Udi Aloni replies to Noa on Gaza fanaticism: cites Masada

"Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under seige in Masada, you could get a better sense of what's happening in Gaza" - Udi Aloni

Some time ago I had set aside a blank, unpublished entry on this blog's admin page with this working title:
"Can someone please direct me to the Israeli refugee camp?"

I never completed the post.

I probably thought it sounded a bit too snide, even for me at my angriest, as I was then and remain now, anguishing over the never-ending insanity and horror of the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East, specifically in Gaza right now. But ultimately this cancer festers almost everywhere else in this world, as relations between peoples have increasingly putrefied because of the mess which resulted from the manner in which the state of Israel was created.

So, since some of my friends may already be staying clear of me in my absorption in the events of the past weeks, and since I wasn't prepared to assemble a long narrative on the origins of the conflict to substantiate what some might describe as my more provocative statements in this medium on the subject, I was almost totally relieved and very excited to get an email this morning which included a link to the text of an exceptional statement by an Israeli-American artist and activist I have met and whose work I have admired for years. The text of its sender's public letter manages to provide the perspective I didn't, and mercifully without the history lecture I would have delivered.

The film director, writer, visual artist and activist Udi Aloni answers a letter written by Israeli singer Noa [Achinoam Nini] and addressed to Palestinians in the Gaza strip and worldwide in which she called upon them to disavow fanaticism:

Dear Achinoam Nini,

I chose to answer you, and not the entire raging Right, because I believe that the betrayal of the peace camp, at this of all times, exceeds the damage caused by the Right a thousand fold. The ease with which the peace camp gives itself over to the roars of war hinders the creation of a meaningful movement that could [sic] a true resistance to occupation.

You roll your eyes, use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel – that for over 60 years, has been occupying and humiliating them. "I know where your heart is! It is just where mine is, with my children, with the earth, with the heavens, with music, with HOPE!!" you write; but Achinoam, we took their land and imprisoned them in the ghetto called Gaza.

We have covered their skies with fighter jets, soaring like the angels from hell and scattering random death. What hope are you talking about? We destroyed any chance for moderation and mutual life the moment we plundered their land while sitting with them at the negotiation table. We may have spoken of peace, but we were robbing them blind. They wanted the land given to them by international law, and we spoke in the name of Jehovah.

Who are the secular people of Gaza supposed to turn to, when we trample on international law, and when the rest of the enlightened world ignores their cry? When enlightenment fails and moderation is seen as a weakness, religious fanaticism gives a sense of empowerment. Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under siege in Masada, you could get a better sense of what’s happening in Gaza.

The seculars in Gaza find it hard to speak against Hamas when their ghetto is being bombarded all day and all night. You would probably say that 'we would not need to shell them if they held their fire,' but they fire because they are fighting for more that the right to live in the prison called Gaza. They are fighting for the right to live as free citizens in an independent country – just as we do.

"I know that deep in your hearts YOU WISH for the demise of this beast called Hamas who has terrorized and murdered you, who has turned Gaza into a trash heap of poverty, disease and misery," you write. But Hamas is not the monster, my dear Achinoam. It is the monster's son.

The Israeli occupation is the monster. It and only it is responsible for the poverty and the sickness and the horror. We were so frightened of their secular leadership, which undermined our fantasy of the Land of Israel, that we chose to fund and support Hamas, hoping that by a policy of divide and conquer were could go on with the occupation forever; but when the tables have turned, you choose to blame the effect instead of the cause.

You write, "I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. And that these killers will find what little compassion may still exist in their hearts and STOP using you and your children as human shields for their cowardice and crimes." It is the same as if your Palestinian sister would write: "Let us hope that Hamas does the job for you, and rids you of the Jewish Right."

So maybe, instead of ordering around a people whose every glimmer of hope we have surgically eliminated, you could help your brothers and sisters in Palestine rid themselves of the occupation, oppression and the arrogant colonialism inflicted by your country. Only then can you urge them to fight democratically and return Palestine to the mental state it was in before we pushed it into the corner of the wall that we built.

And if your brethren in Palestine choose Hamas, you have to respect their choice, just as the world's nations respected Israel when it chose the murderous (Ariel) Sharon. Hamas is theirs to fight, just like you fought him. That is what democracy is about. Only then can you and your brethren in both Palestine and Israel share – as equals – the joy of the land, the sky and the music; only then can we fight for equality together, for every man and woman living living in our holy land. Amen.

ADDENDUM: "What if it was San Diego and Tijuana instead?", an analogy which might be helpful to Americans who know nothing beyond the latest headlines, written by Randall Kuhn and published Wednesday in, yes, The Washington Times.

[image of 1730 French print depicting the siege and capture of Masada from preteristarchive]

Bravo Dearest Udi,

I have been screening your film from 2002, "The Local Angel" for my students and have got a lot of shit for your truthfulness in telling the story of this region from a peace loving Israeli position. North America needs to see the reality. Keep spreading the words of peace, we need it more than ever. People seem to be getting tired of the religious right, be it Christian, Jewish or Islam.

many thanks,