People of the Book The Game You Play with Israel

Late June 2014, I sat on the seat of my bike on the Charles Street sidewalk at the western corner of Penn Station, uncertain and afraid, as Park Heights Avenue squared off against North Avenue. Closer to Penn Station was a protest against the Israeli occupation. Farther away from the station was a demonstration in support of the IDF. On one side was the approval of elders I badly craved; on the other side, the lust I craved just as badly. Like Larry David in the Palestinian chicken episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” I felt, perhaps I was, directly in its center, with good friends on either side, and tried to drive out visions of somebody pulling out an Uzi or pushing a button on a suicide bomb and mowing us all down. Demonstrations like this are exactly how civil wars get started.

Every Israeli military operation is like a holiday ritual for me in which I’m purified through a trial by intellectual fire. I go about North Baltimore, which views me as the token Jew who mounts unconscionable defenses of Israel, then go back to Pikesville, which views me as the token progressive who mounts unconscionable defenses of Palestine.

I’m probably one of the few people in Baltimore with friends involved with both the BDS movement and the anti-BDS movement, and I’ve seen too much, heard too many arguments and seen how the Israel debate can slime every relationship it touches to not feel revulsion at the whole thing. No gesture of support for Israel is too large, no denunciation of Israel is dramatic enough. There are no words adequate to the dangers of the game you play with a region that’s not yours.

I have neither the space nor the desire to wade into the details of the Israel/Palestine debate here, so I will just sling the same mud they do at them both.

Both sides are mirror image pathogens, hosting the same authoritarian virus that courses through the veins of the Jewish world. AIPAC supporters insist that there can be no criticism of Israel small enough, concerned enough, loving enough, to allow, and thereby legitimized Jewish Voice for Peace as a mainstream organization. JVP supporters insist that there can be no partner in delegitimizing Israel anti- Semitic enough, fascist enough, dangerous enough to reject. Both sides push the world’s most dangerous region ever closer to total war. You are killing the people you claim to save and may kill millions more. Any sensible Judaism would approach these complexities with the dispassionate rigor of a Talmudic disquisition and banish this contagion from its discourse. Sensible Judaism spits you out.

Evan Tucker is North Baltimore-based writer and composer. He is the violinist and lead singer of the Yiddish rock band Schmear Campaign and has a monthly podcast, “Tales from the Old New Land,” which is a Jewish version of A Prairie Home Companion. Listen at podomatic.com/podcasts/oldnewland.

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