Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A voice of humanity, passion... and plain common sense

For once, the (UK) Guardian has published something decent on the subject of Israel and the Middle East: Israeli novelist David Grossman's speech to the Rabin Memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on 4 November. Grossman lost a son during the invasion of Lebanon, but he says:

"The calamity that my family and I suffered when my son Uri fell in the war last summer does not give me any special privileges in our national debate. But it seems to me that facing death and loss brings with it a kind of sobriety and clarity, at least when it comes to distinguishing the wheat from the chaff, between what can and cannot be achieved, between reality and fantasy.

"Every thinking person in Isreal - and, I will add, in Palestine as well - knows today precisely the outline of a possible to the conflict between the two peoples. All thinking people, in Isreal and Palestine, know deep in their hearts the difference between, on the one hand, their dreems and wishes, and on the other, what they can get at the end of negotiations. Those who do not know that, whether Jews or Arabs, are already not part of the dialogue. Such people are trapped in their hermetic fanaticism, so they are not partners."

The transcript of the entire speech is well worth reading. It's a powerful rebuke not just to Prime Minister Olmert and the Israeli right, but also to the "destroy Israel"/ "We are all Hizbullah" fanatics of the type we're all too familiar with in the UK (and whose poisonous opinions are usually all too well represented in the Guardian). Here's a flavour:

"For more than a hundred years we have lived in a conflict. We, citizens of that conflict, were born into war, we were educated within it , and, in a sense, we were educated for it. Perhaps for that reason we sometimes think that this madness that we've been living in for a century now is the only true thing, that it is the life we are destined for and that we have no way, even no right, to aspire to a different way of life. We will live and die by the sword, and the sword shall devour for ever.

"Maybe that explains the apathy with which we accept the total cessation of the peace process, a moratorioum that has lasted for years now, and has cost ever more casualties. That can also explain how most of us have failed to respond to the brutal kick democracy received when Avigdor Lieberman was appointed a senior cabinet minister. It's the appointment of a compulsive pyromaniac to head the country's firefighters.

"And these are some of the reasons why Israel, in an amazingly short time, has degenerated into heartlessness, real cruelty towards the weak, the poor and the suffering. Isreal dispays indifference to hungry, the elderly, the sick and the handicapped, equanimity in the face of, for example trafficking in women, or the exploitation of foriegn workers in conditions of slave labour; and in the face of profound, institutionalised racism towards its Arab minority. When all this happens as if it were perfectly natural, without outrage and without protest, I begin to fear that even if peace comes tomorrow, even if we eventually return to some sort of normality, it may be too late to heal us completely".


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