Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Israel's Legitimacy

On April 29, 1956, a group of Palestinians from Gaza crossed the border to plunder the harvest in the Nahal Oz kibbutz's fields; Roi, a young Jewish member of the kibbutz who patrolled the fields galloped towards them on his horse brandishing a stick to chase them away; he was seized by the Palestinians and carried back to the Gaza Strip. When the UN returned his body to the Israelis, his eyes had been gouged out. Moshe Dayan, the then Israeli Chief of Staff, delivered the eulogy at his funeral the following day:

Let us not cast blame on the murderers today. What claim do we have against their mortal hatred of us? They have lived in the refugee camp of Gaza for the past eight years, while right before their eyes we have transformed the land and the villages where they and their ancestors once lived into our own inheritance.

It is not among the Arabs of Gaza but in our own midst that we must seek Roi's blood. How have we shut our eyes and refused to look squarely at our fate and see the destiny of our generation in all its brutality? Have we forgotten that this group of young people living in Nahal Oz bears the burden of Gaza's gates on its shoulders?

Apart from the parallel between Roi and the blinded Samson (which plays a key role in the later mythology of the Israeli Defense Force), what cannot but strike one is the apparent non sequitur, the gap, between the first and the second paragraph: in the first paragraph, Dayan openly admits that the Palestinians have every right to hate the Israeli Jews, since they had taken their land; his conclusion, however, is not the obvious admission of guilt, but rather the need for a full acceptance of "the destiny of our generation in all its brutality," or, in other words, the assumption of the burden - not of guilt, but of the war in which might is right, in which the stronger force wins. The war was not about principles or justice, it was an exercise in "mythic violence" - an insight totally obliterated by recent Israeli self-legitimization.

Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times

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