Diatribes against Israel by Jews are hardly new. But French journalist Sylvain Cypel, who emigrated to Israel in time to become an IDF paratrooper before studying at the Hebrew University, has set a new low standard. His “The State of Israel vs. the Jews” recounts how twelve years of living in the Jewish State and confronting its “colonial attitudes” transformed him into a stanch anti-Zionist who takes evident delight in lacerating Israel.
For Cypel the Six-Day War was transformative. Not because it returned Jews to their Biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria (names nowhere mentioned by him) after two decades of Jordanian rule. Rather because it unleashed Israeli “colonization and occupation” that reflect the apartheid values of the Jewish state — which, as it happens, has a more diverse population (Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze) than all Arab states combined.
So Israel became “a racist, bullying little superpower.” In Cypel’s warped vision it is “occupying another people’s land,” imposing ”a policy of dispossession and repression” upon cruelly conquered Palestinians. Its “colonial mentality of domination” protects settlers who nurture “an exalted, messianic view of the Land of Israel.” Cypel labels it a ”system of madness.”
His indictment does not stop there. Cypel imagines that “the effects of colonization and occupation have become deeply ingrained within the psyche of the colonizing society:” Israel. To support his spurious claim, he lacerates Ateret Cohanim as a “messianic” Jewish organization that has focused on the “Judaization” of Jerusalem’s Old City by “expelling as many of its Palestinian residents as possible.” In fact, Ateret Cohanim seeks to reclaim Jewish-owned property seized by Arabs during Israel’s independence war, when Jews were expelled from their Old City homes and prevented from returning until Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War nineteen years later.
Heading south, Cypel absurdly identifies Hebron, burial site of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people and the first capital of ancient Israel, as “a place where [Israeli] racist oppression is at its worst.” (He ignores the horrific slaughter of dozens of Hebron Jews in 1929 by rioting Arabs.) He is oblivious to Hebron’s reality: seven hundred and fifty Jews are confined to a decrepit neighborhood in the old city, where they are outnumbered by thirty thousand Arabs. The prospering Arab sector of Hebron, inhabited by 200,000 Muslims (and no Jews), features shopping malls, a university, hotels and apartment complexes.
Cypel cannot resist lacerating the “deplorable legacy” of former US President Donald Trump, who receives the most attention and disparagement of anyone cited in his index except for Benjamin Netanyahu. But that legacy includes recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli annexation of the strategically vital Golan Heights; and cancellation of American financial support for the United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA), which supports more than five million Palestinian “refugees” — although only 30,000 actual refugees from the 1948 war are still living. To Israelis and their diaspora supporters Trump’s gifts were a welcome display of generosity, unrivaled by any president since Harry S. Truman recognized the Jewish State moments after its proclamation of independence.
Cypel’s tirade is comprehensive in its focus but absurd in its conclusions. Accusing Israel of “triumphant ethnocentrism,” he cites its “racism and security madness.” He yearns for “an international coalition of major powers” that “forces Israel to give up its domination over Palestinians.” Otherwise it will become “an ever-stronger segregationist state.” Cypel wonders whether diaspora Jews can “emancipate themselves from a thug nation that claims that it alone can speak in the name of Judaism.”
Appropriately, given his anti-Israel diatribe, is Cypel’s concluding sentence: “The most we can hope for from Jews … is that they stop wearing blindfolds and that they realize that the State of Israel is dragging them into an ethnocentric and monolithic closing-in.”
But it is Cypel who is blindfolded. His cited source for this absurd assertion is historian Tony Judt, whose teen-age embrace of Israel morphed into his adult declaration that Israel was becoming “a belligerently faith-driven ethno-state.” As Israel-haters Cypel and Judt are a compatible couple.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of twelve books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a Best Book for 2019