Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gaza "Freedom" Marchers and Alice Walker

More on the Freedom Marchers themselves (clever title, that - reminding us of the people who went to the southern U.S. to work for equal rights for African Americans - which did not, of course, entail working with terrorist groups!), from the Egyptian authorities, who seem to regard them as a major nuisance.
The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, expressed frustration at the activists who came to Cairo despite the warning that the border was closed. “Those who tried to conspire against us, and they are more than a thousand, we will leave them in the street,” he said.
One of the Code Pinkers, Alice Walker, seems to have a very peculiar idea of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began. She writes in her blog [URL updated 4/26/11]:
And so I have been, once again, struggling to speak about an atrocity: This time in Gaza, this time against the Palestinian people. Like most people on the planet I have been aware of the Palestinian–Israeli conflict almost my whole life. I was four years old in 1948 when, after being subjected to unspeakable cruelty by the Germans, after a “holocaust” so many future disasters would resemble, thousands of European Jews were resettled in Palestine. They settled in a land that belonged to people already living there, which did not seem to bother the British who, as in India, had occupied Palestine and then, on leaving it, helped put in place a partitioning of the land they thought would work fine for the people, strangers, Palestinians and European Jews, now forced to live together.
Why does she put the word Holocaust in quotes? Wasn't it one? And is the only important thing about the Holocaust that it led to Holocaust survivors settling in Palestine? Like many other anti-Israel activists, she has the mistaken notion that the Jews who went to Palestine were only from Europe. What of the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab and Muslim who emigrated to Israel? Her statement about the role of the British is also entirely incorrect. The British were not in favor of the UN partition plan - they abstained during the vote on November 29, 1947. They did nothing to implement it once the UN approved it.

She also seems to consider Israel unredeemable, despite all of her talk about reconciliation:
There are differing opinions about this, of course, but my belief is that when a country primarily instills fear in the minds and hearts of the people of the world, it is no longer useful in joining the dialogue we need for saving the planet.
She also thinks that the people of Gaza have been subjected to genocide:
This is a chilling use of power, supported by the United States of America, no small foe, if one stands up to it. No wonder that most people prefer to look the other way during this genocide, hoping their disagreement with Israeli policies will not be noted.
She argues for a one-state solution without any concern at all for the lives of Israeli Jews:
What is to be done? Our revered Tolstoy asked this question, speaking also of War and Peace. I believe there must be a one state solution. Palestinians and Jews, who have lived together in peace in the past, must work together to make this a reality once again. This land (so soaked in Jewish and Palestinian blood, and with America’s taxpayer dollars wasted on violence the majority of us would never, if we knew, support) must become, like South Africa, the secure and peaceful home of everyone who lives there. This will require that Palestinians, like Jews, have the right of return to their homes and their lands. Which will mean what Israelis most fear: Jews will be outnumbered and, instead of a Jewish state, there will be a Jewish, Muslim, Christian country, which is how Palestine functioned before the Europeans arrived. What is so awful about that?
Does she know anything about Ottoman rule of Palestine? It was rule by a Muslim empire which favored Muslims over Christians or Jews. In saying this I'm not arguing that it was an evil empire - but that its rulers had their own interests and beliefs, among them that Islam was superior to other religions and that the "peoples of the book" should be tolerated but treated as second-class citizens. The Ottoman Empire began to treat its religious minorities better throughout the 19th century, with the reform movement known as the Tanzimat, but it certainly was not a model of religious equality. And this is even without considering the Armenian Genocide, which was wrought by the Ottoman government in its dying days during WWI. Walker's idea of Palestine before British rule seems to be governed by a gauzy nostalgia for an imagined past. Perhaps she should consult a variety of histories of Palestine, not simply those written by Ali Abunimah and others who argue for the one-state solution.

It also seems that she is taking a kind of unholy glee in the thought that Jews will once again be a minority in Palestine, as if this is really the correct state of affairs. Jews should know their place, which is not to be able to wield power by controlling their own independent state.

And to think I once admired Alice Walker!

3 comments:

  1. This:

    "There are differing opinions about this, of course, but my belief is that when a country primarily instills fear in the minds and hearts of the people of the world, it is no longer useful in joining the dialogue we need for saving the planet."

    and this:

    "No person is your friend who demands your silence...."

    represent very stark contrasts, given that they were spoken by the same person.

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  2. "Why does she put the word Holocaust in quotes? Wasn't it one? And is the only important thing about the Holocaust that it led to Holocaust survivors settling in Palestine? "

    In After the Last Sky (1986) Edward Said wrote:

    "There has been no misfortune worse for us than that we are ineluctably viewed as the enemies of the Jews. No moral and political fate worse, none at all, I think: no worse, there is none. With so much discussion recently of the Holocaust, I am centrally aware of the fact of the destruction of European Jews, an abomination which nevertheless I find hard to consider separately; there is always the connection made between Israel and the Holocaust, how one makes restitution for the other. I find myself saying that a generation later the Holocaust has victimized us too, but without the terrifying grandeur and sacrilegious horror of what it did to the Jews. Seen from the perspective provided by the Holocaust, we are as inconsequential as children on a playground; and yet - one more twist in the reductive spiral - even at play we cannot be enjoyed or looked at simply as that, as children playing games that signify little. Just by virtue of where we stand, every playground is seen as a 'breeding ground for terrorists', every pastime a 'secret plan for the destruction of Israel', as if our own destruction was not a great deal more probable. Something either pernicious or negligible can be attributed to us, no matter what we do, wherever we are, however we think or act." (p 134)

    This is key: "I find myself saying that a generation later the Holocaust has victimized us too, but without the terrifying grandeur and sacrilegious horror of what it did to the Jews."

    Peace Flotillistas are determined to make up by rhetoric and spectacles of pathos and solidarity, what reality has failed to create for their potential for do-gooding. Thus, if Jews were the victims of the Nazis and Palestinians the victims of the Nazis's victims, then on the scale of victimhood, you can't get any more victim than that.

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  3. I think you're right - but even Said had the decency not to put the word Holocaust in scare quotes, as if it didn't happen. I must say that the quote from Said is remarkably self-pitying.

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