An Open Letter to the IDF Maglan Unit in Englewood, New Jersey

Victim-blaming and aggressor-valorization are two sides of the same maudlin, propagandistic coin. From a piece in The Jewish Standard (Teaneck, New Jersey):

Visiting IDF vets shaken by Jersey City

But Englewood shul’s host program makes them feel welcome, secure

The murderous attack on the kosher market in Jersey City was especially unsettling for our 21 guests — IDF veterans who came to Englewood for a week to participate in the Peace of Mind program at East Hill Synagogue.

“We’re used to it in Israel,” they said, referring to terrorist attacks that target Jews and Israelis. “We just didn’t expect it to happen here in New Jersey.” We nodded in agreement. Sadly, neither did we.

Fifteen years after they served together in the elite Maglan commando unit, fighting in the second Lebanon war and then in Gaza, the veterans’ unit reunited to discuss their military experiences and to process service-related trauma. Two therapists accompanying them from Israel helped the veterans acquire the language they needed to discuss their fears and feelings about their time in battle. This was a new and important skill that had not yet been developed by these highly decorated soldiers.

A little self-knowledge might provoke the realization that “service-related trauma” goes both ways. It’s not just the IDF that’s “used to it.” So are their victims–“one victim a year times thirty years,” as B’Tselem puts it. (OCHA Casualty data.)

I’m not sure why Israelis would be unaware of the fact that shootings take place in New Jersey. But as a New Jerseyan who travels to “Israel,” I’m more than aware of the fact that IDF attacks on Palestinians are something to be expected in “Israel,” or rather, in the parts of “Israel” that the IDF occupies and patrols, and may well annex.

Americans already do more than enough for and with the IDF. At a certain point, it comes time to say: no matter how much adulation you get from your amen corner in Englewood, it’s sufficient for one resident of this state to tell you that you don’t belong here, and you have no place here; by rights, you should pick up your baggage, board a plane, go home, and stay home. Others may welcome you here, but I don’t, and I doubt I’m alone.

No one should have sympathy for the “trauma” suffered by the executors of a 52-year military occupation over millions of human beings, and by the specific individuals partly responsible for making Gaza humanly uninhabitable. Sympathy for the victims of their aggression entails condemnation for the aggressors. And the least that condemnation entails as a matter of “action” is ostracism. I often regret that I find myself doing the least I can do in cases like this. But when the least one can do for justice marks one out for execration, even the least can be worn with pride–or more precisely, pride tinged with contempt.

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the IDF Maglan Unit in Englewood, New Jersey

    • I’m another NJ resident (and a Jewish one) who would tell the IDF that they don’t belong here. But, I wouldn’t tell them to “board a plane, go home, and stay home,” as they do not belong in Occupied Palestine, a land that the Zionists (for whom they serve, in the IDF, as terrorists) stole, either. I don’t care where the hell they go, as long as they don’t occupy someone else’s land, murder and oppress them, and pretend that they are the victims. I care as little for where they go as I would have for where post-WWII Nazis went. Since the US, in fact, welcomed former Nazis (as allies against the USSR), they likewise welcome Zionists. One terrorist, settler colonial power, in league with another—what else is new?


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