Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Gates in the wall

Zionism, as Amos came to realize, had outlived its usefulness. "As a measure of...'affirmative action,' Zionism was useful during the formative years. Today it has become redundant." What had once been the nationalist ideology of a stateless people has undergone a tragic transition. It has, for a growing number of Israelis, been corrupted into an uncompromising ethno-religious real estate pact with a partisan God, a pact that justifies any and all actions against real or imagined threats, critics, and enemies. The Zionist project, a doctrine dating to the state-building nationalisms of the late nineteenth century, has long since lost its way. It can mean little—though it can do much harm—in an established democratic state with aspirations to normality. In any case it has been hijacked by ultras. Herzl's dream of a "normal" Jewish country has become an exclusivist sectarian nightmare, a development that Amos illustrated by slightly misquoting Keats: "Fanatics have a dream by which they weave a paradise for a sect."
-- from a remembrance of Amos Elon by Tony Judt

In Wall: a monologue (available as a podcast here), David Hare explores some the meanings manifest in gader ha'harfrada (Hebrew: separation fence) or jidar al-fasl al-'unsuri (Arabic: racial segregation wall). He quotes Sari Nusseibeh:
It's like sticking someone in a cage and then when he starts screaming, as any normal person would, using his violent temper as justification for putting him in the cage in the first place. The wall is the perfect crime because it creates the violence it was ostensibly built to prevent.
An unnamed Israeli intellectual says the defining paradox of his country is that:
We look so strong from the outside, we have such a large army, so many nuclear weapons, we're so certain in our expansion, and yet from the inside it doesn't feel like that. We feel our being is not guaranteed. You might say we have imported from the Diaspora the Jewish disease — a sense of rootlessness, an ability to adapt and make do, but not to settle. After sixty years, Israel is not yet a home.
In military terms the wall looks like a classic Maginot line-type mistake, now over-topped by rockets.

George al-Kasaba, who runs a cinema in Ramallah (the only one working on the West Bank; it mostly shows Egyptian comedies), looks through the other end of the telescope:
The wall is not around us. It's around them.
See, too, the video
Gaza: The destitute and the forgotten.

(image at top via BBC)

No comments: