Amir Schiby posted an interesting bit of price tag graffiti featured in a Walla story. There are two items related to the report especially worth noting. First is the graffiti itself which says simply: “Racism or assimilation.” That’s an interesting concept illustrative of the contradictions inherent in both the settlerist religious-Zionist vision and in Israel itself.
In the settler world view, there are only two choices: a state rid of non-Jews (racism) or a state in which Jews stop being Jews (assimilation). There is no possibility for Jews to co-exist with non-Jews in one state. The reason this is especially interesting is that it flagrantly rejects the notion that Israel is a democracy.
It posits Israel as a religious state, a Jewish state. But not a Jewish state any non-Orthodox Jew would recognize or accept. Even many Orthodox Jews might reject this vision. So let’s call this a vision endorsed by a minority of Israel’s Jewish population. But it is one that has a huge amount of momentum and the tacit support among huge portions Israel’s political echelon.
Now, I have no problem with an Israeli ultra-nationalist who honestly embraces such a point of view. At least I can combat those ideas directly. But the problem is that almost the entire Israeli ruling class endorses these views surreptitiously and is far too slick to be caught doing so publicly. That’s why price taggers are so useful. They are the vanguard of the Israeli rightist political elite.
Let’s examine the vision of Judaism this represents. It posits a Judaism that is all or nothing. A state in which everyone must be Jewish. If not, then no Jew will remain Jewish for long. This certainly flies in the face of the Diaspora Jewish experience, in which Jewish life has flourished since the days of the second Roman revolt (132 CE). If Jews have existed outside Israel for nearly two millenia, why could they not co-exist inside an Israel that included Muslims and Christians as well?
This is precisely one of the reasons that Israel as Jewish state becomes a recipe for Israel as racist mono-culture. Those who believe in Israel as a Jewish state may say that the price taggers do not reflect the Judaism that is at the heart of Israel as a Jewish state. While it may be true that they don’t represent their Judaism, unfortunately they do represent the Judaism of those who wield state power.
If Israel were a true democracy, then those of Israel’s supporters who argue that the Israeli right won’t always maintain power and that we should agitate for political change, would have a point. But I think most of us know that there is little to no chance that Israel will be governed by anyone who doesn’t believe that Israel as a Jewish state means superior rights for Jews and inferior rights for non-Jews. This sort of governing majority will rule the country for many years, if not decades to come.
Even if you want to argue that it’s possible a moderate party might eventually win an election, the truth is that even the so-called centrist parties haven’t the stomach to confront the settlers. They don’t have the will to stop the terror, to withdraw from the settlements, to return to 1967 borders. So we’re still talking about the price taggers as setting the political agenda for the foreseeable future.
The Walla coverage is also interesting because it refuses to deal with, or glosses over the real nature of the crime committed:
Knowledge of the incident even shocked the police who told Walla: If indeed this is an act of nationalist [racism], it damages the principle of co-existence and living together of Jews and Arabs that the friendly village [Abu Ghosh] represents.
The police views this with the utmost severity and will dedicate great efforts, as it has already, to conduct operations that will catch them [the price taggers] and bring them to justice.
As I wrote above, what’s interesting about this statement is the initial conditional phrase by the police which allows the possibility that this may not be a price tag attack. The very notion that this is possible, indicates a profound level of denial among the Israeli police about the nature and severity of Israeli racism. Further, the remainder of the statement is simply boilerplate expression of concern that contains no reality or truth. The police never dedicate serious effort to apprehending such criminals.
And why should they? Even their own prime minister refuses to name these acts as terrorism for fear of tarnishing Israel’s image on the world stage. The implication is that if Israel acknowledges there are Jewish terrorists, this will somehow allow the world to follow suit. It’s as if the world waits to make such judgments only upon Israel’s endorsement. There is no recognition that much of the world has already made up its mind that Jewish terror not only exists, but that it has infected the entire power structure of the Israeli state. Whether the illness is fatal or not is not presently known.
What I’m saying is nothing new. Yeshaya Leibowitz called such settler thugs “Judeo-Nazis” several decades ago. He was right then and nothing’s changed except that they’ve now entered the Knesset, cabinet and army command. It reminds me of the film, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. Will we wait till there’s no one left to fight them and the thugs have completely taken over the country?