A good friend here, a woman who broke the fall of my arrival in Melbourne with her brave quirky self, her offer of shared Jewish moxy and kindnesses too numerous to mention, said to me the other day, as the silence grew between us ,"you always blame Israel." I am sure others have thought that as well who read these pages. No, I said, I blame Britain and the UN for their early betrayals of a just settlement for the Palestinians and the new Israel, I blame now the United States for its manipulation of the sorrows of this region for its own power paradigms, I blame American Jews who exocitize Israel as their spiritual retirement home or as the symbolic metaphysical bandage for Jewish historical suffering. "Blame," a foolish word. My friend said, "well, we will just talk about every three months, we'll agree to disagree." No--because then I become complicit in the daily deaths, the daily lies, the daily strategies of Israel's national campaign as old as her beginnings to force Palestinians into extreme circumstance so when they retaliate, Israel can say, see ,we are the civilized ones, they are animals. I want my friend to read the new books coming out of the open archives--to see how the myths of underdog and poor pushed to the wall desperate Israel were created while in 1948 and 49, Palestinian village after village was razed to the ground, where was all the overwhelming Arab odds--not coming to the rescue of the murdered men and displaced women and children of Deir Yassan and over 500 other Palestinian villages--read "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" by Ilan Pappe--read these words: "As they [the Jewish Forces] burst into the village, the Jewish soldiers sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many of the inhabitants. The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of the women were raped and then killed." (Pappe, 90) On page after page, Pappe tells us the names of the destroyed villages, often those who had worked out a peace in their own ways with the history developing around them were treated the harshest--no provocation was the greatest threat to Israel's Plan Dalet, the systematic plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land that began before the other "heroic" 1948 war.
While I was reading this book, I listened to a discussion about contested national memory, the struggle between Turkish collective memory and the massacre of the Armenians. Sometime, the Israeli national memory will have to come to terms with its own sickness, the memory that many of the soldiers of this new state killed in the name of revenge for the terrible sufferings of the Jewish people during the Holocaust--each Palestinian child killed was a ghost child for Jewish babies battered to death, each village destroyed by overwhelming Israeli force was a slash at the notion "they went to their deaths like lambs to the slaughter." Sickness poured over sickness, murders in the name of murders, not so easily reduced to the ravages of revenge--and the world watched as a new nation sprang up with its feet drenched in blood and a people's despair, in a new language of dehumanization--"The fate of a village was sealed when the order said either to 'le-tahr,' to cleanse, meaning leaving the houses intact but expelling the people or 'le-hashmid,'`to destroy, meaning dynamite the houses after the expulsion of the people and lay mines in the rubble to prevent their return." ( Pappe, 138) The Hebrew words used to label the military actions often meant "to purify," ( tihur) to cleanse the land of the unwanted Arab. Of course racism was part of this version of the Zionist undertaking--it had to be. On what other basis do you expel a people different from yourselves from their homes. Their humanity is not as great as your own. Their hold on history is not as meaningful as your own, they lack imperative, you have national destiny. Just a few days ago, La Professora and I celebrated Passover with Jewish women friends here--and on our Seder plate was an olive, a suggestion from the Jewish Voice for Peace, to commemorate the destroyed Palestinian olive groves, the destroyed villages and for me it was to remember on this day when the story of history is the consuming ritual, the words used by the Irgun and the Hagana in their Operation Hametz (leaven), the cleansing of the Haifa area in 1948. (Pappe, 139) Here in this word I thought so innocent as I would hold up the plate of matzohs year after year cleansed of the leavened bread, an act of historical validity, a cleansing of oppression from our homes, now forever lives for me in this military euphemism, the lives of another people, a people compared to trash, to throw aways, to that which stains and makes impure the holy moment--the Palestinians of Haifa. Before I leave this world this is a knowledge I must know--as a Jew, as a woman, as a queer. There is no safety from the grotesqueries of history, from the emotional blastings of national failures--I never knew the names of the Palestinian villages that lay beneath the shopping malls and resorts, when I gave money as so many of us did to plant a tree in Israel, I did not know that these trees were necessary to cover up the markings of destroyed towns--their names--Beit Dajan, Kfar Ana, Abbasiyya, Yahudiyya, Saffuriyya, Khayriyya, Salama, Yazur, Kabri, Umm, al-Faraj, Nahr .................
over 500 unknown to us towns, centers of human life, gone so another history would take root.
This is Jewish knowledge brought to us by a Jewish thinker, Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and senior lecturer of Political Science at Haifa University, director of the research Institute for Peace at Givat Haiviva, and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies, Haifa. All I ask is that you read this book; I know the failures on the other side, I know the hatred that flourishes in the refugee camps of Lebanon and in the prison known as Gaza--but they do not act on behalf of world Jews, they do not call themselves the homeland of the Jews. Memory will be the final homeland--I say Kaddish for the people who were seen as not human in the blood rush of the nationalist Zionist champions and Kaddish for the spirits of us all who still are reeling from the Nazi desire to wipe Jews from the face of the earth--no, my friend, I stand with the other Israel, those who strive to come to terms with memory, with the forging of another land of Israel and Palestine, these are the bravest of the brave, and I will not agree to disagree, I will take into my memory all the names in a language strange to me, all the lost places and burning pieces of home and remember and keep learning as the doors of the archives open and keep telling the fuller story of how were liberated, how we failed and how we keep struggling for a home in history.