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The Absurd Regions


To mark the tenth anniversary to the launch of my Political Blog, Good4Jews, and the seventieth anniversary to the launch of the Jewish State, Israel, I’ve decided to take a diversion and make an exception. To that end, I’m publishing here—for the first time in English!—four short vignettes (out of twelve) that were published way back in ‘Iton77;’ the esteemed literary, cultural Israeli magazine. In the future, I may revisit this reportage, which was titled then, ‘The Absurd Regions’ (you may argue, with some justification, that the title still applies today), and publish more of its lyrical impressions, which I wrote during the First Lebanon War of 1982-85. So stay tune, and here goes:

First Gathering

No smiles on the rough faces. The regular questions: How things? How’s life? The answers are heavy, occasionally harsh: shit, life’s in the dumpster. Ninety percent of our battalion’s command personnel identify with the ‘Peace Now’ movement. Objecting to the war. Objecting to the stay in Lebanon. Detesting what’s require of them to do next. One of the officers demonstrated yesterday in front of the Prime Minister’s house in Jerusalem. Before that, he marched from Rosh HaNikra up north to Tel Aviv. His wife advised him not to come this time. Refuse to go. But he is here—of course he is. Maybe because his friends are here. Who is he that he will allow them to be fucked with this shitty job without him. Maybe for the sake of democracy he came. The democracy Sharon and Raful crushed when they started this war. It’s been proven already before that there are more important things than this war: you, me, son, daughter. Life.

Traveling

The visions passing by us reflect a mixture of the bizarre and the absurd. Beautiful countryside, on the one hand: the small villages are cuddled by the rolling hills, while the mountains merge so nicely with the scenery and don’t bite at it, like some of our mountains do back home. On the other hand, dirt and filth everywhere. Ecology is a nonexistent word in the local jargon. Here, one does as one pleases.
It’s harvest time now. The small fields in the bottom of the hills are harvested using sickles, and the sheaves are gathered by hands. An old combine then sorts the wheat grains apart and fill the air with golden dust, fog like. Peaceful cows are grazing in the meadows. The shoulders in the narrow roads are littered with potholes. And with old cars, scattered about here and there. One of them, you know that, is a death trap waiting for you.

Lawless Country

In Lebanon there are no taxes; no licenses; no one pays for electricity. Teenagers drive the cars on the roads. Kids drive the tractors, with dark covered women walking beside them, majestically balancing sacks of wheat grains and tobacco leaves on their heads. New, shiny vehicles zoom by, passing by old ones whose guts are exposed.
Muslims, Christians, Druzes, Shiites and Khomeini supporters coexist in this country side by side. Mixed multitude. And there are, of course, the Christian Militia and the Chadad Falangists. The latter are the road-robbers of this country. They reside under the shade of the Israeli Army’s camps and wear its uniform. “Tell me who your friend is, and I will tell you who you are.” So say the soldiers here, who play bad cops in this grotesque drama.
The circle is rounded and closed with the UN soldiers from Holland, France, Senegal, Ireland… you name it. Some are friendly to us; some hate our guts and look down on us. A black soldier wearing blue uniform and brown overcoat stands in attention in a remote, forgotten ravine. His rifle is erect in his arms. No enemy in sight, though. He belongs, like all of us, to a different world.

The Village Women

Before sunrise the women of the village go out into the small tobacco fields that close in on their houses. They pluck the green leaves and put them in their brown sacks. After that, in full morning light, they carry the sacks on their heads to the houses. There, with their children, they sort the leaves and hang them on thin ropes to dry them up in the hot sun. Later still, they will milk the cows, lead them out into the field to graze, feed the children and clean the houses. They shoulder their responsibilities with primeval dedication.
The husbands, meanwhile, will enter their Mercedeses late in the morning, and will drive to town to attend to their businesses. Maybe visit the coffee house in a nearby village. Play backgammon there with friends and smoke the narghile. In the evening they will return home and receive from their dutiful wives what they’re owed: food, love, and respect. The Bible, in certain terms, is alive and well here.

* Art by Yitzhak Shmueli: Border Crossing

** The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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The Price of Victory

Katherinekiviat.com

Many words have been written last year, around the fifth of June, on the occasion of the 50-year anniversary to the Six-Day War of 1967 and its aftermath. I’m not going to add to that here again, but it is now clear for all to see that what has been predicted by some, including by yours truly for the last five years or so, including on this blog, has become a reality. That reality is the death of the Oslo Accords and the Two-State Solution, and the rise of the Bi-National state solution, the Israel-Palestine state option, or alternately the Israeli-Apartheid state option. Take your pick.

This is the price Israel is paying now for its great victory in 1967, and its inability to contain the forces—the settlers’ movement and its American Jewish backers—from exploiting that victory (in which they’d played no part.) The demise of the Palestinian-state option, existing side-by-side with Israel, will bring about a stronger, louder demand from the Palestinians to become equal citizens in the larger state of Israel, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel will not grant them their wish—a wish that will signal the end of Israel as a Jewish state—and instead will try to contain them forever in a ‘limited autonomy,’ a ‘state minus,’ call it what you will. Bantustan-like territories is what I call it.

The world—other than America, at least as long as this president is in charge—won’t stand for it, and Israel will end up being a pariah state among the nations. Just read this quote: “Victory isn’t about lining up behind a specific final-status deal, but rather convincing the other side to accept the country’s existence as a Jewish state, while also demonstrating that there are core issues where Israel simply won’t negotiate… The political tools for trying to coerce ‘defeat’ out of the Palestinians are readily available, even if it’s far from obvious what their actual impact would end up being.”

I’m going to tell you what “their actual impact would end up being.” But before I do that, l’m going to tell you who’s the author of the above quoted statement. It was issued in November 2017 by a joint group of ‘members of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus,’ and members of the ‘Congressional Israel Victory Caucus on Capitol Hill.’ As reported in Tablet Magazine by Armin Rosen on November 17, the Knesset ‘Victory Caucus’ has 16 members from across the spectrum of Zionist parties, and the American version counts 32 members of Congress, the majority of whom are Republicans. They are committed, according to my understanding of their aims and statements, to solidify Israel’s victory by all means necessary, coercing the Palestinians into acceptance of Israel’s terms-of-victory, while giving them peanuts in return.

As the past few weeks prove, since the Trump’s announcement of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it won’t work. If nothing else, the Palestinian people are proud people. As their leader Abbas just said: “Jerusalem is the diamond in the Palestinian crown.” Now, with Netanyahu behind it all, the American administration—led by people without any understanding of the complexity of the issues at hand—tried, with some surprising assistance from Saudi Arabia and maybe even from Egypt, to coerce the Palestinians into accepting a solution of ‘state minus.” Of being ‘second class’ people and nation. The Palestinian leadership, with Abbas at its head, gave a fiery response this week, which already has proven them totally wrong. And will prove them wrong eternally.

You see, Israel—with the support of the Americans—will have the upper hand militarily. No doubt about that. And the fact that there was no major resistance (i.e. Intifada) to the ‘Jerusalem Declaration,’ other than youth throwing stones and burning tires, is a good indication of that. Militarily, Israel has won. Morally though, it’s going to lose. Because the dilemma the Palestinians’ refusal to accept surrender means the end of the Zionist dream in its original intent. If the country is not majority Jewish, or if the country is not a democracy, then the dream is gone.

This is the big conundrum. Put it another way: A victory doesn’t necessarily mean vanquishing and humiliating the enemy entirely, capturing its country forever and wiping its entity off the map. The Russian-Soviets had tried that in Eastern Europe and failed. The Americans and British knew better, and had been proven correct. But Israel, it seems, is refusing to learn this lesson. Most tragically, refusing to learn from its own long history. I don’t proclaim to know exactly how it would end. It might take a few more generations to sort itself out. But the collapse, the defeat—of the Zionist dream, in its purest form—is written in large letters and murals on the wall of victory.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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