Sunday, April 28, 2002

Why Ginger Stampley and the host of other liberal well-meaning commentators and observers on the Middle Eastern conflict completely miss the point when they wield their friendly, objective reasonableness..

I posted this to rec.arts.sf.fandom at the end of October. It states my objection to Ginger Stampley's viewpoint.... Some quotes:

One of the problems that must be addressed in the comflict is the common notion on each side (expressed in each side's terms), that their problem is singular, central, and existential. I am a Zionist because of the Holocaust. I daresay most modern Diasporic Jews who are Zionists are Zionists for that reason. Israel's nukes are the greatest totemic comfort that I have (when I feel threatened), that the horrors that were visited on my own family will never, ever be repeated. I think that Dan Kimmel's unfortunate vitriol springs from the same root - the existential fear that Jews in the Diaspora and in the Yishuv have that someone is trying to kill them all again. That someone will always be trying to kill them all, and that only the effective wielding of exclusively Jewish state power can defend against that someone.

Frankly, this is what exercises me about the activists who not only decry the brutality of the occupation but link it to some inherent illegitimacy or permanent-by-nature injustice in the existence of Israel as a Jewish national state. They have a point about cruelty, but they offer no comfort to the practitioners of fear-derived coercion to encourage the deflection or defusing of that cruelty.

The state of Syria is promoting a film called, "the Blood of Zion" about the blood libel. Preachers in the Haram al-Sharif allude to the Protocols (I am not even going to talk about Holocaust denial in the mainstream Arab press). Schools in the PA peddle the same kind of biological, essentialist racism that marked the pedagogy in NS Germany. When these things are mentioned, peace advocates generally pooh-pooh them as details, not central to the real problems. Why? Because it is an unfortunate, distracting detail of the parochial insanities of a powerless, victimized population. That it isn't important because all the problems are material. Because the problems are legal. Because deprivation breeds hate, and generosity conquers deprivation.

This runs right to the heart of the dispute. Michael's plaint that a moralistic, Stunde-Null American attempt at slate-cleaning and starting over is the only thing that will work is very much taken to heart. But as I sit here, I can't possibly communicate the depths of my dread of Arabist and Palestinian nationalist judeophobia. This existential dread is the heart of the mainstream Israeli response to Palestinian violence.

I can't credibly communicate the Palestinian existential critique of the creation of Israel (Dier Yassin, the Naqba, the Occupation, sweet Haifa, al Quds). Hanan Ashrawi, Edward Said, Hassan Qhatib have all done a far better job of describing the animating myths of Palestinian existential dread. Though I have studied it, my emotional inclination is to dismiss its validity and I know intellectually that to be dishonest.

That existential fear must be addressed, comforted, assuaged, and not with Jewish blood and martial victory. The solution to the conflict should allow Jews the luxury of not deriving totemic comfort from the possession of weapons of mass destruction. And I despair that there is no way of getting there from here, and all the goodwill and all the technocratic and grandiose megalomania cannot solve the problem, because the Palestinians will not stop zetzing Israel with bombings and murders and with allusions to Nazism unless they are coerced into stopping.

As Ginger says:

The Israeli-Palestinian situation really bothers me as a blog-topic, which is one of the reasons I don't talk about it much in my own words. It's a topic where everyone is so convinced of the rectitude of their side -- and so many people have a side -- and so convinced that anyone who disagrees with it must also believe a host of morally deficient things that it's hard to discuss it in anything approaching a civilized and objective fashion. There are people I am very find of and people whose work I find otherwise compelling, both in blogdom and elsewhere, whom I will no longer read on Israeli-Palestinian issues because it's just too painful. And so much that should go without saying has to be said because of those operating assumptions people make about folks who disagree with them.

Get off the high horse of "objectivity" and "civilization: - this is the world of politics, fear, and animating myth, and if the lessons of the last eight months are anything to go by, people of the "American" temperament are in the minority in this world. L'esprit du bon volonté and the un-limited acceptance of the wholeness of the other is really very, very rare. The deployment of empathy, respect, and reason is to be lauded. But we must permit ourselves to mourn the failure of the liberal strategy- when it has been proved useless, and not reflexively, robotically, confirm our own self-righteous and smug superiority and reasonableness with all the discretion of a flatworm.

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