An Historic Israeli Statement
By Ruth Oron, Harriet Bernstein, Avi Gvili, Zehava Fishman, Zvia Ratz, Rose Levy, Lilo Gvili, Mazal Gvili, Leah Shazar
In January 2002 an ad—historic and urgent—signed by 52 Israeli army reservists, was published in the daily newspaper Ha’aretz stating, in part:
We, reserve combat officers and soldiers,…were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people….We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people....We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense. The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose—and we shall take no part in them.
Over 200 additional Israeli soldiers have since joined in taking this ethical stand. And in a groundswell of support, on February 9th, a demonstration was held by more than 10,000 Israeli and Arab people in Tel Aviv. We are Israelis who proudly support them. We, including some who served in our country’s army, respect and are tremendously moved by the great courage of those soldiers. We agree with Ellen Reiss the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, who writes in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known about the Israeli army reservists:
I see their statement…as beautiful, brave, patriotic, true to Judaism, and necessary. What it represents, beyond the immediate situation, is the need for people to look at themselves and ask what it is they truly feel—not what others tell them to feel: not what it is convenient to feel.
We want this historic protest to be a complete success, and we are so grateful to have learned from Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded in 1941 by the great historian and poet Eli Siegel, the crucial knowledge that can have peace—the real thing, be. Every person, each of us has learned, is in a fight between respect for people and things, and contempt, which Mr. Siegel defined as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." In a lecture he stated: "[T]he cause of war cannot be understood until…contempt in the life of every person is understood, and the thrill [of feeling] that the person you have contempt for, you…have a right to destroy.…You cannot be decent while you are not opposed to contempt as steadily as you can be."
The unprecedented objection now being expressed in Israel is an objection to contempt and it is a beautiful thing. It can become a turning point in history. And we feel passionately that what Ellen Reiss explains further in The Right Of, will fortify the resolve in every Israeli and Palestinian to end what has been a centuries-old cycle of brutality:
…Cruelty and wars will not stop until people are studying contempt,…the feeling, so ordinary, that the way to establish oneself is to look down on someone else. It is this ordinary contempt which, when circumstances arise, has had average citizens agree to "humiliate an entire people." It happens that if we see an unjust feeling of ours truly, really see it, we want to stop having it.
We admire those soldiers who question and refuse to go along with injustice in themselves and in their country. And yet we say too, with great sobriety, the study of contempt is imperative. This study has enabled us to change permanently the way we see Palestinian people – from wanting to be superior to wanting to be just. As far back as 1982, Ellen Reiss gave a vital assignment to Israeli persons studying Aesthetic Realism: to write a 500-word soliloquy on "What does a Palestinian person feel to himself? What are his hopes, what are his fears?" This we did, writing in detail, trying to see with the eyes, mind, and heart of a Palestinian person--for example, a mother, a student, a laborer, a girl. And the feelings of people we once unknowingly, as Mr. Siegel described, got a thrill having contempt for, felt justified in destroying, became real. We really saw the unjust feeling in ourselves and wanted it to stop. We want every person –Israeli and Palestinian alike, from Tel Aviv to Gaza, to join in the ethical campaign to see the feelings of other people as real as our own by writing this urgent assignment. And then, instead of terror and death overrunning our dear land we will have a safe, kind future.
To read the entire issue "The Need to See Your Real Feeling", visit www.AestheticRealism.org .
Also published in
Dayton Weekly News
New York Beacon
African Herald (Dallas, TX & nations in Africa)