"Well, I don't know about נטע (my sister)... but אדם (my brother) and רוני (y.t.) are probably more Zionist than we are."
I'd say that I got Zionism in my mother's milk, except that it came more insistently and explicitly from my grandmother. When I was very young, we spent more time with her than we would later, and she always took care to give us a heavy dose of Israeli civics. When she wasn't around, dinner-table conversations kept me fairly well-informed of the range of Jewish-Israeli perspectives on Israeli political controversies. But until I got to high school, I didn't realize that some thoughtful people didn't endorse Israel's existence at all. I thought that the need for a Jewish state was transparently and uncontroversially the moral of the Holocaust.
In high school, I became friends with a couple of Jews who were (it turned out) anti-Zionists, and learned to my surprise that Zionism is generally considered a conservative political position. And in college I figured out why I'd been so confused. In the European and liberal-American narrative of Israeli history, Israel went from underdog to occupier in 1967, when it acquired/seized/occupied Sinai, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank. According to the narrative I had learned — a mainstream Israeli perspective — Israel is now and always has been the underdog. As soon as this was pointed out to me, I realized that this segment of my historical narrative was reeling with spin.
They wanted to take the land and throw us into the Mediterranean. They were stronger than we were: more numerous and better armed. But we were clever. While they were getting ready to attack, we surprised them and we outsmarted them. We beat them back and wound up with even more land than we started with.I had a variety of explanations for why we kept the territory. The main ones were:
- We needed it for safety (followed by a description of Golan Heights geography and the strategic importance of keeping our enemies off of the hills)
- We needed it as a bargaining token (followed by the story of how we gave the Sinai peninsula back to the Egyptians in exchange for peace.)
- But my favorite explanation was — Because we won it, fair and square. (Often followed by "they started it!" and other such inanities. This reason made perfect sense to us, as little kids who argued with each other and didn't know about the Geneva Conventions. It seemed, in fact, to invalidate reason #2. We should get peace without having to give away anything!)
When I was a kid, I thought all reasonable people supported the existence of a Jewish state (in one form or another). Today, I think all reasonable people support the existence of a Palestinean state (in some form or another). More on that tomorrow.
(25 days left)