My Very Own Genre

Haim Watzman

Once again I’ve been called on to review a book about an American who served in the Israeli army. This time it’s stand-up comedian Joel Chasnoff’s The 188th Crybaby Brigade, in The Jerusalem Report. (Four years ago I reviewed Jeffrey Goldberg’s Prisoners in The Washington Post.)

The American-in-the-Israeli-Army book has become an annual event, it seems, since I wrote Company C. So I feel sorta like the founder of a genre. One thing I notice, however, is that of all these IDF veterans, I’m the only one still living in Israel. Is the IDF to blame or is the problem, as I argue in the current review, and have argued elsewhere, that many gung-ho young American Jews mistakenly think that serving in the Israeli army is the sine qua non of Zionism?

2 thoughts on “My Very Own Genre”

  1. One cannot be Israeli by going there and being a macho army jock. Or so I take from the piece. Nor can one become Israeli by chastizing Israel from afar. You have to invest your life in Israel. This I think is also an implicit message of Haim’s post on water. If we respond by once again detailing Israeli domiance over water, the settlements, flow diversions, whatnot, we fail to ask what it is like to actually live either in Israel, the settlements, or under occupation. Or how people so living could actually try to make a difference.

    Obama seems to have broken his Gaza silence. A Republican President might easily reverse that. I have been bashing Israel for decades; the Gaza blockade and Cast Lead just confirmed my rants over too many years. And it does not matter at all. I am not Israeli. I am completely unimportant. Israelis are the ones who will make Israel.

    So that face still before me, a young woman, facing calls of traitor, terrorist, holder of knife: an Israeli Arab MK on that boat. She IS Israeli; you have made her so. She has broken the wall. Go to that fissure. Israelis make Israel.

    Nothing can be done. What must we do?

  2. whoa, i didn’t know this was a genre, though i knew of jeffrey goldberg’s book. now i feel obligated to introduce myself. i’ve been writing & drawing my idf memoirs since about 2005, with my first graphic novel coming out in 2008 (more info at the link in my name).

    & yeah, i did leave, too. i kind of tried to stay, but i could have tried harder. now i’m married to a (nonpracticing buddhist) canadian & prospects for return look dim. in my defense, though, half my immediate family lives there now, & i still visit when i can. my comics have been pretty well received in israel too, i did a signing at “comix and vegetables” in tel aviv & was reviewed in “bamahane.”

    i’ve also written critically about american (among others) perceptions of israeli soldiers in a way that sort of matches up with your observations. my drawn essay was published on jewcy, if you’re interested.

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