Saturday, October 6, 2012

Some Things Never Change

A heart-to-heart with Greek Orthodox priest, Abuna Isa, Mar Elias monastery, Bethlehem, Palestine 1936:

"'All this talk about holding the balance between Jew and Arab makes me sick,' went on Abuna Isa. 'Does the British Government think that all the rest of the world is possessed of the brains of children? I tell you, Duff Effendi, those wretched Jews are just as much victims of your Imperial grab-alls as are the Arabs. Do you think that we do not realise why Britain is going to such pains to keep her grasp on this country? We should be blind if we did not see how necessary Palestine is for your civil aircraft as well as for your Air Force, how much you need it as an Eastern Mediterranean naval base, or the reason for protecting your new oil pipe-line from Mosul to Haifa. We are not children; we can see how vital Palestine is as a defence for the Suez Canal, now that you are scuttling out of Egypt. Why cannot you English be honest and say boldly that what you captured by the sword you intend to keep by the same means, instead of treating us to a hypocritical display of make-believe righteousness?'

"Abuna Isa's remarks were not very far from the truth. In fact, they were so near the mark that no real reply was possible to this very astute superior of a remote monastery - at least none that would sound convincing. I did try to show him that in England there was a very large body of truly altruistic opinion - people who sincerely believed that their country was carrying out a great spiritual mission in the Holy Land. He smiled sarcastically, for, good worthy man, he could make no differentiation between the nation and the nation's professional politicians. The British Government signified British opinion to him, as it does to most of the rest of the world.

"'Do not your people elect their political leaders?' he asked sarcastically. 'If their policy is so utterly against public opinion, why do they allow them to remain in office?'

"Again, it was hopeless to explain to this worthy monk the underlying reasons, the lack of real education for the British masses, who are taught only the rudiments of the three 'R's' and given no training how to think of anything abstract, or how to argue logically or constructively. Their political opinions are generally fixed by their station or trade, and their viewpoint is precisely that of their favourite penny newspaper. What they see in print is invested with the same, or more, authority and veracity as the Scriptures. The power of vested interests they do not understand, any more than they realise that they are being forcibly led by the nose wherever their political bosses may choose to go." (Palestine Picture, Douglas Duff, 1936, pp 161-162)

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