Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mythologies and Naked Power


Who has power?

How are they using it?

Who pays?


A dear old friend, a rabbi in Los Angeles, sent me an op-ed about Israel and the recent raid on a Turkish ship that attempted to bring humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza. (Several peace activists were shot and killed in the raid, and the standing alliance between Israel and Turkey is badly strained at present.)

If readers of this blog are interested, maybe I'll ask the rabbi's permission to post the correspondence. It might be of interest to some -- maybe inspire some comments.

What I'll share here is that my own non-professional analysis of the situation is based on the idea that our political narratives are mythologies. There are Zionist narratives. Islamist narratives. Communist narratives. Capitalist (or "free market") narratives. A great many nationalist narratives. And many more. Beautiful, compelling stories.

Underneath the mask, I'm looking at power. Who's got it. How it's being used. And who is paying for it.

In Gaza, where children die of treatable disease even on peaceful days, it is quite clear who doesn't have power. I've got friends who see this from Israel's point of view, and I recently read a New York Times op-ed that actually claimed, "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza." Wow. On the other hand, I also have friends who are very quick to make Israel the sole villain, who ignore her history and her human needs (which include security).

Reflecting on my recent letter to the rabbi, I drove to El Paso thinking about power and entrenched conflicts. And I recalled the feel-good moment at the end of the Clinton Presidency, when Rabin and Arafat shook hands. Remember that picture?

Both men were doomed after that handshake. Rabin was assassinated for talking to the enemy. Arafat lost much of his base for compromising with "the Zionist entity," and yet Israel did not trust him, either. Arafat was such a militant and revolutionary figure, he had no scaffolding from which to climb down and compromise. (This is why Hamas cannot negotiate a peace: they, too, have staked out a position from which it is impossible to make a trust with Israel.)

Here's the thing.

When truly committed and honest negotiators appear on both sides of this conflict, they will necessarily begin talking about concessions and compromises. In other words, there will be a discussion about conceding and sharing power.

On the rare occasions that people speak that way and mean it, what happens to them?

We know quite well what happens. When power is actually threatened, there is a murder.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

This "flare up" has brought out the ugly in a few of my Jewish friends. It's terribly startling that intelligent, thoughtful people suddenly become inflexible defenders of every last thing Israel is doing. And obviously, with Helen Thomas as an example, the same madness is appearing on the other end of the spectrum. It's all pretty painful to watch, and gets no one anywhere near the peace they claim to desire.