Atzma’ut 69, Occupation 50: Does That Add Up?

FOR ISRAEL, this summer marks the 50th anniversary (June 10, 2017) of the end of the Six-Day War and the beginning of the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

And that historical marker quickly follows another one: the 69th anniversary of Israel’s statehood, commemorated by Israelis as Yom Ha’Atzma’ut (May 1 and 2).

Yom Ha’Atzma’ut is usually translated as “Israeli Independence Day.” That English word means “not hanging on.” But the Hebrew would be more accurately translated as “Day for Standing on One’s Own Feet, Day of Affirming One’s Own Essence” (Etzem, the linguistic root of “atzma’ut,” means “bone, skeleton, internal essential structure.”)

From that deeper perspective, the 50th anniversary of the Occupation casts a deep pall of doubt upon the 69th birthday of the State. Has Israel really been independently “standing on its own feet” or has it for five- sevenths of its history been simultaneously standing in military boots on a subjugated people and depending (not “independing”) on the military and money support of the United States government to do so?

The present Israeli government, elected just two years ago, is by far the most right- wing—politically, economically, and religiously—in Israel’s history. It has taken many steps to set in steel and stone its Occupation of the only land on which a self- determining peaceful Palestinian state could be built. Yet till very recently a majority of Israelis (and Palestinians) still looked wistfully toward liberating both peoples by negotiating a secure and peaceful Palestine into existence alongside a secure and peaceful Israel.

“Till very recently?” Till the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and his appointment of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel—a religiously and politically ultra- right- wing Jew who does not even dissemble his hostility to Palestinian statehood alongside Israel and who sneers at and slanders Jews who do support that vision. Possibly a majority of Israelis and Palestinians still share that vision, but if U.S. power is mobilized against it, what hope can there be of achieving it?

Now, Sheldon Adelson, funder of both the Israeli and the American racist heads of state, stands like the Colossus in a trans- Atlantic Roman Empire—one leg perched on the White House and the other on Herod’s throne in Jerusalem.

The one hope we can glean from the erection of that Billionaire Colossus is the clarity of the need to tear it down. Until the moment of Friedman’s appointment, U.S. governmental support of the Occupation had masked itself behind querulous complaints. Now it is clear, and the clarity should call forth a demand for U.S. commitment not merely to complain about the Occupation, but to end it.

Since the State of Israel claims to be “the Jewish State,” and since its actions certainly affect the world’s understanding of the Jewish people (and for many Jews, our understanding of ourselves), it is hard for Jews anywhere to ignore the meaning of this 50th anniversary. Since I have invested my own life in drawing upon the past wisdom of the Jewish people, shaping its present, and transforming its future, I certainly cannot ignore these events.

In this I am hardly alone. There have been myriad analyses and essays about both the last Israeli election and the last U.S. election, and about the governments emerging from them both. Both are now committed to impose settlements on Palestinian land that will make a viable Palestine impossible.


Despair and Hope | Shafik Radwan | Courtesy of Zawyeh Gallery

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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2:19-22


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