Monday, January 29, 2007

Reflections on Holy Land

This soil is cherished. The land upon which I am situated has inspired some of the most divisive conflict in human history. From the Knights of Templar and King Solomon to Canaanites and Hyksos, this turf has instigated bestial battle after senseless battle. What we refer to as Semites are likely a blend of Semitic, Persian, Greek, Roman, Turkic, and North African peoples. The illusory notion that pure blood lines tracing back to some frozen, classical era of national glory is far-fetched at best. However, the nationalistic spell is quite potent for all those who claim to be pure descendants of the land's true occupants. And, while the various peoples have varying levels of justification for their practical and/or ancestral-religious claims to the land, ultimately some utilitarian justice must be attained in order quell the irrational and fantastic sense of holy war that swells ethnic egos, fans sectarian strife, and results in a land that becames violent and thusly much less sacred.

Facts on the ground are a popularly imagined way of sizing up the current situation in the context of who lives where, who has to deal with which problems, and where sensible borders lie. While there is rampant unpopularity of the Israeli dream throughout the world, this national-mythological dream is no less genuine or beneficient than the american dream or the european dream, both of which are also dreams founded on western principles, on the backs of slaves/ssubaltern people, in the colonial process of usurpation and eventually permanent attempts at territorial reclamation on behalf of the conquered folks.

Walls that divide civilizations are convenient so that people understand where they are safest, most comfortable, most useful. Even so, ideas we have about permanence and the objective basis for territorial acquisition, settlement, and negotiation are far from eternal. People tend to remember the immediacy of suffering best. And, in the Israeli-Arab conflict, the crucial periods of intense national suffering occurred a mere three years apart. Full-on justification for the Israeli nation-state arose from the ashes of World War II as a combination of Western guilt and Jewish-Zionist redemption forged the possibility of an ethnic-religious homeland. A mere three years later, the Palestinians underwent what they refer to as the "catastrophe" - Nakba. Whereas Israelis refer to this triumphant occasion as "liberation" or "independence." The dualism inherent in this act of passing on "genocide credit" lives on.

The cycles of violence and dim hopes of permanent peace rage on. While a viable economic and geographic unit exists within Israeli borders, the outlying satelite communities of Palestine, which remain halfway under Israeli rule in a semi-Apartheid arrangement, languish and devolve into chaos. Heaps of rubble, omnipresent checkpoints, dug out trenches, ancient fridges contrast with fresh skyscrapers, booming hi-tech, serene beaches, and most of all, the ability to wield POWER. The ability to force submission, arbitrarily enforce law, and create a relationship where colonial oppression gradually rots the once glorious Zionist enterprise. The result is a post-Zionist reality in which naivete has been shattered. The growing threat of political dissolution on both sides leads to a swollen yet broken fantasy in which corruption and complacency prevent the pragmatic discussion of future potential. What can the present tell us about the complex landscape into which we venture?

Am I even a credible observer if I'm not committed to living in this mess? Are my ideals and/or objectivity not possible if I'm not actually from here and/or planning to remain here for the long term? I have a complex about becoming an ideological crusader or a naive intellectual dabbler who refuses to admit where vested interest lies. Is objective evaluation of the circumstances possible given my background? Perhaps most parties in this conflict are not interested in anything more than a subjective account of reality. Scholarly/journalistic accounts of what's truly transpiring might not be attractive for most people who, on a daily basis, must accept the bare facts on the ground. No simple answers are waiting under a mattress in Gaza. No reality is possible other than that which can actually be fostered, nourished, and developed. There is not yet a will, a collective ambition, or a unified mentality on either side that could result in what has formally and colloquially been referred to as "lasting peace."

No one could possibly know what this place will actually look like in 100 years. It would have been impossible three times over to predict one hundred years ago during the final years of Ottoman occupation what would befall this land just 100 years later. It's rather doubtful that the same blue Stars of David will be majestically flying over this land a century down the road. History has sped up exponentially, and fantasy is a hell of a drug.

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