Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hopes for the New Year

One more blog entry from Benny Tziper, on the occasion of the Jewish New Year.

My Wishes for a Year of Continued Myth-Shattering

By Beni Tziper - 09/22/06

In the next year, I hope that organized student trips to Auschwitz get canceled, and I hope for the continuation of the myth-shattering that began during the Lebanon war, during which the Israel army entirely failed to protect us, and the ones who saved our lives were the UN and Kofi Annan and French soldiers.

As opposed to many people who complain about the year that is ending today or tomorrow (I have no idea how the counting of days according to the Halacha [1] and cycles of the moon works), I found that it was an excellent year from my personal points of view, but also from others.

In the past year I began writing this blog, and it changed my life in many ways. People who had never read a single line of mine started to get to know me and to reply to what I write. As a result of the blog my writing in general underwent a drastic change, I acquired the skills of sitting or lying in bed with my laptop on my knees, and to extract from myself in one go a text I am not ashamed of, and that does not require editing. I think that writing blogs is like the stand-up of writing. In stand-up you can't go wrong, but rather, you have run ahead.

The blog gave me courage to open up and become personal, and also political. From the blog comments, even the most violent ones, I understand that people appreciate my openness, even when they strongly object to my opinions. OK, I don't want to expand on that too much, in case I sound too much like a show-off. But I want to note that blog-writing is a genre that has certain rules, and it's not sufficient to write it as if you are writing a newspaper article. It has to play on a number of registers as far as grammar is concerned, and the author has to constantly jump between high and low. It can momentarily sound low and self-indulgent like a Gal Ohovsky gig, but that's only if it also contains a totally serious treatment of some social ill, or of the Occupation, authentically bringing out some inner boiling rage.

In short, this year was good and interesting for me. And if someone will come up to me and say 'how can you say it was a good year when the war in Lebanon just ended?' I'll say to him that this war had at least one good side-effect: it began the process of myth-shattering, mostly importantly the myth of security and of the Israeli army.

The ones who finally rescued us in this war were the UN and Kofi Annan, and in the future those protecting us will be French soldiers! Anyway, the Israeli army didn't succeed in physically protecting us at all, just as it didn't succeed in protecting us during all the years of bombings and the Intifada. Back then, it was always possible to say that we would be worse-off without the army, but this war exposed for the first time the lack of proportion between the size and the enormous power of this army and the its de-facto hopelessness. From my point of view, that is in itself a good thing, because people began to grasp that you cannot idealize anything and that nothing is un-judgeable, as retiring Supreme Court justice Aharon Barak used to say.

Through the blog my view of this nation that sits in Zion got sharper, as did my view of its strangeness. For example, what was the bringing of Herzl's offsprings' bones to Israel [2] all about? What would have been so terrible about leaving them to lie in peace in their resting place in the Jewish cemetery in Bordeaux? This cult that surrounds the bones is opposed, in my opinion, to the spirit of Herzl, who was irreligious and also Viennese. I am sure that he would have been happier if the large amount of money spent on bringing the bones of his children to Israel was instead used on a musical enrichment program for children, taking them for the first time in their lives to the opera. That's something that's done on the continent from which Herzl was from. I once saw in Berlin a school class coming out of a show at the opera house. Every child had a rose in his hand. Herzl dreamed about opera in the land of Israel. Why not turn opera into something that youngsters would want to visit?

This necrophilia, this fond remembrance of old bones, is something this nation needs to work on urgently, starting from this coming year. How long can we live in a coffin full of rotten memories? Next year, I hope that organized student trips to Auschwitz will be canceled. Next year maybe we will begin to look around us and be shocked by current humanitarian catastrophes, perhaps even those that have nothing to do with us. Instead of those nauseating student trips to Auschwitz, during which they learn to believe that they own the world because them and those six million have, by chance, slightly similar genes, they should send those students to read about Darfur! Or instead organize trips to the City of the Dead in Cairo [3], so they get a little sense of proportion about the high standard of living they enjoy. And at the same time, they could get to know something about Arabs beyond the stereotypes they are force-fed. But the idea of sending a class to Egypt surely seems crazy in the eyes of most Israeli parents. To send them a year or two later to die in the army seems to them perfectly normal.

I hope that next year this process of waking up from myths that the Lebanon war shattered will continue. So that maybe people will stop relying constantly on the state to save them, and understand that the shoulders of that state are too narrow and weak to take care of them and that in the end, behind all the haughtiness and the talk, we live in a crappy and poor state that lives by the grace of the US. If everyone understands that, then maybe this passiveness that causes the wave of disappointments in the 'state' will stop and with it the turn to the right and the longing for a 'leader'. Yalla, enough. A prime minister is not meant to be a leader, but rather to steer the state according to its, and his, abilities.

I hope that next year we will become less like slaves of television from an intellectual point of view. I mean that trash like 'A Star is Born', which is perfectly respectable and would have nothing wrong with it if it satisfied itself with exciting those simpletons who get excited by such things. What is worrying are those tuppence philosophers of A Star is Born or those of 'Time Out' [4] who analyze the philosophical meaning of the sayings of their winner, an amateur anonymous singer of the type that used to be called a 'young talent' in my time, about his abstaining in elections and his military service [5]. First let me see the results of this little man's IQ test so I can know whether he deserves me paying any attention to his utterances. Secondly, I see in the enthusiasm of those 'philosophers' for that little man a large dose of homage to young people, coming from a mistaken thought that the world belongs to those youngsters, so we need to flatter them and dress like them and talk like them to enter their hearts. And therein lies the mistake: There is nothing those youngsters hate more than all sorts of 50-year-olds trying to imitate them. It's pathetic.

So, let's wish ourselves that next year, each one will know his place, from the points of view of age, society and nation, and also their place on the international arena. Just as I don't aspire in this blog to be another Jean-Paul Sartre, I also hope that the citizens of this state won't hold on to the illusion that they are American, and that the residents of Tel Aviv won't hold on to the illusion that they are residents of New York, and that those Israeli students wishing to travel to Auschwitz will rid themselves of the illusion that they are still those persecuted Jews who were their forefathers abroad. If everyone finally will know his place, maybe things here will start getting a little bit better.


[1] The Halacha is the book of Jewish traditional laws.

[2] Herzl's offsprings' bones were recently brought to Israel in a huge and expensive operation. See here for more details.

[3] The City of the Dead in Cairo is a huge stretch of cemeteries South of the city in which many poverty-stricken residents have been forced to make their homes.

[4] 'A Star is Born' and 'Time Out' are two musical reality shows on Israeli TV.

[5] There was recently a huge uproar about the winner of one of those reality shows. He said that he will refuse to do military service and that he didn't vote in the last election as he is disillusioned with the political system.


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