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Love of Israel? Response to Schorsch's Response < DIALECTICAL MARXISM: The Writings of Bertell Ollman
Love of Israel? Response to Schorsch's Response to Ollman's Response to Israeli Crimes
(TIKKUN—Jan/Feb 2005)

By Bertell Ollman

I guess Schorsch doesn't agree with me, huh? At first, I wasn't so sure, because he begins with a hug so big that it took all my breath away. Then came the excuses, in fact a whole encyclopedia of excuses and rationalizations for everything that Israel has ever done to the Palestinians. I had forgotten there were so many. Unfortunately, this didn't leave him with enough time to take note—other than in the most general way—of any of the crimes that he was excusing. This, supposedly, is an example of the "balance" that my article was said to lack.

Interspersed with Schorsch's unswerving defence of Israel and Zionism (miniscule qualifications don't count), I'm treated to charges of being juvenile, hysterical, and a "Selekzion" officer at a Nazi concentration camp, and of claiming (which I don't) that Israel is "conducting genocide against the Palestinians". This, supposedly, is an example of the "nuances" that he missed in my article. So let me begin by saying that I don't think Schorsch is a Nazi, or evil, or ill informed, or stupid, or that he suffers less than I do for all the victims of this terrible tragedy. And, despite what he says (or, in this case, doesn't say), I'm willing to admit that as an editor of TIKKUN, a journal I admire, he probably shares many of my criticisms of the Israeli government. So why has he blown up at me the way he has?

As odd as it sounds, it would appear to come from an over-abundance of love. Can there ever be too much love? Yes, if it is misdirected, and, as Schorsch tells us, what holds him back from following our common criticisms to their logical conclusion—not quite his words—is his "unapologetic love and sympathy for Israel". But countries—whether Israel, the U.S., or Germany—are not the kind of entities that evoke love, not in any recognizable sense of the word. I know this expression is widely used, but it is nonsense, dangerous nonsense, nonetheless. Nonsense, because what is meant by Israel here is a composite of land, people (Jewish of course), culture, history, religion, traditions and government—and no one can feel love for all of this. And dangerous, because only the government can speak clearly and authoritatively for Israel (the voice of the people leaving a clutter of messages that cancel each other out). So the government is left in the position of interpreting what the land, people, culture, etc., and all the symbols that surround them, require from us as expressions of our love. To "love Israel" in this situation, then, is to deliver oneself bound hand and foot (with critical faculties and moral conscience on hold) to the Israeli government of the day to do with us as they see fit. And they see fit to use people's vague sense of belonging and the diffuse affection that accompanies it to manufacture loyal accomplices. It's called "fetishism", "reification", "patriotism" ("my country right or wrong…"), and "being played for a sucker" by the Wizard of Oz—like ventriloquists who are safely hidden behind the curtain.

How else can one explain Schorsch's incredible trivialization of the state terrorism that he never mentions but can't completely hide: "Jewish imperfection is par for the course"; Jews sometimes "fail to live up to Judaism's (or God's) beautifully high standards"; "Judaism, whatever its problems, and there are many.."; and Israeli policies are "often short-sighted, ill-conceived and even ill-intentioned" (I love the "even"); etc., etc. It is not only the truth but language itself and meaning as well as our very sanity that is under assault in referring to a half century of Zionist assassinations, collective punishments, ethnic cleansing, imprisonments, tortures, cutting off life resources (of water, electricity, food, education, housing and jobs), and constant humiliations in this anodyne fashion.

How, too, can we explain such lapses in elementary logic as in Schorsch's claim that "if all nationalisms are false, then Jewish nationalism is less false than many others" [No, then Jewish nationalism is ALSO false]; and that if "Jews have no less right to Israel than any other people has to any piece of land", then Jews have a right to Israel [No, no less also means NO MORE]. Schorsch obviously knows more and better than this—as do Elie Wiesel and others who use these rhetorical tricks—but his "unapologetic love of Israel" has effectively replaced facts, logic and morals as the basis for interpreting, judging and acting on anything to do with Israel. In responding to my article, Schorsch never moves in one direction without making a head fake in the other. The fake is always in the direction of reasonableness. The real movement is always in support of Israel's policies, stopping every now and then to pat this opponent reassuringly on the back. Everything else is frosting on the cake.

On this backdrop, it was only to be expected that Schorsch would misrepresent my basic complaint: it is not that Israel falls short of being a "light onto the nations", but that its murderous (unendingly and undeniably murderous) land grab is a "shandeh fur die goyim", and so too are those Jews everywhere—including in the pages of TIKKUN—who try so hard to rationalize this away. So why would I want to be identified with such a crowd? And—equally important in triggering my Letter of Resignation—why should the U.S. continue to play the shabbes goy for the rogue state of Israel? And why don't we non-Zionist Jews and ex-Jews, as people in a position to effect our government's abject surrender to the Zionist lobby, do more about it?