Friday, July 21, 2006

All the World

I don't know what to say about Israel and Lebanon and Palestine, Hamas and Hezbollah and ground troops and missiles and the remarkable distance that I as an American am capable of maintaining from all these things. Mxzzy linked to some noteworthy statistics about the disparity of resources and financial support and casualties between the two sides, substantive but not the whole story.

I admit openly here that I do not know the whole story. As a Jew, I've got to recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist, but as a humanist not to the exclusion of the existence of other states. I work a couple of months out of the year at a synagogue in a fairly wealthy neighborhood of Chicago, and I've always trembled slightly at the "We Stand with Israel" sign outside its door. Must I, employed by this organization, then stand with Israel? Is standing with Israel standing behind the myriad atrocities it has committed; is not standing with it standing against it, and is an acknowledgment of the insane conditions under which many Palestinians and many fewer Israelis are living daily actively Against Israel? To return to my old terminology, which has been resurfacing, I respect the patriotism and not the nationalism of the state of Israel. And, for that matter, of the Palestinian state. And of pretty much everyone, when you get right down to it.

With the presence of Israel, can the state of things in the Middle East be other than it is? I recall my sixth-grade history teacher offering the quotation from (I think) Joseph Kennedy: "Politics is the art of the possible. And what is possible is compromise." What level, then, of compromise is possible? How much, exactly, has been offered and rejected? To what degree can America do or change anything? On Slate, Jacob Weisberg (whom I met on a plane once; his six-year-old daughter still randomly calls me now and then) offers an intelligent assessment of why Bush is not himself to blame, but Bush is not the same as America and the structure and actions of the American system over many years. But when are we going to stop blaming the injustices perpetuated over thousands of years? The reasonable answer would be "when we start actively changing them instead." Can we?

As Octavia Butler articulates simply in Dawn, we as humans have the saving grace of intelligence and the destructive quality of hierarchy. D'apres elle, we cannot rid ourselves of either of these qualities. Will this lead to our destruction? Maybe so. Not now, I don't think. I've been braced to get panicked about a nuclear exchange, with the missiles somehow acquired from Russia or stolen from Iraq's incredibly fledgling nuclear program or—most likely—provided by Iran, but it doesn't seem like what's coming. I could be wrong, my analysis here certainly lacks sophistication, but it seems to me that we're simply in for weeks or months of intense casualties while even a respectable internet publication like Slate still places light fare about summer camp, rather than discussions of this topic, below the banner of its webpage. I can't pretend that I know what to think.


At 7:16 PM, Blogger Connor said...

I'll just toss out there that a lot of what you're talking to points to the importance of not the arts in particular, but of communication in general, with the arts as a subset. Your question of does not standing with Israel mean standing against it and the final point you made about Slate; somehow these semantics and priorities have been established, and they determine the routes possible to any given destination; we can't arrive at the possible or compromise without going over this hill, through that valley, without dealing with "with or against" or making a point to not talk about summer camp.

I'm not offering this as any sort of an answer or even complete a complete thought; it's just something your post made me consider.


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