Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay are right. We’ve forgotten how to be Jewish. We are Israeli first and only slightly Jewish. Our Israeliness is arrogant, impatient and violent, a blend of the fanaticism of MK Bezalel Smotrich and the aggressiveness of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Our Judaism is not that of pre-Holocaust Europe or pre-state North Africa. As Jews we wrote, studied and taught; as Israelis we conquered, expelled and abused. I’m proud of Judaism and ashamed of Israeliness.
Why are we like this? This is what we learned from the Holocaust. Our Holocaust lesson is that cruelty pays off and that racism is rewarded. That’s the lesson of our fake Judaism. That is not the Judaism from which we came, neither in the West nor in the East. After the Holocaust, Jews helped the blacks in South Africa and fought racism in the United States. Here we deport people.
The Holocaust is not responsible for our disengagement from Western liberalism. The wars against the Arabs are not responsible for our disengagement from Mizrahi tolerance. What is responsible for this disengagement is the transition from the ruled to the rulers. Power went to our heads. Sovereignty and independence saved the body and destroyed the spirit. Brawn replaced brain. We are the new Jew. After 70 years of planning and building we can say we succeeded. We have created a new creature. We are the creature that pushed aside Frankenstein, smashed the gate and left the laboratory to wreak havoc in the neighborhood.
When you destroy, you forget. We’ve forgotten what is to be Jewish, but no matter what we made sure we had God. Our God is a hostage. Our God sits before the camera and reads what the kidnappers dictate. In his name we expropriate land and deport refugees. In his name the land is ours, forever.
This is not the God of Einstein and Freud. It is the God of Shlomo Aviner of Beit El and Arye Dery of Har Nof, who is subject to coalition discipline, who measures skirt lengths and closes stores on Shabbat; a God who prefers to pay idlers in yeshivas and deport work migrants who support themselves and don’t ask for favors.
The Judaism that holds God hostage is a good “closer”: state funds in return for support for the settlements, canceling the draft in return for ignoring corruption. It’s Judaism for rent to the highest bidder, the Judaism of the Sicarii, a Judaism that will lead to civil war.
We’ve forgotten how to be Jewish, but there are Jews who remember. We are the vultures who hover above them, pouncing on every anti-Semitic incident. Anti-Semitism hurts Jews there, but serves us here. It justifies our Judaism. We build on it. We count every hate crime. We hope anti-Semitism will prove to the Jews that the era of the old Judaism has passed, and it’s time for a new Torah, that of Dery. We need suffering Jews. Why suffer in Paris? Come suffer with us here.
What kind of Jews are we? Have we not eyes, hands, senses, affections, passions? Do we not cry at movies? Does the immigration police officer not have a heart? Does the pilot who bombs Gaza not have children? Does the cry of a small child not pierce their hearts? Of course it does, and still we deport, bomb and imprison. How do we do this with such a big heart?
Judaism would not do this, but Israeli Judaism does. Israeliness is an insular religion that flaunts being “a people that stands alone” like a badge of honor. A Judaism that fights its children’s leaving, that annuls everyone else. Secular people are a nuisance, the Arabs are drugged cockroaches and the refugees are a cancer. It’s easier to trample on others when the refugee is cancer and the disabled person is an exploiter, the Arab inferior and the poor man lazy.
It’s not Jews who expel, oppress and abuse, it’s Israelis. Judaism is not to blame, Israeli Judaism is. We are the Israelis, and this is our Judaism.
Why “we?” We don’t expel or bomb; we demonstrate, protest and write. But it will not clear our conscience. What will we tell our children and grandchildren, that it wasn’t in our name? We are partners. So long as we obey undemocratic laws that were passed democratically, we are partners. It won’t help to turn our backs. It’s all in our name, and how.