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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One Pill Makes You Israeli, And One Pill Makes You Palestinian

And the ones from Netanyahu don't do anything at all...

Uri Avnery:

This week, Binyamin Netanyahu...needed a lesson in “working with the eyes” (as cheating is called in modern Hebrew slang).

Winking is the main instrument of the settlement enterprise. The wink is the real father of the settlements. The settlers wink. The government winks. Officials don’t issue a permit, but wink. They say no, and wink. Wink and build. Wink and connect to electricity and water. Wink and send soldiers to protect the outposts, and also remove the Palestinians from adjoining fields and olive groves.

The wink is also the main instrument of Israeli diplomacy. Everything is done by winking. The Americans demand a freeze of the settlements – and wink. The Israelis agree to the freeze – and wink back.

Trouble is that there is no printed sign for a wink. The computer has no standard symbol for it. So Hillary Clinton could honestly assert this week that no wink is documented in any agreement signed by the US and Israel. Not in any memorandum of oral exchanges. So there are no understandings. No mention at all of a wink in any file or document.
Netanyahu’s biggest problem is to make believe that the old is new. To make yesterday’s tired old clichés sound like the rallying call for tomorrow. But how to do that without using winks, facing a person who does not understand winks?

How to speak about the “natural increase” of the settlers without winking? How to speak about a Palestinian state without winking? How to speak about speeding up peace negotiations with the Palestinians without winking?
ONCE WE could rely on the Holocaust. We said Holocaust, and the room fell silent. We could oppress the Palestinians, steal their lands, set up settlements, scatter checkpoints everywhere like the droppings of flies, blockade Gaza and so on. When the Goyim opened their mouths to protest, we cried “Holocaust” – and the words froze on their lips.
No wonder that our Prime Minister tosses and turns in his bed and finds no rest for his soul. Netanyahu without the Holocaust is like the Pope without the cross.

The speeches by Obama and Netanyahu were perfect bookends to our peace delegation's time in Palestine and Israel.  I was in transit during each of them, though I got to watch a replay of Obama's on Channel 99 (the Knesset's version of C-SPAN).  I haven't actually looked at Bibi's since I've been busy trying to process my experiences over there--fortunately Medea tells me that Tighe, who was beaten up at the speech by Israeli security forces, is doing fine.

Go ask Hillel when he's one foot tall:

[A] Gentile came to Shamai saying: "Convert me on the condition that thou teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Shamai pushed him away with the builders' measure he held in his hand. He thereupon came to Hillel, and the latter accepted him. He told him: "What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow; this is the whole law. All the rest is a commentary to this law; go and learn it."

The Israelis overall seem to have forgotten Hillel's admonishments as much as Christians have forgotten Jesus'.  They will, as Avnery observed, play the Holocaust as trump card in an attempt to silence all criticism of their evil policies, but really it's the height of hypocrisy and dissonance: what they are doing to the Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories is the same kind of genocide, differing perhaps only in scale.

I really couldn't help but think of several scenes in Schindler's List as I was absorbing the magnitude of the devastation wrought upon the Palestinian people.  No, I'm not sympathizing with Hamas or Fatah, no I'm not saying Palestinian violence is justified, but I can't escape the great irony that screams out with every ghetto, every eviction, every home demolition, every settlement built on old Muslim villages, every Palestinian youth harassed for his blue or green card.

Netanyahu can wink, can put on the trickster's grin, but like the Cheshire cat there's nothing there when you look closely.  Every complex, ephemeral proposal for a renewed peace "process" delays real peace, really prevents it, when the solution is actually quite simple: end the occupation of Palestine and Israeli Apartheid.  All the rest is just commentary.

Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar has given you the call...

So I'm sitting here wearing a thawb I haggled for in Jerusalem, back in my comfortable living room after seeing how a wide spectrum of Palestinians live, and the contrast is still rather hard to take.  

Yet there are also a lot of similarities between my life here and my brief sojourn into the Palestinian world.  We all want to provide for our children, feel safe in our homes, and enjoy life.  One might say, since I just finished a wonderful book about the Declaration of Independence--I read that along with Nassar's collection of short stories on the plane from Paris--we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

My penultimate evening in Tel Aviv I saw so many people, presumably Arabs and other non-Jews since it was shabbat, picnicking near the beach like we do in the US.  Dad's making shishkabobs on a grill, kids are flying kites, everybody's talking and laughing.

One feature that really caught my attention was the hookahs almost everywhere.  Since smoking them is such a social activity, it totally makes sense people would bring theirs out when enjoying dinner as the sun sets over the Meditternnean.

I had my first experience with the "hubbly bubbly" at the Jersusalem Hotel with a few friends.  I'd been really chomping at the bit to try one since I saw people smoking them in Beit Sahour, and I found it to be very pleasant.

I'm now enjoying a small hookah as I write this.  No, it wasn't purchased in Palestine, though I was tempted--I stuck to putting shekels in Palestinian pockets for items more easily carried in my backpack, such as robes, the scarves I gave Ericka, and the lovely Palestinian solidarity wristband I bought in Bil'in.  This hookah was a quasi Father's Day gift purchased in Vermont, since this Sunday will kinda sorta be my first as an expectant daddy.

The irony here is that when I was 6 my Father's Day present to my own dad was a demand that he quit smoking a pipe, which he did.  One hopes Samuel Thomas will give me a similar gift some time if I don't show the will to stop such a silly thing on my own.  Hey, it's better for me than teargas.

But at least I have a choice.  Not so the fathers who have been killed by the Israelis.

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead...

As is often noted, there is no logic in the Middle East, which is continuing to cost lives.  The week before that idyllic scene above, with people celebrating life on the Med, we met for our orientation at the LGBT community center in Gan Meir.  We were hit with some terrible news at the outset: 36-year-old Yusuf Srour, father of 2 with a 3rd on the way, was murdered by the IDF while protesting the Wall in Na'alin.

Not that I had any illusions about the situation, but it certainly gave some immediacy to the threats we faced, especially the following week in Bil'in where Basem Abu Rahme had been killed a couple months before.  As we were constantly reminded, anything can happen when there are young people with guns in a tense environment.

And the White Knight is talking backwards and the Red Queen's "off with her head!"

The next day we joined our sister organization Coalition of Women for Peace and myriad other groups in a march against the occupation, marking the 42nd anniversary of Israeli seizure of Gaza during the Six Days' War (also known as an-Naksah, The Setback).  We'd just heard some pretty words from Obama about the need to recognize that both sides have grievances, and that to be a good friend we need to be honest with Israel about the hard truth that occupation is damaging their interests and ours, but that doesn't mean anything without concrete action.

As it stands, despite Hamas' peace overtures, the Israeli attitude seems to be summed up by what a man told me on Hayarkon St when he saw my "Viva Gaza" t-shirt: they got what they deserve.

Remember what the dormouse said...

I was admiring the variety of dress in Jerusalem while sipping Arabic coffee at a small cafe just inside Damascus Gate.  A couple friends, including the clown Fungus, were supposed to meet me there so we could tour the Old City--that's where I got my new clothing that I enjoy so much.  As I waited, I watched the IDF do their thing, admired the agility of kids riding good-laden carts down the cobblestone ramps, and chatted with the proprietor.

When it was time to go, I butchered some Arabic in thanking "my brother" and told him I'd see him later in the day.  "Insha'Allah," he said.  I replied in kind.

People who know me understand that I'm not a religious sort, though I do find some sense of spiritual guidance in my Quaker heritage, tikkun olam, etc.  Yet I found myself saying insha'allah (god willing) a good bit over there, not just to be cultural sensitive or polite, but because I finally began to understand the philosophy and feelings behind the practice.

Anything can happen, especially in the Middle East.  And I guarantee nothing good will happen if we don't try--try to understand, try to empathize, try to build bridges--which is why I went down the rabbit hole to begin with.


PS--Compare the photo gallery at Gush Shalom to the shots I posted from the march.  Hmm...

June 17, 2009 in Pax Americana, Viva Palestina | Permalink


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You rock. Now stop smoking.

Posted by: Hecate, Runnymead Conspirator | Jun 17, 2009 10:45:01 PM

I'm not sympathizing with Hamas or Fatah
We think of Xymph's response to this: side A has the finest military on Earth, receives absurd levels of financial and informational support, absolutely the best possible equipment (they even have a 7.62 version of the M-16, which we recall fellow Marines longing for wistfully), has always acted with racist impunity recalling Hitler (have you ever noticed how all the war criminals with one voice claim that international law is a racist joke that is only ever enforced against them?) ---
and side B is starving refugees in a concentration camp being flooded with their oppressor's literal sewage. With that starting point, says Xymph, [s]he has absolutely no time whatsoever to hear pseudo-moral Judgements about how there's problems "on both sides" or about the depravity of the desperate refugees.

As we have said in the past, we are concerned about a much narrower sort of eyework: the "anti-Semitism" smear bad as it is seems to be used very deliberately to save the hide of really really horrible people who happened to be born Jewish. Considering the way the dynamic of hate are expected to work in the Jewish community, far from distancing Jews from evil this is deliberately associating the two, so this is a very cynical sacrificing of innocent people on behalf of one or two real criminals. This is what Jonathan Pollard and his horrible wife do when they blame the single biggest intelligence humiliation in our recent history on some mysterious bigotry in a government thoroughly made up of people who would be targets of that bigotry if it were real. The Arendist hopes his accusations are perfectly true, because if Joe Schmoe Goy really is a stupid bigot, he will occupy himself with the nearest Jew, and the real bad guys will escape to "liberalize" and "reform" someone else's economy.

We are hardly going to criticize smoking since we know at the end of the day the Arendists and childmurderers will win, the good people circumcised and not will be sacrificed for national ideals and we will eventually we hope interrupt the operation of a Merkava with our humble defiant bones for a few minutes.

Posted by: kei & yuri aren't so bad | Jun 17, 2009 10:55:45 PM

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