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June 2, 2013

Zionism, Militarism, and Fantasy Camp

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/zionism_militarism_and_fantasy_camp/

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For some reason I don’t think that any of the founders of Zionism are standing and applauding from their places of eternal reward (wherever those may be).

NPR reported this morning about Caliber 3, an Israeli company which, according to their website, “was established in the year 2000 to design and apply effective security solutions around the world.” They now have a special two hour course which “is geared to all tourists of any age who would like to learn about anti terrorism tactics. Experts in anti terrorism combat will teach how terrorism is fought, how to shoot a pistol and give hands on experience for all participants in shooting a weapon.” They stress that the “program … combine[s] together the values of Zionism with the excitement and enjoyment of shooting which makes the activity more meaningful.” They also do birthday parties. Seriously.

According to Steve Gar, who runs the place, 15,000 tourists participate in the course, which includes shooting automatic weapons, hearing hero stories, and watching the instructors stage an assault on targets which bear an image of a person with a red and and white kaffiyeh.

Gar told reporter Emily Harris: “My mission in life is to teach people, good people, Jewish people how to fight, how to protect themselves.”

The company and its shooting range is located in the Etzion Bloc, in Palestine. The fence around the facility is apparently making it extremely difficult for at least one Palestinian farmer to work his fields. This I would imagine is not part of the patter that Steve Gar gives to the tourists that pass through his facility.

But for now, that is not even the point.

One of the earliest Zionist institutions that was established in Palestine was the Center for Jewish Studies which eventually became the Hebrew University. The earliest Zionists had as their goal cultural and, for some, religious resurrection. They saw state building as the means to that end and political autonomy as a way of either escaping oppression or assuming responsibility for their own history. One of the tools for this was a defensive army which was a necessary evil.

There is a bittersweet victory here for those like Rabbi A. S. Tameres who pulled out of the Zionist movement after attending one of the earliest Zionist Congresses because he feared that the Jewish state on the way was turning to militarism. When any tour to Israel is incomplete without a visit to an army base, or the purchase of some shlock army kitsch, and now the make-believe equivalent of rock-star camp but with the weapons of war and the machinery of death, one must wonder if the Zionist enterprise has not gone off the tracks?

In a five day tour of Israel (which was what was reported on) I wonder how many hours were spent in the manuscript room at the National Library? How much time was spent in the development town of Yeruham? How much time was spent in the Palestinian villages surrounding Caliber 3?

Is this the dream? Jewish military subcontractors giving Jewish businessmen from Philadelphia a fantasy camp about killing Palestinians?

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