American Samizdat

Friday, May 18, 2007. *
Harvard researcher Sara Roy, a child of Holocaust survivors who has spent much of her professional life studying Gaza. No excerpt can fully do it justice; you need to read the whole thing.

Many of the people, both Jewish and others, who write about Palestinians and Arabs fail to accept the fundamental humanity of the people they are writing about, a failing born of ignorance, fear and racism. Within the organized Jewish community especially, it has always been unacceptable to claim that Arabs, Palestinians especially, are like us, that they, too, possess an essential humanity and must be included within our moral boundaries, ceasing to be "a kind of solution," a useful, hostile "other" to borrow from Edward Said. That any attempt at separation is artificial, an abstraction.

By refusing to seek proximity over distance, we calmly, even gratefully refuse to see what is right before our eyes. We are no longer compelled, if we ever were, to understand our behavior from positions outside our own, to enter, as Jacqueline Rose has written, into each other's predicaments and make what is one of the hardest journeys of the mind. Hence, there is no need to maintain a living connection with the people we are oppressing, to humanize them, taking into account the experience of subordination itself, as Said would say. We are not preoccupied by our cruelty nor are we haunted by it. The task, ultimately, is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone. Such willful blindness leads to the destruction of principle and the destruction of people, eliminating all possibility of embrace, but it gives us solace.

Why is it so difficult, even impossible to incorporate Palestinians and other Arab peoples into the Jewish understanding of history? Why is there so little perceived need to question our own narrative (for want of a better word) and the one we have given others, preferring instead to cherish beliefs and sentiments that remain impenetrable? Why is it virtually mandatory among Jewish intellectuals to oppose racism, repression and injustice almost anywhere in the world and unacceptable -- indeed, for some, an act of heresy -- to oppose it when Israel is the oppressor, choosing concealment over exposure? For many among us history and memory adhere to preclude reflection and tolerance, where, in the words of Northrop Frye, "the enemy become, not people to be defeated, but embodiments of an idea to be exterminated."

What happens to the other as we, a broken and weary people, continually abuse him, turning him into the enemy we now want and need, secure in a prophecy that is thankfully self-fulfilling?
posted by Uncle $cam at 6:57 AM
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