False Dichotomies

LITERATURE HIP-HOP ISRAEL INDIA LOVE MISCELLANY

The Diameter of the Ego

Vittorio Arrigoni was murdered by Islamists who objected to the presence of foreigners in Islamic lands. Juliano Mer-Khamis was murdered by Islamists who objected to the presence of a theatre in an Islamic city. Beyond this, there isn’t much more to say – no hidden meaning to be extrapolated, no great political point to be made. Those on the Right are wrong to try and use these crimes to prove the extent of Palestinian depravity; those on the Left are wrong to blame them on the occupation.

A good example of the latter is provided by the consistently entertaining and psychologically fraught Philip Weiss, of Mondoweiss fame, who opens his reflections on the Arrigoni murder with the following statement: “Whoever the fanatics are that killed Vittorio Arrigoni and Juliano Mer-Khamis in Palestine in the last two weeks, it can be safely said that the occupation killed these good men: that they died because the denial of freedom for Palestinians over 44 of military occupation has produced despair and radicalism and brutalization.” Before showing how wrong he is, it’s worth noting that on a banal level he’s right. Without the occupation, it seems reasonable to surmise that these men would not have ended up in Gaza or Jenin. Were it not for Arrigoni’s fantasy that shipping it up to Gaza represented his best chance of emulating his grandfather who fought the fascists in Italy - and of course the brutal Israeli decision to let his boat dock – he might never have been kidnapped, made into the star of a film with a weird soundtrack, and then strangled to death. And were it not for the occupation, Mer-Khamis might have been able to live out his identity crisis (of which I had some sympathy) without deciding to put up a theatre in Jenin (I must add here that the Freedom Theatre is a wonderful project which I have seen in the flesh, and I hope that it will continue to thrive).

The title of Weiss’s piece is, “From Arrigoni to Bernadotte to RFK to 9/11 – how much global damage has this conflict produced?” and Weiss proceeds to answer the question. “From the time that Jacob de Haan was killed in Holland in 1924 for being an anti-Zionist to England’s Lord Moyne killed in Palestine in 1944 for his opposition to Zionism, to the Stern gang’s killing of the Swede Folke Bernadotte in 1948 for his plan to internationalize Jerusalem and restore the UN partition line, the violence inside the conflict has radiated out and destroyed others.” Just like Amichai’s ‘The Diameter of the Bomb’, one might say, but in this case the radiation is only caused by Zionism, and its victims are only Zionism’s opponents. “Just last year Israel killed nine unarmed Turkish men who were moved by Zionism’s suffering to risk their lives on the high seas.” A shame, because if he had written, “Just last year Israel killed nine armed Turkish men who were moved by religious-motivated passion to pick a fight they couldn’t possibly win,” I might have had some sympathy.

He should leave it there, but he can’t. He’s got Israel-Palestine on the brain, he thinks it’s the only thing that matters, he knows he won’t be able to make a living any other way (Please donate to Mondoweiss today, it will change the world!). So, “if you expand the category to include collateral damage, well then you begin to comprise the thousands of Americans killed on 9/11 – for even the 9/11 commission has acknowledged that a root cause of the hijackers’ action was anger over Palestine, and Bin Laden has said so too.” Bin Laden has said so! It must be true. Or could it be that he barely mentioned Palestine until after 9/11, and that he knows there are useful idiots around the world who are prepared to blame the Jews for 9/11? If Baruch Golstein had said that he opened fire in Hebron because of atrocities committed against settlers, would Weiss have joined Gush Emunim? Finally, there’s Bobby Kennedy, “whose support of Israel cost him his life in ’68″. Everyone clear? Support Israel and it will cost you your life. It’s like cancer, you see. Unavoidable.

The diameter continues to expand: “Take it further and you can say that the Iraq war, with its destruction of an entire society and tens of thousands of people, had a source in this conflict and the neoconservatives’ idea of how to end it. And the oppression of 84 million Egyptians for 30 years under a tyrant at the behest of the United States – this also was rationalized as the cost of containing this intractable problem next door.” Where else can it expand to? Perhaps the conflict over Kashmir, or Chechnya? Maybe Kosovo, or the Ivory Coast? The diameter expands like Weiss’s ego at having so many readers at his supremely moral website, which only last week suggested that Israel may have been responsible for Arrigoni’s murder.

Weiss says that Goyim die because they are roused to action by Jewish barbarity, specifically the ongoing barbarity of the Jewish national project. He does not think Israel should have been created in the first place, he does not think it should continue to exist today, and he is telling the world that people will continue to die if they don’t do something about it. In this powerful vortex there are no other active agents; Israel must take sole responsibility. Only through these provocations will anyone listen to what an embittered second-rate journalist will say (although admittedly one who is a fan of three great novelists: Coetzee, Naipaul, and Spark), but listen we must, because if we don’t keep an eye on the lunatics they may one day sneak out of the asylum.

PS One commenter on Mondoweiss has written “Thank you for not blaming slavery on Zionism, I appreciate that.”

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