jewin' the fat

Top Ten: The Zionist Conspiracy

In honour of the biggest Zionist day in the calendar year this week, here’s a tribute to the ten or so biggest Zionist-stereotypes, all of whom claiming to hold the key to what a ‘true’ Zionist really is. The reality is, at the end of the day, that Zionism is not a political theory, power conspiracy nor a policy of a government (as detractors/hacks/ignoramuses may assume), it is an ideology which is inherently personal, and interpreted by the individual to facilitate self-determination as a member of the Jewish people.

As it turns out, a bunch of those Jew-Individuals got together a couple hundred years ago and, determined to do more than argue with each other on the value of a state for Jews or a Jewish state, actually set about creating it.

It is neither the plot of the 8th Harry Potter novel, 'Harry Potter and the Zionist Conspiracy to take over the world with superior money-handling skills and uber-developed business acumen mu-ha-ha-ha-hacking-cough-ha-ha!" (HT @ : he's a Zionist - he knows!)

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Im Tirtzu
April 15, 2010, 11:36 AM
Filed under: Comment, Identity, Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This week marks the 62nd year of independence of the modern State of Israel. So let’s explore the ‘ism‘ that inspired, and facilitated the path towards a state for the Jewish people of the world.

If you will it, it is no dream  — Teddy Herzl

There is certainly an element of pride associated with Zionism, but it is not to be confused with nationalism (a pride-filled ideology though it may be). In fact, Zionism at its origin is more about the expression of self-determination, and self-determination is about feeling worthy as a nation of the elements of nationhood that others enjoy. Elements of nationhood can include common language, culture, traditions, symbols and of course geography – the latter being the uniquely absent component when one of the first Zionists, Theodore Herzl, cooked up this hair-brained scheme to get Jewish nationhood back on the menu.

However, Zionism at its origins was not widely accepted as a national movement – most Jews lived as ‘guests’ in countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Despite the threat and implications of violence, discrimination and expulsion (see England in 1290 CE, Spain, 1492 CE, Kiev, 1886 – click here for a full list of Jewish ‘Fugees) many didn’t appreciate the necessity of a national homeland. Unfortunately, it took a hundred years and millions of lives for the international community to realise this as a requirement for the safety and continuity of the Jewish people.

Currently, the image of Zionism is bound up in the current politics of the State of Israel. Perhaps it should be. But there are many forms, and many understandings of this ideology, and it’s important to see them not as a homogenous belief, but as focused manifestations of our identity as Jewish people – members of the tribe, individuals who identify as Jews, children born of Jewish parents, and people who subscribe to the tenants of faith, cultural norms and traditions of a 3000 year old history of a people – a people dispersed, and then, through the hope of Zionism, brought back together again..

So who is a Zionist? Check this out for the full list of wannabes, willneverbes and wildebeest that make up the Zionist colour palette.

Means Justify the Ends, Beautiful Friends, The Ends
March 2, 2010, 11:19 AM
Filed under: Israel, media, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ok, after all the speculation and hear say, after all the he-said-she-said and pointless re-iterating of irrelevant, un-newsworthy facts and numbers, names and casual insinuations, it’s time to set the record somewhat straighter than its current spiral-shape – because all this spin is making me dizzy.  So before you rip off your clothes, pull out your hair and run down your street screaming “APOCALPYSE NOW!! I SEE THE FOUR HORSEMEN!”, take a deep breath, or a shot, or a hit of your inhaler and read this.

Une : Self-righteous indignation is only permissable if the indignant are blameless. Don’t kid yourself Australia, Britain, France, or even you, Gold-medal winning Canada – sure, this time you are the victim, but are we forgetting that espionage is the dirty little secret of many great powers, used on varying occasions to kill, maime or capture war criminals, arms dealers and military and political leadership. No one is blameless, and all are punish-ed if they believe they are.  

Deux : There is no proof Mossad nor any Israeli was involved – it’s not like these people left their business card, or even a 20-shekel printed T from the Carmel Shuq. But, like all great conspiracies, the rumour is 3/4 of the way to the truth, and lights a great big stinking flare for all the crazies to come out (take this choice quote from New Matilda’s comments section, on Mustafa Qadri’s seminal work “Has Israel Finally Gone Too Far?” –  

“All Israeli Duel (sic) passports should now be triple checked and bags searched. Israel is using(some give permission)their citizens (sic) passports for their murderous deeds (9/11 ) cheering when the towers were pulled. Two planes hit two towers and building 7 just fell down ??? Mossad has blood on its hands. Guilty your honor.”  

Thanks Mate. Stellar contribution to the debate). Even in the murky jurisdictional waters of international justice, defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and subject to a fair trial – by the courts, not by fire or the media.  

Trois : The ends justify the means. Let’s not forget the end result of this little fiasco. There is one less self-described murderer and violent agitator in the world, who was killed while in Dubai on an arms-dealing mission for his organisation, Hamas, whose own political charter calls for the destruction of its neighbour, and who has acted upon that charter countless times in violent terrorism against citizens of the State of Israel. Where I come from that’s a winner. Sure, it (allegedly) took 27 people to arrange it, and a slew of tennis-related props, but the guy is no longer with us, and while I offer his family my condolences, I offer those responsible my congratulations.  

Quatre : When you assume, you make an ass of you and me. With the AFP on the way to Israel to conduct its own investigation, there is no doubt Australia is taking allegations of passport fraud seriously. However, it is worthwhile to remember that the three dual citizens named, were also shamed in extensive media coverage of the issue. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but it would be reasonable to assume that any and all parties, complicit in any illegal undertakings would be far less inclined to reveal their true involvement with hordes of cameramen and journalists banging down their doors. Especially if the likely outcome were jail time/extradition to their country of origin or revoking of their citizenship. Funny that. 

Cinq : It was Contextual, I swear. Remember that nothing happens in a vacuum – the response of the Australian government is tempered directly by the state in which it finds itself – demoting a minister, held responsible for the deaths of four tradies, and led by a Prime Minister who believes their hold to be slipping.

Thought for the Day
December 4, 2009, 12:34 AM
Filed under: Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , ,

When flying El Al into Israel, it seems an obligation to not only stare apprehensively out of the windows upon descent into Israeli airspace (no matter what seat you happen to be in, that is), but to engage in two thoroughly unsafe behaviours, most unusual for those well versed in proper travel etiquette.

1) Disregarding flight attendants’ (repeated) instructions to remain seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off. Manifests in passengers being forcefully sat back down by frustrated attendants, only for the passenger to get back up and continue to stretch/remove bags from overhead locker/kibbitz to their husband friend or significant other.

2) Rapturous clapping upon touchdown. It reminds me of what a potential So You Think You Can Fly style reality TV show. In the event of such behaviour, common courtesy dictates joining in is not only encouraged, but demanded by the psyche of the masses. Sure, you don’t know if they are clapping the ability of the pilot to land the plane (superfluous much?) or his ability to land it in the right spot (er, even the ticket said Tel Aviv … it shouldn’t be so hard), but do not underestimate the vivacity of cabin-fevered Israelis.

I have travelled El Al a total of three times into Israel, and if they didn’t say that the third time was the charm, I would be seriously concerned by the oddity of it all. But it seems this is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and until such time as passengers get over the excitement of  the simple act of landing a plane, and that plane landing in Israel, it won’t be dying down any time soon.

Israel: A Retrospective
August 13, 2009, 10:18 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake when you make it again. — F. P. Jones

Going through the list of things-to-do when you are overseas, the top of the list for this traveler is always experiencing the local produce. The food, the music, and of course, the men that make your travel experiences memorable. My girlfriends were always open when talking about their sexual exploits. From giving and receiving advice on how to give or receive, whenever, where ever; we could always rely on each other for a little pillow talk. So when I sent a message home detailing my own exploits, it was met with a mixture of applause, horror, and genuine ignorance.

See, when your mates are engaged/married/otherwise, the general assumption is that all talk of sex, sexual habits and experiences becomes a dull slice of 10-minute missionary.

That is, of course, unless you are half a world away, single and getting some

As I was packing up my house in Jerusalem, I stumbled upon an old bank statement envelope, bulging inappropriately with scores of names. Ehud, Yaniv, Ori, Mike, Tal, even Constantine (and one Ronit). I’m actually too nervous to count them up exactly and see just how many shy, obnoxious or deluded men slipped me torn up tissues, old receipts, or demanded a piece of paper from me, just to hand it back awkwardly a few minutes later. But, in the interests of disclosure, and remembering the good, the bad and the unexpected, here’s a little run down.

There was the Security Consultant who taught me martial arts … The Ex-Marine who was 6″2 and had a knack for dancing … The Bartender, who’s girlfriend knew the whole time and said nothing … The Two month relationship, which fizzled out, ending, to my horror, quite amicably … The Secret Service agent with a body like a rock, who asked for my number, and surprised me by calling … The (Oh yes.) Bartender-Turned-Yeshiva-Student, who turned up at work and wound up at my place … The Broken Guy, who’s life story broke my heart wide open, and the Jewish Swahili Prince whose religious philosophy inspired me, and whose drunken behaviour terrified me … French guy, who offered to take me home and share me with his two French mates … The Lone Soldier, whose religious lifestyle threatened to put a swift end to any potential, until, well, he did … The 21-year-old who couldn’t take no for an answer, forcing my workmates to take turns escorting me home, and of course, the arrogant Suit who did the unthinkable and got hitched two weeks after we hooked up, to his pregnant ex-fiance …
It was a veritable smorgasbord of blonds, brunettes, dark skins and light, blue, green, but mostly brown eyes. In their late-teens, twenties and thirties, orthdox, reform and born-again Jews, Irish Catholics and Russian Atheists. Hard bodied, and often hard-headed, troubled and trouble-making, the best days and nights I had was being entertained by the local, and international wildlife.

For this traveler, they are the most vivid memory, the biggest, hottest and least regrettable mistakes I made, and the finest tour guides of a country’s highlights I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

And of course, the novelty of my return home did even result in a couple of Australians offering to take me on their own personal tour of my home town. And who was I to deny them?

Punch and Jewdy

At a swanky media party in Melbourne, glass of white in hand, I struck up a conversation with a bright eyed young Melbournian, who had a plan to revolutionise the JC with his own version of Hasbara.

The only problem is that he was beaten to the punch.

Welcome to the cut throat world of JC public diplomacy – where in a surprisingly similar fashion to Israel, confusion abounds, bureaucracy is King, and the debate is most fierce behind closed doors. There are red lines that cannot be crossed, individuals that cannot be pushed aside, and powers-that-be which must be given the last word.

So when I was presented with this community anarchist, I chuckled inside, shaking my head at this kid’s chutzpah – not only at the vision he had, but his having proposed it at all. Of course I smiled warmly as he continued – mostly because I was interested in how exactly he was planning to reinvent the wheel, and succeed where scores had failed before him. But as far as progress relies on unreasonable men looking to change the world around them, I wished him the best, and continued around the party.

But it got me thinking about traditional JC politics, and the mutinous young people who dare to buck convention, and try something different. Like this guy – smart, funny, charismatic, with zero chance of achieving his goal. And not for lack of trying …

Take the example of a young Jewish student leader, experienced and well conditioned by his/her involvement in a youth movement/university body. They have considerable skills and knowledge of informal education/PR/public diplomacy/marketing/demography, are flexible and their message is easily adaptable. They have strong contacts amongst their peers, and are committed to the community. As their tenure as leader comes to a close, they begin to look to continue their involvement as … uh, as a … um …

The reality of the JC is that there is a gap, and filling it is not a priority. There is an extensive investment in our young people, through formal and informal education from preschool to University age, but once they have taken it upon themselves to strike out on their own, the JC, well, lets them.
The current model of JC advocacy (incorporating interests in the Australian Jewish Community and Israel) is inflexible, averse to change or innovative media, and largely unwelcoming of new concepts/partners/parameters. I’m not recommending extreme change, or a shift in focus, but there must be some avenue to incorporate other ideas, individuals and influences. Without evolving in style or form, we will be permitting our next generation’s disinterest in their own community.

There is an entire generation of people who are patronisingly encouraged to be a part of the solution, to be involved, to get their ideas out there, but who are not provided the freedom, resources or support to bring their ideas to fruition. As a result, an apathetic demographic is created, unable to effect the change they see as vital to bring the JC into the future, and thus disinterested in the traditional modes of community involvement. Then the AJN runs an op-ed which criticises this disenfranchised Jewish group, and there is less and less imperative to get involved as their point is reinforced with the communal condemnation of young people as non-contributing community members.

So for the young guy in the bar,  it doesn’t matter what he was proposing. It could have been the next best thing, but without institutionalised encouragement of this entrepreneurial spirit, he would be forced to rely on free media like facebook and blogging, or the generosity of parents, family and friends to get his idea off the ground.

This trend, which sees the increasing bureaucratisation of advocacy in Australia, means that the longer this goes unchecked, the more we have to lose. Already, there is a clear shift away from traditional JC organisations to more grassroots, accesible media, dedicated to and by the sub-culture it represents. There is no good reason why the same voices are given airtime no matter the issue. I for one would like to see a young person talking about young people’s issues – because some how a 60 year old man talking about teen binge drinking just doesn’t ring true. So why are suitable spokespeople so desperately lacking – and why aren’t we doing more to involve those who will eventually be asked to take the reigns?

On the other hand, there is no one effective central body (and therefore no central message), but neither is there a move to delegate particulars to other organisations in an effort to improve dissemination (which without that central message is a moot point). There is no reason for the superfluous, overcompensating bodies that exist, largely side by side and overlapping in purpose, with little or no collaboration: ECAJ, JCCV, ADC, AIJAC, SZC, JBD, ZFA, ZCV, ZYC, AUJS …

Finally, this kind of reshuffle would not only represent more of the community, permit a variety of people to become effective communicaters and ensure the continuation of the communal representative bodies in the inclusion of women, students, young professionals, mothers etc.

It may not be the perfect answer, but I do know that the state of the union is far from perfect, and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” just ain’t the fix any more.

Pocketbook Zionism and the fifth commandment

As with many children of the Jewish day school system, my childhood was peppered with intriguing anecdotes, and extraordinary stories of a far off Holy Land, where Jews are welcomed into their own nation, and the ground flows freely with milk and honey (I was soon to find out, to my bitter disappointment, that the allegory of flowing dairy foods was merely a metaphor for a land of abundance).

I was also reminded daily, that in my Australian reality my parents were paying good money to send me to a top Jewish day school, and cursed be I should I not take full advantage of the plethora of Jewish and Hebrew based subjects and opportunities (which, to my bitter disappointment, were limited to one or two modern Hebrew classes a week and a little ethno-religious history), get a banging Tertiary entrance mark, become a lawyer-doctor, get married and produce offspring for my parents to dote over on the weekends. It’s the fifth commandment after all – Honour thy Mother and Father (And be damned if you don’t do as they say).

And so it was – for years I was ping-ponging back and forth between the Zionism dream, and the ersatz Diaspora Zionist reality. But like thousands of other young Jews, I broke the mould, defied my parents (by studying Journalism and spending my gap year in Israel. And the summer break in second year. And 10 months at the end of my degree) and became a product of my Jewish Zionist education.

After 12 years, how much actually sinks in?

After 12 years, how much actually sinks in?

But the success story that eventuated was the parental nightmare: highly politicized, staunchly Zionist, with a hopeful entrepeneurial spirit and chomping at the bit to move half way across the world and make their dreams come true. In short, when I called home one warm April day to inform my parents that Israel was my homeland, and Aliyah was the only way up, I was shocked to discover I was talking to a brick wall. And no sooner had I mentioned my intentions, my parents were demanding my return to Australia. Months later and quite begrudgingly, I did arrive back, and quickly understood the reason I felt so trapped.

These days, Jewish parents in Australia invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in their children’s Jewish-Zionist education, which by definition encourages them to ensure their destiny is intertwined with Israel. For most people, that implies donating money to ambulance services and soup kitchens in Jerusalem, or continuing the traditional of providing their children with a Jewish education. For others, it might even include sending their children on a trip to see the country and its people for themselves.

But, for most of these pocket-book Zionists, it is easier to write a cheque the possibility of actually moving to Israel … well, it’s too rash, too extreme, completely out of the question, what about my friends, but I have a job here, I will need to talk to my partner, what would my parents say ….

Well, I know what my parents would say, because they said it. Loud and clear – never mind drug addiction, alcohol abuse, marrying the wrong person, pregnancy out of wedlock – the fulfillment of your Jewish-Zionist identity? Over my dead body. And the sick thing, is that part of me understands the struggle – as a parent, you want to give your child every opportunity, every chance to excel, to realise their potential, to become a strong, independent character with a keen moral compass. You just don’t envision them actually taking on the challenge and achieving that.

So what would your parents say if you told them you wanted to honour their gift to you, and become the person they imagined you would?

Maybe the question to ask is not what your Parents would say, but what they should say. And they should say yes. Because the hardest thing of all for a Jewish child would be to honour hypocrisy.