In Activist has a gender for peace, and it's all in the talk (9/8/08), the Sydney Morning Herald's Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis introduces us to "Israeli-American author, playwright and women's rights activist Naomi Ragen*," who is about to darken our doorstep for the 3rd time - for which you can thank the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA).
[*He forgot to throw in card-carrying Likudnik.]
Koutsoukis tells us that Naomi "has many passions, some contradictory." So sit back, relax, and enjoy some Zionist plain-speaking from Ragin' Ragen:
After "lamenting the end of women's dialogue that for one brief moment Oslo allowed," Naomi opines, "'If we women [Israeli and Palestinian] could just keep sitting together and talking, we'd get a lot done'." Exactly what 'they' got done during that "one brief moment" she doesn't say, but you'll be pleased to know that Naomi, "an Orthodox Jew... receives Christmas cards from a member of the Jordanian royal family, a Muslim"! Now if only the anonymous Jordanian blueblood, prime ministerial wannabe Tzipi Livni, and Naomi, of course, could sit down over a cuppa, a new era of peace and harmony would dawn in the Holy Land. Yeah, right!
"[Naomi] is convinced the controversial wall separating Israel and the West Bank is essential for security." [Not illegal, you'll note, merely "controversial." Note also Katsoukis' description (clueless/deliberate?) of the wall "separating Israel from the West Bank," when much of it is built inside the West Bank.] Yet this "passion" for the wall is contradicted, according to Koutsoukis, by Naomi's refusal, against the wishes of her fellow Jews in the Ramot neighbourhood of Jerusalem, to countenance the building of "a fence that would have prevented her neighbours from the Arab village Beit Iksa coming to their construction jobs. 'These were honourable men coming in to do their jobs and we never, ever had any trouble with any of them. Why would I cut them off from their livelihoods? If anything had ever happened, of course, I'd have been the first to have insisted on the fence'." Hm, what a friend to the good folk of Beit Iksa! Only trouble is, as the headline has it, it really is "all in the talk."
To begin with, Naomi's home of Ramot [Allon] is an illegal Israeli settlement built on occupied land (1347 dunums) stolen from Beit Iksa in 1973. What's more, Ramot snaffled a further 112 dunums of Beit Iksa's land between 2002 and 2004. With the completion of Israel's Apartheid Wall, Beit Iksa will lose 60% of its land to the Israeli side (See Beit Iksa loses its lands to the Israeli Segregation Wall, poica.org).
Then there's the slight matter of Naomi's revisionism. As a novelist (she's also here for the Melbourne Writers' Festival), you may be sure she knows that a first draft can always benefit from a good re-write. And so the second draft (above) of Naomi Stands Alone Against the Wall, in which she portrays herself as a lone defender of the "honourable men" of Beit Iksa, is way better than the first, which appeared in the March 2006 edition of Mideast Outpost (http://mideastoutpost.com/archives/2006_03.html) under the heading Handing Jerusalem to Hamas. Back then Naomi wrote as follows: "During the intifada, [Beit Iksa] villagers regularly walked across the wadi and up the steps past my home to work in construction jobs in Ramot and elsewhere. This, even after terrorists were found with suicide belts in Ramot... The police never checked these workers, despite repeated phone calls and warnings." And remember how, in her second draft, she said she opposed the building of the wall because it would have prevented the villagers of Beit Iksa from "coming to their construction jobs?" That was mucho better than the first draft, which had her opposing the wall because it'd leave Beit Iksa on the Palestinian side of the wall where it would become a hotbed of Hamasian terror on Ramot's very "doorstep." And how does she know this? Because those bloody villagers "voted 100% for Hamas" in the election!
Although Naomi knows how to spin a tale or two, she's apparently somewhat reluctant to turn her hand to politics. But if she did, "the number one item on her agenda would be 'to introduce the death penalty for terrorists. We need to kill these people, not let them sit in our jails and then trade them to freedom in return for the bodies of Israeli soldiers who lost their lives protecting their country'." Jeez, Louise, this lady's got balls! Maybe Her Highness could double as Lord High Executioner. Or is hangin' too good for 'em?
In reference to her coming ZFA appearance(s), Koutsoukis asks Naomi why she'll be addressing "only a Jewish audience." She responds, "Because we are living through the most ignorant time in Jewish history. They don't realise that there was never a Palestinian state here - never a real state between the Babylonian destruction and the reborn state of Israel." Told you she's got balls! She's singing from the same hymn book as that other Zionist iron maiden, the late PM Golda Meir. As Golda once laid it on the line: "There was no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist." Seems Naomi's a throwback to the Good Old Days of Golda, and it's been all down hill ever since.
Now Koutsoukis describes Naomi as "warming to her theme over gnocci and a peppery Judean Hills* cabernet in Jerusalem's German Colony neighbourhood." How very civilized. But no sooner has he asked if she'll be debating Antony Loewenstein in Australia, than she's come unstuck, choking on the gnocci and spraying cabernet all over him: "'Bring it on'," she splutters. "'Those kind of people are easy. They say one lie after another. He's a typical self-hating, ignorant Jew'."
[*A "Judean Hills cabernet"? Is that the brand, I wonder, or can we expect Jason to begin referring to the Israeli-occupied West Bank in his reports as Judea and Samaria?]
Finally, after wiping Jason down, Naomi's onto another of her "many passions," this time fulminating against the two-state solution: "'A complete disaster... Look what happened in Gaza. A total betrayal. As soon as we withdrew from Gaza, they started attacking us... I liked Sharon up until the Gaza withdrawal, but then he sold out his country', she says. Which is perhaps why the notion held by some right-wing religious Jews - that Sharon, still in a coma after a stroke in January 2006, is being punished by God for the Gaza withdrawal - does not strike Ragen as offensive. 'I think there might be something to it'."
Spruiking the wall, spruiking the death penalty, unable to see the Palestinians for the suicide bombers, unable to see the Palestinians before there were any suicide bombers, unable to see the Palestinians full stop, more right-wing than Sharon himself, indulged over gnocci and peppery Judean Hills cabernet by a handsome young Greek-Australian reporter, poised to fly off to the Antipodes to stiffen the spine of Australian Zionists - what a woman!
But there's more. What about the bit about Naomi being a "women's rights activist"? Koutsoukis didn't go there, but The Australian Jewish News did: "It is not just external threats that Ragen sees as a challenge. She has recently spoken out against the introduction of segregated buses in Jerusalem, in which women are forced to sit at the back, so they don't offend ultra-Orthodox sensibilities. 'If you have a situation where all of a sudden the private realm of religion starts dictating where you can sit on a bus, that's a challenge for the whole country, and that is something that needs to be dealt with no less than the military problems and the secular problems that we have', said Ragen, who labels herself modern-Orthodox." (Ragen: We're between hope and a hard place, 1/8/08)
Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel! What about where "the private realm of religion starts dictating" whether Palestinian refugees can return to their homes and lands? But that's Zionism for you: still crazy after all these years.