The year is 1969. A young occupation is full of shy desire. The Palestinians in Jerusalem, for their part, want to set up three memorials to the members of the Arab Legion who fell defending their city.
The cabinet approves the request – except for Menachem Begin, the well-known humanist – and the decision now goes to the Jerusalem municipality, where the Labor Party remains in the minority (among its partners in the municipal coalition). The opponents cited public opinion against erecting the memorials, adding, The Arabs rose up to murder us all (Haaretz, December 23, 1969).
In an editorial, Haaretz wrote, The legions fallen ... embarked on a war of destruction against Israel ... There is justice in the words of those who say the Jordanian soldiers ... dont deserve to have their names memorialized, and in such a demonstrative fashion, in the heart of the capital.
And then came the on the other hand: The question hasnt arisen between us and the soldiers of the Jordanian Army, but between us and the residents of East Jerusalem ... If we expect them to become reconciled to Israeli rule, we are obligated to give them the possibility of mourning their dead in their accustomed fashion. They can mourn, but they will be ruled over (liberalism like this, alongside a right rising like a soufflé, is what the left had to contend with in those days).
Did they compare their bereavement to our bereavement with colonial contempt back then? Everywhere. As a rule, no mechanism of the occupation ever valued the Palestinians as equal human beings.
None of our current experts on race and bereavement invented any of their arguments. Colonialism is a discourse; the politicians are the loudspeakers. Those who serve the occupation internalize racism, and the media-consuming rabble echoes it.
Colonial pragmatism has long since run its course. The Labor Party, to our undoing, sold its soul in the colonial wars. The heir of liberalism is Meretz, the party of human rights, yet even in 2016 it opposes refusing to serve in the army. Its all happened before. True.
But what is the meaning of the present historical moment? After having periodically repulsed it, due to the strength of the Israel Defense Forces and the weakness of the rebels, we are once again in the midst of the Palestinian War of Independence. And why deny it? Nations that fight for their freedom – in Algeria, in Vietnam, in Ireland, in Palestine – sanctify death. So did the Warsaw Ghetto. The cliché by their deaths, they ordered our lives arose together with nationalism, and it blunts feelings among freedom fighters and their troopers.
The only difference between blood and blood lies in the sanctification of death among teens (who understand what Natan Alterman wrote in his poetry collection The Joy of the Poor: Perhaps once in a thousand years our, deaths have meaning) – a sanctification that differs from the preoccupation of our nationalist media with Israeli death. Imagine anchorman Danny Cushmaro sighing, Im not capable of living any longer under this oppression. Now imagine the teenaged Hadeel al-Hashlamoun saying that sentence, in Arabic, and going to her death, into the bosom of Allah.
Do Palestinian teens really need inciting broadcasts? No. Because they arent animals in cages, but human beings hungering for their freedom. Theres no difference between blood and blood. Theres no difference between bereavement and bereavement. But at least one difference ought to sanctified here: the speakers distance from the reality of the word freedom.
Death has surrounded us: a journalist detained without trial who is dying on hunger strike as our journalists remain silent; the deaths of innocents, Jewish and Arab; funerals that receive pathologically extensive media coverage; executions that are reported apathetically; and too few people refusing army service. No wonder the Internet is filled with right-wing cheers, without shame, for the deaths of the evil ones (and sometimes from the left as well), and from the center, relief.
What do you do with this callowness? You scorn it. Or you imagine, for a moment, that casualty who isnt considered a human being as the boy he once was, thirstily drinking warm milk in the evening, or the girl she once was, running down the street crying Mama in Arabic or in Hebrew with the same excitement. You turn your backs on the politics occasionally in order to remain living human beings.
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