Friday, July 21, 2006

Middle East Redux

As the political situation in the Middle East grows graver each day, I am compelled to wonder about the nature of war and addiction. I received an e-mail from a dear friend of mine this morning. She is an Israeli citizen living in the United States (or perhaps is a dual citizen, I'm not sure). My step-sister lives in Tel Aviv with her 9 year old son, Avi. I'm certain that she must have friends and family living in Israel as well. The upshot of my e-mail to her was for thoughts and prayers to go with those who are under attack. Those Israelis who are under attack. I didn't stipulate that, but certainly it was tacit.

My friend responded with a perspective that shook me up. She suggested that all parties involved are "addicted to war". I found this a deeply truthful statement that has enormously far reaching consequences and had really never occurred to me. Perhaps that is because, as Israel is concerned, I am an unqualified Hawk with absolutely no room for neutrality. I certainly don't consider myself an unqualified neo-conservative. I have a number of liberal concerns, am vociferously pro-union, and believe in equal rights for all. But as Israel is concerned, I am as far to the right as can be. Most of my opinions about Israel come from "right wing" radio. I listen almost exclusively to Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hannity and Colmes, Bill O' Reilly and read National Review, Wall Street Journal and editorial writers like David Horowitz, Norman Podhoretz...You get the idea. I simply need to have my information doled out in ways that feed the "addiction" to my pro-Israeli bias. I'm really not sure frankly how this got to this point. I know that I am a deeply suggestible person. If I listen to enough left wing talk I go there as well. But I have found as the years move on that I am becoming almost a knee-jerk conservative. However, I have never voted republican in my life. What's going on here? Humbly, I believe that it has very little to do with Israel at all, I'm afraid. It has much more to do with my people pleasing tendencies and need to feel affiliated with something greater than myself. I have almost no interest in the religion of Judaism. It has never spoken to me as a spiritual path. I have much more interest in Buddhism and Hinduism, as witnessed by the books I carry with me daily.

But Judaism is more than a religion. It is a people as well. And this is where my deepest biological imperative occurs. If someone is fucking around with the state of Israel then they are fucking with my people. This is even more strange, as I rarely even like my people. But they are my people. And everything seems to irrationally flow through that truth. I am a Jew. Even if I live in places like Hemet, or Desert Hot Springs or Santa Fe, New Mexico. As much as I have abandoned my Judaism, I have never abandoned my Jewishness. I suspect that many Jews feel this way. Assimilation is a bitch. And yet, more and more, I find myself connecting to more Jews than I have in years. Some are Israelis, most Americans. About half of us talk about the Middle East crisis and the other half about life in general.

The reason I have posted Elie Weisel's Nobel Lecture speech of 1986 below has as much to do with my current internal "Intifada" as my reactionary position on the murder of Jews everywhere. As this truth exists, I am intractable. It takes a very powerful heart and soul to see this as an addiction and to open one's self to our dismal self-criticism of the "self-hating Jew". It is an act of enormous courage to even consider it as a Jew. It requires the absolution of our past, the honoring of our collective memory, and the forging ahead into the realm of a territory Jews cannot face: acceptance.


Blogger Jeff said...

I don't have a "people." I am a mutt; my heritage is 7/8 mythology, 4/5 Irish, a tablespoon of Austrian, a great-great-grandmother's fortnight fling with Osceola, and 99-44/100% bullshit. I am an American, I guess, and, truth be told, there are few of us who really know where we came from. I have no homeland. My home was destroyed in the late 1970's, when real estate developers cut down all the sycamores and orange groves and paved all the arroyos, and carved the Target logo into White Face. I was raised Christian, but it didn't stick. I am without a religion. None of the religions resonate with me, except for some of the Stoic stuff, maybe, but not because I like it; rather, because it seems to be sort of in keeping with the way I've seen God relating to us (Hey, I'm reading Sri Aurobindo's "Secrets of the Veda. Yee. Hit that one yet?) The apostles of my childhood are the Mercury 7 astronauts. I am pretty sure that my ancestors were always too poor to own slaves, thank God. My ethnic food is Hamburger Helper, Jello 1-2-3, Pillsbury Space Food Sticks and Patio Pizza. My native dance, the only one I am really good at, is the "Fry Bacon," where you drop to the floor and spaz around like a slice of pork belly crinkling and popping on a hot iron skillet.

I must admit, I envy the Jews, and any other people who might call themselves a "People." I considered joining The Masons to acquire just such a sense of affiliation, until I realized that the guy who was recruiting me was fairly high up in the organization and not all that bright, and I would be lower in the organization than him if I joined, and God forbid that that should ever be the case. Plus, there was a test, and I'm all done with tests. It's the anti-Stoic in me. Anyway...

On the other hand, without such a sense of Irish-ness, or Austrian-ness, or Seminole-ness, or bullshitty-ness, or "family," I have never felt the need to rally to the defense of a "brother" who has behaved badly, simply because of the obligation such a relationship imposes. I do not have to look to propagandists like that disingenuous confabulator Hannity or that prevarictor William Kristol to delude myself that I am supporting the right cause. Though I have some respect for Al Franken, he also disappoints, because I have caught him on a number of occasions not thoroughly grilling those experts he agrees with. It would seem Stephen Colbert is the only pundit I can trust. But I digress.

What is happening in the Middle East now is not addiction. It is madness. Addiction can be controlled. Addiction can be tamed. Madness cannot. These people are fucking crazy. I saw an interview once with Moshe Dayan. The interviewer asked him if he thought the reason Israel would not find peace was because both sides thought God was on their side. Dayan replied that the problem was that Arabs thought God was on their side, while in fact it was clear for anyone to see that God was on Israel's side. Eek. Crazy. Not to dismiss Hamas or Hezbollah, but... All these fuckers are crazy.

So, Tony. Can I offer you a Space Food Stick? I think I have one here in my bag. I'm pretty sure it's peanut butter flavor. Not my favorite, but Space Food Sticks are hard to come by these days.


11:31 PM  

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