An Orwell perspective on Israel and the Palestinians

One of my favorite literary images comes from George Orwell’s short story, “A Hanging,” in which he describes how a condemned prisoner being escorted across an open courtyard to the gallows, steps aside to avoid a puddle of rainwater in his path.

For Orwell, that small, barely significant action triggered a sudden awareness of the enormity of what was about to occur. “I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide,” he writes. “In two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.”

All the legal and bureaucratic mechanisms that had brought the condemned man to that place at that time – all the colonial bullshit that Orwell was serving – fell away in a single moment of instinctive human movement. He observed a brain that was still reasoning, only minutes before it was to be stifled. Continue reading

The never-ending rite of passage in Gaza

Beyond the stated goals of both sides to the Gaza conflict – restoring quiet for Israel and lifting the siege for Hamas – is the symbolic significance of the latest clash between the sons of light and darkness.

The Gaza war of 2014 is a rite of passage; a handing over of the war baton from one generation to the next. It is an initiation into the hard realities of adulthood for a generation that may well have grown up thinking war was something played on computers. Every generation needs to learn the truth.

The war is a fundamental milestone in the life of every young Israeli and Palestinian, both those who fight and those for whom they fight. It is a necessary socialization of the younger generation; an event that imprints the basic lesson of life on their minds and in their hearts. Continue reading

Jewish memory and the occupation

It seems to be a peculiarity of the Jewish-Israeli mind that it can remember promises that God made over 5,000 years ago but not the (perhaps insignificant) fact that Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967.

We have remarkable, almost palpable, memories of the Holocaust, but when it comes to the Palestinians we can’t remember as far back as two weeks ago.

Take, for example, the current round of butchery, which, if you ask nine out of 10 Israelis, began when Hamas started firing rockets at Israel a little over a week ago in an unprovoked and totally irrational attack. That and nothing else, is the background.

As for the Israeli military rampage through the West Bank that preceded the rockets, which was publicly proclaimed by Israel as a bid to cripple Hamas and its infrastructure in the West Bank … what rampage? Either it never happened or it had nothing to do with the rockets. So what’s the relevance? Continue reading