Thursday, October 02, 2014

The 'I'm a bigger victim than you' game

Israeli Arabs have infinitely  more rights in Israel than Jews had in Morocco, where David Suissa was born. But Suissa's arguments fell on deaf ears when he took part in a forum where Palestinian sympathisers refused to see anyone but Palestinians as victims. Depressing article from the Jewish Journal. My comment follows below: (with thanks: Michelle)

David Suissa makes a point

"Instead of fighting anger with anger, I kept my composure. Instead of playing the “I’m a bigger victim than you are” game, I played the “I feel sorry for your anger” game.

Maybe it was the time of year. Here I was, about to enter the holiest moment of the Jewish calendar, when as Jews we are obligated to reflect on our mistakes of the past year and commit to genuine self-improvement. How could I indulge in anger at such a time?

In my opening remarks, I spoke about being born in an Arab country where for centuries my Sephardic ancestors prayed to return home to Zion, and of the immense blessing I felt to be born in the generation that did, in fact, return home to Israel. I spoke of my empathy for Arab culture and the Palestinian people, and I expressed sadness that their hearts and minds were “occupied” with so much Jew-hatred.

My sadness was reinforced when, later in the evening, I asked the crowd of about 100 for a show of hands of those who believe in Israel’s right to exist within pre-1967 borders, and only a few hands went up.

Did all of this hostility make me regret showing up? Not for a minute. It  just made me stronger. I countered the lies, but more important, I realized the power of not playing victim.

After losing 6 million people in the Holocaust, I said, the Jews had every right to wallow in victimhood. Instead, the new country of Israel accepted the “two-state solution” declared by the United Nations in 1947 and looked forward rather than backward.

Israel made a desert bloom. It built roads, schools, hospitals, universities and great cities, and, no matter how many wars it had to fight, it never stopped looking forward. Yes, Israel has made plenty of mistakes, but it also has shown its willingness to make painful sacrifices for the sake of a genuine and enduring peace with its Arab neighbors.

Despite Israel’s societal problems, I told the group, I am proud of the fact that Israeli Arabs have infinitely more rights in Israel than my Jewish ancestors ever had in Morocco; and I am proud that countless human rights groups throughout Israel have the freedom to fight against injustice of any kind.

I went as far as to dream that one day, Israel would turn into a “light unto the Middle East” and become a crucial resource for the region. But if I moved anyone with my message, it didn’t show. The anger and bitterness toward Israel was relentless. While I spoke of Israel’s mistakes, at no time did I hear any panelist suggest that Palestinians themselves have made mistakes.

I’m not worried about Israel, I said in my concluding remarks. I’m worried about the poor Palestinian people who have been taught by their corrupt leaders to value permanent victimhood."

Read article in full

My comment: Apologetics only attract contempt, as the J-Street representative soon found out, but it's possible that Suissa is taking the wrong line altogether by refusing to harp on Jewish victimhood. It is only by showing that Jews are the victims of the Arabs that Suissa might stand any chance of changing hearts and minds. Tell them about the pre-Israel massacres your ancestors suffered in Morocco. That even small children threw stones at Jews. That Jews  were given the most unpleasant and menial jobs. That their women were kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. That their property was stolen as they fled. Tell them that only in Israel could Jews live with freedom and dignity.

Challenge the audience to come up with a better solution.


NormanF said...

I think he did the right thing.

There's no point in dwelling on the past. We are all aware of what happened to Jews in the Arab World and Iran.

The Muslims mistreated and abused the Jews. That's not news to people. What David Suissa wanted to do was to drive home an important point.

Israel has a great story to tell and its not abut being a victim; its about its progress as a country, building a better life, creating a safe haven for Jews and having a positive attitude toward others and showing confidence about the future.

I'll leave it to the Arabs to wallow in victimhood, to whine how life is unfair, how the Jews cheated them and so see their bitterness, hate and resentment acknowledged by the entire world.

No one likes negative people. They're a downer. People can always complain they had it worst. People who love life look ahead to tomorrow and and are happy. And unlike with the Arabs, Israelis are the happiest people on earth.

If more people were like Suissa, we would all be better off.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, just as Israeli soldiers are faulted as being racist for not raping Arab women, Israelis and Jews are the targets of hatred because we moved on, regardless of where we came from and where we settled.

That is not so say that I don't agree with Bataween's point about speaking the truth about life under Muslim rule well before the advent of 19th century Zionism. It is a story that must be told, just as surely as the genocide committed by the Nazis largely against the Jews of Europe as that is where the bulk of the world's Jews were living at the time.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Norman, you're naïve. Israel/Zionists has been taking your approach for 100 years. It does not work. If you disregard history, the Arabs will invent a false history. Which they have done.

The Arabs are not pragmatic, do not think in terms of future prosperity, and do not yearn for peace as do others [as a generalization]. They believe in revenge for wounded pride. And that is what we did to them, as they see it. Because their religion teaches them that we are inferior. Therefore if we defeat them they feel especially humiliated. Etc

NormanF said...

I am not being naive or pollyannish.

Its important to point out that the other side lies and misrepresents history and tries to twist the truth as something happening to them when in fact they are moral agents responsible for their own fate.

People can be victims. But they have the power to stop being victims. The Jews have taken a set of unenviable and adverse circumstances to escape from being victims to realizing their greatness as a people.

We all have that power. If the Arabs think of themselves as being victims, they find much profit in being humiliated, wounded, inferior, etc. Their belief in their own pride and assumed superiority is belied by their actual situation. Which they do nothing to change.

It does work - the Arab World is dying while Israel is living! I have never believed hate builds anything. We have just seen proof in the recent past where that leads. For the Jews/Zionists, the approach you've criticized led to Israel.

In the same 100 years the Arabs have been wandering in circles consumed by a hell of their own making. Israel owes them no compensation and all things considered, pictures of Israelis and Arabs tell the truth.

You can see who is happy and who is scowling. I rest my case.

bataween said...

I think there are two issues here: one is that Jews don't wallow in victimhood, Arabs do. Yes, I take your point Norman that it has never done the Palestinians any objective good to harp on about the past, but look how far they have come in winning political support against Israel. So playing the victim card does work.
The second point is about the misrepresentation of history . "We are all aware of what happened to Jews in the Arab World and Iran," you say. You are aware, Suissa is aware, but most people are not aware. As Eliyahu says, the Arabs have constructed a false history because we have not done enough to make the world aware. And this in turn skews perceptions of who is a victim and who is not, which in turn has far-reaching effects on public opinion and ultimately policy.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Bataween, you put it very well. Concisely and succinctly and accurately.

If you discard history as unimportant, some version of history will come back to plague you.

And then, we should strive to protect historical truth in general, in principle, whether it has to do with the Greeks or Armenians or the Koreans and Chinese for that matter.

NormanF said...

Of course we should.

No one is disputing the importance of guarding historical truth and doing full justice to what has happened to one's people.

Bataween makes a good point about letting the world know how the Arabs have played the victim card when in fact they perpetrated all sorts of evils upon the Jews.

The difficulty lies in bringing them to light without stooping down to their level and make it seem like their grievances are legitimate. They aren't.

The Jewish people were victims at the hand of Arab racism, discrimination, hate, pogroms and attempted genocide. This needs to be to be brought into public awareness.

In fact, that the Jews prospered at the expense of the Arabs is an outrageous lie, a perversion of historical truth and is belied by the fact the majority of Israel's Jews come not from Europe but from the Middle East, where the Arabs drove them out.

They are home and its time to put it on the record.