Wednesday, August 26, 2009

West's Wild East 5

Continued from the previous post...

This will be my final post on Morris West's The Tower of Babel, the preferred in-flight reading of The Australian's foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan as he wings his way from the lucky to the plucky country. Babel, described by Sheridan as a "ripping good read," is an invaluable compendium of 60's/70's Ziobabble - the kind that still resonates with him and makes his columns on the subject of Israel such ripping good rants.

Having introduced you to West's awful 'Arabs' and awesome 'Israelis', it's now time to reveal where all this is heading - to the Zionist myth of Masada, which is to say the Zionist appropriation of the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70 CE), and (to paraphrase Israeli historian Idith Zertal's Israel's Holocaust & the Politics of Nationhood, 2005, pp 30-31) the cloaking of the 1st century Jewish rebels in the mantle of Zionism and their transformation into Palmach fighters as a foil to the scorned alleged passivity of the leaders of European Jewry and their people in the face of Nazi slaughter:-

It is January 1967. Israel's military brass are playing their annual war games in the Negev Desert: "The real objective [of Operation Maccabee] was the pass of Abu Agheila, key to the Sinai Desert, where in the campaign of 1956, Israel had suffered grievous losses... If the Sinai campaign had to be fought all over again - and every threatening pointer said that it would - Abu Agheila would have to be retaken." (p 335) The Israelis have got to get Abu Agheila right next time around because the consequences of not doing so are dire: "In Israel every life was precious, because, without men, the desert would creep back and eat up the pastures and wither the pine trees and fill the cisterns with sand." IOW, Operation Maccabee was "a rehearsal for survival." Think about it: "two and a half million, camped in a narrow perimeter, beset, outnumbered by tens of millions, a child country, matched against giants terrible in their armour." (p 335)

As you would, Jakov and Chaim decide to undertake a "sentimental journey" by helicopter to Masada during their lunch break. "As they banked and began their spiral around the great plateau, they fell silent, awed by the monstrous majesty of the place, familiar yet terrible, sacred, glorious and full of bloody memories." (p 336) West parades before us, in turn, Herod the Great, the Parthians, Titus, Eliezer ben Yair and his Zealots, and Flavius Silva.

Understandably, Jakov has a sudden access of spine-stiffening Masada Syndrome: "[T]his was a symbol of Israel itself - walled in by [Arab League] boycott and blockade and belligerent rivals. They would never starve her into submission but they could and did reduce her, bleeding her capital into arms, cutting the life-lines of her trade, blackmailing those who wished to do business with her. But she still held out - as the thousand on Masada had held out for 3 years against the 10,000 Romans." (p 357)

And then, having touched down, these two Zionist warriors out of central casting, Jakov and Chaim, become "twins drawn back into the womb of the same folk-memory" - from which comes the voice of Eliezar ben Yair himself: "Let us die then, before we become slaves under our enemies..."

Israel's raison d'etre is revealed at last:"The Chief of Staff thrust his hand into the pocket of his tunic and brought up a small shard of pottery, inscribed with a Hebrew character. He smiled and held it out to Jakov Baratz. Baratz nodded and brought out another one to match it... They were the personal tokens of the Zealots of Masada, used for the drawing of rations, and perhaps for the last fratricidal lottery on the mountain-top. They were the last answer to the last question. The symbols inscribed on them were the only words that made sense in the Babel tower of politics and legalities and family quarrels, and split loyalties. Sooner or later, believing or unbelieving, every man had to find one inch of soil* on which he would stand and defy the world. Sooner or later, he had to say: 'This is all I know. It is not enough; but so be it.' Sooner or later, prophet or mountebank, he had to take his own small shard of truth in his hands, write his name on it and toss it into the bowl, prepared to live or die by the draw. 'Full circle', said Jakov Baratz. 'Twenty years and we're here again' 'Do you remember the words, Jakov?' 'I remember them'. They clasped hands, pressing the potsherds into their palms and recited the old oath of the Haganah and their own covenant with the new Israel. 'Masada shall not fall again'." (pp 339-340) [*Err, shouldn't that be someone else's soil? And lo, "it" wasn't nearly enough, Israel going on in June to take and occupy the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Syria's Golan Heights, and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.]

And here's the same propaganda trope passed from Ephraim Sneh to Sheridan: "Apart from the overwhelming experience of visiting the Yad Vashem museum recalling the Holocaust, the most powerful image I saw in Israel was in a small office in the Knesset (parliament) building in Jerusalem. I had gone to see Ephraim Sneh, a white-haired veteran Labour Party politician and soldier, a former cabinet minister and a former general. He points to a picture on the back wall of his office. It is of 2 Israeli F-15 fighters flying over Auschwitz. 'When we didn't have F-15s, we had Auschwitz', he says. His grandparents, he tells me, were killed by the Polish farmers they had paid to shelter them. You learn the lessons of trusting other people with your security. Israel will certainly make compromises. But it will not commit suicide." (Deep inside the plucky country, The Australian, 19/1/08)

Of course, this was no blinding insight for Sheridan - he'd picked it up decades before from his mentor on the Middle East, Morris West. This, folks, is the raw material for Sheridan's 'quality' journalism.

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