(August 8, 2019 / JNS) Living in Israel since 1970 has prevented me from undergoing the actual academic experience of the breaking out of the idea of identity politics. However, I read, and it seems that this thinking sought to reclaim for groups on the fringes of society a form of self-determination and freedom of political position within society. But it had a negative side, as it emphasized their distinctive nature and accused external forces of being responsible for their status through forced imposition. Moreover, they demanded to be respected mainly through the medium of being different.
And it only got worse. One way it did so was by weaponizing that concept to deny Jews their identity. Jews were white and capitalist (rich), and that separated them from the large suffering minorities who faced discrimination. On the other hand, when Jews did suffer, traditional anti-Semitism empowered by the resurrected Jews-as-enemy-of-the-toiling-masses disallowed them from claiming their own ethnic-national identity.
Simple. By defining any Jewish peoplehood as one which is the enemy of the so-called Palestinian Arab.
While I and my wife left for aliyah in 1970, the turnabout of the left, whose support for Israel was always tenuous, dictated mostly by Russia but originating more with black revolutionaries, broke out with a ferocity on college campuses between 1967 and 1970. Already in mid-August 1967, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) “attacked Zionism and accused Jews of committing atrocities against the Arabs.” As JTA reported, SNCC declared at a press conference that Jews were “imitating their Nazi oppressors, committing some of the same atrocities against the Arabs.” Ralph Featherstone, SNCC program director, said: “Israel is and always has been the tool and foothold for American and British exploiters in the Middle East and Africa.”
Ideological formulations can rarely by deconstructed and countered. Their importance becomes less factual and more psychological.
For example, encountering the outrageous ignorance of Code Pink’s Jewish mannequin Ariel Gold in her tweet regarding Judea and Samaria, I pointed out that those geographical terms were contained in the section of the United Nations’ 1947 partition proposal, whereas the term “West Bank” was created in April 1950 as a cover for Jordan’s illegal occupation and annexation of the area of British Mandate Palestine that was to become an Arab state, if the Arabs had so chosen (but they didn’t and, preferring war, lost much more than battlefield engagements),
Last week, we had Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) nodding her head in agreement with the questions she was asked in an interview (see 27:20 in the clip) about Israel, “a corrupt government,” that “Russia and Israel working in concert,” that there are “white supremacist Jews” who are “aligning with racism.” And that “Israel is criminal and unjust.” Those asking the questions were, as JTA noted, Ebro Darden, whose mother is Jewish, and who attended Hebrew school as a child. In addition, a co-host, Peter Rosenberg, is Jewish.
Among the methods to be used to counter such calumnies is the assertion, clear and forthright, who we are as our people and what is our identity. To be moderate on basic fundamental truths will not serve us well.
Our identity is that of a people who declared ourselves as such some 3,500 years ago. Our national territory is the Land of Israel. There we established our religion, our culture, our language with its literature over many centuries. We developed the covenant conceptualization of a polity. Our presence there is confirmed by material finds, contemporary writings at that time, including external sources, and attested to by other science-based finds. If you come to my village in Shiloh, almost a century of excavations have uncovered all the solid proof one would need.
In an obverse twist of the crucifixion charge from Christianity, subverting history, stealing our history, we now have, as promoted by Linda Sarsour, retweeted earlier by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and originally pushed by Hanan Ashrawi back at the 1990 Madrid Conference (which I attended), the identity-theft “Jesus-was-a-Palestinian” myth. We aren’t who we really are, but we are presented as what those who hate us want us to be. There were no Arabs in the Land of Israel, except perhaps itinerant traders, and “Palestine” was applied to the country only in 135 C.E., so the question should be to this: Were Arabs responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion?
Another theft of Jewish identity: the “West Bank,” a nonsensical term created in April 1950 to cover an illegal annexation by Jordan after its illegal occupation of territories of the League of Nations Mandate originally intended to be part of the historic Jewish national home, is touted over the actual name of Judea and Samaria. Even the United Nations used “Judea and Samaria” in its 1947 partition boundary description. We are, again, stripped of our identity.
Zionism—the return of Jews to our history, our culture, our national ethos, and ultimately, to our national homeland—is the genuine politics of identity that we need to pursue. This is the message we must drive home to our wayward younger generation, to our opponents and to the inhospitable media that facilitates our identity-theft process.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and political commentator.