Statehood is to Israel as pity fuck is to _______

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

In Safeway last night. Two carts cruising through the vegetables, mine and his, crossed and we saw our daughters together.

Mine, with storm-cloud-blue eyes and hair long enough to reach her waist when wet but so curly it barely passes her shoulders dry. His, less than half my girl’s age, with tight black curls and hazel eyes. The futures of both obviously complicating their father’s lives greatly in 10 years.

We exchanged mutual admiration.

He asked, “Where am I from?”

I looked carefully at him. I’m good at this game. Like it or not, some of us can, just by looking at you, tell with fair accuracy, all the borders implied by the sordid grab-ass your maternal line invited or survived. I know, however, that not everyone likes the conclusions. Especially when you’re off by one racial hair; say tribe “14” instead of “12.”

He looked slightly Egyptian but I had a feeling he wasn’t. Too fine boned. Nose was wrong. I knew Egyptian, if the wrong answer, was truly the wrong answer. I began to scan North Africa in my mind for matches.

He said, “Here’s a clue. I’m from the first country to recognize the independence of the United States.”

Well, that was a terrible clue because it only suggested France to me. France, deplorable as their government and blind intolerance has become, was America’s fast friend since back when the Lobster Backs had the OG on the run. There are so many North Africans in France, he wrecked any chance at guessing right.

I said, “France?”

“No. They were fourth.”

Predictably, it takes an African to teach me the finer points of American history.

“Morocco,” he said.

The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship is the oldest non-broken friendship treaty we hold. Our oldest, most steady friends a sultanate turned constitutional monarchy. Muslims. How do like that?

We talked a bit more about our girls. No wrong answers possible there.

Then away from the vegetables and tofu and into the sauces and durum, litter and nip, tortilla and gyoza, vanilla and cardamom, stimulants and depressants, sustenance and diversion. The bazaar.

Simultaneously back at the checkout. He asked me what I thought about the Lebanon business.

I said, “It certainly makes it hard. How can one be pro-Israel while being anti-Israeli government?”

Eager, cautious chatter.

“Shameful,” was the conclusion. We both clucked and shook our heads at the situation and where it landed all spectators while I lined up my goods on the conveyor to the cashier.

Then, in the parking garage beneath the Safeway, after belting the kids down, putting the groceries in the car I asked myself, “Wait, wait, wait. Wait. Why are you even pro-Israel? When exactly did you decide you were?”

I take pride in that my opinions are never ready made; even while my art history cliché references sometimes are. I think about things before I choose a side; decide a moral position. I think about why I do everything. It’s, frankly, the only thing that elevates me. I don’t fly blind. I don’t “just do” shit unless I know everything that is going on behind it. I care not about looking right but about being in the right.

At the age of 10, maybe, I saw, for the first time, films of the many-pronged genocide that the Nazis undertook. It wasn’t just Jews. That’s easy to gloss. Jews made up about 60% of those sacrificed to the State of Deutschland. Poles, Czechs, homosexuals, and gypsies. The last being entirely ironic. Roma gypsies are Aryan. No statist regime has ever run on facts though. Not then, not now.

Corpses, in black and white, so emaciated that they could be flung with rakes and shovels. A body thrown with a single hand. Piles of pseudo-rubber. Bad special effects. Millions of naked sexless dolls; no longer anatomically correct. Robbed first of their identity, then humanity, gender, and finally breath.

Of course I was on their side. Anyone who could survive that deserved sponsorship. Anyone against it is a certifiable monster. Still…

The Holocaust was two and more generations ago. Almost everyone involved is dead. Both my grandfathers who participated in the war as Air Force officers are dead. The few children survivors of the camps are in their 70s and 80s. The last won’t die for another 30 years but there are few enough left compared to the weight of guilt that hangs on Germany and neighbors still.

(Japan at least had a clean path out. They suffered what none has. They were purified of many sins in the heat of crumbling isotopes. They could begin fresh and make it stick.)

The id of Israel, if you will, is the kibbutz. No longer very relevant, at the time the US was laying waste to Viet Nam with surplus ordnance because they were red, Israel was barely a faded pink.

There is archaeological and genetic evidence that the Palestinians have, if not superior, a roughly equal historical claim to the space Israel fills on modern maps.

No religion has any evidence or clean history behind it. They’re all superstitious nonsense that have cost centuries of progress; and lives beyond counting. Judaism being slightly more offensive to reason, even, at its root than Christianity. A state based on a religion, founded with intensely socialist practices, in a location held by other peoples on and off since Lucy’s grandsons staggered north, recently on a 1,000 year jag.

Why am I pro-Israel? Well, the opposition is deplorable but that’s the case in so many conflicts. Simply picking a side because the other offends you is not reasonable. It’s emotionally satisfying but it’s morally incorrect. Property rights based on religion is the worst kind of nonsense.

So why? Guilt insinuated via atrocities I had nothing to do with. That’s about what it boils down to. I admire the military they had 50 years ago. They had the power to carve a state out of a mountain of would-be destroyers. Still, if aggression is all it takes, then another match with any and all comers seems fair.

Today, I can’t say much for Israel. I certainly can’t imagine why the fate of the United States should be tied to it in any way whatsoever. I can’t imagine why billions of dollars of American money should be going there as foreign aid as if they were Cuba and we were the goddamned USSR. How did we get here? I have a feeling it was the same way I did. By not thinking about it. Letting pity decide.

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