Israel Doesn't Exist in Its Own Right. It’s a Bluff.

The categorical imperative of Israeliness is always striving to export; hello ma’am, hello sir, we have an interesting story. A small country. Occupation. Jewishness. Holocaust. Care to buy?

An Independence Day celebration in Tel Aviv, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

Israel does not exist in its own right. There is no such country as “Israel.” It’s a bluff. A scam. Somehow we’ve been made to believe in something that has no logic. A sovereign entity? Who are you kidding? Not at all. Israel is a dependent country. An aircraft carrier of the United States, as some people put it. That’s not a joke or folklore. It’s reality. Israel’s sovereignty depends on external aid. We get the money from the Americans, the submarines from Germany, the working hands from Palestine, Africa and Asia.

The European states support us tacitly and accord us a façade, the right to assume the European aura as though it were ours. The Chinese have bought the iconic Tnuva food manufacturer and soon will buy all the rest. They are also putting up buildings and digging tunnels for us. A foreign energy conglomerate is removing the gas from the sea for us. From the Australians we buy livestock. We get high in India and try to forget our traumas from our army days. Hey, we even stole the hummus.

So what’s left? Hashahar chocolate spread? The game of Taki? Israel’s car, the long-deceased Susita? The separation barrier? Remotely piloted aircraft? Targeted assassinations? We didn’t even invent violence, just upgraded it.

To be here and not to be here, that is the national ethos. Nationalism is the primary reason for being here, but it’s not strong enough to create autonomy. Patriotism falls apart in the face of the big world out there. The country’s citizens are peering out all the time, and the peering has become the peek forward. Because there, far away, across the sea, is where the real opportunities await. So it’s odd that people get upset at an organization like Breaking the Silence for being active abroad. What’s all the fuss about? That’s what we taught them. We were all educated to look outward.

The Israeli lust for expansion is insatiable, because it acknowledges the smallness and limitedness of the place. Even if no one listens to you here, people will surely listen elsewhere. Breaking the Silence is only upholding the categorical imperative of Israeliness: always strive to export what you do inside. The organization is doing nothing exceptional. Nor are the other human rights groups, when they travel across Europe and the United States within the framework of the thriving peace industry. That’s what we know how to do: take Israeliness and trade in it. Like wagoners on the Silk Road, or smarmy salesmen. Going door to door with our wares. Hello ma’am, hello sir, we have an interesting story. A small country. Occupation. Jewishness. Holocaust. Care to buy?

An Israeli television series can’t be broadcast only on Channel 2 or Channel 10. There’s no money in that, and no prestige. It has to be sold as a format abroad. If a book isn’t translated into at least three languages, why bother to publish it here? So a few hundred people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will read it? There’s no real value in that. Israeli chefs dream of opening branches in London and New York. They’re no patsies. Why make do with Rothschild Boulevard if you can sell shakshuka to the goyim?

Illustration.
Sharon Fadida

If you’ve directed a film and it hasn’t been accepted to at least four tiny film festivals in Eastern Europe, you have failed miserably. Where will your movie be screened? In the Sderot Cinematheque? Come on. You’ve formed a band and haven’t gone on a tour of 10 pubs in southern Germany? You’ve blown it, pal. And obviously you have to do a doctorate in Paris and a post-doctorate at Columbia and exit your app startup and relocate to Silicon Valley and do a residency in some hole in southern Italy. The politicians and senior business people in Israel smuggle their children out for a happy life elsewhere, even as they turn the country into heaps of ruins and fertile ground for exploitation. Local-ness is for losers.

We live in a culture that is subletting itself to death. Everyone is looking for an exit – not to say escape – tactic. It’s not just the Ashkenazi obsession with foreign passports, or the over-ambition that characterizes migrant societies. It’s a quality that’s built into Israeliness; at the deepest level, no one wants to be here. Israelis understand that this place is limited and apparently temporary. That recognition generates incessant longing. Yearning for the diaspora we left. There is hardly any activity that is purely Israeli, that exists only in this place, at this time.

It’s no longer a dialogue with other cultures. It’s a fatal attraction. A moral criterion in every respect. Everything that happens here is in the nature of a platform for realization elsewhere. As an Israeli, you are expected to “think big.” In other words, to go to the Western world, to transform yourself into Western mode, to show them that you have it in you. And if possible, not to come back. To stay there. Internationalism is a physical and spiritual last testament. And you shall tell your son: Go forth from your native land.

There’s no choice but to admit that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is not a bad idea at all. It’s a blow to the soft underbelly. To the self-perception of Israel as belonging to the world and conducting relations of give-and-take with it. A boycott of Israel is also a boycott of the Israeli fantasy, of being here as though we are not here. Maybe BDS will force Israelis to grapple with reality. To stop thinking about export and import and simply to live what there is.

That’s the moment we’re all afraid of. Understanding that Israel is all there is.