She was our neighbor, her apartment next to my childhood home. I would look at her from the peephole in our door, standing for a long time and checking to see whether she had locked her door. She would bang the door, shaking the stairwell until her door was battered from the blows. After that, she would go down the stairs – and immediately return to check once again.
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This strange ceremony was conducted every day. Mrs. Plenner was all alone. We knew she was a “Holocaust survivor” and they explained to us children that her behavior was “obsessive.” A word we didn’t understand then.
I think about Mrs. Plenner when I think about a different obsession: that of Israel to be a “Jewish state.” The pattern of behavior is the same, according to explanations from the mental-health field. The disease is defined as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is categorized as an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted and repetitive thoughts and the carrying out of ritual behaviors. It has few cures.
The source of the term “obsession” derives from the Latin word obsessio – for an unceasing attack and being held captive. Obsession is an irrational idea that causes the person to take actions out of a sense of coercion. Those who ask for treatment report that they are exhausted and get no rest. Usually, the obsession is accompanied by feelings of anxiety and guilt. The mental anguish damages their functioning and starts with an event of fixation. Among types of obsession there is also, of course, obsessive love – destructive, like all obsessions.
It’s hard to know how much love there is in the yearning of the state to be Jewish at any price. Certainly there is obsession, in sick amounts. A strong and prosperous country, most of whose citizens are Jewish, checks time after time if its door is locked, just like Mrs. Plenner from my childhood. No one knows how to define exactly what a “Jewish state” is, what its “Jewish character” is, how it will look and how it must act. But everything is directed to achieve the goal that was reached long ago. The door is locked, Mrs. Plenner.
The prime minister invents demands that the Palestinians recognize a locked door (the Jewish state). The foreign minister proposes population exchanges, for the same purpose. The justice minister and the peace negotiations testify that what motivates them is preserving the “Jewish character.” The “Judaization” of both the Negev and Galilee remains a legitimate value, as racist as it is. And the war against tens of thousands of African asylum seekers is also fed by the same obsessive motive.
There is no other country that’s so motivated by an obsession. Norway does not say it wants to be the “Norwegian state”; nor, likewise, does the United States. These countries have clear immigration policies, and their character is set by their citizens and governments. The aspiration for a Jewish majority is legitimate, but not when it turns into an obsession.
Once, also during my childhood, we would ask in the youth movement, “Who do you feel closer to, a Druze soldier from Isfiya or a yeshiva student from Brooklyn?” The majority said the Druze soldier. It is possible to assume today, after all the waves of brainwashing, that the answer is different.
A country that does not know exactly whether Judaism is a religious nationality, and how exactly a “Jewish state” looks, cannot answer the question. A country that checks the origin of the blood of its potential residents – not long ago they conducted a DNA test on a girl who wanted to participate in the propaganda initiative called Taglit-Birthright – is an obsessive country.
At first Israel wanted to be a “Jewish state in the Land of Israel,” as is stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. This aspiration reached the law books only 44 years after the founding of the state (Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom (1992)). Since then, obsession.
It’s not important if it is right; it’s less important if it is democratic – the main thing is that it will be Jewish. In the reality in which there are no other countries of pure origin, Israel wants to be such a state. It is undermining its Jewish majority through the act of occupation, and it is actually those screaming for a Jewish state who are also screaming for the occupation’s continuation.
Is there any way to explain this behavior other than the reason we received for the strange behavior of the unfortunate Mrs. Plenner, who passed on a long time ago?