"I Have No Sisters"

After the murder of peace activist Emil Grunzweig, Dankner wrote a column that created a storm of criticism and exemplifies what made him controversial. He later retracted some of his bluntest comments.

Excerpts from "I saw, I heard," published in Haaretz on February 18, 1983:

It won't be a fratricidal civil war among brothers, not because there won't be a war, but rather because it won't be waged between brothers.Because if I am a party to such a war that is forced upon me, I refuse to call the other side brothers. They are not my brothers. They are not my sisters. OK, I have no sister. Those people who curse me out and spit on me and threaten me with murder and call me a traitor and the Palestinian Liberation Organization until their eyes almost come out of their sockets and the veins in their necks protrude and their hateful shouting and wailing give a fright to one's ears are not my brothers. Period.

And truth is they get me a lot less mad than those standing on the sidelines rolling their eyes sanctimoniously, clucking their tongues, looking high and low for that sublime balance between the two camps, prepared, after being pressured, to admit that "they" are more not right than "we" are. But they pull at my jacket lapel, asking me to engage in conversation with those whom they call my brothers. They place me in the same cage with a baboon run amok and tell me: OK, now you're together, so get a dialogue going. There's no alternative. Sorry, but he's biting my neck. How can I talk to him? He has a hatred that I am not equipped with. He has sharp teeth the likes of which I don't have.

I'm sick of having compassion and understanding. I know all those stories about injustice and disparities and feelings of frustration and the DDT [used on Sephardi new immigrants] and the immigrant transit camps and the [Sephardi immigrant slums of] Wadi Salib and Musrara, and the poverty and humiliation. I know that history no less than all of those imbued with a love of Israel. And I also recognize injustices that were committed. But if that means I have to stick out my neck for the killers and turn my cheek to those who hit and spit, then no.

It must be said that the people are divided into two distinct groups with conflicting political outlooks, which to our great misfortune at the same correspond with identities based on countries of origin. It must be said that a large, loud and violent portion of Likud party supporters also view their political activity as an expression of communal hatred. It must be said because the attempts to ingratiate ourselves, in an effort to bring about reconciliation with that same sector of the public, came to naught.

One way or another, I'm sick of this whole thing. I'm sick of lowering the profile of my cultural heritage, to tiptoe around them and shower emotional praise on them. All of this talk about … OK, don't get mad, we know that you brought a wonderful heritage here. Yes, ours was Heine and Freud and Einstein and that whole wonderful synthesis between Judaism and Western culture, but you too had beautiful things: hospitality, honoring one's parents, a marvelous patriarchal tradition.

If I hear such talk one more time, I'm just going to scream! Kissing one's father's hands and wonderful hospitality and an authentic yearning for Zion and naïve messianism may be beautiful for people who like such things, but they are not the attributes I would like to see for the society that I and my intellectual forebearers dreamed about establishing here.

I'm very sorry. If I have to conduct a dialogue with someone, I should honestly tell him what I am thinking and if the expected outcome is that he bites me on the neck, I simply won't have the dialogue with him. Just as I am not prepared to speak to the Palestine Liberation Organization without roundly contemning its acts of terrorism, I am also not prepared to talk to Likud party street gangs without condemning their acts of terror. It’s not for nothing that I again compare types of gangs, because in the race over who more greatly endangers the existence of the State of Israel, they are now running neck-and-neck.

In the Israel of 1983, public figures fear for their lives because of their own opinions, and we – kind souls and great humanists that we are, sit idly by, settling for a soft response lest they accuse us hypocrites of various kinds of "verbal violence" God forbid, and theydon't even provide day and night protection for the people – and everyone knows who they are – who are now marked as targets.

What will you hypocrites say after the first political assassination? What will we say? What sanctimonious speeches will be delivered at the funeral of [left-wing figures of the time] Yossi Sarid/Shulamit Aloni/Tzali Reshef/Yair Tzaban/Meir Wilner/Uri Avnery? Will we then have to go home with our heads bowed low and cast a glace at the attic and ponder packing our bags?

That's a terrible, shameful option. We need to stay here and fight. But not a fratricidal war between brothers, folks. They are not our brothers.