Sunday, May 18, 2008

The 'real' vacation

The American Jewish paradox is well enough understood: we want universalism and equality at home, but expect Israel to remain this pristine Jewish state, for refugees, for our own tourist visits, for just a vague, comforting idea in our heads. Wanting America one way and Israel another isn't necessarily contradictory. It makes perfect sense in many ways, but it is also representative of a larger trend among Americans to pride ourselves in diversity at home but expect vacations abroad to reveal a world in which every village is filled with its original inhabitants. Dan Barry's article about deciding not to search for the 'real' Ireland is a fine example. As accepting as Barry is of the 'new' Ireland, of its Eastern European and Brazilian immigrants, it is clear enough what he is arguing against--as he makes clear, what even in himself he has to argue against. Reactionary travel-writing is a common enough genre. Demands for ethnic or cultural purity that would never be expressed openly by reasonable people in the US about the US become borderline acceptable when talking about what you hope to find on your week out of the country.

It would be wrong to reduce American Zionism to travel writing. But there is an element of Zionism that's about Jews wanting a country we can think of as where we come from, whether we visit it or not, whether we concern ourselves with its politics or not.

1 comment:

Petey said...

Off topic, but you might want to read Jeffrey Goldberg's interesting NYTimes op-ed on the actual real world effects of The Lobby...