Germans are entitled to opinions and to the choice of whether or not to voice them. We should welcome it when they do – even regarding Israel.
This post is about the Günter Grass poem “What must be said”. If you haven’t read the poem yet, please do so before reading the rest of this post (German/English/Hebrew).
Lisa Goldman shared a NYT piece about how the poem has made more Germans speak up about Israel, sometimes even in ways that make Israeli lefties feel uncomfortable.1
One commenter on Lisa’s post responded: “the creators of Holocaust should keep their mouth shut for the sake of decency”. This would, in and of itself, be a reasonable comment, except that at this point in history, the people actually behind the Holocaust are for the most part dead – a fate far more pleasant than they deserve, as it were – and this kind of comment aims simply to silence all German criticism of Israel. Oddly enough, you don’t hear it when Germans voice opinions supportive of Israeli policy. Continue reading What has to be said – and who has to say it→
This is not to say that Israeli lefties are used to offensive comments about Israel – but that some of the comments Germans are making may be beyond what we accept as honest criticism. [↩]
Begin, Carter, and Sadat, after making Israeli-Egyptian peace. Image via Wikipedia
I’ve been following the situation in Egypt with fascination and hope. It’s amazing to see people hitting the streets to stand up for their rights and tell a tyrant they outright refuse his rule. It’s priceless to see a tyrant losing control, sending his family away, losing grasp as the people take back the cities. It gives me hope that even when things are bad, they can get better.1
A lot of Israeli coverage on the topic has been less enthusiastic of the prospect of change. Mubarak may be a tyrant, but he’s an American-backed tyrant who cooperates with the Israeli government (even actively taking part in the siege of Gaza). Whatever leadership arises from this revolution will almost certainly be less pro-Israeli.
The potential threat of a hostile Egypt, especially an Egypt friendly with Hamas and/or Iran, is a very scary prospect. The revolution appears to have taken the Israeli security establishment totally by surprise, and I hope our leaders are capable of managing whatever threat has arisen or will arise in the days to come.
Israelis Support Freedom in Egypt We, Israeli civil society activists and ordinary citizens, watch with awe at the bravery of Egyptian citizens fighting for freedom. All who support justice, and certainly every democracy must support the just demands of the Egyptian demonstrators. We reject any claim that an anti-democratic regime is in our interest, whether it be for the sake of stability or the continuation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Such interests cannot justify an undemocratic Egypt.
Not many have signed it so far, but I think it’s truly important to show at least some of us Israelis can sympathize with the people of Egypt and view their revolution as fundamentally positive. I’d like the new regime that come out of this, whatever it is, to know Israelis looked their way not only with fear, but with hope and solidarity too.
The many deaths, the looting, the general chaos, the violence — these are all a bit harder to watch. But there have been worse (attempted) revolutions, and a tyrant rarely gives up without resorting to violence first. I won’t try to figure out if it’s “worth it”; it’s what’s happening, and there’s both horror and beauty in it. [↩]
I sometimes write here, and often post links on Facebook, in criticism of Israel’s government or military. I know what response to expect from most fellow Israelis. Very often, like the other day (when I posted this link), discussion almost immediately includes some old friend throwing in a personal attack on me, either in lieu of an actual argument or in addition to it.
This last attack on Facebook is a true classic; to summarize the gist of my friend’s argument: “you didn’t serve in the army so you can’t judge those who do; you haven’t experienced what they have”. This stuff gets me worked up, but rarely hurts me anymore. The comments are predictable and repetitive and repetitive, and every time I post, I quietly brace myself for them. Saying something bad about the IDF is spitting on a holy cow, as far as almost all Israelis are concerned, and criticism of the government is often taken as an attack on the existence of the state.
I haven’t always been this vocal. After I moved away (2007), for over a year I avoided reading any news from Israel and, even more, avoided making any comment on the situation there. At the time it seemed nothing ever changed, and reading about it would be painful and useless.
My attitude changed in a process of reflection. I thought a lot: about why I told the IDF I didn’t want to be a soldier1 and later left, about my attitude towards Israel, and about the way I expressed that attitude on the rare occasions that I did. It became clear to me that although I left for mostly childish and wrong reasons, the small part of me that left in protest was kind of right. Things in Israel actually are changing, for the worse, and the many people I love who live there are affected by it.
At the same time, I came to appreciate what an amazing country Israel is, and what a great place to live. I really don’t blame anyone who lives there for loving it so and refusing to let go. I want to live there again as well. Unfortunately, to really enjoy it to the fullest, one has to keep their eyes and ears selectively shut, and one had best check their concern for human rights and justice at the airport. There are government-issued narratives to soothe the conscience, for those who can swallow them.
As a result, they decided that I’m mentally unfit to serve due to lack of motivation, which seems like a reasonable assessment since I would have made an awful soldier. I then volunteered for civilian service and spent a year in the reception/recovery area of a large hospital’s main operating room complex. [↩]
Back on Facebook, I commented on the video, and for a reason I don’t know yet and might never understand, my comment was deleted. Luckily, I saved a copy of it, so I decided to repost it here where people can respond to it freely: Continue reading Doing It Wrong: "Only Israel"→
An archived blog about education, language, peace, and other fine things