A Neverending Holocaust

The unconscious has a timeless, pulsatile function and if you were to ask what is a prevailing cause of crisis in this troubled region I would say it is the Israeli mind itself – a mind which needs to be expunged of its darknesses. For the entire process of Holocaust remembrance, of continually revisiting the events both in their public and private lives has obviously had an incalculably strong – and deleterious impact.

There are painful, recurring modes of renewing this compact with fate and these are inevitably transmitted through the generations. A son must deal with the fathers anger at his own powerlessness, the fathers narrative of forcibly subjected shame will bear heavily on him – a virulent offspring will never allow himself to be condemned to the same shameful subjugation. In time, this cruel and vengeful seed from history has come to shape their political discourse and the child who has been beaten now wreaks his own peculiar havoc on the world.

And now, as I recall watching Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, declare a unilateral ceasefire in the midst of their adjudged successes in Gaza it occurs to me that their leadership are indeed in dire need of some form of collective therapy. For, if the deaths of over 400 children are commensurate with having achieved their “objectives and beyond” you may well ask yourself how much further into the abyss they can stare – or how far the rest of the world can afford to let them.

Too far by now, it seems, if the popular support for the incursion/massacre and the swing to the right in the polls is anything to go by. If we were wont to anthropomorphise and characterise Israel how removed would its relations with the Palestinians be from the actions of a common sociopath. Some accuse Israel of playing the Holocaust card to engender sympathy and bolster support but you have to ask what are the deeper imprints on the collective psyche of Dachau, Buchenwald and Auschwitz? Let’s be honest, this barely oedipalised child can’t resist any opportunity to throw its American toys around the Middle East kindergarten. And there is undoubtedly a disturbing remnant echoing the horrors of the gas chambers and their actions seem increasingly more like the acting out of a vicious return of the repressed.

Let’s not also forget that it was Israel who first broke the ceasefire with Hamas back in November which triggered their firing of Qassams into Sdirot and beyond. And of course, no policy maker on the Israeli side is going to respond seriously to the charge that their “considered response” to rockets from Gaza is motivated by unresolved personal issues derived from the Holocaust. These are questions that belong to a different domain from the stages in which politics is carried out. This is not to say they aren’t relevant.

Herder made a name for himself characterising peoples by their inherent ”genius” and Ruth Benedict did much the same in “‘Patterns of Culture””. It was a viable analytic tool in the social sciences until recently – at any event we are always wont to characterise the peculiarity of a people whose customs and manners are strange to us. I realise Zionism was many years in the making and did not emerge from Hitler’s death camps but we cannot ignore profound formative events in the shaping of a nations character.

Usually when a nation attains sovereignty it is achieved at the expense of a departed tyranny such as found in the cases of post-war decolonisation or with the overthrow of an autocratic monarchy. In the case of Israel this sovereignty was attained on the back of landgrabs and ruthless suppressions, something many young settlers were blissfully unaware of until they were of an age to learn of the injustices meted out by their forebears. There are by now too many uncomfortable similarities with the depravities of the Third Reich. The Gaza strip has been declared by many to be the world’s largest open-air concentration camp with the trade embargo having left most of the population below the poverty line. When they managed to tunnel underneath the Rafah crossing and fling open the barricades a third of the population swamped nearby Egyptian towns to stock up on bare necessities such as soap, fuel and water.

Within the stratified West Bank with all its demarcations and no-go zones, we have the harassment and monitoring of checkpoints, the production of identity cards, the continual marshalling from place to place – the intent it seems to ensure insecurity of domicile for the Palestinians. The occupied territories themselves often have the feel of a liminal ghost-like state within international law. Much like the inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto must have felt like when they were being corralled and herded like cattle.

How can the form in which the settlements have taken here be construed as anything other than an inducement to rebellion and violence? The checkpoints have become less a deterrent for would be homicide bombers and more a means of brutally asserting internal regulation because the majority of them are between Palestinian controlled areas within the West Bank and not gateways to Israel itself. “Contiguity” is the current buzz word and the Israeli authorities have been trying to maintain unsuccessfully that this has been somehow achieved by the meandering snakes neck of a wall that loops appropriately here and there to embrace precious groundwater reservoirs and further cut off formerly integrated communities – a ‘Star of David’ form of apartheid if ever there was one.

Israel can now scarcely be conceived a credible state actor in any reasonable world.  Unfortunately, however, we do not appear to be living in one and if I was Hamas I dare say I’d throw everything I’ve got at them too.

Insanity is the only recourse in the face of their daily horror.


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