|By Professor Avraham Oz
Mailing to alef list
The world has been watching these days on all major channels, the soap
opera promoted by the Jewish settlers, the Israeli government and the
mainstream mass media, simulating a saga of grief and desolation of
refugees uprooted from their homes. We have been asked by many, including
some liberal journalists and writers, to empathize with their sorrow and
shock at being expelled (by their brethrens). The narrative underlying
those scenes was utterly misleading, of course. It totally ignored
Chapter 1 of this epic, in which those settlers, or their parents, left
comfortable homes in Israel and aggressively trespassed Palestinian lands,
appropriating, against any single clause of international law, land and
water resources. It totally suppressed Chapter 3, in which all those
grief-stricken families are getting substantial sums of money, out of the
public coffers, to re-settle within Israel. And the affected tears of
the so-called victims of the evacuation were once again this week
drowned in the blood of Palestinians, murdered in cold blood by another
member of the settlers crowd, for whom spilling the blood of innocent
civilians is a rhetorical figure. For us, practitioners and theorists of the
performing arts, it was another proof, in case we needed one, how, once
the historicity of a given scene is dissimulated, the distance between
fiction and reality is readily erased, resulting once again, as so
often in history, with hegemonic narrative covering all traces of its
ongoing repression and constant manipulation of public opinion.
The views from the (too) few evacuated settlements, on the Gaza strip,
were supposed to divert our gaze from the prolonged suffering of the
genuine refugees, who live in the most densely populated region in the
world, trying to survive at an average salary of $2 a month; Or from the
ongoing suffering of the West Bank Palestinians, spending hours at road
blocks and cut daily from their fields or schools by the evil wall
dividing their land. Who would build the wall preventing the settlers from
murder, theft and hooliganism, blaspheming the name of the legacy of
But when we are not carried away by the contrived sentimentality of
this soap opera, we may look into the one genuine lesson to be extracted
from it. In spite of what the leaders, the politicians, and the media
would have us believe, it is so easy (as I have repeatedly reminded in
these updates over the years) to do what it takes to recover injustice
and bring about a just peace. After 18 years in Lebanon, the Israeli army
has left it within a few hours. After 38 years in occupation of Gaza,
all the settlements were evacuated in a few days. How much blood should
be spilled in vain, in order for the West bank to be evacuated, for
Israel to return to its recognized borders and recover its soul and
integrity among the family of nations?
A great Israeli poet, and a much beloved personal friend, Dahlia
Rabikowitch, has died today. She took her own life. Her admirable poetic
sensitivity was often mobilized to express her political conscience. Beside
all else, she was for me a living proof that the genuine tradition of
Jewish culture, invested in humanist values, was not entirely betrayed
to the vociferous messianic rhetoric of Israel today. I would like to
pay my tribute to her sweet memory by citing one of her poems (translated
into the English several years ago).
For better days,
Dahlia Rabikowitch/'One Cannot Kill a Baby Twice'
Upon sewage puddles in Sabra and Shatila
Where you delivered masses of people
From the world of living to the world of truth.
Night after night.
First they shot
Then they hung
At last they slaughtered with knives.
Terrified women appeared in urgence
Above a sand hillock:
'They slaughter us there,
A refined trail of a newborn moon was hung
Above the camps.
Our soldiers illuminated the place with lightening shells
'Go back to the camp, march!' the soldier commanded
The yelling women from Sabra and Shatila.
He had orders to follow.
And the children were already laid in dung puddles
Their mouths wide open
Nobody will hurt them anymore.
One cannot kill a baby twice.
And the moon's trail became bigger and bigger
Until it turned into a complete coin of gold.
Our sweet soldiers
They asked nothing for themselves,
How strong was their desire
To return home in peace.