August 13, 2008

Little Eichmanns

Jews are leaving Nazaret Illit. Arabs from Nazareth buy land there at exorbitant prices, so they can be near their community in Nazareth, which suffers from severe overcrowding.

Nazareth Illit is a town designed, built and used as an apartheid weapon, strategically built on land expropriated from Nazareth residents in a way that effectively cages Nazareth and prevents its further urban development.

But this bottom-up decolonization process is making a lot of Jews unhappy:

Several rabbis have mobilized to halt the Jewish residents' flight. They pay a visit to the Jewish sellers and, quoting from religious sources, persuade them not to sell their homes to Arabs. The Arab contractors working in Upper Nazareth have taken this issue into account. Rosenfeld says he once worked with an Arab contractor, who offered a contract to buyers with an escape clause allowing for the deal to be canceled if a Jew does not want to live next to an Arab who buys an apartment in the same building. (Haaretz, June 12,2008)

Isn't that generous?! After all, isn't Israel itself an escape clause from the very idea of the universal law? "Yes, it is wrong to....(insert the latest headline), except here, except now. Our situation is special." Isn't Israel a state of mind in which anything, literally anything, that serves the state's delusions of identity is possible, legal, even admonished by the rabbi?

And here's another quote from the same article:

"I wasn't a racist until the problem started to affect me personally," says Ilya Rosenfeld, who immigrated to Israel 18 years ago. Rosenfeld worked in the Prime Minister's Bureau during Ariel Sharon's tenure, dealing with Russian affairs, and is now running for a seat on the city council. "The Jewish city I came to is up for sale," he continues. "It bothers me that on my street, you no longer hear Hebrew and Russian, just Arabic."

How to call a person beginning a sentence with "I was not a racist until...."? Is it fair to call Rosenfeld a racist, given that he himself declares himself one?

But to call him a racist is to suggest that he is deviant. That he stands out with this moral deformity that sets him apart. Shouldn't we rather say that he is just a regular Israeli, a good, hard-working, decent Israeli living and breathing the brackish atmosphere that envelops him?

Isn't that exactly what Rosenfeld says: if I may unpack -- "I wasn't a racist...although people around me were racists, and justifiably so. But I didn't care about them. It was wrong for me NOT to be a racist all these years. It was pure selfishness on my behalf not to be a racist just because it didn't touch me personally. But now I understand the importance of having an ethical attitude. Imagine what would happen if everybody behaved as selfishly as I did, if everybody failed to be a racist! Where would Israel be then?"

And here is a quote from Hannah Arendt that explains the title:

Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it--the quality of temptation. Many Germans and many Nazis, probably an overwhelming majority of them, must have been tempted not to murder, not to rob, not to let their neighbors go off to their doom....and not to become accomplices in all these crimes by benefiting from them. But, God knows, they had learned how to resist temptation. (Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, p.150)

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