Uri Heitner lashes out once again at me and at Zochrot (“I am at fault, I have sinned, I have committed crimes,” Al Hatzafon, 7.3.2012): as usual, his text is filled with aggressive terms like “anti-Semite.” But his “confession of guilt” for providing a public forum for me and for Zochrot ‘s activities as part of a panel in which he participated involves something much more important than any one person’s presence: the Nakba can no longer be hidden, as it was, for example, when I was in school. Today the students themselves – at Tel Hai College, for example, or in various military preparatory programs – ask Zochrot to teach them about the tragedy that occurred in 1948, during which most of the country’s Palestinian residents were made refugees and we Israeli Jews became born conquerors.
The Israeli mainstream, which Heitner faithfully represents, must make a difficult choice between (at least) two alternatives. One is to ignore the nakba (“It’s inconceivable to provide them with a forum!”), but then it’s clear that the increasing amount of information available about the nakba makes that impossible. The other is to deny the nakba occurred, but the result is something like the absurd booklet, Nakba Harta (Nakba bullshit) from Im Tirtzu’s workshop.
There’s no disagreement among historians that in 1948 Zionist forces captured most of the country. Heitner tries to fall back on the tattered, false myths that all our actions were pure, so that massacres, such as those described by Amnon Neumann, the Palmach fighter, in his video testimony, never occurred. Ahh - yes, except for the one in Deir Yassin, which, of course, was carried out by the renegades, not by “us.”
Heitner also repeats the mantra about “the right of the Jewish state to exist.” As far as he’s concerned, it’s indisputable, unquestionable. If I remember correctly what I learned in school, the view that the state comes first is called “Fascism.” I remember the picture of a sheaf of grain that illustrated the term, symbolizing unity and power, overwhelming solidarity. Yes, we’ve no shortage of Fascism. How could it be otherwise? How else could a conqueror justify its regime?
In fact, why do we accept as incontrovertible that states possess rights, even the right to exist? Everyone knows that people have rights, not states. Those rights were initially established to limit the state’s overwhelming power. According to the final clause of the 1948 UN Convention on Human Rights, a state is forbidden “to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” Heitner cynically adopts the liberal rights discourse.
But not everything is dark and depressing, of course. While we as a people commemorate in the coming days liberation from bondage, growing numbers of Israelis are emerging from Plato’s dim, monolithic cave that Heitner represents so well. Na’ama Ayyash, from Kibbutz Hagoshrim, responded to the Tel Hai panel and wrote me about the process of her awakening: “I wondered how, exactly, the change had taken place. When did I dare to begin questioning? To doubt? I don’t know – in the army? (which was simply a nightmare)? It must have occurred at the university, when I met Palestinians. When I matured a little. When my eyes opened. When I understood what feminism meant, and everything began to be connected. It was a long, difficult process, but one that was, and continues to be, very important to me."
Translation: Charles Kamen