Sunday, May 09, 2004

This is where it ends

Yesterday I saw a documentary about the man who took this famous photograph, Yevgeni Khaldei. He gave the impression of having been a devoted communist. Amazingly, despite his notable contribution to his country, to the way of life he believed in, to the war effort, and to Stalin, he was persecuted by the Soviets, for being Jewish.

* * * *

The first communist I ever met was a tiny, white haired old lady, who lived alone in a very large, very sparse apartment on Arlozorov Street. Her communism was a solitary island of sweet, simple innocence, which sharply contrasted the rest of her colorless, barren, rather bitter, existence.

Every so often she would disappear, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. The first time it happened, I stood outside her door, knocking, waiting, and worrying if I should call the police. Later I discovered she had committed herself into a mental hospital. She did this regularly, I learnt, when life got too much for her.

She didn’t really like living in Israel, she said, and often talked wistfully of her nephew in Australia, but as far as I knew she had never made any attempt to leave. With all her criticism, maybe she felt safest here.

In 1945, hundreds of thousands of people just like her were wandering round Europe, completely lost, trying desperately to find their way back to a place that no longer existed. Eventually, realization would descend on them and they would set out to create a life for themselves somewhere else, just like Jews had been doing for centuries, every time their world crashed in, picking up their peckalach, and moving on to the next place.

But this time, some of them said No! There must be a reason for our surviving. Moving on to the next place and starting all over again is not good enough any more. This is where it ends.

* * * *

Ideology is a tool we use to put order into life, to give it meaning. Zionism is just another name for ‘This is where it ends'.

Of course anti-Zionism doesn’t equal anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionists don’t necessarily hate or even dislike Jews per se. They are just opposed to Jews who are arrogant enough to say ‘This is where it ends’. Anti-Zionists, in fact, do not have a problem with the nice Jews*, the ones who had the commonsense to move on to the next place at a favorable time, or even if they didn’t, still continue to subscribe to the moving-on/starting-over thing.

Anti-Zionists are only opposed to the Jews who, having been reckless enough to stick around to be vomited out of Europe, or foolish enough to be forced out by the Arabs, couldn’t find the strength in them to just carry on somewhere else, business as usual, any more. Anti-Zionists are only opposed to the homeless Jews.

Only they’re not homeless any more. Israel is their home. And this is where it ends.

* * * *

Meryl Yourish points us in the direction of this powerful essay, about the hatred of Jews down the ages, and today, by Cynthia Ozick.

* Some of the anti-Zionists are, in fact, such nice Jews themselves.