Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“Israel is in a deep crisis”

Scholar Prof. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin talks about his country, while on a recent visit to Kochi

Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Prof. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin of Israel was told that a visitor had come to meet him, he said, “Please, let it be at the end of the talk. This is so interesting.”

Amnon had come to participate in the annual conference on metaphysics and politics conducted by the Backwaters Collective at Kochi. Later, he says, “There is so much to learn from Kerala. Different traditions and identities are co-existing, in the same space, with a lot of respect for each other. I am wondering whether this model can be replicated in other places. In Israel, we need to find a different language, so that people can learn to live together.”

Unfortunately, that is not happening, at present. And the professor, who was the former chair in the department of Jewish history at Ben Gurion University, does not mince his words: “Israeli society has become more and more nationalistic, and anti-Arab. The government [run by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu] is continuing the process of land confiscation in the West Bank and the closure of the Gaza strip. At the same time, the attitude towards the Arab citizens of Israel has become worse.”

So intense is the Professor that, at one point, with a wave of his hands, he almost sends flying the digital recorder which I hold in my hand.

Meanwhile, Amnon continues in the same vein. “Israel is a colonial power which denies the rights of the Palestinians,” he says. “The question of why we Jews are perpetrating the same suffering which we have suffered at the hands of others throughout our history is a big mystery. But my belief is that if you establish a country [Israel] for victims of persecution, you should be able to understand the plight of victims in other places.”

One reason for the lack of understanding is because Israelis are in a state of fear. “They feel they are surrounded by enemies in the Middle East and don’t know how to protect themselves,” says Amnon.

What is exacerbating matters is the random violence that Israelis are experiencing at the hands of individual Palestinians in their own cities. “On any given day, a 13-year-old Palestinian can pull out a knife and kill somebody,” says Amnon. “These boys have no hope, no education and nothing to look forward to. Every day, they see their parents being humiliated at the check-posts. And so, they are taking revenge. They know that they will be shot, but they don't care.”

Things have come to such a pass, because, for the past ten years, the entire country has been in the grip of right-wing forces. “There is hardly any opposition,” says Amnon. “The left also proclaims separation from the Palestinians and not reconciliation, based on equality and justice. They would like to get rid of the Palestinians because they are keen to maintain the Jewish demographic majority.”

Not surprisingly, Amnon, with his radical views, is in a tiny minority in Israel. “Yes, I am well-known as a pro-Palestinian Israeli,” he says. “In principle, I agree with most of the Palestinian demands. I want total equality between the Jews and Arabs. In the sense I also feel that the Israelis should also have rights in any peace deal.”

For all this to happen, a new leader has to emerge. “He should be someone who will talk a new language of equality, individuality and national equality, which is not there in Israel now,” says Amnon. “There are a few Arab-Jewish groups who are talking about it, but they are not loud enough and do not have any power.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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