Uncategorized · July 3, 2023 0

A Miracle or a Golem?


Marty Levine

July 2, 2023

In 1948, Martin, a volunteer soldier fighting to establish the State of Israel wrote to his family back in America about his worries. He was concerned about what his efforts had helped create.  “A Golem is being formed here, and no one knows how it would turn out when it grows. And we, American Jews, help to create the golem, [but] without having any say about its moves. At any rate, the Jews of Israel traded their religion for a revolver, in every respect.” (From “Dear Palestine: A Social History of the 1948 War by Shay Hazkani

Hazkani a contemporary Israeli historian, had found this letter in the archives of the officials who were censoring mail of Israeli soldiers; he speculated that Martin was “implying that Israel, like the golem…turned wild and violent, perhaps against Palestinians, or Arabs more generally.”

But there are many who see the emergence of modern Israel as a miracle,  the fulfillment of a divine promise made thousands of years earlier. “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books…. immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel…made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants…”

And, unlike Martin, they see this new nation, as it’s Declaration of Independence declared, “ready to extend its hand  “to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”

The last few weeks have shown how violent the struggle between two peoples who both see their roots growing deeply into the same land. Death and destruction have become an almost daily reality. From my perspective, the major barrier to ending this horror, to finding a way that all people who live between the river and the sea and who have an historic claim on this acreage can live their live peacefully and with dignity is that we recognize that there are two narratives which must both be honored.

This has been difficult. Those who have seen Israel as the miraculous fulfillment of a God-given legacy has had closed minds to a more complex reality. They have denied the existence of another people, with a different history and belief, but who lay historic and religious claims to the land. They have demanded fealty to an ideology that sees Israel as a Jewish State and allows others to live under its rules only as second-class citizens (if they are even allowed citizenship) as a requirement to having any voice in finding a solution to the decades of conflict. They have made themselves the arbiters of what is an acceptable protest against the status quo, often seeing violent and peaceful protest as one and the same, and neither acceptable.

They have ignored that violence and terror have been used by both the Israeli Jews and Palestinians.  They have ignored the power imbalance between Israel and Palestine and they have ignored the ongoing actions of Israel’s government to eliminate the reality of Palestine and its rightful claim to its land.

In Israel, recent violence has produced some new voices fearing the emergence of the golem. As reported by Haaretz over the weekend, “IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi, Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai denounced the series of settler attacks in the West Bank on Saturday in a joint statement, claiming they plan to step up efforts against them. ‘In recent days, violent attacks in Judea and Samaria have been carried out by Israeli citizens against innocent Palestinians. These attacks contradict all Jewish values and are nationalist terror in every sense…” Nationalist terror are words rarely spoken about Jewish violence by Israeli leaders.

But they have  only  been spoken by American Jewish organizations and their leaders, until now. The AJC called it a “despicable act of incitement…We join the Israeli military’s call and strongly denounce nationalistic terrorism and any actions that jeopardize peace and security for all.”

Yes, their tone is harsh but they seem to ignore that this is not the action of just a few angry, rogue men and women. These are actions that are specifically sanctioned by the government of Israel. Actions which mirror the ongoing use of killing and violence perpetrated by Israel’s military and police establishment.

Consider these words from National Security Minister Itamar Ben G’vir “I’m opposed to violating the law, I think we have to settle everywhere in Judea and Samaria, but there won’t be one set of laws for settlers and a different set of laws in the Golan Heights, Rahat, and for the demonstrators on the Ayalon [Tel Aviv]…. Jewish settlement in the West Bank is an obligation of the government and that anti-terror measures must be increased. Our government killed the most terrorists, over 120 in the past six months, but a lot of work remains – and we have to lend a helping hand to soldiers and the police to support and strengthen them.”

As long as we see acts of violence by Palestinians as representative of the entire population of Palestinians living under Israeli domination and ignore the decades of Israeli state and individual violence that has marked the 75 years since the state of Israel was established Martin’s comments made in that 1948 moment are still hauntingly on point.

When Representative Jan Schakowsky, who represents me, spoke as harshly as she ever has she still cannot take the step of putting the responsibility for Israeli violence where it belongs, on the government of Israel.  Here are her words: “I’m horrified by the recent rise in violence in the West Bank, and condemn in the strongest possible terms the deadly Palestinian terrorism as well as the increasing frequency and intensity of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian civilians…these attacks by settlers are completely unacceptable, and I join the State Department in denouncing this violence and calling on Israel and the IDF to stop the settler violence and hold those who participated in these horrendous attacks accountable.”

Palestinians are terrorists while Israeli Jewish settlers are just acting violently. The United States, which provides Israel with billions of dollars in aid annually and which acts as a shield against international pressure can only raise it voice to ask that Israel act better.

Ignored is the fact that Israel has not acted better for years. Ignored is the fact that Israel has not been willing to even talk to Palestinian representatives about a real Palestinian state for decades.  Ignored is the fact that this state which our country has helped birth and has supported as our best friend is out of control. This is, indeed,  that golem, and it needs to be reined in.