It's in the stars. These two were made for each other.
Ari Shavit meets Geraldine Doogue on Saturday Extra, Radio National, 24/5/14:
You may remember a few weeks ago I was in Israel and I have to say that the trip really opened my eyes to a lot of the complexities and nuances of that country and its relationships with neighbouring Palestine...
Eyes opened, eh?
Where Palestine/Israel is concerned, those whose eyes are open see bullies lording it over their victims. Doogue, on the other hand, sees only complexities and nuances.
Where Palestine/Israel is concerned, those whose eyes are open see an occupier and an occupied. Doogue, on the other hand, sees only neighbours.
... and I was also made aware of the extraordinary level of public conversations within Israel about the nature of itself and where it's heading...
Here we go again: two Jews, three opinions.
... so it's with great pleasure that I welcome to Saturday Extra Ari Shavit... He's a very well-respected Israeli journalist and columnist with the Haaretz newspaper and he's in Sydney for the Writers' Festival, discussing his book, 'My Promised Land: The Triumph & Tragedy of Israel', which has been attracting a great deal of attention and debate.
Yeah... especially from the ABC.
I must say that I do feel that you write both about the hybrid and expansive history of the Israeli state...
The hybrid history of Israel? A Jewish state is hybrid?
Expansive? Surely she means 'expanding'?
... and your own family history and I'm going to try and tease this out, and about this identity crisis which I detected while I was there... You write a lot about your great grandfather who went to the Holy Land from Britain in 1897. Now what vision did he have for Israel?
Oh yes, Herbert Bentwich.
Well, I think that what drove him there, like the early founders of Zionism, was the sense that Europe is becoming very dangerous to Jews and that some radical action must be taken in order to save them from the wrath and rage of Europe. So before they had the real dream or plan of what they're building they had a necessity because the feeling that after a millennium of ongoing persecution of Jews something actually new and vicious was about to happen so that you don't quite know there'll be a holocaust, but they expected some catastrophe for the Jews, especially of eastern Europe. So Israel was actually a life-saving project. It was the idea that we must do something radical in order to save the Jews from this new kind of hate and...
Oh, so great gramps, while happily lawyering away in England, inexplicably feels a Holocaust coming on, and so high-tails it to... Palestine?
C'mon Ari, you're laying it on a bit thick here, aren't you?
I think perhaps great gramps' son, grand uncle Norman Bentwich, although also off with the Zionist pixies, would have more of handle on this business than you. After all, Herb was his old man.
Now Norman, in his 1934 book, Palestine, alludes to "the recrudescence... in Russia of medieval barbarism." That is, the anti-Jewish pogroms which saw some two-and-a-half-million Jews leave Russia, mainly for the US, between 1880 and 1914. Some, he notes - those bitten by the Zionist bug - went to Palestine, seeing it not so much as your touted "life-saving project" but as an exercise in Jewish empowerment. To quote him:
"Zionism was, in its deeper aspect, a struggle for self expression, for making the Jew master of his destiny, an attempt to give the Jewish genius and aspirations the outlet which circumstances had denied them for some two thousand years... Palestine was to be the spiritual centre, as well as the National Home of the Jewish people, the local habitation where the Jewish spirit, warped by perpetual conflict with its environment, could freely expand. Most Jews would not, and could not, come to Palestine and live there. They would remain citizens in their own countries. But the renaissance in Palestine would have a profound meaning for them. It would revive and give a fresh meaning to their Judaism, and bring back the religion into contact with life, rouse the self-respect of the Jew and quicken his inward life... The Jew would renew contact with nature and the historic landscape of his people and would be inspired to fresh creativeness by the land and the spirits of his past... At the Conference of Paris, which followed the World War, representatives of the Jews, admitted as spokesmen of a nationality, asked that their claim to return to their historic home might be granted, in order that they should make Palestine again a fruitful land and a centre of civilization and that 'the Jews should take an honourable place in the new community of nations'." (pp 70-72)
You might want to read that again, Ari, OK?
... following that... Israel is quite remarkable because the one problem these Zionists had was was that they were too late, that they'd save some Jews but were too late to save millions of others who perished 40 or 50 years after they launched their daring project.
Ari... Ari... enough already, OK? You're making it up as you go along. Touch base with grand uncle Norman, OK?
Then came gradually the vision...
Ah, the vision thing: mine, all mine!
... and, I think, they definitely wanted to create a utopian, just entity that will be a unique political entity. They had a kind of biblical romanticism. On the one hand they wanted to bring back the beauty of the ancient land of Israel, on the other they had different social justice ideas.
Bullshit! They built Tel Aviv FFS. C'mon, Ari, cut the crap...
Most of them, like my own great grandfather, were socialists, so their dream was a socialist paradise... Others had more liberal ideas like my great grandfather...
Will the real great gramps please stand up? Listen up, Ari: the real Jewish socialists of the time stuck around in Europe and tried to make it a better place - for everyone. Zionists are fundamentally nationalists, in it for the tribe. I suggest you read my 1/10/09 post Jewish Exceptionalism.
... and in this sense they tried to combine something that was just and would save our people while trying to create something that will be unique and especially just, and that of course ran into a harsh reality in the land.
Good God, man, I thought you'd never get there.
To be continued...