Jan 18, 2024
October 19, 2023 – from Jean-Marie’s diary
Israel-Palestine: IT TAKES TWO TO HOPE
Twelve days after the breach of Israel’s invulnerability, I am still learning further about the massacre of more than a thousand Jewish citizens by the Hamas and the capture of more than one hundred Jewish hostages. I am reading about the horrible death of Bilha and Yakovi Inon, burned alive that day, in their wooden house, next to the isolation wall encircling Gaza.
Yakovi was a retired entrepreneur with a powerful sense of “the social”. For example, he created three hotels where guests, tourists or not, were exposed to the realities of his country: the daily reality of Jews and that of Palestinians. A few days earlier, Maoz, their son, had asked Yakovi what the best way to eliminate the Hamas would be. He gave a very succinct and clear answer: “… the only way to eliminate the Hamas is to give hope! … Really, the only effective weapon we have is hope … based on the principle of a shared territory, a shared society …”.
Somewhere else, in the article where I found the present material*, Yakovi told the journalist who was questioning him: “… I feel you think I am naive. But I am not naive, even if I believe in the power of optimism. The real naiveté is to think that anything can be resolved by war.”
As a cerebral, practicing artist, informed and inspired by this glimmer of HOPE in the deep gloom of extreme violence, a phrase formed in my mind, summarizing, enlightening, making obvious that, if hope there was, it would take both parties to look forward together. It would take them two to hope. Meaning that there was still one possible way to achieve livable conditions for Jews and Palestinians: to negotiate common principles of social, economical, political equity, defined as the unrestricted access to everything it takes to live in peace, together, as neighbors can, in a diverse society, on a shared, geographically limited territory. Listening to Yakovi, trusting his wisdom proved to be my ticket to hope. Yakovi was right: IT TAKES TWO TO HOPE. As a matter of fact, reversely, can solitude also be a major source of despair and despair one of isolation? Quid?
I understand that, for art, to be relevant, its makers must be of the world, aware, eager to update and contextualize their knowledge. Not zealots, proselytes, opinionators. In this essay, although I deliberately use the first-person pronoun to engage my own knowledge, I also choose sources which overcome my own limitations. I choose Yakovi’s experience, tragic as it is.
I also choose an unavoidable source of wisdom, philosophical and political – wherever the Palestine-Israel situation is on the table: Hannah Arendt. Her undeniable knowledge has been conspicuously silenced in the present debate although “the Origins of Totalitarianism” and “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, are so fully relevant. As a political thinker, Hannah Arendt knows the centrality of political thinking as a tool for approaching the “existential effervescence”** of the daily life of common people.
I am, still today, struck by Arendt’s integrity and integrality, her principled stands, the depth, the wholeness of her research, in philosophy, in history, in political thinking. Concerning directly the present Israel-Palestine conflict, I am still thankful for her phrase “the banality of evil”, and how she comments, somewhere else: “evil is not radical. It is extreme” … Richard J Bernstein, who taught at the New School as she had earlier, elaborates: “evil is not a fault deeply rooted in humans; it rather is like a fungus, it spreads on the surface, extremely rapidly.” To me, this says that Arendt does not see, in the human species, a core deficiency, an original sin of sorts, which would predestine us all to extreme violence. What a difference this represents with any contemporary forms of fundamentalism and their condemnation of Others!
In 1948, date of the now called ‘First Nakba’, Hannah Arendt wrote, (an exact quote): “there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as Arabs and Jews do not sit down and negotiate together.” Prescient, wise Hannah Arendt: she had HOPE.
There is an other quote I cannot miss to note here: “No one has the right to obey”. This one has to do with keeping one’s humanity and respecting that of Others. Meaning, to me, that as an intelligent being, I must use my discernment first, check my values, when given and asked to follow any order. Order to do something I may consider from dubious to unconscionable. For Arendt, I believe, this was in reference to Eichmann’s obedience when ordered to proceed with the extermination of Jews. He was a banal man and his evil – following orders, from whatever source – after all, was banal.
Indeed, mysterious, ominous, these words … “No one has the right to obey”. “Niemand hat das Recht zu gehorchen” … They resonate like a gun shot penetrating the soft flesh of a victim, hostage, or refugee.
I am an artist. An in/with community artist. One who tries to model his artistic language along that of the people he works with. Today, I have a chance to model my artistic language around the word HOPE. It evokes dialogue, equity, access and why not beauty***? … Sorry about the beauty part … and the moral content. But, there is more to beauty than fleeting pleasure – there is transformation. There is more to morals that rectitude – there is integrity. So here is my daily redundancy:
As an in/with community artist, today, I have a chance to model my artistic language around these words: beauty, equity, access, integrity, dialogue and hope … What about you, and you, and you? ______________________
However long it took me to write this piece does not matter. What matters is that, so far, I have managed not to name or quote a single Palestinian person, or victim. I am not blind. I am informed. But this huge miss, unfortunately, may well represent a mirror reflexion of how the Israel-Palestine conflict is mostly portrayed in the Western media. This deliberately asymmetrical war translates into scandalously asymmetrical reporting. Have I fallen for it? Then I ask myself: is it actually possible at all to, symmetrically, react to and report on an asymmetrical situation, without first establishing solid premises, historical, ethical, contextual and otherwise? My HOPE is that quoting Yakovi Inon along with Hannah Arendt for their insight gives me enough space, enough legitimacy, enough credit, to evoke Mahmoud Darwich – an ever living voice for Palestine, whose poetry, if it does not succeed to convey, of any past, any present and any future Palestinian the full force of their humanity, will transform my sweet cries from reading his poems into tears as bitter as death itself. Unfortunately, I have not read Darwich in Arabic. And only his prose poetry is in French. So, let me offer you some of the very last sentences of his “Chroniques de la tristesse ordinaire” – Journal of an Ordinary Grief: “… those who made a refugee of me, now, they have made a bomb of me. Period. …. I know that I am going to die …. Palestine is not a land anymore, honorable judges. It has morphed into bits of flesh. They are coming back to life! Now, they are processioning on the highways of the World, singing the song of death ….” (my translation).
May this invite you all to encounter Mahmoud Darwich further!
* in Mediapart – 10-19-2023
** Existential effervescence – how Mita Munesake qualifies social relationships in a consumption society, renamed by him a consummation society.
*** Beauty – a controversial word for artists. Here illuminated by the meanings it takes with Cannupa Hanska Luger, native American artist from New Mexico who says: “What makes an artist is the beauty of his/her life”.