Monday, July 28, 2014
Some belated and incomplete thoughts on Gaza
Someone I once worked with and if you're reading this you know who you are, used to accuse me of displacement activity, devoting my time to congenial tasks as an excuse for putting off difficult ones. This I vigorously denied but though it may have been damnably false then it perhaps fits better now: as for most of this month, whenever I've put pen to paper, it's been about anything except what's important, namely Gaza. I've been fiddling about with Jane Austen, Columbus, lopsided arches in churches, and some more pictures of Portuguese chimneys. I haven't posted any of this stuff, because ever since 6th July when Operation Protective Edge began, it seemed frivolous. As to Gaza I'm still trying to shape my thoughts into some sort of order. And so I've been silent, but the trouble with silence is that no-one else can tell whether you’re thinking hard or you just can't be arsed.
A couple of letters in today’s Irish Independent are part of the story. One refers to the Jews as a race of people who were systematically tortured and killed in the biggest ethnic cleansing horror of our history. Barry Mulligan of Co Sligo says they have not learnt the lessons of the past, and are inflicting a similar torture on the Palestinians, a people who have the right to live life with some kind of dignity. “Weak, poor, living in awful conditions in such a small compressed area. Does this ring a bell? Reminiscent of the Jewish ghettos of World War II.” I could take issue with some of this, especially referring to the Jews a race, and also equating the state of Israel with Jewishness. But there's an important germ of truth here. It calls to mind the finding that child abusers are themselves often the victims of child abuse.
Another correspondent says that both the Israelis and Palestinians are condemned to fight for control of a small area of the Middle East because European powers in two world wars ordained it so. A Leavy of Dublin 13 says Europeans should reflect on this and display a bit more introspection in the debate. This prompts the thought that Zionism was born at the end of the 19th century when colonialism was fashionable, but only came to fruition in 1948 when colonialism was deeply unfashionable, so why did the world connive at it? Holocaust guilt will be the answer there. I'm not suggesting that’s the reason the state of Israel was established, which had a lot do to with American imperialism, but perhaps it's the reason this colonial enterprise was connived at. So skipping over a few steps, we now have Palestinians confined in what is habitually referred to as the world’s largest open air prison in Gaza for the crime of having been expelled from their land. Much more needs to be said – my thoughts on the Guardian cartoon (21st July), Hamas and the Talibanisation of Gaza, how can I justify being so exercised about Israel as opposed to for example Sri Lanka, why the state of Israel should be dissolved, what's the point of holding such an unrealistic opinion, and how it differs from Hamas.
As a final instance of displacement activity, I'll just praise Barry Mulligan of Co Sligo for using the verb form “learnt” as distinct from “learned” in his letter. This is now regrettably rare, in both spoken and written English, but for how long it's been rare I'm not sure. I intend to find out, and when I do I'll let you know. But Barry earns a brickbat as well as a bouquet. "World War II" is a dreadful expression which should be banned. The name of the war, in English, is the Second World War.