Thursday, 30 October 2008

Wet morning in Frankfurt

Very grey,with fat rain threatening to thicken and scurry. Arrived yesterday afternoon, caught taxi to hotel in a Turkish area of town, or at the edge of it, next street up. A nice bookshop there, its window filled with poetry. Stoppped for a kebab lunch then to meet K at the middle of the nearest bridge. We walk along the embankment to the, mostly re-created, medieval centre where we have coffee. Then to the Judische Museum where I am to talk with Cecile Wajsbrot.

The city mayor attends and about forty people. As a conversation it is more a series of monologues about views of Israel. I make my only substantial point, that being that people should have the opportunity to live somewhere where they are not in a perpetual, vulnerable, minority and where they can have some say in defining themselves rather than being defined by others. Also, that since one has to die anyway, I'd rather die in a dignified manner of my own choosing within the normal terms of human life, and if that means being killed resisting humiliation I would sooner do that than be humiliated and dead anyway, thank you.

It's easy enough, you'd think. This doesn't apply solely to Israel, of course, but to all, including Palestinians. But it does apply to Jews too, as much as to Muslims or Christians or atheists or anyone else, and, it seems to me, Israel is the only place that can happen for Jews. Which does not mean I have any particular desire to live there or even visit, though if I were invited I would accept. It would no doubt be a strange experience for me since I have never lived in a Jewish milieu nor do I even desire to live in such. I am talking about basic human dignity, and while I am far from romantically idealistic about this to the extent as to think such dignity is immediately achievable, we ought damn well to try.

Then to dinner in a nearby restaurant by the river, K, her parents, Cecile, a friend and our friend Eva and Raphael from the museum. Spend the meal talking about art, the differences in language and manners between Hungary, Germany and England. Three of the four of us are rooting for Obama, the fourth is worried by him. Not long to wait now.

The New and Collected has arrived at home. I will be the last to see it. 500 pages of about thirty years writing. A bargain at the price, if you ask me, but then why would you? See that horse? It's got a mouth. Ask it.

Home in the evening, thank heaven. C waits, open armed. Work waits, sharp clawed.


Nicole Segre said...

Visit Israel. You must. Who am I to tell you, but for me it was like the feeling I get at the seaside, of being in my element, without having quite realised that I wasn't in it before. Wonderful, even though it is such a febrile and exhausting place. Meanwhile, so agree with everything you say about Israel, even though you haven't been there.

Gwil W said...

Just checked on Amazon. A 60th birthday bargain if ever there was one! George's 'New and Collected' at pre-publication UK POST FREE AND SPECIAL PRICE only 9.90p. Dispatch 10th November! Yes, I've ordered.
Yesterday I went to a book presentation in Vienna. The lovely Otto von Habsburg (son of Emperor Karl the peacemaker exiled to Madeira), now 95, signed a book for me (Otto would be the top dog here if the Austrians had had the good sense to established a British-style Monarchy instead of rushing headlong into the arms of dubious Republicanism, Facism, Nazism, etc).
Anyway, get your orders in for George's book before the price goes up!

Gwil W said...

nicloe, I tried to come to your space but for some strange reason couldn't open it. What I wanted to say was that I agree with George that every nation (since we now live in a world of nations albeit mostly nations constructed with straight lines in the sands and in the jungles with out any regard to ethnic feelings traditions wishes and so on) yes, every nation must have its Lebensraum (unfortunate German word but firs the bill). In Israel's case she should withdraw to the 1967 agreed borders, return subsequently stolen lands to whomsoever they belong and get rid of her WMDs her 'weapons of mass destruction'.

George S said...

Mostly with you, PiR. With you to the 1967 borders, and / or any give and take on strategic positions. In 1967 Israel was going to be 'pushed into the sea' according to Nasser. Combined armies gathered on its borders, including the Golan Heights. The Heights were of obvious strategic importance. That would be one of the negotiating points.

Not with you on 'stolen' which is a disgraceful term, long applied specifically to Jews, implying they are stealthy, dishonest, underhand. I am against the settlers, but occupation and possession of the land they currently occupy is a result of war, which has an ancient history and precedence. The shape of every country in the world is determined by the same process. Hungarians 'stole' the Carpathian Plain. The Anglo-Saxons 'stole' England. The Gaels stole Scotland and the Celts stole Ireland (or vice versa). The Turks 'stole' Hungary. No country anywhere is the result of the forces of nature alone. There is always conflict and settlement. In the broader interests of the people living in a place we employ diplomacy and compromise to try to settle claims. but those claims are usually on the basis of military and economic power.

So, please, no 'stolen'. The term, frankly, stinks.

As to the WMD, I would originally have agreed with you, pure and simple, and my sympathies are generally in that direction. However, since Israel is not recognised by some of her most powerful neighbours; since almost the whole region would happily see it wiped off the map; since the education systems in the surrounding countries demonize Israel and draw consistently on that notorious forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to impute evil to the character of the Jew generally; and since hostile countries have, or are developing, WMDs of their own, I would no more recommend Israel dropping its WMD than I would the UK, the USA and, yes, Russia.

Either they all go, or none goes. You can try to enforce non-proliferation but it's hard. Perhaps India and Pakistan would consider ridding themselves of theirs?

I just think it's a bad position, but that it is the position and to pretend it is not is dangerous for a lot of people.

Peace on the basis of the negotiated 1967 borders. Then work towards the next goal. Some mutual sympathy. A touch of very-hard-to-achieve humanity. And that is always easy for us to talk about: tougher for those in traps.

Gwil W said...

George, I think we are basically saying the same thing even if we are using different words. I will use 'settled' in preference to stolen.
We Welsh may have safely retreated behind Offa's Dyke but we still welcome the Anglo-Saxon despite what my bardic hero R S Thomas would have the world believe.
Perhaps Obama can sort out the mess left behind by those twin Crusaders Saints George & Anthony.