Showing posts from 2011

Self-fulfilling prophecies: The Bible, Zionism and the Palestinians

The Bible contains quite a few prophesies about the Jews returning to Israel.  Some of them related to the Babylonians and the first exile, which ended in the Sixth century BCE, but others came from later.
My favorite is Ezekiel 37 (Yehezkel in Hebrew), whose "Dry Bones" prophesy, in which a valley full of dry bones slide together to make an army of skeletons, sounds like the script for a Hollywood movie:

:1 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 
3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” 
4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you…

Collective responsibility: Gaza, Jesus and Gilad Shalit.

My mother recently met an old friend, they had a little chat, but then the next day she got an e-mail from her former friend saying she couldn't talk to her any more because of what Israel is doing in Gaza.
My mother is 90 and lives in London. She has absolutely no influence over Israeli policy and certainly bears no responsibility for it. You might as well blame her for the death of Jesus.  Yet there is this notion in certain circles that Jews are collectively responsible for the fate of the Palestinians. Fortunately, perhaps, the same people have no such claims about our responsibility for our own fate.  If my mother gets bombed, these same people will consider it entirely her own problem.

The idea of collective Jewish responsibility is not a purely antisemitic thing. A recent article in the New York Times  (A Yearning for Solidarity Tangles Public Life by Ethan Bronner) commented on the sense of mutual responsibility that exists in Israel and suggested it was a potential proble…

Identities at the UN

In the recent TV footage of the UN Security Council deliberations on the Palestinian request for recognition as a state, I noticed that the Palestinians were sitting behind a sign saying "Palestine" which brought up some memories from my History MA.

Back in 1947 all UN security council deliberations on Palestine (as it was then known) were attended by representatives of the Palestinian-Arabs and the Palestinian-Jews. They also had little signs and the Arab's sign said "Arab High Committee" and the Jew's sign said "Jewish Agency for Palestine".
At some point in 1948 this changed, the Palestinians ceased to attend the meetings and were represented instead by the Egyptian UN representative.
In July 1948, the Ukrainian representative, Dmitry Manuilsky, was the chair of the Security Council. The security council chair is held for a month and some shenanigan by Stalin had enabled the USSR to wangle three seats in the General Assembly, one for the USSR,…

The Palestinian bid for statehood and the end of summer

How the Jewish New Year, the first rain and the Palestinian bid for statehood are connected
The long hot Israeli summer is finally coming to an end. Rain is now mostly a memory. The last heavy rain was six months ago, and the last light rain about four months ago. The temperature has dropped slightly at night, so we now need to cover ourselves with a sheet, though we still sleep with the window wide open.
After months without water, the Lantana bushes that surround my apartment block in Tel Aviv, look dusty and barely alive, yet they always revive once the rains come. The Bougainvillea continues to flower and looks fine and the trees seem to be flourishing.
Predictably, there are far more words to describe rain in English then there are in Hebrew, but Hebrew has two terms that are absent from English: Malkosh, meaning the last rain of the year (in Spring) and Yoreh, meaning the first rain of the year, usually due around October. Both are very ancient words, literally thousands of years o…

Time Lag and the Palestine-Israel conflict

I believe that time lags play a significant role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This works in several ways, firstly  each side has a delayed response to the other's intransigence or peace offers. So when Israel withdrew from Gaza, providing an opportunity for progress in peace, the Palestinians responded by electing the Hamas. When Israel withdrew from South-Lebanon, the result was a growth in Hezbullah poiwer and intransigence. The Israelis responded to the Palestinian election and Hezbullah successes by moving to the right, by which time the West-Bank Palestinians - though not Hamas - were in Peace and co-operation mode.  So each side is constantly out of sequence with the other. One hopes that at some point we will all be in peace mode at the same time, though the latest opinion poll in Ha'Aretz suggests we're stuck with a right wing government in Israel for at least another election and in the long run we're more likely to both be in war mode.

Another aspect…

The answer is 42: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Middle East Conflict.

In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an alien species build a massive computer in order to find the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything only to be told that the answer is the rather mundane figure, "42". It then emerges that they never understood the question and a far bigger computer is required to understand it.

It struck me the other day that this was like the Israeli-Arab conflict: While everybody seems to think they know the answer - basically that Israel should withdraw - very few people actually understand the question, that is the nature and origins and whatever-else of the conflict.
Of course it is easier to understand something that hasn't yet happened: Withdrawal sounds easy, but as the withdrawal from Gaza showed, its a lot more complex once it actually happens and could lead to more rather than less conflict.
I always thought we should unilaterally pull-back from Gaza - and still do - but it was also clear to me that …