Not this did we want, no no, not this.
Without them, who are we and what is ours
Not this did we want, not thus did we think it would be
how the Land would devour and devour.

~ Tuvia Ruebner, from “One Plague and Another”[1]

March 24th, 2016 / Yud daled bi’adar: an Introduction

Uncharacteristically, I begin this essay with the date on which I am composing it – yud’daled in the month of Adar, Purim. This holiday has always felt to me a difficult, even dangerous, one: on the one hand it commemorates how the Jewish people were saved from destruction; on the other hand, it is a holiday marking the Jewish people’s own violent impulses and need for revenge (as expressed in the gratuitous killing of all of Haman’s sons). The violence of the day is fully evident in its ritual expressions – the noise, the drunkenness, the deliberate inversion of order – that have blotted out for me the levity of costumes and even the generosity of mishlochei manot and Purim tsedakah.[2]

This year, Purim’s danger feels to me heightened. Two days ago, bombs exploded in Brussels, killing over 30 people, wounding hundreds. The terrible images of carnage and destruction claimed our television screens and newspapers yet again, announcing the new age of terror that is changing life in Europe forever. Fear is the common lot now, as terrorist bombs make no distinctions in race, religion or nationality; inevitably, fear for oneself becomes fear of the other, with all its accompanying prejudices and even hatred.

But it is the response of the Israeli government to the Brussels bombings – specifically, the response of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu – where I feel my fear of Purim and all it signifies come most forcefully to the fore. In a video message to the AIPAC conference on March 22nd – just hours after the bombings – then in a press conference aired on Israeli news on March 23rd, Netanyahu asserted the following: the terror of stabbings that have made Israeli streets bloody these last six months is identical to the terror now sweeping through Europe; the uprising of Palestinians (who have been oppressed and denied basic rights for almost 50 years) is the same as the indiscriminate violence of ISIS and its fundamentalist objectives. Conflating completely the Palestinians and ISIS, Netanyahu stated the following: “[They] have no resolvable grievances…what they seek is our utter destruction and their total domination.”

The obscenity of this conflation, the obscenity of this claim, is born of decades of lies. The obscenity of this conflation and this claim is born also of generations of utilizing the violence visiting upon us, the Jewish people, as absolute justification for the violence we have visited and continue to visit upon the Palestinian people, and our refusal to allow them to create an independent state on the West Bank for their own homeland.

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