donderdag 19 juni 2014

Right and Wrong

“Right or wrong, it’s my country”. That’s what you can hear Israelis and Jews say about Israël.

It is apparent from the title of his book My Promised Land that the political journalist Ari Shavit confirms the second part of the statement. But with the first part he has not finished so quickly. In fact, his whole book is about right and wrong.

Reading this book is a harrowing experience. I still have a long way from the book, I’m only halfway through, but already I can conclude that the subtitle of the book sums up its contents quite well: “The triumph and tragedy of Israel”. The book is an alternation of highs and lows.

A low, perhaps thé lowest point, I’ve just had: the story about the settlements. In itself sufficient reason for getting depressed. The primitive ideology, the complicity of otherwise right-thinking Labour Party politicians, the corrupting effects of military superiority, the comparisons with Nazi practices that also occur to the Israelis, the wave of terrorist attacks that make every will for peace implausible.

What keeps me upright when reading this book – which to me is the triumph of this book – is the intellectual courage and ruthless honesty of the author. You may call it, given all the twists of right and wrong which he names and describes, a moral achievement. “You think too much”, he gets as a reproach from some men of action. For me, precisely therefore, he is a reliable beacon on rugged terrain.

In short, the balance between the zionist right and wrong halfway the book is as follows:

Right: the desolate situation of millions of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century – after centuries of pogroms, discrimination, and oppression that only got worse – was no longer tenable. And the relatively small part that had managed to escape to Western Europe built itself a fairly comfortable existence there but, from the Dreyfus affair, did not feel safe anymore. The Endlösung was intuitively sensed.

This self-destructive dwelling of Jews in a Europe that had driven them to the end of their forces in the East and was about to puke them out in the West, provided the original Zionist plan an undeniable moral justification. As far as Shavit is concerned, up to the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and the founding of the state in 1948.

Wrong: the systematic disregard for Palestinian suffering that accompanied the foundation of the state. And just as bad: the creation of new suffering by creeping continuation of encroachment on their rights. Which lacks, in Shavit’s eyes, precisely the moral basis that early Zionism according to him díd have.

As I said, the fact that Shavit dares tell this story in this way is a great achievement in itself.

Also see Polyphony