By Alan Simons
FEBRUARY 16, 2009 – The other day while walking my Airedale, a person I’ve known for some 39 years approached me. “Do you know what you are? You’re, you’re a neo-Zionist, that’s what you are. Yes, a NEO-ZIONIST!” I express these words in capitals to show you the extent of my accuser’s passion and conviction.
To tell you the truth, I was dumbfounded. I’ve been called many things in my life – most of which have occurred behind my back, and I might add proudly in many languages. But calling me a neo-Zionist? Good grief!
I don’t know about you, but normally I prefer to be called something I can be identified with. A good old-fashion traditional Zionist, circa Ben Gurion, would have been more than sufficient for me.
In this case, my dumbfoundedness, -I rarely show this side of my personality – must have taken her aback. For I absolutely refrained from making a comment, which, to those of you who know me, isn’t something I’m accustomed of doing.
However, she stood her ground, waiting for me to respond. “Well, what do you have to say?” she said with a wonderful air of superiority that one sees in many younger people.
Since I was at least 18 minutes walk from the nearest Wikipedia and Google search engine, (I have to admit, I just have a very basic mobile phone), I realised that the best thing for me to do was to own up to the fact that I had absolutely no idea what she meant by her calling me a neo-Zionist. There was no use pretending. I had to come clean. The showdown could not be avoided.
“Ah! Yes, a neo-Zionist,” I said, stalling for enough time in which to figure out how I could calmly tell her of my ignorance. “A neo-Zionist? Is that what you think I am?”
My accuser said nothing.
I looked straight into her eyes, defiantly, eyeball-to-eyeball. “Well, I have to admit, I have no idea what you’re talking about! This neo-Zionist thing? But I sense it’s not something that I would be particularly infatuated with.”
And with that comment of mine, I realised that I had sealed my fate. My accuser shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and muttered something under her breath that sounded much like, “I bet that’s the kind of answer you say to everybody.” She then disappeared in the same direction she had come from, with the knowledge that in life’s power struggles, leadership and confrontation, she had failed to test my ability to develop an understanding between us. Sadly, I had also failed by allowing our exchange of communication to get out of sync. I had not taken the time to understand her intended direction of conversation. Thus, she was hard pressed to believe in my sincerity.
For her, our spontaneous meeting was to be as near a testing ground she could expect from me. A one-on-one, a dyad. A spontaneous performance of self-disclosure and accomplishment. She had sought to share an alikeness, a kinship and affinity so that our encounter could be built on commonalities and communication, shared experiences, and mutually acknowledged solutions.
Jews make lousy communicators
My accuser’s experience in how I responded to her is not vastly different to that experienced between non-Jews and the Jewish diaspora. As Frank Luntz, the US-based political and business pollster has pointed out, “Non-Jews do not want to hear our complaints. They want to know our solutions.”
Luntz asks us, “Why do Jews make such lousy communicators? For hundreds of years, we used the great art of language development to entertain as well as educate. It is no coincidence that so many of the great intellectuals, academics, writers and performers come from our ranks.”
He adds, “Let us hope that this is a lesson we do not have to relearn again and again.
“The ability of Jews to understand and connect with people transcends international boundaries. It is in our culture and in our blood. But over the past 20 years, we have developed some very destructive communication habits that have seriously undermined our efforts and the causes we believe in.
“Our words lose their resonance and our style and tone offend. We assert when we should inform. We reject when we should interject. We push people away when we should pull them in.”
I must admit, I rejected my accuser. I pushed her away.
It’s been written that communication can be said to be aesthetic in that it transforms seemingly opposite, disparate, and sometimes pointless factors into a coherent, harmonious, and new experience.
None of these items came close to being accomplished between my accuser and I. For, if they had, I’m sure I would have been able to convey to her that I challenge anyone to call me a neo-Zionist. And I would remind her that in today’s topsy-turvy world of hate and intolerance, the term Zionism has been hijacked by both Israel’s militant Jewish settler community and by the Arab-Iranian-British Socialist Workers Party-Israeli Apartheid Week axis.♦