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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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One-State Solution: Options Three, Four & Five

972mag.com

As I promised you in my last post, I’m returning to the acute topic of the “One-State Solution,” and to the next three proposals making the rounds in Israel, especially among the settlers. To refresh your memory, these proposals were specified in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, on the day Prime Minister Netanyahu had met with President Trump at the White House – a day we might consider from now on as the ‘official’ day the two-state Solution has finally died. It was titled, “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future,” and was written by one Yishai Fleisher, “the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron.”

No matter what we think of this unknown (until now) ‘official’ spokesman, and of such a position for that community, we have to take it seriously since, as I firmly believe, they carry more probability of materializing than the two-state solution, as well as other solutions being mentioned. In this respect, just as the settlers’ movement has kept to its mission undeterred for almost fifty years, and has won the day, so are these proposals more likely to become a reality as “facts on the ground” sooner or later. As I mentioned also in my last post, none of these proposals take into account the just, legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for an entity, capital and state of their own. Still, it’s incumbent on us to take them seriously. Which I intend on doing.

Here then is the third proposal, as written in that Times’ op-ed piece: “… (it) is promoted by Prof. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv. His premise is that the most stable Arab entity in the Middle East is the Gulf Emirates, which are based on a consolidated traditional group or tribe. The Palestinian Arabs are not a cohesive nation, he argues, but are comprised of separate city-based clans. So he proposes Palestinian autonomy for seven non-contiguous emirates in major Arab cities, as well as Gaza, which he considers already an emirate. Israel would annex the rest of the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to Arab villagers outside those cities.”

This proposal, which we might term the seven, or eight-state solution, is so laughable that to treat it seriously is border on the absurd. And yet, Israel is already being accused – lately by a UN body of some sort – as an Apartheid state de facto. A proposal like this, taken straight out of the South African regime playbook for its “Bantustans,” is nothing short of racist in its most cruel manifestation. However, it is proposed by an Israeli professor, who had been brought to Sacramento by the “Stand With Us” organization, and was received with great fanfare and applause in our very own congregation of Mosaic Law. Just think of this. It runs deep, I tell you, fascism in disguise of academic bullshit. But I tell you one more thing: Just like in South Africa, and despite the hidden wishes of many, it has no chance of ever becoming a sustainable reality.

“The fourth proposal is the most straightforward. Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post journalist, wrote in her 2014 book, ‘The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East’ that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Jews are not in danger of losing a demographic majority in an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria. New demographic research shows that thanks to falling Palestinian birth rates and emigration, combined with opposite trends among Jews, a stable Jewish majority of above 60 percent exists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (excluding Gaza); and this is projected to grow to about 70 percent by 2059.”

This proposal, supported by a growing chorus of voices – among them none other than the Israeli President Mr. Rivlin – is fair in its basic premise of equal citizens’ rights to all the state’s residents, Jews and Arabs alike. But it’s very much debatable in its demographic conclusion, and to my understanding, and knowledge, her numbers have been strongly reputed by real experts in this field. However, even if we take her numbers as somewhat correct, we are left with a very problematic, unsatisfying solution. What kind of democratic Israel, a Jewish state would it be with a 40% Arab minority, at its rosiest possibility? What kind of a future will this bi-national state hold for a peaceful, humane, democratic Jewish nation? Not to mention the function of the Knesset, with almost evenly split Jewish and Arab representatives (with an Arab United Party maybe the largest party…) It might be a one-state solution, but a Jewish one-state solution most certainly not.

“Finally, there is a fifth alternative, which comes from the head of the new Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, and Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. They do not see a resolution of conflicting national aspirations in one land and instead propose an exchange of populations with Arab countries, which effectively expelled about 800,000 Jews around the time of Israeli independence. In contrast, however, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would be offered generous compensation to emigrate voluntarily.”

Good luck with that. Jews offer money to Arabs to relocate. Moving the Palestinians to the Sinai Desert, I heard it being mentioned. Or to Saudi Arabia, as if they would be welcomed there. This last proposal is just a way of avoiding the truth, and the inevitable: the disastrous conundrum Israel is finding itself in because of 50 years of occupation, of building illegal settlements, and of doing all it can to avoid bringing to fruition the one acceptable, sustainable solution: The two-state solution. But that one, as I’d mentioned before, is all but dead. So it’s either an Apartheid state now, or a Bi-national state later, which won’t be a Jewish state as we know or want it to be, or as Herzl envisioned it in the first place. Take your pick. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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

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