I’ve probably told this story — orally — hundreds of times in the past nine months. It’s a story I find fascinating, and I ask it of every Israeli I meet: How did you become a dissident?
A Zionist Upbringing
I was born and raised in Israel. A daughter to “Atheist Jews”, secular Zionists, white collar, upper middle class, capitalists, Neo-Liberals, who “built this country”. I’ve had many internal struggles with these values and identity labels. Always self aware, at some point I decided to just accept that I will never be in the mainstream, and to accept the “rebel without a cause” label I’ve been given by my family.
Through the Zionist thicket of my own family’s education, school, and the Israeli media, I found myself rootless, alone, but most of all numb. It seems to me that the biggest achievement of Zionist propaganda is to make the majority of Israelis numb and confused. I would despise school (which I often described as “oppressive”), my army service (“jail with better visiting conditions”), and national ceremony (“disgusting solidarity”).
Making Love – Understanding War
Waking up to the reality of Israel would be gradual, with many tipping points. Here’s my most embarrassing confession: I could have been a completely different person today, if it hadn’t been for my ex-boyfriend. He was the son of an activist and slowly, but surely, through countless, daily political conversations, the truth behind Israel was revealed to me. He never pushed, never tried to convince me, just answered my questions and allowed me to think.
During this period of three years, I learned many things that would mainly create sympathy, in me, for Palestinians. One of the major tipping points was a BBC documentary that my partner sent me about Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller- the three internationals murdered by the IDF. But to me, the story that would resonate the most would be that of 12 year-old Huddah Darweesh. Huddah was shot in the head by a sniper while sitting in class, and somehow survived, only to wake up blind. This would be the first time I would cry for a Palestinian.
Waking Up in the Midst of a Massacre
Here’s my second most embarrassing confession: When my partner and I broke up, one of my fears was, would I be able to recognize injustice, when I see it, if my ex isn’t there to point it out? This was two months before the bloody Cast Lead began, and when it did, I stopped questioning myself. I was knowledgeable enough to instantly identify the fallacies in the media. I feared they were going to kill the innocent in droves, and as the body counts were coming in, I became enraged like a caged beast.
I guess you could say I was shocked into action. My rebel found her cause and I started on a concentrated effort of education. Answering the last unanswered questions in my mind, within 4 days, I became an Israel/Palestine expert, and I started to write. I became a freedom fighter and writing and translating would become my weapons.
I’m a closet freedom fighter. For three months now, I’ve joined the weekly demonstrations in the village of Bil’in. My father doesn’t know. For many Israelis the West Bank is “enemy territory”. Personally, I was just desperate to meet Palestinians. In the flesh, with my own eyes. Once would never be enough. Once would give a shallow impression. So every week, for the past three months, I’ve been discovering these people. Palestinians aren’t the devil, they aren’t saints, either. They are, however, human… I’m sure daddy would be shocked.
Here’s a story of another daddy. After the protest, we usually sit with our friend (I’ll keep his name to myself, if you don’t mind), who is usually up-beat and up for conversation. He was like this when I met him 3 months ago, he was like this a day after the IDF kidnapped his son in the middle of the night, and he was like this a week after the kidnapping. He was like this today, as well, but at some point, his son’s arrest was brought up. He started telling us how they carried his son out of the house, how he could hear him screaming as the soldiers beat him. Then this 50 year old man started to cry.
That’s just one story. My friend would tell you hundreds more, if you just sat on his porch for tea.
A typical Israeli would wish me hung in the square for cavorting with the “other side”. We have only one thing in common; I also see sides: Human beings and the human beings who are programmed to kill them. Today, more than ever, it’s clear to me that I don’t protest in solidarity with “their cause”. This is my cause- our cause.
Through the Prism of Freedom
In my writing, I continue a constant process of learning. Each article requires research on issues and details I have yet to explore. Be it history, current events, politics, or culture, it all seems to tie in. It was through the issue of Palestine that I would find my own politics and beliefs make sense, or that I’m political at all! I would find that there are others that think as I do, and that unlike any other type of politics, these politics discriminate against no one. The world has opened up to me, and I’m no longer afraid. I can only describe it as enlightenment.
Throughout the last nine months I’ve been reassessing my experiences and education through a new prism. I call it the prism of freedom, because once you look at Israel from the outside, you realize that everything you were taught – Zionism, “love of the land” (in the “revived” Zionist Hebrew, the words “land”, “country” and “state” are completely interchangeable), “serving your country”, “loyalty”, “patriotism” – is all a nationalist lie that serves to make you into a killing machine. These lies have been practiced before, throughout history and geography, and they embody the banality of evil: Same shit – different day. When you can see the lies, you are free.