Letter to a disillusioned Israeli Jewess
 
by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>  28 January 2008

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2008-01-28P.htm
narrow version at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2008-01-28.htm

      Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan announced on 16 January 2008 her discovery that the famous Jewish family, the Rothschilds, were responsible for much of the (in her mind undeserved) hatred towards Jews. She provided links to several websites with information which, she said,
should be of deep concern to every decent Jew. It is in the involvement of the Rothschilds and the Warburgs in this dirty business that is the source of the world’s belief that “the Jews” control the world’s banking system.” [1]
Dotan’s letter, which was forwarded to me, led to an intense exchange during the next few days. On the 19th she concluded a message with,
   Having read the information above, brief as it is; I'm sure you can see that the presumptions you made about Israel unsettling the Arabs in this area and the global criticism you level about Israel are disinformation that you were programmed to believe and disseminate. You are perpetuating blaming the Jews in toto, most especially "the Zionists" for the fault of one family and their cohorts.
   Please, in the future, when confronted with the equally painstakingly crafted anti-Semitic or anti-Zionistic remarks; instead of hooking into blaming all of us for the situation say something to the effect of: You're absolutely right, but not about the average Israeli or Jew. It is the Rothschilds that your hatred should be directed.
   I, for one, am sick of being their fall guy and seeing people who are themselves victims being blamed. Let the hatred of the world the Rothschilds and their associates so richly deserved be directed at them.
   There's a lot of homework and deprogramming of oneself to do. It's a long, hard process.
 
      As this passage from her recent letter to me so clearly shows, Doreen Dotan is an intense person who says straightforwardly what she thinks, even if it is likely to cause an adversary some discomfort. I admire that quality, that insistence on honest discourse. She and I disagree strongly on some critically important issues. But her honesty apparently offered me an opportunity to learn the current perspective of some Israeli Jews who live in the occupied parts of Palestine.

A major disillusionment. Dotan’s realization that Israel is a fascist state

      At the start of her lengthy paper, “An anarchist explains why Israel is not an imperialist state”, Dotan writes, “A state crosses the line from repressive to out-and-out, unabashedly and unapologetically totalitarian and fascist when it turns its armed forces against its own populace, ... Israel crossed the line in July 2005.” [2] This strikes me as rare and remarkable candor for an Israeli Jew committed to the defense of the Jewish state. The events that destroyed her prior faith in her chosen nation-state were the forced removal of “the Jewish residents of Gaza and two settlements in Shomron ... by the Israeli army and police ...” Before that, she said, “I, like most Israelis, thought that the Israeli Defense Forces were exactly that – defense forces. ... I, like most Israelis, was horrified to see that our army was employed against us.” She then speaks of some consequences: many soldiers deeply disturbed by the incident who have sought help from mental health services; a pall of disappointment and dread that fell over the state of Israel; she herself suddenly shuddering at the sight of soldiers, many of them brought in to break up peaceful anti-evacuation demonstrations. “The average Israeli”, she says, “was aghast and sickened at seeing these events, even those who were principally (sic) in favor of the “disengagement”.”

      I do not know if Dotan is correct in her belief that most Israelis were ‘aghast and sickened’. If she is correct, it remains unclear from what she wrote just which aspects of the situation caused their revulsion. My guess is that she was referring to the spectacle of Jewish settlers being forcibly removed by the Jewish military. In any event, on 22 January I distributed a note titled “Emergency after Emergency” on the Israeli actions in Gaza.[3] This item, a scathing attack on Israeli actions, elicited from Dotan, who says she is neither a Zionist nor an anti-Zionist, a response,

   So long as you take one of the sides that the people who have divided and conquered described for you, you have no hope whatsoever of solving the problems they created. They are masters of seeing all sides and playing all sides.
   You too must become a master of seeing all sides and rising above them all if you are to battle them.
   My suggestion to you is to assume an equally anti-Zionist and anti- anti-Zionist stance. Otherwise, your mind is pinned in their talons.
   Perhaps this will help; it is a short essay I wrote entitled: "The Jews and the Palestinians - Both Were Set Up"
[4]
 
      I wrote back, in part, “Although I haven’t answered your previous letter because of the urgency of trying to prevent the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians, I have thought about it and will try to write a constructive note that both recognizes where I think you are absolutely correct on a vitally important matter, and also criticizes what I see as an unjustified sense of being hated without reason.”

      In a second note I said in part, “From your description of the Israeli military removing settlers I’m guessing that the town you live in is a settler community, where you witnessed the military in action. Are you a settler? The wonderful candor with which you write is pretty rare in my experience with people who disagree strongly with me.” And, referring to her stating, correctly, that there’s a lot of homework and deprogramming of oneself to do, I concluded, “Of course we have all been ‘programmed’. My hope is that this public exchange will be able to help deprogram many of us.” She wrote back, in part, “Please read that essay and then I will answer you.” She referred here to her essay on why Israel is not an imperialist state, which I had not yet been able to finish reading.

      Two days later, on the 26th, I wrote Dotan as follows:[5]


      I completed reading your major essay, An Anarchist Explains Why Israel is Not an Imperialist State, and am ready to offer some comments. It is a lengthy document and I am unable to do the critique I think it warrants in a single session. At least I can get started. ... I think I now have a fair glimpse of your identity and your ideological formation. You left the U.S. shortly after April 1982 when you were almost twenty-five. So you were born shortly after April 1957 and will be fifty-one later this year. Clearly you were an idealistic and committed young person when in 1982 you went to Israel or Ireland (not clear from your text when you obtained Irish citizenship). At any rate, it seems that by now you have been living in Israel a fair number of years and are very disillusioned with contemporary Israeli society. You’ve obviously done a lot of research in history, far more than I ever expect to accomplish. As I was reading through your essay I realized that I could not possibly verify many of the assertions you make. I assume for now that the factual information you provide is correct (because you seem honest and forthright – not given to deliberate falsification), but many of your inferences and opinions seem to me strikingly unjustified.

      I have a good friend, Bill Templer who was born in the U.S. and who is now an Israeli. He is a linguist, an academic and a committed anarchist who has been for some years a source of inspiration to me. He is of course far more knowledgeable about conditions in Israel than I and manages to keep in close touch with developments there. In our earlier exchange I did not include [him] ... I want to now include ... [him] in the hope that he may be inclined to comment on your views. I also want to CC this note to another friend, Irving Wesley Hall, one who has done a lot of historical research in the preparation of his book, The Einstein Sisters Bag the Flying Monkeys, a political satire aimed largely at Christian Zionism in the United States, but that has important messages for us as well. The preface to his book is on his website, at http://www.notinkansas.us/index.html ...

      As promised in an earlier message, I’ll start with your statement of 19 January ...,

      “Having read the information above, brief as it is; I“m sure you can see that the presumptions you made about Israel unsettling the Arabs in this area and the global criticism you level about Israel are disinformation that you were programmed to believe and disseminate. You are perpetuating blaming the Jews in toto, most especially “the Zionists” for the fault of one family and their cohorts.
      “Please, in the future, when confronted with the equally painstakingly crafted anti-Semitic or anti-Zionistic remarks; instead of hooking into blaming all of us for the situation say something to the effect of: You’re absolutely right, but not about the average Israeli or Jew. It is the Rothschilds that your hatred should be directed at.
      “I, for one, am sick of being their fall guy and seeing people who are themselves victims being blamed. Let the hatred of the world the Rotschilds and their associates so richly deserved be directed at them.
      “There’s a lot of homework and deprogramming of oneself to do. It's a long, hard process.”

      You are fully justified in not wanting to be blamed and hated for bad things you have not done. I don’t believe I have ever blamed “the Jews in toto”, or even all Zionists for the horrendous actions of the Israeli government, as you claim. I think you must have read carelessly some of my writings to accuse me of that. If you can show me otherwise I will publicly correct any such misstatements. As for my “presumptions ... about Israel unsettling the Arabs in this area”, here I think you are dead wrong. Also in your long essay you claim justification for Ebba Eban’s often-repeated characterization of the territory as ‘a land without people for a people without land’ as though you still don’t know, or don’t acknowledge, that Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial was a totally fraudulent book. Surely you have read Norman G. Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.” His primary focus there was not Peters but Dershowitz. However, he writes (on p.229) of Peters’s book, “Although a national best seller and critically acclaimed upon publication, the book was soon shown to be a hoax. Baruch Kimmerling (of the Hebrew University) and Joel S. Migdal, in their authoritative study, Palestinians: The Making of a People, observe that Peters’s book is “based on materials out of context, and on distorted evidence.” Citing this writer’s own conclusions that the book is “the most spectacular fraud ever published on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” they report that “[s]imilar evaluations were expressed by notable historians” in Israel and Europe.2 ” In reading your essay I was conscious of your repeated use of the phrase ‘from time immemorial’ and could not help thinking that Peters’s book must have influenced your thinking.

      But quite aside from your allegation that the historic land of Palestine was nearly uninhabited in 1882 when the first Jewish settlers arrived, right now there’s a more pressing issue on my mind. Let’s suppose for the moment that you were correct. Now read the first six paragraphs of your long essay, where you are full of compassion for the poor Israeli soldiers who carried out the evacuations of Jewish settlers in Gaza and in Shomron and were so anguished by their actions that they “turned to mental health services for help.” How can you balance your compassion for the Jewish soldiers and displaced Jewish civilians against your seeming lack of compassion for the civilian Arab victims of current Jewish military actions? How many Jews did the Jewish military kill in Gaza and Shomron? How many Arabs have the Jewish military killed in Gaza and the occupied West Bank? Don’t all victims warrant compassion, simply on the basis of being human beings?

      Your honesty compels you to acknowledge, even to an avowed critic, that the state of Israel is now “unabashedly and unapologetically totalitarian and fascist.” But then, immediately after those first six paragraphs, you head into what strikes me as a lengthy apologia, one that required a great deal of effort and that deserves to be examined critically. A principal thesis of your paper, as the title indicates, is that Israel is not an imperialist state. I don’t know who has made the charge of imperialism central in criticizing Israel so that you felt impelled to counter that allegation. I for one don’t believe Israel is even capable of being an imperial power in today’s world, and have no dispute with you on that count. If the case needed to be made, which I doubt, you have assembled a formidable amount of historical data and an analysis that I think ought to persuade a reader that Israel is not an imperial power. So what? It is still a nation state capable of doing many terrible things in the service of its ruling elites, and it is acting as practically every nation state does, abominably. To an anarchist, which you identify yourself as, the evils of nation states and of all hierarchical coercive social structures ought not come as a surprise.

      That’s it for the moment ...


Dotan’s answer, the same day, was
      I keep to a hard and fast rule. When any given correspondence I receive has three grossly incorrect statements, I do not respond to them. I just don’t have the time. Neither do I imagine that I can confuse people with facts when they obviously have invested a good deal of their identities in delusions.
      Let’s pick this conversation up again when you’re past the level of asking someone from Tzfat if they live in a settlement.

      In spite of this disapponting initial response, Dotan might change her mind, and write again. It seems to me that for someone who takes to heart the Jewish-Palestinian conflict as deeply as she does, her excuse for cutting off the exchange is hardly credible. I hope she will rethink it and write a substantive reply. If she does I will of course add it to this posting.


NOTES
[1] Doreen Dotan’ initial e-mail on the 16th and the subsequent correspondance, up through 19 January 2008, is posted at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2008-01-19.htm .

[2] Doreen Dotan’s paper, “An anarchist explains why Israel is not an imperialist state”, is available at
http://www.geocities.com/dordot2001/IsraelIsNotAnImperialistState.htm .

[3] Emergency after Emergency is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2008-01-22.htm .

[4] Dotan’s essay “The Jews and the Palestinians - Both Were Set Up” is at http://www.geocities.com/dordot2001/JewsPalsBothSetUp.htm .

[5] Parts of my letter to Dotan that were not immediately concerned with my understanding and critique of her paper are omitted, replaced by ... .


All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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