Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rubin: Uri Avnery on Jewish Self-Knowledge and the Conflict (You Know Which One)

It's sort of a complicated and perhaps pompous title, but this article struck me as one of Avnery's best. For those of you who don't know, Uri Avnery is one the Israel's veteran peace campaigners. He fought in the 1947 War of Independence and met Yassir Arafat in Beirut in 1975. His columns in Ha-Aretz are also posted in Hebrew, English, Arabic, and Russian on the website of Gush Shalom. Gush Shalom means Peace Bloc, a name in conscious opposition to Gush Emunim, the Bloc of the Faithful. Gush Emunim is the association of religious-messianic settlers who take their inspiration from the teachings of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, at whose Merkaz ha-Rav Yeshiva (academy, also known as bait midrash or madrasa) the recent massacre in Jerusalem took place. Rav Kook taught that by settling the Land of Israel, even secular or non-religious Jews were carrying out an important commandment (mitzvah) and thus repairing the world and bringing the day of messianic deliverance closer.

After the Merkaz Ha-Rav massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed outrage that some Palestinians in Gaza were celebrating the event. Of course, one of the dehumanizing effects of protracted conflict is the loss of human solidarity with the "enemy" -- on all sides. Avnery, who is old enough to remember when Jews were known for their ironic self knowledge, recalls this joke about a protective Jewish mother taking leave of her son, who has been called up to serve in the Tsar's army against the Turks:

"Don't exert yourself too much," she admonishes him, "Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again…"

"But mother," he exclaims, "What if the Turk kills me?"

"Kill you?" she cries out, "Why? What have you done to him?"

Avnery continues:

This is not a joke (and this is not a week for jokes). It is a lesson in psychology. I was reminded of it when I read Ehud Olmert's statement that more than anything else he was furious about the outburst of joy in Gaza after the attack in Jerusalem, in which eight yeshiva students were killed.

Before that, last weekend, the Israeli army killed 120 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, half of them civilians, among them dozens of children. That was not "kill a Turk and rest". That was "kill a hundred Turks and rest". But Olmert does not understand.

THE FIVE-DAY WAR in Gaza (as a Hamas leader called it) was but another short chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. This bloody monster is never satisfied, its appetite just grows with the eating.

Read the rest.


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