Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Under his vine and under his anthem


Before we arrive at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s utopian vision, even in a small way, it is necessary first of all for the wolf and the lamb to live each of them under his own respective vine and respective national anthem.

Salman Masalha || Under his vine and under his anthem

Some people think the situation in the territories is irreversible and is leading to the vision/nightmare of a bi-national state. Indeed, no one disputes that the continuation of the occupation and above all the continued building in the settlements are exacerbating the situation more and more. However, the bi-national state slogan is an empty slogan. Why? The answer is simple. For the idea of a bi-national state to be justified there must exist some prior conditions from which it will derive its strength. So here’s a scoop: There is still a long way to go for a state where “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid … and the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox,” as in the Prophet Isaiah’s vision.

Looking closely at the state of affairs among all the various and variegated kinds of communities dwelling throughout the land, one can reaches the obvious conclusion: There aren’t two sides here but rather very many sides. In this land there is a huge admixture of tribes that are quarrelling among themselves. In other words, in Israel-Palestine the two nations have not yet sufficiently crystallized to reach a bi-national state.

The religious, cultural and tribal tensions exist within both the “imagined communities” as well as between them. It can also be said that the tensions between the two communities constitute the major, not to say the only, adhesive holding together the fragments of the human mosaic within each of them.

The occupation in the wake of the Six Day War complicated the matter considerably. Despite the transfer plans from the schools of various and sundry Zionist leaders, the Arab demography did not stop. Moreover, the occupation gave impetus and a great deal of help to the formation of the Palestinian identity vis-à-vis the occupying community. On the other side, as the occupation grew deeper a change came about in the identities of the communities called Israeli.

Ironically, this occupation ultimately brought about a halt in the development of the Israeli national identity. Thus, in face of the galloping demography the slogan of “a Jewish and democratic state” came into being, with the emphasis on Jewish. Thus, in place of the national definition the communal-religious definition rose to the surface and in full force.

Since the two communities are intertwined with each other for better or for worse, everything that happens in one of the communities immediately has implications for the other. And when Jewishness superseded Israeliness as a major definer of the Israeli communities, on the other side Islamism arose as a major definer of the Palestinian communities.

Both of the “national” identities – Israeli and Palestinian – are still embryonic and developing and are in need of nurturing. Therefore, in order to attain the utopian bi-national vision it is necessary first to bring the two “nations” back to history for the national embryo to develop in a natural way.

In this history it has to be remembered that Israeli nationalism is an integral part of the definition of Palestinian nationalism and Palestinian nationalism is a very important element in the definition of Israeliness. The one nationalism defines the existence of the other, and in the absence of the existence of one of them, the existence of the other as a crystallized national identity is cancelled.

Before we arrive at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s utopian vision, even in a small way, it is necessary first of all for the wolf and the lamb to live each of them under his own respective vine and respective national anthem. If not, the handwriting is on the wall: Either a South African future or a Balkan future awaits both of them and their descendents.
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Published in Hebrew: Opinions-Haaretz, June 27, 2012




Saturday, June 16, 2012

No Grass in the Arab world


The murderous Ba’ath regime, which pretended to be the standard bearer of Arab nationalism, is the bloody testimony to the failure of that nationalism.


Salman Masalha || 
No Grass in the Arab world

When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came into power in Iran, the well-known Syrian poet Adonis hastened to publish a paean of praise of the Islamic Revolution. Here is what he wrote: “How shall tell Iran of my love /When my words are inadequate to express my sighs?/ How shall I sing to the city of Qom so it will become a firestorm over the Gulf? / The Iranian people is writing to the West / Here is your collapsing face, O West, / O West, here is your dying face.”

For more than a year now Syrian President Bashar Assad has been sending out his army and sowing destruction and reaping death in the cities of Syria. Every day we read about yet another massacre here and more slaughter there. Assad keeps asserting that these things never happened and blames terrorist gangs for the crimes. Apparently he knows whereof he speaks. The crimes are indeed being committed by terrorist gangs – the Shabbiha, the tribal Ba’ath regime’s murderous “combat support” gangs of thugs.

The murderous Ba’ath regime, which pretended to be the standard bearer of Arab nationalism, is the bloody testimony to the failure of that nationalism. This fraud is evident for all to see in the horrors being perpetrated daily throughout Syria. The world, including the part of it called “the Arab word,” continues to sit and do nothing. And the Arab world is waiting for foreign, non-Arab, countries to come and help “our Arab brothers” who are being slaughtered by Arabs.

Ironically, the Syrian poet who wished for the death of the West found nowhere but Paris, in that very same West, to live as a free person. Not too long ago a media storm raged over a poem concerning Iran published by German writer Gunter Grass. The poem, of course, awakened many sleeping dogs. However, as weighed against the Syrian poet it would seem that the balance in fact tips in favor of Grass.

Years ago, before the “Arab spring,” a delegation of writers traveled to Yemen to participate in a conference called “An Arab-German Cultural Dialogue,” with the participation of Grass, the late Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis and others.

The Yemeni president invited the participants to his palace. After greeting the writers in “poor Arabic,” as one of those present at the meeting subsequently related, he announced he was going to award the Yemeni medal of honor to Grass. Grass, however, surprised the president by standing up and declaring he would not be able to accept the award as long as the president did not release a young Yemeni writer who had been arrested for expressing his opinion.

The “Arab” president was in fact very embarrassed, as he was not accustomed to statements like that at such events. However, the consternation should in fact have been the lot of all the Arab writers because by this act the German writer revealed the group of intellectuals in all its worthlessness. Once again it was “the foreigners” who had the courage to come out in defense of their Arab “brothers’” freedom of speech.

Adonis, of course, continues to enjoy the pleasures of Western freedom in the City of Lights. However, his freedom is fraudulent, since he has never internalized the values of freedom. On the contrary, Adonis remains imprisoned in the tribal world from which he comes. We learn this from his thunderous silence about what is happening in the land of his birth, Syria. Again and again he squirms and does not gather the courage to come out against the murderous regime in his country. In an interview he granted recently Adonis went so far as to try to defend the butcher of Damascus. He asserted that France is betraying the values of the French Revolution by supporting the reactionary forces in the Arab world – as though the butcher in Damascus were the paragon of liberty, equality and fraternity.

However, we need only remember that Adonis belongs to Assad’s Alawite tribe in order to understand the root of the evil in the Arab world. The poet’s squirms and evasions in light of the horrors in Syria exemplify his betrayal of the values he pretends to represent. Compared to Grass, Adonis and his ilk are part of the Arabs’ problem and not part of its solution.
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Published in Hebrew: Haaretz, June 13, 2012
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Middle East
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  • الحلم

    حلمتُ:
    أنّي في سجن جدران بيضاء
    حيث لا يعرفني أحدٌ، وأصواتٌ
    تختفي في الرّدهات، وأضواء تستنشقُ
    جمجمتي اللّاهثة.
    ...
    تتمة الكلام


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