Monday, March 20, 2017

Israel's 'All-Purpose Sage'

I'm almost at the point where I wish Jonathan Freedland's Guardian website would disappear behind a paywall, like Murdoch's Australian and Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald. Why? Because I suspect that any cash-strapped young people out there, sufficiently motivated to  read the news online, are probably heading to Guardian Australia and copping an overdose of soft pro-Israel propaganda there.

My gripe arises out of the latest Guardian promo for Yuval Noah Harari, Yuval Noah Harari: 'Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so by Andrew Anthony (19/3/17). Here, for example, is some of Anthony's PR paean to Harari (rudely interrupted by my interpolated comments):

"Now 41, Harari grew up in a secular Jewish family in Haifa. He studied history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and completed his doctorate at Oxford. He is a vegan and he meditates for two hours a day, often going to extended retreats. He says it helps him focus on the issues that really matter."

If I may interrupt here, can we all agree, perhaps, that if you are a sentient being, residing somewhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, Israeli or Palestinian, then the issue that really matters for you is the Palestine/Israel problem? Yes? Hold that thought...

"He lives with his husband on a moshav, an agricultural co-operative, outside Jerusalem. Being gay, he says, helped him to question received opinions."

Really? Received opinions about what, exactly?

"One of the pleasures of reading his books is that is that he continually calls on readers... to think about what we know... And he has little time for fashionable stances."

Such as...? This is all so infuriatingly vague.

"He writes and speaks like a man who is not excessively troubled by doubt. If that makes him sound arrogant..."

Well, doesn't that describes Netanyahu and his political mates, not to mention those who voted for him? In fact, doesn't it describe just about every Israeli bar the small handful, generally derided as leftists and Arab-lovers, working against Israeli occupation and apartheid? Rhetorical question: Has this staggering genius, Yuval Noah Harari, ever left his meditations long enough to join them?

"[I]t's tempting to see him less as a historian than as some kind of all-purpose sage."


"We asked public figures and readers to pose questions for Harari, and many of these were of a moral or ethical nature seeking answers about what should be done, rather than about what has happened."

OK, so did any of Anthony's "public figures and readers" ask the obvious question: What is your/the solution to the Palestine/Israel problem? Short answer: no. The closest a "reader", known only as AA (Andrew Anthony?), got to that question was this:

"You live in a part of the world that has been shaped by religious fictions. Which do you think will happen first - that Homo sapiens leave behind religious fiction or the Israel-Palestine conflict will be resolved?"

Now brace yourselves for the Sage's answer:

"As things look at present, it seems that Homo sapiens will disappear before the Israeli political conflict will be resolved."

But, O Sage, what should be done about the... er... "Israeli political conflict"?

"I think that Homo sapiens as we know them will probably disappear within a century or so, not destroyed by killer robots... but changed and upgraded with biotechnology and artificial intelligence into something different."

But, O Sage, if I may bring you back to earth, what should be done now about the "Israeli political conflict," as you call it?

"The timescale for that kind of change is maybe a century."

Listen, O Wise One, fuck this "century" business, what should be done NOW?!

"And it's quite likely that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not be resolved by that time. But it will definitely be influenced by it."

Oh well, at least the Palestinian side of the equation has made a reappearance!

So much for the sage who focuses on the issues that really matter, not to mention what should be done about them.

Next post: His Guardian spruiker, Andrew Anthony

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