David Wapner: a Honest and Real Picture of Israel and Zionism

Hi all,

today I am very happy to introduce you to David Wapner, an Israeli Jew, born in Buenos Aires in 1958 who moved to Israel in 1998 and quickly understood the trap of Zionist ideology.

He is a narrator, poet, mu
sician, singer, playwriter and puppeteer. He studied
medicine, music therapy, and history and is the co-founder of the tango-rock band Guttural. He was also the editor of the tabloid of poetry and fictions “Correo

Among his extensive and
award-winning play books we can mention A Novel of Thousand Pages, Violenta Parra,
Tragacomedias-Sacrificciones, Bulu-Bulu and children’s books like
The Other Gardel, The Eagle, Inspector Martinuchi, Some are
, Determined Song, Los Piojemas del Piojo Peddy (Peddy
Louse’s Lousongs),
Icarus, Pequeña Guía de la Gaturbe (Catown’s
Small Guide), Cabía un
vez (Fit one time) and
Bigotel. In 2009 he published Tierra Metida (The Missed Land), a
chronicle about the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip in the same year.

His biography and his honest way of dealing with Israel, Zionism, and injustice, can be an open-eyer for many Westerns who still blindly support Israel instead of fighting against its racist and colonialist system. Israel is a colonial state and will remain one if we do not stand up and say NO to apartheid, NO to militarism, NO to racial, religious, political discrimination. 
And if we do not say NO to violence and to continuous abuse and aggression against Palestinian population, there is never be a just peace in the region.

David is not optimistic, as he says himself in the end… but his political utopia is a state where all can leave together. And this is also my dream. A peaceful state without Zionist war lobbies and oppression. This is my wish during this violent Ramadan month characterised by cruelty, blindness, deshumanization, and in particular by total moral emptiness.

I would like to thank David for his time and support.
The main question is: How should we redeem this evil? We will in a way or in another, because this way war will be perpetuated and peace completely destroyed. 

Please read and share and send your comments into 

Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi – ProMosaik e.V. 

1.- How did you see Israel and Zionism
before coming to Israel?
I never thought that one day I would end up living in
Israel; it was something unthinkable to me, even if Rabin had not been assassinated
and had advanced seriously in a peace process. I did not care, did not see the
point, I have strong ties with Latin American and Jewish cultures, I felt alien
to the Israeli world. From a young age, I was a harsh critic of the military occupation
of the Palestinian territories, and I regarded Zionism as a distorted idea but
understandable. I kind of think of it as a liberation movement with socialist
roots, turned colonialist. However, life gives us surprises that do not always
fit our way of thinking and feeling. In 1987, I got sick and had to go through various
surgeries. My wife, Ana, also became seriously ill. We were two artists with
little savings. Under Argentinean president Menen, our economic problems became
even greater. This period, from 1989 to 1999, represented the most infamous and
corrupted period our country experienced since the restoration of the democracy
in 1983. Jobs were lost, unemployment skyrocketed. Several of the publications
in which I published fired their collaborations. That’s what happened to me too.
Thousands of Argentines were forced to emigrate. This is why we, like many other
Argentineans, left our country. Israel was the only country that would pay our
airfare, subsidize our luggage and one entire year of living. In addition, we
were guaranteed a health system and almost immediate citizenship. We were
subject to the Law of Return, the cornerstone of Zionism.
2.- What did you realize first when you
came to Israel?
The immigrants’ first steps in their adopted country
are key moments, especially if they are illiterate in the new language, which
is quite different from their mother tongue, and written in an unknown
alphabet. This was not one hundred per cent the case with me, as I remembered
some things from my childhood and I knew how to write. However, for functional
purposes, I was illiterate until, two months after our arrival, we began to
study intensively. At the beginning, the country is perceived by newcomers with
a great sensory intensity
and intuition power, and should not be discarded as soon as Hebrew literacy is
reached, and understanding becomes analytical
. I saw a society still
marked by the time of Rabin and the Oslo accords. Netanyahu ruled in his first
term. However, some signs caught my attention: in schools there was no excess
of patriotic symbols. Students did not have to sing the national anthem, not
raise the flag as they had to do in Argentine schools. I considered this part
of a military education was absent here. Still Palestine was a pronounceable
word among people. You could talk openly of the Palestinians, or an opinion in favour
of a peace agreement was not an anathema yet. To confirm this feeling, soon
after Netanyahu’s government fell, Ehud Barak, the Labour candidate, was
elected. With him, the ideologues of the Oslo accords returned to power. Barak
immediately resumed negotiations with the PLO and, in parallel, with the Syrian
regime headed by Hafez Assad. To complete the trilogy, Barak ended the invasion
of Lebanon and withdrew Israeli troops from there. Teens in Israeli schools read
Palestinian poetry through the poems of Mahmoud Darwish, thanks to the Minister
of Education, Yossif Sarid. On television, one could see journalistic
productions on the exchange between Israelis and Palestinians: both of them
enjoying dinner at the same restaurant in Jericho, discussions on a future
together, each with their country. There was talk of the end of obligatory military
service, and the arrival of Prime Minister Shimon Peres to the newly opened
international airport in Gaza was broadcast live… Peres’s plane never landed,
and that was a sign of the collapse that came shortly after.
Another challenge to all my senses was the meeting
with the Soviets. The Soviet Union does not exist anymore. And the situation
will not change. One million women and men whose country no longer existed and
did not understand where they were standing, but on reflection of survival,
these new immigrants, defended the natives’ nationalistic convictions. To come
here, these Soviets had already passed a first selection, as who Jews could
immigrate, or who could certify having a Jewish grandmother. There are many
stories about this. People who forged birth certificates, or bought degrees.
The Soviets had never considered a possibility of immigrating to Israel before.
And the Jewish Agency was concerned that Soviet Jews should only immigrate to
Israel, often citing Russian immigration laws that never existed. Natan
Sharansky, a historic leader of Soviet Jews, who was imprisoned for many years
in prisons and soviet labour camps, symbol of the Jewish resistance to communism,
was triumphantly received and designated chairman of the Jewish Agency. A short
time later, Sharansky founded the first political party representing Soviet
immigration. This was a right-wing, anti-Palestinian party, Israel bealyah (Israel New Immigrants
Party) , that, after a few years, was eventually absorbed by the Likud, but
that marked the political course of the new immigrants, with their votes and military,
strict and ethnocentric white ethos. Abigdor Liberman, a Russian Jew leader of
Moldovan origin, took advantage of the strength of Israel bealyah to found the far-right xenophobic party Israel Batenu (Israel Our House). Many
of them had fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and now they were ready to do
the same against the Arabs. The Army encouraged arabophobia in these Soviet immigrants against Palestinians.
With the arrival of the former Soviet Jewish native
and veteran population, these immigrants immediately suffered discrimination.
They were suspected of not being real Jews. And their women, prostitutes. The
natives rejected their culinary habits and aesthetics, accused them of being
dirty, smelling bad, and ridiculed them for speaking Hebrew with a Russian accent.
They also accused them of receiving too much support from the State. Finally,
they were placed in jobs usually done by Palestinians. At the same time, the
new immigrants isolated themselves in their own community and created their own
party. They became very strong and influential.
Regarding the Bedouins, I met one in
particular, who was the partner of a South African veterinarian Jew in a company
producing camel milk and derivatives thereof. To me the Bedouins were the true
original inhabitants of this land and region. They inspired a deep respect in
me. We saw them every day in Beer Sheva market, selling fruits and vegetables,
breads, and other products. To me they had a mythological air, a legendary
mythological air. I wandered what they would think of me. I felt shame, and
also, I have to admit, fear. We learned to read and write quickly, and our
world widened.  As the peace process
failed, the second intifada began and Ariel Sharon ascended to power.

3.- What are the conclusions you
can draw today?

From the time we arrived to Israel until now, the world, and the Middle East in
particular, have suffered catastrophic changes. Iraq and its leaders no longer
exist, the United States first, and Salafism later, have devastated this former
country (what we now know as Iraq is a drag of something that once was and is
no longer). Syria is about to cease to exist, Libya too. Africa and the ancient
Fertile Crescent expel humans as a volcano expels its lava. Gaza has been
devastated, isolated, and its inhabitants languish among the ruins. All
progressive Palestinian leaders that assumed a hope to build a state have been
killed or are being held in Israeli prisons. In Ramallah, maybe in coalition
with Israel, the government is an inoperative elite, the heirs of Yasser
Arafat. Successive Israeli governments have been guilty and responsible for this
tragedy. The colonial occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the direct
or indirect collaboration of corrupted Arab states, is the mother of all
problems in the region. Israel has been taken over by an evil, fundamentalist
and warlike generation as a direct result of colonial occupation and the action
of violent and unscrupulous leaders. This is what I learned as I could take
increasing portions of this complex reality and experience in daily life. The
occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza during the 1967 war was the
beginning of the end of the illusion that Zionism could be a tool of liberation
for the Jews. In 1967, Zionism began to be openly what Stalinism meant the
Soviet Revolution. The emergence of American fanatical ideologues, financed by
the United States, with the clear and express purpose of boosting Jewish
settlement in Judea and Samaria (Gush Emunim, is the most notorious group) definitely
turned the balance towards the worst possible future.

4.- How do you experience Judaism in Israel?

I am a secular Jew, a Marxist of the Marx Brothers, a Cohen as Leonard and the
Coen Brothers. When he was here, about five years ago, Leonard Cohen did not
feel at ease, and I’m sure that Groucho, Chico and Harpo, Joel and Etan would
not neither. The same happens to me. I cannot be Groucho-Marxist in a country
with official Judaism. There is everything here. From fundamentalist and
colonialist sects, through all variants of orthodoxy, to so-called
“traditionalists” who are most practitioners, as the rites according to the
origin of each community have survived:
so there are Ashkenazi,
Sephardic, Yemenite. A separate chapter are the Ethiopian Jews, who, before
being brought to Israel, practiced a pre-Talmudic Judaism, with their own
priests and were forced to convert to Orthodoxy, to be recognized as Jews. This
caused them a lot of suffering. Many of them killed themselves due to depression
or a lack of identity. The only valid marriages are those who follow the
Orthodox ritual. Kashrut hygiene rules apply to 90 percent of food. These rules
are practically the same as in Islam and, on that point, Jews and Muslims, for
once, are united. Then there are still little groups of old socialists, and very
few but active anarchist groups. Nevertheless, real secularism does not exist
in Israel, because we are in the Middle East and laicism is a European-Western
concept. Above all, there is a state religion, and this is what rules
everything. To me, a state cannot be defined by a religion, because the
religion of state means a method of exclusion. And this is the case of Israel. The
state religion is a version of Judaism merged with Zionism, and this attempt prevented
any possibility of real secular Jewish ideology. As a result we experience here
a sort of Stalinism with Jewish “ayatollahs” disguised as real democrats. Judaism in its
national-Zionist version, characterised by its territorialist ideology, violent
and warmongering. This ideology has rotted and corrupted everything. So I could
not really enjoy any form of Judaism here. Only a few weeks ago, a concert
offered by the minstrel Shlomo Bar, a Moroccan Jew, made me remember things I
never knew I remembered, but I approached my primary feelings as a Jew. With
his singing and visceral poetry, he said “we received the Torah in the
desert, do not forget this Ashkenazim”, and I was moved, and coree songs
along with other public. Drawing from the Occupation, to take that utopian step
would be like going back to the desert, to the essence and build something new from

5.- What are the main aspects of opposition between Judaism as religion and

Zionism attempted to run as a
secular doctrine that would replace religious Judaism in the daily practice of
the Jewish people. Zionism was born in Austria, as a response to nationalism,
the idea of the nation-state, which was booming in Europe. All people who
inhabited Europe, which had belonged in the past to larger political units
(empires, kingdoms), were self-defined and independent in a territory with which
they identified and which they called nation. The Jews of Europe aspired to the
same, but there were not in a territory they could call “theirs”. Europeans
had treated them as foreigners. Jews were foreigners. With more or less
tolerance, with violence, discriminatory laws, Europe was always hostile to
Jews. But the Jews had Israel in their mind, so, this is why Zionism was born. Zionism
was a secular liberation movement, but with strong origins in religion. Zion
means Jerusalem. The Jews always prayed facing Jerusalem, the city to which all
dream… of returning, and where the sorrows and persecutions end. A place of
the Jews, as France is for the French or Germany for the Germans. This
religious utopia of Zionism would materialize in action. Zionism could never
overcome this contradiction, because it does not contradict Judaism…., as it is
born from it. Jews needed a homeland for the Jewish nation, Jewish religion, and
Jewish nationality. The Promised Land of the Torah is what Zionism aims at.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, Zionism could not impose a
secular constitution. Orthodox Jews do not believe in this state, because
Israel can only come back to life after the arrival of the Messiah. Then a stream comes that will
determine the life of the state and take destroy it completely from an ethical
point of view: and this force is religious Zionism, which combines religion
with Zionism. And this is the force  which, through its various political
incarnations, will be the arbiter of governmental decisions in the State of
Israel. Finally there is the “Jewish National Home” which has been
identified with the so called “Jewish state”. Religious Zionism aims
to go beyond the intrinsic contradiction between religion and state. And so Zionist
ideology becomes the political-religious-ethical basis of the colonial Israeli state.

6.- How are Zionism, racism, Apartheid, and militarism connected in Israeli
society today?

Zionism, in its origins, was no different in essence from European nationalism,
their aspirations were similar. And, in turn, it contained the seeds of its
flaws: ethnocentrism and colonialism. But that does not detract from the fact
that it was a legitimate aspiration and widely justified by history. Anti-Semitism
was rooted in Europe for centuries, both in political power, and in religious
(which was often the same), and from there down to the masses. Persecution,
prohibition to exercise certain trades or professions, pogroms, massacres,
expulsions, stigmatization, kept going over hundreds of years.
Once a need for a liberation movement for the Jews was strong enough, the
discussion emerged as follows: Do Jews have to join a Marxist and socialist
movement that would redeem the oppressed of the world, without distinctions of
race or origin? A revolution that would end religion’s opium of the people, the
source of all injustice? Or, conversely, should they unite under Zionism,
because redemption for the Jews would be in their own country, on their own
land, where they would be independent, masters of their own destiny? Meanwhile,
many others, especially those with privileged access to higher education and
from Eastern Europe, as noted by the great Joseph Roth, settled in Western
Europe, opted for assimilation, by becoming European citizens and being loyal
to the countries where they had been entrenched. However, history proved that
Europe, after the Shoah, disowned the surviving Jews, and after the “Final
Solution” Nazis promoted the Zionist solution. Neither the socialist
revolution was the best way, nor the purges, assassinations and Stalinist
gulags ordered to exterminate the Jewish Bolshevik elite. Russians made up the main
part of the elite of the Zionist movement. The Zionists began arriving in
Palestine in the late nineteenth century, transplanting ideas and concepts from
Europe, including kibbutz, the socialist collective farms. I will not detail
here how the conflict with local inhabitants took place, because I want to reach
the seed and trigger that led to Israel and Zionism as it has become today: the
post-war division of the world between the USSR and the United States. When the
European carnage was reaching its end, in 1945, Jews were well established in
Palestine governed by the British Mandate, had a growing economy and active and
trained guerrillas and, somehow, had turned his back to its European brothers.
The creation of Israel did not aim to give home to survivors of the Nazi
genocide (although complying with European desires to oust the Jews) but the
partition of Palestine was a key move in the Cold War that kept the US and USSR
with their respective allies. The USSR was keen to take the upcoming State of
Israel on its side. It acted in that direction and was the first to promote its
declaration of independence at the United Nations. Many Zionist leaders, the
future prime minister David Ben Gurion, repeatedly travelled to the USSR to
study the Soviet model. Nevertheless, England, in particular, operated to
prevent this transfer, and Israel remained within the “free” world.
As a result, the USSR turned towards Arab countries, which were in their orbit
and supported the replacement of governments monarchies emerged from
revolutions. This was the scenario that led to the outbreak of war after war,
to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and pushed Israel
towards its transformation from a draft national home for the Jews to a
state-enclave, colonialist and, finally, segregationist. This was the scene,
too, which led, in the sixties, to the consolidation of the Palestinian
identity and the creation of the PLO, founded by Yasser Arafat, at the
suggestion of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, catalysed their national
aspirations. The occupation of the Palestinian territories led to an apartheid-like
situation, denying people national aspirations, while depriving them of the same
rights as the Jews. Now, I can affirm that the situation in Gaza is worse than
apartheid. Zionism is not a racist but an ethnocentric country. Racism in
Israel has a strong European influence. Ethiopian Jews, for example, are
discriminated by the colour of their skin. White Jews are not used to the idea
that an African country has developed an ancient Jewish community. Black Jews?
There is a biblical name that contemporary Israeli used to refer to blacks:
kushi, the ancient kingdom of Kush, which in the Bible refers to the current
Sudan but today has the same linguistic connotations with “nigger”.
The neighbourhoods where Ethiopians rent houses loosed their property value.
They are seen as “special” people with “social adaptation
difficulties” and under these and other marks of racist inspiration, Ethiopians
are rarely able to move up the social ladder. In addition, Jewish politicians of
European origin (Ashkenazi) often see the Maghrebi Jewish or those who came
from Arab countries as barbarians. Therefore, we can follow. So, all these so
different forces finally united only when they confronted the Palestinian
enemy. In a state of war, everybody can feel that this is a country for
everybody. This is the way Zionism works, and its current incarnation is
fascism. Zionism has transformed the Israelis into a hostile and xenophobic
people, be they rightist or even leftist.

7.- What can Jews and Non-Jews do to change this situation and to build peace
for all people living in the Middle East?

Unfortunately, I am not optimistic. Lately I have felt that the powers are too strong.
Europe, America, fundamentalist tyrannies with billionaires monarchs, scorched
earth everywhere. At this moment, the expansion of the Nazi-Salafist madness of
the Islamic State. I am not optimistic. For some time, we have wanted to move
Abu Gosh, an Arab village near Jerusalem. Many poorer Israeli Jews are moving
there and to other Arab villages. They are well received and live in an
atmosphere of pluralism. And maybe good news comes that way, a grassroots
movement of Arabs and Jews, a movement beyond sectarian interests. A future of
cities for all, a country-for-all, a unique land to redeem so much evil.