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I am an Israeli Patriot

Patriotism has become a dirty word in many circles. It has become acquainted with fanaticism and extremism. To be an Israeli patriot is even worse. And because of my left-wing views, many people would be surprised to hear me describe myself as an Israeli patriot. In Israel, patriotism and Zionism are terms that have been taken over by the right-wing. Anyone who believes in the establishment of a Palestinian state is labelled a traitor, not a patriot.  Yet, just as Rami Livni declared in an article in Ha’aretz (in Hebrew) last week, I am an Israeli patriot. I love this country and care passionately about it’s future. That’s why I moved here 26 years ago, that’s why I stay here, that’s why I am prepared to support my children as they serve in an army that is commissioned to do all sorts of things I abhor. Like Rami Livni, as a true Israeli patriot I am an ardent supporter of a Palestinian State.

Ervin Staub[1] makes an important distinction between what he calls ‘Blind Patriotism’ and ‘Constructive Patriotism.’ Blind patriotism is the kind of patriotism we associate with extremism – blind support for one’s own country at the expense of others, a refusal to coutenance the possibility that my country is performing immoral acts. Constructive patriotism, on the other hand, allows a love for one’s country together with a critical stance towards her acts. As a constructive patriot, I voice my criticisms when I believe my country to be in the wrong. It is my love for my country that makes me so passionate about the dangerous path I believe us to be following. Unlike the majority of Israelis, according to the most recent polls, I believe the path Netanyahu laid out before Congress  is the path to self-destruction. 

It is depressing indeed to read that a majority of Israelis believe Netanyahu’s visit to America to have been a resounding success. His speech before Congress made them proud to be Israeli. His support amongst the general population has sky-rocketed. I have to admit that I am shocked. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress embarrassed me. Singing the praises of the democracy that Palestinians enjoy in Israel was cynical  and insulting. His refusal to see anything other than his own biased view of history is worrying in the extreme.  His so-called proposal for Middle East Peace lacks any connection to reality. It seems as though the visit went exactly as he planned: his attack on President Obama and manipulative speech to Congress were designed to shore up the support of his coalition and his own leadership candidacy. Unfortunately, he seems prepared to sacrifice the future of the country on the altar of his own ambition. 

As an Israeli patriot I feel compelled to raise my voice on behalf of the Palestinian people. It is way beyond time for Israelis to understand that if they want a Jewish and democratic State, they have to work to establish a Palestinian democratic state. It is time for true Zionists to stand up to the narrative of right-wing Zionism and claim back their commitment to their country – the very same commitment that makes them support the creation of a Palestinian state.


[1] Staub, E. (1997) ‘Blind versus constructive patriotism: moving from embeddedness in the group to critical loyalty and action.’ in Bar-Tal, D. and Staub, E. (1997) Patriotism in the Lives of Individuals and Nations (Nelson-Hall, Chicago) pp. 213-228

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “I am an Israeli Patriot

  1. Wow! Well said, Sarah!

    Posted by adrienne | May 29, 2011, 1:39 pm
  2. You have spoken words I would like to have written. I too am an Israeli Patriot.

    maureena

    Posted by maureena fritz | May 29, 2011, 4:37 pm
  3. It’s an important statement that we need to hear more of

    Posted by אילן | May 29, 2011, 10:27 pm
  4. A sincere patriot can still be fundamentally wrong. If the Palestinian leadership and a substantial part of their population want a state if at all only on the road to and as a tool for Israel’s desruction, it might be regarded as suicidal to agree. I would regard Netanyahu’s speech as realistic and in Israel’s best intrrests. Those who criticise it may in fact be as delusional as Chamberlain was at Munich.

    Posted by Pip | May 30, 2011, 8:53 am
    • Pip, thank you for taking the time to comment. I believe that our fears that the Palestinians only want to destroy Israel are matched by their fear that all we want is to get rid of all the Palestinians. In other words, there may be extremists on both sides for whom this is true, but the majority of Palestinians, like the majority of Israelis, would really like to be able to get on with their lives in a peaceful manner in a state they feel they can belong to and identify with, and that will provide them with security and human rights. If you read my blog on enemy images, you’ll have understood that I believe our fears and images of the Other are a result of the ongoing conflict. We need to partner with the realistic and moderate Palestinian leadership in order to neutralise the extremists on both sides, instead of giving all the extremists the right of veto as we currently do. At the moment we are playing into the hands of the extremists and ruining any chance for a Palestinian state, and therefore for a democratic Jewish state.

      Posted by jerusalempeaceseeker | May 30, 2011, 10:58 am
  5. Thanks for your thoughts Sarah. Have been reading your blog and appreciate your perspective. I live in Toronto and consider myself part of a number of communities one of the primary ones being queer and lefty/progressive. The “conversations” about Israeli/Palestinian relations are tough and rarely nuanced. Most of the Jews in this city, even queer Jews, fall into one of two categories – Israel can do no wrong or Israel can do no right. There is shame on the left in expressing support for Israel in any way, a “for them or against them” attitude that permeates both sides. The lack of nuance, of context and of complexity frustrates me no end. As far as I’m concerned if you can’t talk about Israel’s right to exist in the same breath as the Palestinian’s right to a state then you’re not actually having the conversation!

    Posted by aviva rubin | May 30, 2011, 5:52 pm

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