Israel’s unbroken legacy of righteous victimhood

Some victims we are

The kill ratio was 100-to-1 in our favor. The destruction ratio was much, much greater than that. To this day, thousands of Gazans are living in tents because we won’t let them import cement to rebuild the homes we destroyed. We turned the Gaza Strip into a disaster area, a humanitarian case, and we’re keeping it that way with our blockade.

Meanwhile, here on the Israeli side of the border, it’s hard to remember when life was so safe and secure.

So let’s decide: Who was the victim of Operation Cast Lead, them or us?

No question – us. We Israelis were the victims and we still are. In fact, our victimhood is getting worse by the day. The Goldstone report was the real war crime. The Goldstone report, the UN debates, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, B’Tselem, the traitorous soldiers of Breaking the Silence and the Rabin Academy – those were the true crimes against humanity. This is what’s meant by “war is hell.”

It is we who’ve been going through hell from the war in Gaza. It is we who’ve been suffering.

Gazans? Suffering? What’s everybody talking about?

We let them eat, don’t we?

This imaginary monologue is how we actually see ourselves today. We initiated the war in Gaza, we waged one of the most one-sided military campaigns anyone’s ever seen – and we’re the victims.

We’re fighting off the world with the Holocaust; witness Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the UN with his Auschwitz props. “We won’t go like lambs to the slaughter again,” vowed his protégé, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, in a cabinet discussion of the Goldstone report.

Auschwitz, lambs to the slaughter, Operation Cast Lead. To Israelis today, it’s all of a piece, it’s one story, one unbroken legacy of righteous victimhood.

The truth is that the State of Israel has never been a victim, and our likening of ourselves to the 6 million has been embarrassing from the beginning – but now? After what we did in Gaza? With the stranglehold we have on that society, while we over here live free and easy?

Victims? Lambs to the slaughter? Us?

No, this has gone beyond embarrassing; this is out-and-out shameful.

And, despite our excuses, it’s not that we’re “traumatized” by the past into believing that we’re still weak, still the frightened, powerless Jews about to be led to the gas chambers. Many Holocaust survivors still believe this, and to some very limited extent, this vestigial fear still takes up space in the Israeli mind.

But by now, 64 years after the Holocaust, 42 years after seeing in the Six Day War how strong we’d become, we know, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, that we aren’t the victims anymore. We know we aren’t a continuation of the 6 million but rather a deliberate and stark departure from them.

THE REASON we tell ourselves and the world that we are victims is because we know, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, that victimhood is power. Victimhood is freedom. A victim can’t be told to restrain himself. A victim fighting for survival can’t be accused of abusing his power because, after all, his back is to the wall, he’s desperate.

On the facts, it’s very hard to convince ourselves, let alone the world, that Gaza and its Kassams have pushed Fortress Israel’s back to the wall, that we’re desperate, that we’re struggling to survive. So, to convince ourselves and the world that this really is so, we do two things.

One, we refuse to acknowledge any facts that mar this image of ourselves as victims, and instead go over and over and over only the facts that fit the picture.

We talk only about the thousands of Kassams fired at Sderot; we never mention the thousands of Gazans we killed at the same time.

We talk only about Gilad Schalit; we never mention the 8,000 Palestinian prisoners we’re holding.

And we never mention our ongoing blockade of Gaza or the devastation it does to those people.

The second thing we do to convince ourselves and the world that we’re still victims is to never, ever, ever let go of the Holocaust – because that’s when we really were victims. Victims like nobody’s ever known, victims a million times worse than the Gazans.

Auschwitz, lambs to the slaughter. Remember us, the people of the Holocaust? That wasn’t the Middle East’s superpower you saw fighting in Gaza.

That was the 6 million.

So you can’t blame us. We’re immune from your criticism. We’re the biggest victims the world has ever known. We’re desperate, so don’t tell us about kill ratios and disproportionate use of force and collective punishment. We’re fighting for our survival.

This is what we tell ourselves and the world, and, in the face of what we did and are still doing in Gaza, it has become intolerable. We are not the 6 million. The 6 million were powerless Jews three generations ago; we cannot wrap our abuses of power in their tragedy.

Instead, let’s take a good, hard look at what we did and what we’re doing in Gaza. Then let’s take a good, hard look in the mirror. And then let’s admit who’s the true victim here and now, and, more importantly, who isn’t.

Editor’s Comment — Larry Derfner is a columnist for the conservative Jerusalem Post. Presumably the paper’s editors feel moderately comfortable publishing his provocative commentaries because the paper provides “balance” with other pieces by rabid Likudniks like Caroline Glick. Still, at this time I doubt that there is a single newspaper editor in the United States who would have the guts to publish Derfner’s piece.

Even so, the times they are a-changin’.

Americans are losing patience with Israel and the media knows it. It will be a while before we see a New York Times editorial calling for a cooling in US-Israeli relations, but the views of ordinary Americans are now percolating up through newspaper letters pages. This is where editors are testing the water to see how much space they might dare provide for more honesty when the topic is Israel.

Views once only voiced at the political margins of the blogosphere are now moving into the mainstream. Only yesterday, Andrew Sullivan — not known as an anti-Zionist — had this to say:

One question that should always be asked of an ally: what is that ally doing for the US? Since the end of the Cold War, that question has been increasingly hard to answer with respect to Israel.

Strategically, Israel is obviously a huge burden for the US, making relations with Muslim or Arab nations much harder, and undermining any attempt to portray American intervention in, say, Iraq or Afghanistan, as beneficent rather than predatory. It’s a big drain on the Treasury, as Israel consumes a vast amount of military and non-military aid.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to march in lockstep with the Israel lobby — but this can’t go on forever. As the taboos on criticizing Israel and questioning US-Israeli relations break down, members of Congress will come under increasing pressure to explain how they can justify supporting a country that has become a strategic liability at America’s expense. Israel’s most stalwart defenders should send their donations to a pro-Israel lobby of their choice, but they should no longer expect that support to be subsidized by the US taxpayer.

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4 thoughts on “Israel’s unbroken legacy of righteous victimhood

  1. Francisco Velasco

    I’m portuguese, a 74 years old fellow who has been following events in the world since my youth always craving to find credible sources in a world mislead by desinformation and blatant lies. After WWII, I was deeply horrified by what happened to millions of people, all over the planet, their unfathomable suffering and tragic deaths.
    Quoting from Alexander Werth’s Russia at War, and a speech by late President Kennedy, delivered before the American University in Washington, June 10, 1963, he went on to say: “At least 20 million (russions) lost their lives”. I would say, this is a number that should be remembered by all mankind. I was never indiferent to the fate of the Jews neither understood the ferocity of its persecution and aniquilation as a people. Mila 18, Exodus, Anne Frank and other books made me supportive of their struggle to secure a Home of their own.
    Neverthless, what was once an admiration and respect, 6 Day’s War, Entebbe Operation, etc, has definitely faded away from my thoughts, in face of the Ghettos being built to emprison and to bring hardship and misery, if not anihilation, of other people by those who have forgotten their own history. I was suspiciuous that Gaza Strip was the new Guetto of Warsaw!
    Thanks to War in Context and other credible sources, I’m able to unfortunately confirm it. Keep on, you’re a light in today’s darkness. Just keep on!

  2. RLaing

    Actual victimhood is neither freedom nor power. Freedom and power (same thing, really) come, as Mao observed, from the barrel of a gun. In other words, the roles of victor and victim are a function of one’s capacity for violence. Having acquired a position of relative power, imaginary victimhood can then and only then serve as a psychological trigger, an enabling mechanism to move conscience out of the way.

    And of course actual victims, lacking power by definition, count for nothing.

  3. estebanfolsom

    i’m not sure where to begin

    we have the same father
    our mother is the earth
    we are all gods’ children
    from the moment of our birth

    how we treat each other
    is how we will be judged
    you can call yourself
    whatever you like
    a point i won’t begrudge

    you’ve been given gifts sublime
    but not for waging war
    can’t you see i trust in you
    to realize what they’ re for?

    can’t you see your the hope
    the worlds been waiting on?
    when are you going to cut the bs
    put an end to the endless con?

    when will you find the courage
    to trust in the good of a man
    that you haven’t met and never will
    if you continue with this plan

    how can you judge another
    and give yourselves a pass
    picking off folks helicopter gun ship
    always seemed a little too crass

    if you want to kill a man
    you must look him in the eye
    put your hands around his neck
    and listen to his cry

    listen to his pleading
    ‘i’m not ready to die’
    take his life into your hands
    and let his spirit fly

    then you will see his sorrow
    then you will see his fear
    you should know better after all
    when death is always near

    it’s just a suggestion i’ll throw out
    and only for what it’s worth
    why don’t you give those nukes up
    save yourself and the rest of this earth

    and this goes for all of ‘us’

  4. Paul Lookman

    A European with different nationality as that of Francisco Velasco, I wholeheartedly concur with his comment. Both as regards credible sources like War in Context and his view of the position of Israel and the Jews. With the continued stranglehold on the Palestinians, sable rattling by nuclear power Israel to Iran without nuclear arms, a powerful Jewish lobby in the US and an American president with beautiful speeches but little action, I see little hope for change. I fear the only way to break the vicious circle will be more conflict and bloodshed. God forbid.

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