Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dear Wendy--Yes, I remember our visit together to the Holocaust museum and the silver necklace of my name in Hebrew letters that you and M. gave me--I remember it very deeply--and that is why I must write these words--how do we honor such a history, how do we hold each other accountable for such catastrophic failures of the human heart? For such cynical politics that uses the tragic displacement of one people to create another kind of homelessness for another--there is so much I want to say--and I will later in other entries--but this is a letter to a friend--a lanceman--perhaps the most important moment of discussion--Israel while it is a home to Jews is an occupying force to the Palestinians--it is a colonzing power in that strip of land---all the Arab Israelis I met and many Palestinians all spoke Hebrew--the language of those, now, with power, but seldom did I hear Israelis speaking Arabic--and when even the 10 year old Palestinian seller of corn beside highway along the Jordan valley neogotiated with us in Hebrew, I saw the cultural displacement that colonization always brings--I thought of the words of Albert Memmi, the Tunesian Jewish writer, describing the one way cultural street colonial power creates. We can melt in our hearts, Wendy, about the sorrow of our people--but this is a different time, and Israel is a nation-state that calls itself a Jewish state and it must be looked at with the same eyes we look at all nation states--the fear you speak about that your relatives live with--is a fear encouraged by the military men we both rail against, just as Bush and Cheney use fear here to allow the unthinkable to happen. It is the same fear that keeps Israelis and Palestinians, every day people, from living in each other's lives--shopping in each other's markets, working for each other, speaking each other's language.
You speak of the time we can have falafel on King David street in Tel Aviv--and I know the comfort of sitting in a Haifa cafe in the late morning, having a breakfast of chopped cucumber and tomatoes with humus lining the plates and then I look behind our comfort and I wonder who will own the falafel shop and who will work in it and who will have the money to buy the wonders of King David street--and then will we walk over the green line into the West Bank and see the same affluence, share the same good food, ordered in another language--or will we stand looking up at the gray wall with its barbed wire forcing us each back into a history constructed of the most terrible suffering for both peoples. How do we say no, Wendy, a Jewish no to cruelty in the same of "safety"-- we will loose dear connections in this discussion, I have no doubt--but this is how I honor those who did not have the chance to live in the fullness of their humanity.

1 comment:

esther said...

joan,
Just wanted to say i've been reading and feel incredibly heartened by what you've been saying.
As with so many things i've thought about in the past your words speak so directly and passionately. It's a relief to see the insights you've brought to sex and gender and politics now focusing on the horrors in palestine.

thank you for never stopping talking.
esther