FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Should Not Celebrate Dispossession

This month, Israel is celebrating its 60th anniversary. American Jews will be invited to join in those celebrations. But, in refusing to recognize that its national existence rests on the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland, Israel fails to speak to Jews of conscience. Here is why I cannot join the celebration.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was a seamstress. She was known for the loveliness of her embroidery. Before WWI, she had made a career of sewing flowers onto fine silk ball gowns destined to be worn in Vienna’s imperial palace, the Hofburg.  Eventually, her hands became too rough for the silk and she was fired. Thereafter, she raised three daughters in a one-room apartment in Vienna’s 2nd district, a Jewish neighborhood nicknamed “die Maztosinsel” (Matzo Island).  She supported herself by helping merchants at a nearby open-air food market clean their stalls at the end of the day.  In return for her labor she was given the half-rotted food that was no longer good enough for paying customers and, in this way, she was able to feed herself and her daughters.   But even in conditions of such dire poverty, she went on sewing and was known for the beauty of the embroidered quilts that covered her daughters.  I have always thought of her as my quilt Omi (an affectionate term for grandmother).

As time went on, political danger was added to economic privation.  By 1932, Austrians were living under a home-grown fascist regime.  My mother was fired from her job, but joined a youth group working to get children out of Austria. Then, in 1938,  Hitler’s armies annexed Austria.  Soon, Hitler came to visit the newest possession of the Third Reich. On a sleety cold day, the Viennese lined his parade route 10 deep for the 8 hours that his train was delayed, screaming themselves hoarse on “Heil Hitler.”  So my mother and her mother knew that they were living in a nation of collaborators.

One day, my mother came home to find her mother having coffee with the Christian lady who lived across the hall. For many years, the two old ladies had shared a bathroom and a water tap at the end of the hall, and whatever food they possessed.  Today they were sharing pastry and discussing the occupation.  When it came time to leave, my grandmother’s neighbor got up, but instead of going to the door, she walked behind the screen that separated the beds from the rest of the small room.  A minute later she emerged with all of my grandmother’s quilts piled in her arms.  Without shame or haste or apology she went to the door. There she paused and said to my Omi “Well, the Nazis will take these anyway, and I’ve always wanted them.” And with that, she walked out.

Sometime later, my mother was designated a chaperone on one of the last Kindertransport trains to leave Austria. But, while my mother was able to get to safety, my quilt Omi was denounced to the Nazis by one of her neighbors. She was arrested and shipped to the Warsaw ghetto, which functioned as a holding pen for Auschwitz. And there the trail ends. We have never known exactly how or when she died. Her unmarked death remains the great unhealed sore of my mother’s life in this, her 98th year.

So when Israelis claim to have created the Jewish state in my name, in the name of my quilt Omi, they speak less than the whole truth. They never say “to establish this state we took – and we continue to take – the beautiful embroidered quilts from Palestinians and, worse yet, the water from their land, and the olive trees from their gardens and indeed, the very roof over their heads.”  This, too, is Israel. So I must say NO. No, you may not use my name. No, you may not use the name of my quilt Omi.  We do not celebrate independence born of others’ ongoing dispossession.

EVE SPANGLER is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston College and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail