Archive for the ‘Holocaust’ Category

The Invention of Jewish People, by Shlomo Sand.

29 June 2013
This book by Shlomo Sand was first published in Hebrew in the year 2008. Its English translation found the light of the day next year. I downloaded the English version of the book some months back when I had found its introduction fascinating. Yet, I had not started reading it immediately, because its length (343 pages) I found challenging. Today, I chanced upon it just 25 minutes ago and began reading it. I have already reached end of page 24. The introduction is over. It has been racy, and yet vividly full of confusing and confounding issues of nationalities and identity politics. How, he, the author -son of Shulek, the Lodz Communist of Jewish extraction, ends up marrying the daughter of Bernardo -the Barcelona Anarchist and a non Jew who lands in Israel only to have both his nationality and religion stamped as “Catalan” because the modern Jewish state won’t recognise an “atheist”; befriends two Mahmoud -one the elevator installer and the other who became a Palestinians’ national poet; and teaches History in Hebrew to two young girls Gisèle and Larissa – in Paris and Tel Aviv; makes an unputdownable narrative of Arabian Nights’ pedigree. But at the core of it all, it promises to bring into sharp relief all the “resolutely cultivated” and “violently defended” notions of Race, Religion, Origin, Nationality, Geopolitics, and prior claims over parts of Earth. Though this history would mostly revolve around the most fractious conflict in modern times, the Jews-Palestinians issue, it would shine its stark, uncompromising light on all such conflicts around the world. That is its promise made clear through this quote.

“A Nation … is a group of persons united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbors”.

 —Karl Deutsch, Nationality and Its Alternatives, 1969.
There is this moving paragraph and a poem, which I cannot resist inserting, before I end.
“During the fighting in the Holy City, Mahmoud was manacled and taken to prison through the streets of Haifa. The soldier saw him after his release. They passed a sleepless, drunken night immersed in the fumes of alcohol beside windows made dim by cigarette smoke. The poet tried to persuade his young admirer to remain and resist, rather than flee to alien cities and abandon their common homeland. The soldier poured out his despair, his revulsion with the general air of triumphalism, his alienation from the soil on which he had shed innocent blood. At the end of the night, he vomited his guts out. At midday, the poet woke him with a translation of a poem he had written at first light, “A Soldier Dreaming of White Lilies”:
       as he told me
that home
is drinking his mother’s coffee
and coming back safely at evening.
I asked him:
      and the land?
He said:
      I don’t know it
In 1968, a Palestinian poem about an Israeli soldier capable of feeling remorse for his violence and for having lost his head in battle, of feeling guilty about taking part in a conquest of the land of others, was perceived by the Arab world as a betrayal—surely such Israeli soldiers did not exist. The Haifa poet was roundly chastised, even accused of cultural collaboration with the Zionist enemy. But this did not last. His prestige continued to grow, and he soon became a symbol of the proud resistance of the Palestinians in Israel”.