ForeignPolicy

Israel's Self-Righteous Right Wing

The Israeli Right has convinced itself that they represent the country's best interests and everyone else is beyond salvation.
This morning I made my way to the Western Wall to say the traveler's prayer, as I always do before leaving Israel for any length of time. The sun was blazing down in a cloudless sky, the azure blue of the heavens perfectly complementing the rough hewn yellow stones of which every house in Jerusalem is built. The deeper into the Old City I strolled, the more my emotions bubbled to the surface, as I once again marveled at being able to walk down the same cobbled streets and alleyways as my ancestors did two millennia ago.

As I approached the Kotel Plaza, the feelings grew even stronger, and by the time I found myself at the Wall itself, I was completely at one with my identity as a proud, God-fearing Jew, able to offer my supplications in the same spirit as my antecedents had for generations before me. Upon finishing my prayer and heading back to West Jerusalem, I paused momentarily to gaze down into the valley where Silwan is located -- and in doing so learned the essential difference between me and those of my detractors who refuse to hear a bad word said against the state of Israel.

In the film New Jack City, there is a poignant scene towards the beginning where Ice-T is watching a group of inner-city children chant anti-drug slogans in a local playground. He watches them with a benevolent smile on his face, before catching a glimpse of used syringes strewn near the swings, and his beaming features quickly switch to a grimace of despair. Upon leaving the otherworldly cocoon of the Kotel and glancing down at Silwan on my way home, I felt exactly the same way as Ice-T -- this was reality slapping me in the face, and no amount of feel-good imagery could gloss over the brutal truth.

There is a huge difference between loving the land of Israel and loving the way in which the country's rulers go about imposing their will on those living within its borders. Those who accuse me of being anything from a fifth columnist to a self-hating Jew because I don't take the crimes of the government lying down would do well to consider the Catholic mantra: love the sinner, hate the sin. The ironic part of this is that many of the right wing, settler crowd in Israel despise the incumbent government just as much as those on the left -- but refuse to see their own dissidence as being borne out of malice towards Israel; quite the opposite, in fact.

They assert that they, and only they, are the true Ahavei Yisroel (lovers of Israel), and that they are not to be challenged by anyone when it comes to knowing the ideal path for the future of the state. And no matter how much their opponents remonstrate with them, there is no headway to be made whatsoever, since they convinced themselves long ago that they are the only ones with Israel's best interests at heart. Their opponents, they believe, are either blinded by self-loathing, or have been duped by Islamist, anti-Zionist tricks, and are beyond salvation -- so the only way to deal with them is to knock the wind out of their sails.

It's as true on the threads of Cif as it is in real life. The same hectoring condescension I've come up against in face-to-face meetings with settlers and their supporters are repeated in electronic form all over the threads beneath my articles. There is no acknowledgment that a left wing viewpoint on Israel could carry the same weight as a right wing version, hence the conservative Zionists spend their time avoiding proper debate, preferring to stamp on any dissenting views as though putting out a fire on their living room carpet.

But, despite their howls of derision and vehement assertions of being the sole owners of the truth, the facts that emerge on a daily basis from ground level upwards aren't easily suppressed forever. The sadistic acts of the settlers in Silwan; the equally vicious behavior of the residents of Modi'in Ilit; the complicity of the army in the various settler outrages across the West Bank -- none of these issues can be casually dismissed, as the settlers are finding out to their dismay.

The world is watching, and exerting ever more pressure on the Israeli authorities the more evidence they find of wrongdoing against the Palestinians. Witness the recent acquiescence of the government to American demands for a freeze in settlement construction -- a long overdue step, of course, but a massive indicator that even the usually tolerant U.S. regime is getting fed up with the status quo. And, despite the objections of the settlers to having the rug pulled from beneath them, there is precious little they can do to bite the hand that feeds the entire state of Israel.

And so, regardless of what my detractors say, I love Israel just as much as those to the right of me -- it's just that in my eyes, love doesn't have to be blind. The passion I feel when I walk through the Old City is not to be mistaken with a passion for the current Israeli government, nor for the types of Zionist who run roughshod over justice and in the process do incalculable harm to Israel's reputation and legitimacy. It is a love for the land I have chosen to call home, and until it is run by people of whom I am proud, I will continue to separate sinner from sin, no matter how hard that concept is for the die hard cynics to comprehend.
Seth Freedman is a writer living in Jerusalem. He grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb and worked as a stockbroker in the City for six years, before moving to Israel. He served for fifteen months in a combat unit of the IDF, between 2004 and 2006, and has worked as a writer ever since.
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Environment
Food
Media
World