even if the actual racial profile of Jews today is made of a mix of everything; hardly anyone can boast a bloodline that comes purely out of the small number of Jews exiled from Israel a couple of millennia ago. And if your definition of Judaism relates to religion then you should know I’m all for equality: I despise all religions the same.
I do wonder if these Israel oriented Jews realize what they look like in the eyes of any other citizen of the country they hail from. In other words, can Australia’s Jews complain about racial prejudice when they declare themselves to be Israel’s first and Australia’s second? When they pledge allegiance to a country they hardly know much about over the country they grew up at and by any rational account belong to?
Case in point: the whole affair of Prisoner X. Australian Ben Zygier who relocated to Israel, seems to have worked for the Mossad, then got secretly imprisoned and died in jail under dodgy circumstances. Zygier represents all the problems I’ve talked about thus far; his family’s silence on the matter, coupled with the deafening silence from the Jewish community here in Australia and Melbourne, only seems to further prove my point.
What astounds me is that Australian Jews can still express their unconditional affection to Israel when the latter proved itself perfectly capable of throwing one of them in jail, make the rest of world unaware of the guy’s existence, and enforce total silence on the matter. These are tactics worthy of Stalin.
Israel’s judicial system should take a deep long look at itself in the mirror. And so do this world’s Jews.
P.S. If you ask for my opinion on the best coverage of the Prisoner X saga (actually, it should be called Detainee X; Zygier was never convicted), I would point at the this Hebrew speaking blogger.
Image by Ilana Tamir, Creative Commons license