Wednesday, 22 October 2008

On definitions

Pointing out the continuing stream of resignations and the arguments behind them, here at Engage. Is it worrying? Yes, it is. And those Israel-South Africa parallels stink to high heaven.

Many people, maybe most, maybe including myself, believe what they want to believe. Some try to leaven this with a dose of scepticism about their own beliefs, with, indeed, a dose of scepticism about the more intense cries of both sides in a conflict. I myself try this. But there are others who prefer a kind of intoxication, a need to feel not just 'right' but furiously 'right'.

Such people insist that Israel is the sole great evil in the world, the only country that should be boycotted, the only country against whom one should actively support those such as Hamas, Hizbollah and the leadership of Iran, forces that have clearly stated that they want to destroy it, and, furthermore, make no secret of wanting to destroy any Jew not sufficiently subservient to the order they would impose - or, according to some of their statements, any Jew whatsoever, wheresoever.

Israel is, strangely enough, the country where half the Jews of the world live*. And these include Jews long resident in Palestine, Jews thrown out of the countries they inhabited, Jews expelled from other parts of the Arab world, Jews who are the descendants - only by one generation in many cases - of those who faced extermination. The population of Israel is roughly the same as the number of those who actually were exterminated one generation back from me. Neat coincidence, eh?

There is no other evil next to this evil, the righteous rage. It is, indeed, the one evil uniting all the furiously 'righteous.'

I have long ago stated my own views on what should prove to be a settlement. A free democratic (of any shade) Palestine, next to a free democratic (of whatever shade) Israel, roughly according to the 1967 border, with some give and take. Israel is not composed of angels and innocents, of guiltless, one hundred-per-cent admirable or lovable people. It is, however, composed chiefly of Jews, who are much like most people, different only in knowing that, if they live in Israel, they live in a place where the surrounding powers wish, and have worked conscientiously, every day, from the birth of the state, to obliterate them.

Outside Israel and in Israel Jews live in a world that has already tried to obliterate them once, and in fact a few times before then.

Call it paranoia? Try calling it history. Try living with that consciousness.

I did not live as a Jew, never felt a Jew, never gave it much thought, until the mid-eighties, and even then not very much. I feel more so now, which is strange, since I do not move in a specifically Jewish society nor in Jewish circles. I am not a culturally social animal. I am increasingly aware though that there is a process of re-definition under way, according to which it doesn't much matter how one defines oneself because others will do it for you. So the Nazis defined the Jews. So Israel is coming to be defined. The world is slowly - or rather, not so slowly - coming around to definitions again.

*Wiki: According to the estimates for 2007 of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, the world population of Jews is 13.2 million.

1 comment:

Poet in Residence said...

I don't know what the world population of Celtic/Welsh is but it's less than 13.2 million. Perhaps 10 million less than Jews. A few in Aregentina (Patagonia), and a few in the colonies, a few in Breton and Cornwall. The rest in Wales. It's not many is it? Not many for the folks who built Stonehenge, founded the Halstatt Kultur based on the Alpine Salt Mines, colonised the banks of the Danube River until the Romans arrived. Fortunately or unfortunately (depends on the point of view) the Celts left no written records of their activities, movements, wars etc. We depend on the records, history and propoganda of others who came into contact with them.
One thing we do know is that Welsh is the oldest living European language. Today it is spoken by a mere 1,000,000 -1,500,00 people worldwide. The culture has all but vanished.
Do I feel Welsh or Celtic? Well, I feel something. I don't know what. But whatever it is it's in my blood. Whatever you may say, I feel it. It goes back to when I was young and I saw a vision. It was a vision of a Celtic Chieftain. Or maybe a devil? It was not a revelation of biblical magnitude but it was a meaningful and natural experience. Whatever it meant, and I don't know what it meant, has haunted me for over 50 years. But to the point, and George's 'definitions'. I recently visited the Nazi's secret weapon inter-ballistic missile site at Ebensee in Austria where 8,000 perished (50% Jews, 50% non-Jews). The job was to dig a 7 km tunnel system. It was codenamed 'Kalk' (in English 'Limestone') in order to fool the local villagers as to what was afoot. We tend to forget that there were other victims of the Nazi holocaust: the millions of sick children, mental patients, war prisoners and other minority groups and unsuitable individuals who were starved to death or murdered.
I agree with George that all sides must retreat to the 1967 agreed borders. People who stole land must give it back. It's the only possible solution. It's the only way. Anything else will result in another disaster. Perhaps even a disaster of Celtic proportions.
(Today's posting code word is 'force'. Where do these words come from?)