Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Raised Arm

The images sits in front of me, perhaps by now you have seen it too--four masked young men, Jewish settlers of Israel, faces masked except for their eyes, with baseball bats hanging from their hands, the next image, one raises the bat to smash the face of Thamam al-Nawaja, a 58 year old elderly Palestinian woman who, along with her 70 year old husband and nephew, are grazing their goats close to the settlement of Susia, too close for the comfort of these young devout men. The next image is of the bruised face, the broken cheek of the Palestinian woman, her broken right arm bleeding through bandages. The rage is growing in me--is this the work of the "chosen people? How will my friends who find so many ways to apologize for what Israel allows to happen explain this action, not uncommon, away? I think this is the arm of Israeli fascism, the settlers sought out by the government, asked to do the dirty work of setting up a "different reality on the ground" as Bush and Israeli right wingers like to say. Can this be the Israel of the future, when religion, nationalism and thuggery throw off the holds of secular society, cut off from the "decadent voices" of the diasporic Jews, all turned into tref because we do not live in this holy land where, often, cruelty pretends to be the voice of Abraham and Sarah. I think of the other baseball bat brutalities I have seen in my years, smashing the heads of African-Americans in Selma, in Bensonhurst, in Boston, in Poughkeepsi, on the never ending newsreels of governments beating their own dissenting people into bloody submission on every continent of this poor poor world, I hear the breaking glass, the breaking bodies, of Krystalnacht--but never have these actions taken place in the name of a Jewish state, our homeland so they say. You know what I have seen, so have you, my time is your time if you are over fifty. And so the rage, fed by overwhelming sadness, my being Jewish now holds this image of brutality in its heart--I can hear others saying, but why single out the Israeli settlers, other countries have the same elements within their borders--I cannot tell you how many times I have heard some other Jews say to me, why pick on Israel, other countries do far worse things, and I have always thought how unJewish this escape from moral responsibility is--I am a Jew and that bat was held by a young Jewish man who was serving the cause of Israel, so he thought and the government of the USA and of Israel gives him the protection of separate highways, armed entrances and exists, houses on illegal land made into patriotic islands where even a Palestinian goat is not to be tolerated. I think of the men I saw in the Jerusalem market with rifles over their shoulders as they picked out the loaf of bread they wanted, "Settlers," explained Gila, they can carry their guns every where. No more clothed in the protective glamor of the kibbutzim, but the right of aggression anywhere they move, so cloaked in national yearnings are they. What kind of Israel will be in the world, what will constitute this victory of survival for the Jewish people? Why can't we speak of the problem of a nuclear armed Israel as we speak of Iran, is Jewish fanaticism any less dangerous? The raised arm with the bat, the tanks outside of Gaza, the bombers flying over Syria. God always speaking to them, giving divine permissions for brutality. Like those in the hills of Afghanistan who burn girl children for going to school. You see how the words come, from this woman from the Bronx with such a pisk. Where does sanity lie? In these facts--it was an Israeli Jewish peace group, B'Tselem,that provided the Palestinian villagers with video cameras to document these attacks, long may they live. "When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened--they now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon," say Oren Yakobovich of B'Tselem. As I type the letters of his name, I am touching history, and I am so moved by the courage of the people of B'Tselem. I can write these words in West Brunswick and not fear for my life, but the peace workers in Israel, the dissenters, walk the streets with those who call them traitors. I have another piece of paper looking at me now--one that brought me great joy--the announcement of the launching of the Hebrew translation of my selected works, at the Cinemateque in Jerusalem, a night of Lesbian story telling, with music, poetry, dance and humor, Haya's translation reads. On the letterhead are words in Arabic and Hebrew, the names Kol Ha-Isha--Women's Center and Jerusalem Open House. I think of the women who have worked so hard on this project, I see their faces and I see the raised arm. I know their Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian hearts are breaking yet again and I know they are the hope, I think of all who send me their e-mails about the occupation, their visits to the occupied territories, reporting, always reporting and the e-mails go around and around--I send them to you and we stand our vigils, I think of the daily exhausting work of our Haifa friends, living relentlessly for a different Israel, a different Palestine. A different human world for we are all at risk of losing our empathetic human hearts--in a free market whirl of the new imperialism, where "security" demands "new realities on the ground," and the red mist grows grows, the remnants of human selves.

I so wanted to write about my Dickens, my Professora, the warmth of our home.

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