Letter to a Friend on Israel’s Independence Day

Tonight you celebrate the independence day of the state of Israel.  I do not.

You probably believe that the Jews deserve a state, that the Holocaust survivors and their children had a right to a safe home of their own, and that the Land of Israel is the natural and legitimate place to fulfill the vision of a state for Jews.  As you know, I disagree with you on two counts: firstly, I do not support ethnic states.  They necessarily create a sharp neurosis and continuous fear that “the other will contaminate their purity”; they contain an ongoing urge for ethnic cleansing and give births to wars for this goal.  So it was in 1948, the year you are celebrating today.  Moreover, ethnic states, inherently closed by nature, are condemned to cultural stagnation, as cultural growth requires widely open windows and not locked castles.

Secondly, despite the hackneyed slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land,” when the process of settlement in Palestine/the Land of Israel began, it was already the home to another people.  The Holocaust survivors deserved a state of their own?  If so, why at the expense of a people that bore absolutely no responsibility for the slaughter of East European Jewry?  A state for Jews in Bavaria or Saxony could have been an answer for Holocaust survivors without harming the rights of the innocent Palestinians and without dispossessing them of their country and their homeland.

In other words, you are a Zionist and I am an anti-Zionist and even if we can go a long way together in the struggle for a partial cessation of the occupation and settlement enterprise, the difference between a Zionist and anti-Zionist has lost nothing of its validity today, and it continues to impact the chance for a real reconciliation between the peoples of this land.  If you wish, it can be phrased thus: while you believe that the problems began in June 1967, the day after “the most just war in human history,” for me the “problem” began at the beginning of the previous century, with the process of Jewish colonization in Palestine.

I have one request for you and your friends: put something before your happiness today.  Do not forget that the reason for your party is also the reason for the mourning of the people of this land: the Arabs of Palestine, wherever they may be: in refugee camps, in exile, in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and also within your state, which cannot and does not want to be their state also.

You love to base your arguments on the Bible.  So do I.  In Proverbs it is written: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.”  And in the Midrash it is noted that when the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea and were saved from the armies of Pharaoh, the angels burst out in song.  God told them: “They are drowning in the sea and you are singing?”  Please.  When you celebrate the independence of Israel, remember that next to you are millions of Palestinians whose world was destroyed on this day.  And they refuse to forgive and forget.

Michael Warschawski is a political analyst with the Alternative Information Center.  This article was published by the Alternative Information Center on 19 April 2010 under a Creative Commons license.

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