Why my sisters can’t think straight about Israel
These days, Israel is far too dangerous a word to pronounce in a Western intellectual or social setting. Say it—and you risk uncivil argument.
For example, it’s ten months after Sept. 11, and I am having dinner with a friend and colleague of many years. We are talking up the usual storm, laughing a lot, enjoying each other’s company when one of us uses the word: “Israel.” My friend, an independent and sophisticated thinker stops talking. Suddenly, the air becomes thin. She takes a deep breath. Her tone is no longer light; it has become dark, coarse, mocking.
“Israel?! It deserves exactly what it’s getting. And more. And don’t think America doesn’t deserve what it’s getting too.”
We are sitting a mile away from Ground Zero in New York City.
“Have you no compassion for the innocent?” I say, shocked by her cold, driven, vehemence.
“Innocent? No one is innocent. We are all guilty. Don’t tell me that you would dare to defend the Zionist apartheid state or the multinationals.”
Her dear face has been utterly transformed into the face of a one-woman lynch mob. I do not want to fight: I can’t bear the ridicule and intimidation. I know that I must say something; I am tired of having to do so. I do not want this friendship to shatter over the Jewish Question, that perpetual elephant in the living room of the world.
My friend is a Jew, a feminist, a leftist, and she prides herself on being an independent thinker. “According to you,” I want to say, “only Americans and Israelis deserve to die for the sins of their leaders? I don’t hear you wishing a hellish death upon Chinese or Iraqi civilians because you disagree with their government’s policies.” But my heart is not into “making points.” My heart is beating too fast. I am afraid of her anger.
As you can see Chesler is a terrific writer. She has published many books. While this article is long it makes for good reading.