In his new book, The Wandering Who, Gilad Atzmon, who was born in Jerusalem, describes his experience of being raised in a society that preferred to disregard the Palestinians in their midst.
“Supremacy was brewed into our soul, we gazed at the world through racist, chauvinistic binoculars. And we felt no shame about it either,” Atzmon writes.
The subject of Jewish supremacy is one that few non-Jews dare touch and those that do are, if not anti-Semitic, then sure to be branded as such. As often proves to be the case, the most courageous voices tend to emerge from inside Israel itself. None is more reliable than that of the Haaretz columnist, Gideon Levy:
On Saturday, the prayer was once again read in the synagogues. “You have chosen us from among all the nations” was once again heard all over the land. The idea that we are a special nation was once again specifically expressed, as is often the case in prayers and in the Torah, and not only on Yom Kippur.
But the idea that we are members of the chosen people is planted far deeper, and not only in Jewish tradition and among those who observe it – modern and ostensibly secular Israel believes in it with all its heart. There are not many other ancient Jewish ideas as deeply implanted in the contemporary Israeli experience as the idea that the “Jewish people,” however it is interpreted, is better than any other nation. If you scratch beneath the skin of almost any Israeli, you’ll discover that he really is convinced of that: We’re the best; the “Jewish genius” is the most successful; the Israel Defense Forces is the most moral. Nobody will tell them different, we’re simply the best in the world.
This is not only unnecessary and groundless arrogance, it’s also an extremely dangerous idea that enables Israel to behave as it does, with blatant disregard of the world’s feelings. Nor does it lack benighted ultra-nationalist and racist foundations. It’s good and well that a nation considers itself successful. The Jewish people have many reasons for that, of course, and many accomplishments of which to boast, as does the State of Israel, which is a kind of wonder, almost a miracle. But among all these, prominent in its absence is an equally important national trait: modesty. It is hard to accuse the Israelis of having it.
At the basis of Israeli arrogance lies the idea that this really is a special nation with special traits that are shared by no other nation. You can see that among Israeli travelers abroad; you can hear it from anyone who comes into contact with foreigners; you can sense it in the deeper currents of Israeli policy. The Americans are “foolish,” the Indians are “primitive,” the Germans are “square,” the Chinese are “strange,” the Scandinavians are “naive,” the Italians are “clowns” and the Arabs are … Arabs. Only we know what’s good for us, and not only for us but for the entire world. There is nothing like Israeli ingenuity, there is nothing similar to Jewish intelligence, the Jewish brain invents new ideas for us like no other brain, because we’re the best, bro.