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Confessions of a reborn non-Zionist

The son of a Zionist family, Ari Miller immigrated to Israel dreaming of combat tours in the IDF, followed by a political or diplomatic career in the service of his new homeland. Today, his life couldn’t be farther away from those fantasies. A personal journey

By Ari Miller | Photos from the author’s personal album

I stood there, with my unit, all of us with an M-16 in hand. A man in green with one red shoulder barked at us that, in a few weeks, we would have the opportunity to kill or be killed. We were about a month into basic training in the IDF’s 101st paratroopers division. I was living my lifelong dream of aliyah and service in the Jewish army. I was 24 years old, surrounded by 18 year-olds.

As a child, a button hung in my suburban Philadelphia bedroom. On it was written, “We are all Zionists.” A gift from my father. I didn’t know what it meant but I wanted to make him proud. So I was a Zionist. First by default, then by active participation.

During the year, I attended a religious day school. Some summers were spent in Israel with the synagogue youth group. Others were spent as a counselor at a Jewish overnight camp; an Israeli flag hung over my bed, a symbol of where I’d rather be. My first year of university was spent half at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the other half on a religious kibbutz near Gaza. I served as the Hillel president in my junior and senior years at Clark University. Israel advocacy was my primary agenda. When Norman Finkelstein came to speak on campus, I cut classes to prepare and hand out pro-Israel/anti-Finkelstein material at the entrance to the lecture hall he’d be occupying.

I had only learned who he was that morning, when I saw the signs for a lecture on Israel, the speaker invited by someone other than me. I was top Jew on campus and someone was stepping on my toes.

No one will dare step on my toes once I’ve got on green, red and black – the colors of the uniform, beret and weapon of the Israeli paratrooper – and also, ironically enough, the colors of the Palestinian flag. The army makes you a man Jew, more than a bar mitzvah ever could. Combat would instill in me the strength and discipline of studying for a thousand Haftorah portions. And there was danger and adventure, just like in the advertisements I’d seen for the US Army. But an “army of one” (the recruitment slogan at the time) was not for me. I was looking for an army of minyan.

Zionism was the core of my identity. Judaism the structure of my life. I made no secret of my intention to move to Israel following my graduation form university. My plan: join the paratroopers, become an officer and then get into politics. My dreams reached far and wide to include becoming Prime Minister or Israel’s ambassador to the US – or any other country for that matter. Hell, I’m still open to the possibility.

“What a holy thing you’re doing”

When I arrived for my draft notice I had been in the country less than a year. I reported to the Haifa induction office. When evaluated for my linguistic proficiency the clerk either ignored or was too daft to notice that I was texting the Hebrew words I was being asked to define to my girlfriend-at-the-time, a fellow American sitting in her Ulpan class in far away Tel Aviv. I came out of the room from my physical clutching my groin, my face artificially contorted in pain, just to mess with the 16 year olds waiting their turn.

Technically, I was required to serve only three months in a program called Shlav Bet. I could have opted to simply be trained for some non-essential task and then worked into the reserves. Realistically, I probably could have even gotten out of that. But I had come for the “real deal” and volunteered for an 18-month service.

Two people advised me against serving, arguing that Israel is in need of intellectual contribution much more so than additional fingers on the trigger. Call it stubbornness or stupidity, but my mind was made up as to the path I would pursue. I much preferred listening to comments like, “What a holy thing you’re doing.” That one was offered to me by Morton A. Klein, who was and still is the president of the far-right wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

It began with a course for new immigrants entering combat units. Of the four divisions, three were comprised entirely of those who’d arrived from the FSU (Former Soviet Union) and the fourth was “other” – which included me.

Most of our course commanders were from elite units, sent to train us as a sort of army vacation away from active duty. One of them, from Duvdevan (a unit that specializes in undercover missions to arrest and/or kill wanted militants identified by the IDF), spent much time selling me on the finer points of becoming an assassin. All I had to do, he assured me, was finish the physical exam and I was in. As I sat opposite some officer sent to interview us about placement requests, the Duvdevan guy was waving his red beret in the window I faced, over the shoulder of the interviewing officer, who remained unaware of the action behind him.

The horrible mistake I had made

But I didn’t want to go to Duvdevan. What almost no one knew then, save for a few very close friends, was my realization that I had made a horrible mistake. At that point my thoughts were shifting from getting that red beret to getting out of green all together. The actual reason that I ended up in the Paratroopers’ physical exam, in which they only allowed a small portion of us immigrants to participate, was to avoid spending the night in the field. Those of us accepted to participate were allowed a decent night’s sleep in the barracks. I swear to fake god.

This is not to say that I did not rock the exam. Later on, in basic training, an officer stopped me and asked if I recognized him. I did not. He explained that he administered the physical exam and said I was amazing. He must have been referring to my encouraging a fellow immigrant to keep going, at a moment when we were all running around with heavy sand bags on our shoulders. The kid finished the exam but was not accepted to the Paratroopers. I, on the other hand, was another step forward into my dream-turned-nightmare.

I felt something amiss from the first moment I put on the uniform. But I quickly understood that should I want a successful army career, it was within my grasp. During the immigrant’s course at the platoon commander’s Friday session with the troops, I was asked to stand, along with one other guy, in front of all those assembled. As he had been in the midst of chewing us out for poor performance and lack of discipline, to say I was nervous is to say the least. He instructed everyone to look at us, suggesting that we were the models from which they should take example. I stood there feeling as though I were an impostor.

When we were assigned our weapons, I felt sick in my gut, aware that I may have chosen the wrong life path. Trading in the desk-jockey uniform for that of the paratrooper, I felt myself sinking deeper into a hole that would be very difficult from which to extricate myself. I had this singular dream my entire life and was succeeding in its pursuit. Only, I was coming to discover that the pot at the end of the rainbow was not filled with gold but with blood, hate and destruction.

In my immigrant’s platoon there was a group of about five religious Americans from Brooklyn. When it came time to return our training ammunition, with every bullet they removed from the clip they muttered, “Another Arab I didn’t get to kill.”

I went to my company commander, figuring he’d want to root out any possible festering violence. He told me there was no time to deal with such things in an immigrant’s course; such outbursts would be dealt with once they were placed in their permanent combat units. But my combat unit was not much different. We had a kid from Kiryat Arba—a Jewish settlement bordering Palestinian Hebron—who made it clear that he lived in Judea first and Israel second. First he worshiped his rabbi, second his prime minister. I did not want to be guarding a settlement with this guy.

I started to crumble, emotionally and mentally. My life’s path was misguided. The rainbow itself, I was discovering, was nothing more than a thickly veiled farce.

Failing one’s country

I developed asthma. What started out as a terrible cough plaguing me through the start of basic training, turned out to be a respiratory apparition, a faux-divine blessing to solve my problems. Once diagnosed, my commander privately offered me an inhaler explaining that this could be dealt with without the need to involve doctors any further. I should have been shocked, but there was a kid in my unit who lied about his dyslexia, which should have disqualified him from the Paratroopers. As for me, I had no intention of missing out on this potential release from the combat infrastructure. I refused the inhaler, explaining that, when it came to my health, I would stick with the doctor.

My last Friday session in the unit was complete with a story from the commander about all those guys who couldn’t “take it” in the paratroopers of yore, dropping out and failing their country because they were weak with asthma. Of course, he also recounted the brave tales of those who sucked it up and soldiered on, despite breathing problems. I was pissed off that I still had to be on base for a weekend.

I attempted to arrange a transfer to the IDF’s spokesperson unit, figuring that I could serve in a position that offered me practical experience for life after the army. My main contact there, some dude named Simon, had his head so far up his or someone else’s ass that I came to realize there would be no salvation within the system. I again thank fake-god that I came to realize that I just needed out.

Enter the army psychologist. I was told this option would stigmatize me within Israeli society. This was the insanity with which I was faced: Play by the rules and sacrifice my remaining humanity by staying in uniform to aid and abet an industry of death and destruction or be stamped as someone unwilling to serve his country no matter the personal cost. I’m not talking about the legitimate, defensive needs of a nation state. I’m referring to the blatant racism and violence that is alive and well in the form of an occupational force. This was the dark side that no one ever spoke of – the reality of service in the IDF.

The border of humanity

That’s not true. One person spoke of it. A fellow soldier in the 101st who demanded he be released from combat. A hulking dude, seemingly birthed to fill the paratrooper’s fatigues. I asked him why and he told me that he had been lied too by his country and countrymen. That combat is not some glory-filled service of honor. That it demands a sacrifice not of self but of one’s humanity.

So I pursued losing face in Israel with wild abandon. If this was the true nature of Israeli society, I could not respect it. After all, I couldn’t see how I would respect myself were I to stay, were I to shoot at fellow human beings, were I to make myself a target for my fellow human beings to shoot at me. I had met soldiers who had killed or been close to it. One bloke, a fellow immigrant who cried from joy when we were told of our acceptance into the paratroopers, had been in an operation that left him stranded in a Palestinian village, I was told by a common friend from the course. He grabbed a child, held his rifle to the kid’s head while the kid pissed himself and was thus able to extricate himself from a potential life-and-death situation.

Another guy I met at a Friday night dinner, had killed for the first time that past week. To deal with the trauma, he relied upon copious amounts of alcohol and a prostitute. He told us of his woes in reaction to the father at the table proudly proclaiming that, “he had heard he earned a notch in his belt.” I do not know how I would have reacted in similar circumstance. What I knew was that I had to avoid subjecting myself to such circumstance at all cost.

It’s not that I was unaware of the inherent violence of any and every army. Even in the Swiss army they’ve got cool little knives you can use to open cans, poke holes in leather and cut a throat. I read book after book on the experiences of ‘Anglos’ in the IDF – autobiographies of those who survived to tell the tale and biographies of those who did not. I questioned myself, if I’m willing to kill another person. I answered that I would not be killing people but the enemy.

What I had not considered was that I might come to realize that even “the enemy” is still a person. And once this thought took residence in my brain I could no longer accept be reconciled with kill or be killed. And, as the nationalism I had come to Israel with seeped out from me, I came to see my place, holding a weapon in a combative position as being a mercenary, cleverly disguised with immediate citizenship based upon, to borrow a David Cross line, the religion of my mother’s vagina at the time of my birth.

I stood at the border of humanity knowing that I did not want to cross.

The Promised Land

To end my army career, I was ordered to report to Hebron where I’d be tasked with sitting in a room to watch television screens. I’d be Israeli big brother to the Palestinian little one, with none of the love, respect or trust common of the sibling relationship. I informed the army psychologist that I intended to refuse the order. He told me to come to see him instead. When I arrived at his office he offered his final verdict, “You are no longer in the mindset of being a soldier.” No shit. And, like that, I was out. When I had my release papers signed, I was told that if I wanted to participate in reserve duty I should be in touch after two years. I didn’t ask for the number.

But I stayed in Israel. I moved in with my girlfriend, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University; together, we found a place in a northern Tel Aviv neighborhood. I looked for a job but found nothing. So I took advantage of my aliyah (immigration) rights to a free education. I explored the idea of studying film at Tel Aviv University. But for reasons that I cannot recall I ended up heading south to Beer Sheva, accepted to study Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University. In hindsight, I assume that I wanted to get away from my life as it had existed. Whether I knew it at the time or not, I had to reinvent myself, discover new passions, my raison d’être. Turns out that a college campus with lots of those girls they’ve got there was as good a place as any to tackle this task.

As a participant in an international Masters’ degree program, I studied in English with students from all over the globe – Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Israelis and even a Zionist Christian from Indonesia. The bulk of my education was not in the classroom but at the pub and over home-cooked dinners, complete with booze and pot. We’d sit around rehashing the day’s lectures and current events. I got back into writing as the Israel correspondent for New Voices, an independent Jewish student magazine, distributed on campuses across the US.

Through this educational experience and these discussions with friends – Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists – I began to construct a new personal identity, one that embraced friends and family, liberating me from god and country.

Following my studies, I moved back to Tel Aviv. It never occurred to me to go anywhere else. Here, in the first Hebrew city, I didn’t have to be Jewish or Zionist. I could simply exist – so long as I was comfortable with the average Israeli not understanding that. And, because I was a Jew, according to the State and regardless of how I had come to identity myself, I could navigate here with such luxuries as socialized health care, a vote and access to all things nationalized.

I began waiting tables at a fashionable restaurant named Orna and Ella, where the money was spectacular. I lived in an apartment on the beach. I was writing about music, art, dance and food for The Jerusalem Post’s weekend entertainment guide. The construction of my life was blessed and the city opened up to me in a most intimate way. And I fell in love. With it’s beach, coffee, beer and culture. But, at the end of the day, I was frequently reminded by the locals that I remained an American who left behind the goldene medina.

It seems to be always assumed that there must be something wrong with me. Israelis look at me with wonder for having left behind all that they crave for themselves. They seemed to be saying that a life in Israel is the result of flawed logic. But it’s not, of course. It has its problems – a cult of militarism that includes the tendency to martyr its fallen, social inequalities that go largely unaddressed due to hyped up security concerns and, no doubt, legitimate security concerns.

And I feel that this disbelief, that someone might want to live here – not because of a commitment to god and not because of a commitment to country – is one of the greatest disservices that Israelis hold about their own country, their own existence. But I am saying, with my lone voice, that this is a legitimate place to live.

I am most maddened by the all-to-often offering that I have no right to judge or criticize. Because I was not in Lebanon or Gaza or protecting a settlement with my body. That I can not understand. I am infuriated when I hear Israelis and Jews tell me that it’s okay here because it is worse elsewhere. That Israel is good because it allows gays to be open, African refugees to live and religiosu and secular exist side by side. But this confuses Tel Aviv with the rest of the country. And this city has the power to save the rest of the country.

Living in a bubble

Tel Aviv is where it’s at. We sit around in cafes and get drunk at bars. Our public spaces are covered in street art and there are boutique fashion shops in clusters. We have restaurants aplenty where you can find just about anything you’d like and an urbane, international set that knows just what it’s looking for. And we take shit for this. We’re told we live in a bubble. That’s true. We live in a bubble of normalcy and I offer no apologies for it.

We take shit for our normalcy bubble, as if it’s not normal. That’s true. It isn’t normal to insist upon normalcy when situated smack dab in the middle of abnormality.

During the Second Lebanon War, the rest of the country slammed us for knowing nothing of what it is to suffer. Tel Aviv was the paradigm of people who did not care. I felt nothing highlights the classic lack of Israeli empathy than the insistence upon this notion. Anyone able to take refuge in Tel Aviv came here. At Orna and Ella we were constantly bombarded with “refugees” from the North asking for their solidarity discount. Nasrallah was still just past the border threatening that Tel Aviv was next. And we would go to the beach, smoke a joint, watch the parade of helicopter sorties fly past every few minutes while my Israeli friends would reminisce about the times their dads disappeared for days, months and lives in service of Israel and its politicians.

We did not have to live on the border to understand fear or feel the pain of loss or anger. The hysteria of a nation at war permeates that entire nation. And we’re left to decide between the myriad fear mongers and too fewer prophets. Again, lack of experience on one hand does not mean lack of experience on both. And solutions are oft to be found in the non-violent dialogue between the resulting opinions, the conclusions of different people with different experiences.

Here we are, in our bubble, Tel Aviv, Israel, Middle East grasping tenaciously to whatever little normalcy we can muster in the hopes of keeping sane. We wonder out loud, encouraging one another to be just a little bit louder, as to when the rest of the country will cling to normalcy rather than fear, anger and the march to war. We hold this conversation in our cafes, pubs and salons, on the beaches and sidewalks, in Bauhaus apartments and crumbling rooftops. We ask ourselves and one another what will be when Israel finally figures out its shit – when the nation of Israel will choose love and peace to the point that it will not settle for anything less.

I, an atheist born of a Jewish mother, who arrived to this country a Zionist and remain here for that Tel Aviv bubble of normalcy and represent myself, my voice and my life, am psyched to be part this Zionist experiment. And, the best part is, that the geography of it all is inconsequential. Residence in Tel Aviv is not an exclusive prerequisite for a Tel Aviv state of mind. But feel free to visit: We’ve got a great thing going on here.

——————-

Originally published in Hebrew in Blazer Magazine.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Tamar

      “Residence in Tel Aviv is not an exclusive prerequisite for a Tel Aviv state of mind.” I second that. And, I applaud your splendid telling of the painful and profound story of you, so far. Kol hakavod doesn’t begin to express my awe and admiration.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Ari wouldn’t be living in Tel Aviv if it weren’t for Zionists (i.e. Jews) who put their beliefs and lives on the line. Tel Aviv wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Zionists (i.e. Jews) who put their beliefs and lives on the line. It is Zionists (i.e. Jews) who are protecting him and his friends in Tel Aviv, whether they like it or not.
      I have heard these arguements from others at this site as well. Ari and the others are trying to have it both ways. They want to be “morally pure atheist anti-Zionists” and yet they want to benefit from all the hard work the Zionists (i.e. Jews, including religous ones) have done. Does Ari and the others realize the Arabs don’t view us as having ANY right to be here? I presume Ari wants peace, I know others of his opinion want peace, but I keep asking why the Arabs should make peace just so that he can continue being comfortable in Tel Aviv when they view his and our presence here as the prolongation of an injustice. I hope he will think about this and draw the appropriate conclusions.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Deïr Yassin

      I’m often amazed by the number of recent immigrants who call themselves ‘non-zionists’, ‘post-zionists’ or even ‘anti-zionists’.
      I often wonder what they are doing there, and if they have any objections to the return of the expelled natives, that is the Palestinians.

      This story exemplifies that Israel is a colonial project. I’m sorry but that what I feel after reading this ‘confession’.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mathieu

      I am touched by this story. I know many other accounts of changes of heart exist. I hope we can read more of them one day.

      As for Ben’s comment, I feel it is an all or nothing kinda of discourse. A bit arrogant and condescending. Blaming the Arabs for all the problems in Israel/Palestine is not accurate. One should be able to criticise himself before blaming others. As we say, “One hand can’t clap”!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mathieu

      @Deïr Yassin: Where is the problem in being ” ‘non-zionists’, ‘post-zionists’ or even ‘anti-zionists’ “?

      I believe firmly that jews and arabs could live in Peace on the same land sharing their Hummus recipes. No need for extremism and zionism, two anti-Peace concepts…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Palestinian

      to Ari , so how do you identify yourself now ?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Rann B

      Deïr Yassin: I utterly agree with you. I’m an anti-Zionist Israeli, and find it incredibly difficult to talk to or understand people willing to migrate here, take advantage of all the privileges Zionism affords to middle-class white immigrant Jews, and call themselves non-Zionists. It’s absurd and hypocritical.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Mitchell Cohen

      It is VERY rare that I agree with posters like Deir Yassin and Rann B, but I also must ask, what are non-Zionists and anti-Zionists like Ari doing here? Of course, an Israeli anti-Zionist might have to stay here for a variety of reasons (family, friends, having trouble getting a visa to another country, not having the money to leave for another country, learning another language isn’t always easy, etc. etc.) even if they would love to leave, why would an anti-Zionist or “non-Zionist” make aliyah? And what makes Ari think that he is less of a “foreigner” (in the eyes of the Arabs) than Zionists like myself, who also made aliyah (many years ago) from America?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Deïr Yassin

      Thank you, Rann B, for understanding.
      When I think of my grandparents who were not even allowed to pay a visit to their lost homeland before dying, who didn’t care about the material things they lost but to whom the mere memory of Akka, the smell of za’atar, the land of Palestine made cry, I find it very difficult to read this kind of navel gazing ‘confessions’ without feeling very revolted.
      Ari Miller might as well have moved to Ibiza 🙂

      Darwish expressed the Palestinians’ love to our land better than anyone else.
      Shadia Mansour sings live from 2:55 min
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgHOdmDnmJg

      Reply to Comment
    10. Mathieu

      I do not understand why a jew immigrating to Israel should be a zionist in order to deserve living there. He would be working and paying taxes and contributing to the society in many ways. Does a Mexican, who immigrates to Barcelona, have to be a catalan seperatist in order to be able to live there?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Palestinian

      Is it a must to be a Zionist Jew in order to settle in Tel Aviv ? anti Zionist Jews are more than foreigners and Zionist Jews are the enemy .

      Reply to Comment
    12. Mitchell Cohen

      Mathieu,

      A Jew immigrating to Israel (i.e. making aliyah), does so under Israel’s Law of Return. How can an anti-Zionist reconcile (and take advantage of his benefits of Zionism, including acquiring instant citizenship under the Law of Return) with not believing Israel has right to exist (or at least not exist as a Jewish state aka Zionism cough cough)? Seems a bit puzzling, at the least, if not hypocritical, at the most to me.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Ben Israel

      There are anti-Zionist Haredi Jews who do make aliyah, saying that the want to perform the mitzvah from the Torah of living in Eretz Israel, without any connection to whatever government may be in power, but, again, they are taking advantage of all the efforts the Zionists did in enabling them to do so. I think a little gratitude is in order, even if it involves ideological transgressions.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Mitchell Cohen

      Palestinian, then I guess I and most Israeli Jews are “the enemy”. No skin off my nose. With a zero sum attitude like yours, you will be the ones who end up with the short end of the stick and I can handle the status quo.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Wasn’t this post up a couple of months agon?

      Reply to Comment
    16. RichardNYC

      yawn…

      Reply to Comment
    17. Palestinian

      Mitchell , its good to know that you’ve reached the conclusion of who is our enemy , smart Zionist.We ,together, will witness who will end up with the short end of the stick and believe me you wont handle whats gonna happen.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Sam Smith

      “Palestinian”: yawn… Find someone who cares what you think.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Deïr Yassin

      TO THE MODERATORS
      Personally, I’m FED UP with Sam Smith and his arrogance. He already told me too, that nobody cared what I think. We know that Sam Smith considers Palestinians as not worth of listening to, he’s told so lots of times, but do you think this is a correct attitude on a blog like +972 mag ? 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    20. to all readers: try to stay on topic, and refrain from hate-talk and personal attacks. After much deliberating, we have began banning readers who violate our comments policy, so please respect this forum.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Sam Smith

      Comment was removed for personal attack. last warning before banning user

      Reply to Comment
    22. Sam Smith

      And the fact that he’s irrelevant has nothing to do with the fact that he calls himself “Palestinian”.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Palestinian

      Anyways we are so happy to read the confessions of a reborn human being, I hope he encourages other immigrants and soldiers to renounce violence and refuse to serve in the army and it will be a great thing if he communicates with Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    24. richard Allen

      To Rann B and Deir Yassin–When I moved to Israel, I moved to Tel Aviv. Only to Tel Aviv. I am a non-zionist, but I happened to love Tel Aviv. I don’t feel their is any dissonance in that. One city is not necessarily an ideology of a country. Do you paint Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway as collaborators in Algerian colonization?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Dr.Bill

      There used to be this cynical joke about the definition of a Zionist as a Jew who raises money to send another Jew to go and live in Israel. The impression from this young mans essay that I come away with is that he is very very confused. I blame his father who is an American for using his naive young son to fulfill whatever imaginary pipe dreams he may have had about living in his own minds Zionist paradise. The remarks about that “we are all Zionists button”, and the hanging of an Israeli flag in his room. The not too subtle brainwashing jingosim of the father is ramarkable. I’m sure there are American fathers who instead of Israeli patriotic paraphernalia hang US Army photos, and American flags and let their sons play with GI Joes toys and toy guns when sub-teens who are then proud when their sons (or daughters)fulfill their own lost wetdreams of being “an army of one”. Of course what happens to this jingoistic glory filled orgasm when the child comes home in a body bag and the honor guard presents that folded flag at the cemetery has to leave an emptiness beyond filling. This is no different than all those glory filled youth who wanted to please their fathers and fight the uncivilized “huns” in WWI.
      It is so fortunate that these uber-Zionist Jewish American fathers are becoming fewer and fewer, and that more young Jewish americans are finally seeing the great crime that was committed against group of people who had done them no harm beginning in 1919 at the Treaty of Versailles.
      The cause of this century old conflict was never very complex. It can be distilled down to one sentence: “You stole their land, they want it back.” The Zionists who have forgotten or never bothered to learn the teachings of the great Hebrew prophets (and one does not to be an observant Jew to heed the prophets) need know only this: “Do not do unto others, that which is hateful to yourself”
      This kid needs a good analyst, and would probably be better off going home to the United States where he belongs. He seems as lost as the lost generation of the Great War.

      BDS

      Reply to Comment
    26. Philos

      I understand what the author is trying to say but I don’t get it…. what’s the point? It’s ok to live in Tel Aviv and not feel guilt about it. It’s ok not to feel guilty about being a not particularly nationalistic American immigrant (for a change)?

      Reply to Comment
    27. Shoded Yam

      @Dr.Bill;
      .
      “…fulfill their own lost wetdreams of being “an army of one”.
      .
      I prefer an “army of two”. You know, just in case the first guy gets popped. ;-).
      .
      While I take exception to one or two of your points and I see the BDS movement as camouflage for nitwits who like to take their latent anti-semitism out for a stroll from time to time, I related to much of what you said, especially the “lost generation” reference. You see things very clearly.

      Reply to Comment
    28. David

      I was expecting to read about how and why the writer changed his views, but there’s pretty much nothing there at all. Pretty disappointing article.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Sylvia

      “And, because I was a Jew, according to the State and regardless of how I had come to identity myself, I could navigate here with such luxuries as socialized health care, a vote and access to all things nationalized.”
      .
      Only “as a Jew”? Because Arab israelis don’t have acccess to healthcare? they can’t vote? they don’t get national security retirement? National Income insurance when they’re unemployed?
      .
      It’s bad enough without the senseless slander.
      .
      This doesn’t have anything to do with politics. All it takes is read between the lines what is not said, and therefore this piece should be entitled: “Confessions of a dope-head”
      .
      Another article like this one and 972 is down the drain. I wonder when you find these “writers” lately?
      .

      Reply to Comment
    30. Rann B

      Richard Allen: Last time I checked, Tel Aviv was part of Israel, and in fact provides a decent percentage of the economic backing for the Occupation and the Zionist project as a whole. You cannot declare yourself to not part of that, particularly when you chose to move here voluntarily.

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    31. Deïr Yassin

      Exactly, Rann B. It’s like a White guy moving to South Africa during the Apartheid-era saying “but I’m not a racist”.
      And not to forget that large parts of Tel Aviv are built on top of Palestinian villages. ‘Tell me where you live, and I will tell you whose land was stolen”.
      Richard Allen is probably living in what used to be Shaykh Muwannis, Salama, al-Jammasin or maybe Mas’udiyyah.
      We know the Zionist myth of Tel Aviv built in the sand, and we know what muths are for.

      Richard Allen is a non-Zionist and find there’s no dissonance in that. Wait, I have to look up the ‘Israeli non-zionist’ defintion of ‘dissonance: “inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions”.
      I guees in Israel this is possibly not a ‘dissonanve’. Whereas elsewhere it would be called pure hypocrisy.

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    32. Bosko

      All this talk about dissonance …

      Here is another instance of it. All this self confessed non Zionist Jews who still live in Israel. Maybe they should consider moving elsewhere before they succeed in causing enough damage to Israel. Especially since if they would achieve their goals to dismantle the Zionist project, the Arabs who would take over would treat them as Jews (not in a good way). And there won’t be Arab left wingers who will fight for fairness for Jews, whether Zionist or not.

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    33. weinstein henry

      Like David, I was expecting to read a boring Confession à la Jean Jacques Rousseau, or a post-modern deconstructionist coming-out à la Judith Butler, or something else even more boring – with a title like “Confession of a Reborn Non-Zionist”, what to expect else? -, i.e an analysis explaining the U-turn, and I felt relieved to read something else!
      Even if you didn’t manage, or find it so boring compared to your present life in Tel Aviv, to stay focused on the U-turn – how you lost your Blind Faith (maybe simply by opening your eyes!) – your essay is worth to be read, Ari, and your failure to analyse the U-turn is very human, funny for the reader.
      Another time perhaps you will succeed, with an essay à la Hunter S.Thompson!!
      Personally I think it’s not impossible to love a country and its people & culture without embracing its official ideology, having noticed there was a big difference between the Popular Republic of China and the Chinese people, and a huge difference between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian people.

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    34. To the Palestinians who replied:
      Do you admit that this is a war between two sides, i.e. the Jews who want to stay and the Palestinians who don’t want them to stay?….if so, “Do you renounce violence, all violence?”, or only the cases where you are on the losing end?

      Because we don’t intend to lose. You hold an absurdity close to your heart,…somehow you will “embarass” Israel …somehow she will feel so guilt ridden that she will move out.

      I live in Tel Aviv. I spent my first four years of my second aliyah with an educational project in Taibe trying to advance Palestinian-Israeli relations, a volunteer without even a car. Believe me, those days are gone.

      You are left with an ever smaller and smaller fringe who want to help you ..good will is gone…..We see no human reciprocity working with you..We see no mutual understanding or sympathy…a false messiah for the Left

      We who live here see the burgeoning class of capitalists among the Arabs…. There is no Nakba that justifies blindness and callousness to your own and to others. I invite Americans to come here and see

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    35. Deïr Yassin

      Goldie Klugman, another American immigrant, hasn’t left behind her colonial attitudes – she must ha ve read too much Ruyard Kipling – and talks about ‘want to help you’ and ‘goodwill’.
      Oh, my heart is broken. She wants to help the Palestinians: well, she could go back to where she came from. Palestinians on both side on the Green Line don’t need any American Jews to paternalize and patronize them. Khalass.
      She talks about ‘human reciprocity’, ‘mutual understanding and sympathy’. I would be embarrassed to write such BS with my own name. Maybe she worked with children or mental retarded back in the States….

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    36. Dr.Bill

      Goldie, you are part of a smaller and smaller fringe of Jews who are still buying into Zionist propaganda, especially in the United States. Synagogues here, (except of course the Orthodox) are seeing declining memberships, and for some strange reason they can’t understand why. The elephant in the sanctuary is that Zionist organizations made a calculated and deliberate choice to co-opt these institutions. Many congregants resented this and simply opted out. When a schmuck Rabbi once told me, after I asked for an audience with him because of my concern with some of the texts being given to my sub-teen children showing Arabs as nothing but primitives on camels and in tents; that “The Arabs are our Enemies”; I replied with Muhammad Ali’s famous refrain – “I ain’t got nuthin gainst no Viet Cong” but in my own words.
      Young Jewish Americans are fleeing in droves to other venues when they find a need for a search for individual spirituality. They certainly don’t get it in the mainstream organized Jewish institutions here in the states which are dominated monitarily by Bronfman and his ilk. When a whiskey distiller seems to think that an all expenses paid trip to Israel for a week will instill in some disaffected or ignorant young Jews a love for “The Jewish State”, all I can say is he must be heavily drinking into his own profits. He’s certainly no prophet.

      Z
      BDS

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    37. Palestinian

      To Goldie Klugman ,

      The conflict is between Zionist Jews and justice. Zionists have to renounce Zionism.
      You are the first person to claim that you didn’t see human reciprocity working with Palestinians, maybe you had a bad luck , maybe you didn’t have an honest will , or maybe people didn’t like as a person .Next time send them an email in advance to rent you a Mercedes.
      I hope Americans and people from around the globe come and see the truth ,in addition to the thousands of Israeli and international peace activists who build strong relationships with Palestinians.

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    38. Sylvia

      Unlike those who are refugees from Arab countries, and thereby were stripped of nationality citizenship and denied travel documents, those holding two passports who define themselves as non-Zionists or anti-Zionists should be presented with the opportunity to renounce Israeli citizenship and altogether right of return for themselves and their descendents. They should put their mouth where their heart is. That goes for those foreign Jews fighting Israel from their computers in America.
      I think that option of a form whereby “Zionist” Israeli identity can be renounced, would be more convincing than taking moralizing poses and playing knights of freedom.

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    39. Dr.Bill

      Sylvia,
      I have no reason to renounce any right of return, since I have never recognized it in the first place. I had this argument quite a few years ago when this was brought up as a possible option.
      By renouncing the state of Israel’s presumptive hegemon, i.e, that Israel is not a state for all of its citizens who live within it on an equal basis, but rather a supranational entity formed for the purpose of allowing any Jew in the world, no matter where they live, the instantaneous right of returning (even though the individual may never have been there before); there is implicated in that renunciation, that one recognized the opportunity afforded in the first place.
      Therefore there is no need to renounce something one does not recognize a priori.
      Moreover the corporate entity which Zionism refers to as “The Jewish People”, is an entity which BY LAW is not recognized by the United States. This matter was brought before the US State Department back in the late 1960s by Rabbi Elmer Berger of the American Council For Judaism and the International and Constitutional lawyer the late W.T. Mallison Jr. Essentially the findings were that there are millions of people who are Jews but there is no corporate “Jewish People” entity.
      Or let’s put it in religious terms. The Israeli Supreme Court itself has NEVER been able to define what is a “Jew” by anything other than a religious definition. If one converts say from Judaism to Roman Catholicism, by Israeli Basic Law of the Right of Return, if that newly annointed Roman Catholic sought to be admitted into Israel under the fact that his mother was Jewish, he would be denied. In matter of fact that case was tried and found he was denied entry under the Law of Return. It turned out he was now an ordained Catholic Priest. He still wanted to be in the Holy Land where I believe the RC Church assigned him, and wanted citizen ship but he had to go the route of all the other second class citizens.
      Now Israel has always wanted to have it both ways. And they will research your bloodline to be sure, and also be sure your conversion was by an Orthodox rabbi ONLY.
      Now the Nazis used to put people into concentration camps who were born Christian, raised Christian and professed Christianity, but in some instances because their grandparents were Jews, the Nazis considered them to be Jews and sent them to their deaths.
      Ultimately what defines a Jew is someone who professes the religion of Judaism. One can move in and out of or away completely from all religions. It is not part of your DNA or even your ethnos.
      An Arab is someone whose native language is Arabic. Among all Arabs there are many distinct and separate cultural tags, so that a Palestinian is not the same thing as an Omani.
      An African-American possesses certain racial characteristics which will be with that person for life. They can’t NOT be African-American (unless they move say to France and become an African-Frenchman)
      Yet one can no longer be a Jew by renouncing Judaism. There are many atheist Jews in Israel who would prefer that on their identity card it says “atheist” but that unless the law was changed is not allowed. An Arab Israeli who speaks fluent Hebrew and has lived in the Galilee all his life, has his nationality listed as “Arab”. Why is there no “Israeli” nationality on the identity cards? Because that would defeat the Zionist project.

      Dr. Bill
      BDS

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    40. Mitchell Cohen

      “Ultimately what defines a Jew is someone who professes the religion of Judaism.”

      I am sure there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jewish atheists/agnostics who would disagree with you.

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    41. Bosko

      @Mitchell Cohen – Yes, I agree with you. I am a non religious secular person but I still call myself Jewish.

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    42. Bosko

      @Mitchell Cohen – Of course the very same people who deny Jewish peoplehood are the first ones to cry foul when someone denies a distinct Palestinian Arab peoplehood and call THEM just Arabs. I am not one of those by the way because I believe that any people have the RIGHT to define THEMSELVES on the basis of common history, culture language and ethnicity. And on all those grounds, we Jews qualify to be a nation, at least as much as the Palestinian Arabs whom the leftists on this blog are so ready to stand up for at every turn …

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    43. weinstein henry

      Modest proposition to refine the Jewish Tag – and by the way the Loyalty Oath – in the Holy Promised Jewish Zionist Land of Israel (I hope I didn’t forget anything) at the present time
      I would suggest: Israel is the homeland of “the religion of my mother’s vagina”, to quote Rabbi Ari Miller.
      It works, for the religious & non religious; but I presume the atheists would demand to remove “the religion” from the sentence…
      Ah, if only Claude Levi-Strauss, mon compatriote, had written an ethnological study scrutinizing the Jewish People…
      But I bet it was too intricate, even for him!

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    44. Ben Israel

      Dr Bill-Yes, the world DOES recognize a corporate entity called “The Jewish People”. It is officially noted in the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Treaty that granted the British the mandate for the Palestine territory and the UN Partition resolution of 1947 supporting creating a state for the “Jewish People”. All people who claim to be “2-staters” recognize a “Jewish state”, including Obama.

      Regarding the Arabs, while you are correct that they are not all the same, they all claim to be one people who aspire to unity. The first clause of the Palestinian constitution says the Palestinians are part of the Arab national and they will work for unity of the Arab people.

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    45. Ben Israel

      Dr Bill-While you are correct that the non-Orthodox synagogues are in decline in the US, it has little to do with what Israel is or is not doing. Jewish alienation, demoralization and assimilation go back 3500 years. The reasons are complex and to claim that young Jews are leaving the synagogue because of Israel makes no sense. You claim young Jews don’t want to be identified with Israel, but the decline of the non-Orthodox synagogues began in earnest back in the 1970’s when Israel had very solid support from all sectors of the Jewish community (Elmer Berger’s American Council for Judaism was a fringe organization).
      The fact is that there are militantly anti-Zionist synagogues and rabbis (Brant Rosen, Brian Walt and David Mevasair, to name a few), particularly among the Reconstructionist movement, but they are sputtering along with the rest of the non-Orthodox. They are not attracting the masses of supposedly anti-Zionist young Jews you are claiming are looking for a non-Zionist form of spirituality.

      You can’t put your finger on one thing and say that this the reason young Jews are leaving the Jewish fold. One big reason 70 years ago was because Jews were perceived as pathetic weaklings who were kicked around without mercy. Many didn’t want to be identified with such a people. Now you turn around and say the Jews are too strong.
      The Jewish people have always had a strong core that keeps things going even in the hardest times and which outlasts the assimilationist tendencies. It is the same today. At least 90% of the Jews in Israel support the Zionist ethos more or less, and a clear majority of Jews outside Israel do as well, so I don’t see anything to worry about even though it is said to see some Jews fall away. It’s their loss.

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    46. Dr.Bill

      @Mitchell Cohen

      Yes, there are many people who are atheists and agnostics who still consider themselves “Jewish”. And I know perfectly well what you mean. What we are dealing with here is an impreciseness in the language, and as for English it is the “ish” that gets in the way.
      My geneological background is Ashkenaz. Paternal grandparents – Austria-Hungary; Maternal – Pale of Settlement, Russia. This is also the geneology of the vast majority of Jewish Americans. The feeling of being Jewish is based on the lost Yiddish culture of those places which of course was virtually destroyed by the Nazis. It is the left over words and phrases which are still used three generations later, it is some of the left over food delicacies that are still relished, and a few other cultural tags. In that real sense THOSE Jews were a people. But in that sense it would be more precise to identify all of us, who no longer follow Judaism as Ashkenaz-Americans, as descendents from that lost culture.
      Since the cultural tags for Sephardim, or Mizrachi, or Yemenite, or Ethiopian are very different from the former, there cannot be one PEOPLE here, other than in the nominal sense that all profess Judaism to one degree or another. And the Israeli Supreme Court itself agrees with that, as it has never been able to come up with any other definition of “Jew”. The “who is a Jew” debate erupts in Israel once a decade or so. It is only in legal dispute in Israel.
      In any of the pluralistic liberal Western democracies no one cares if the Orthodox don’t think a Reform convert is not really “Jewish”. These are essentially religious battles.
      It is only in the self-described “Jewish State” that many who have been raised as Jews, find out to their surprise that in Israel they are not legally Jews unless they undergo an Orthodox conversion. So in this instance their “peoplehood” in Israel is based on a religious test. Israel is the only place in the world that discriminates against other Jews. Why that irony has not bothered Jewish Americans is startling. Of course, many are totally unaware of Israel’s geneological laws.
      Of course there is manifestly an ISRAELI PEOPLEHOOD, and an ISRAELI NATION ( at the turn of the 20th century, people and nation were often used interchangeably) but if those of you living in Israel check out your identity cards, apparently there is no such thing as an ISRAELI people.

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    47. Dr. Bill

      @Ben Israel,
      If I implied there is ONE reason why young Jews are “leaving the fold” then I was not being clear enough. However please do not put words in my mouth.
      “Now you turn around and say the Jews are too strong”. Where did I even imply that? These are your words and your thoughts not mine.
      However I would like to back up my previous statement on my contentions with the following:
      Here are some excerpts from an essay titled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” by Peter Beinart in the NY Review of Books June 10,2010:
      “When several..Jewish philanthropists hired pollster Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more vigorously rebutting..criticism of Israel. The philanthropists wnated to know what Jewish students thought about Israel. (He) found out that THEY MOSTLY DIDN’T (caps mine)”
      “Six times these youth used the word ‘they’ rather than ‘us’ to describe the situation.”
      So much for the “a people, one people” contention of Herzl, huh?
      But here is the key:
      ” Most of the students..were liberals, broadly defined. They had imbibed..defining values of american Jewish political culture: belief in open debate [ to which I commend all here-dr.bill], a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights. AND IN THEIR INNOCENCE, THEY DID NOT REALIZE THAT THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO SHED THOSE VALUES WHEN IT CAME TO ISRAEL.(caps mine) The only kind of Zionism they found attractive was a Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace, and they were QUITE WILLING TO CONDEMN AN ISRAELI GOVERNMENT THAT DID NOT SHARE THOSE BELIEFS. Luntz did not grasp the irony. THE ONLY KIND OF ZIONISM THEY FOUND ATTRACTIVE WAS THE KIND THAT THE AMERICAN JEWISH ESTABLISHMENT HAS BEEN WORKING AGAINST FOR MOST OF THEIR LIVES”
      “For several decades gthe Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.”
      “Because they have inherited their parents
      liberalism, they cannot embrace their uncritical Zionism. Because their liberalism is real, they can see that the liberalism of the American Jewish establishment is fake.”
      “As secular Jews drift away from America’s Zionist institutions, their Orthodox counterparts will likely step into the breach. The Orthodox are still interested in parochial Jewish concerns. They are among the last ones who stayed in the Jewish house, so now they control the lights.
      Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox dominated, Zionist leadership WHOSE NAKED HOSTILITY TO ARABS AND PALESTINIANS SCARES EVEN THEM, AND A MASS OF SECULAR AMERICAN JEWS WHO RANGE FROM APATHETIC TO APPALLED.”[CAPS MINE]

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    48. Adrian

      @Dr Bill

      Interesting, this is the first time I’ve heard that. As far as my knowledge goes the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled in the past (e.g. in 2005) that non-Orthodox converts are considered to be Jews for the purposes of the Law of Return. For instance, here’s the Haaretz reporting of the 2005 ruling:

      http://www.haaretz.com/news/court-recognizes-overseas-non-orthodox-conversion-1.154820

      Are you saying that non-Orthodox Jews who immigrate under the Law of Return are not recognized as Jews for the purposes of the Millet System (which is still in force in Israel)? Or that they would not be counted as Jews for the purposes of the Israeli ID card (which I find unlikely given the facts)?

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    49. Bosko

      @Dr Bill – “Since the cultural tags for Sephardim, or Mizrachi, or Yemenite, or Ethiopian are very different from the former”
      In some ways yes but in otherwise no. We share a common memory of our ancestral home land – Zion. We share a common history of persecution, albeit at different places. We share our ancient language – Hebrew.
      Last but not least we celebrate the same festivities and many secular Jews do celebrate at least some festivities.

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