Monday, August 24, 2009

Bulli the Bully

A vignette on The Blindness of the Israeli Intellectual Left:

During one of our supper conversations in the university refectory, the subject turned to Israel’s impending disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Yehoshua, whose sympathies are robustly on the left and who tends to identify with those whom he regards as underdogs, a.k.a. the Palestinians, could not contain his enthusiasm for the process, making light of my skepticism. The great man knew. All would be well. It had to be. The Palestinians would recognize Israel’s readiness to endure sacrifices, would surely be grateful for the greenhouses and infrastructure left behind to promote their nascent economy, and would respond in good faith to this new and impressive initiative.

“David, my boy,” he boomed in that passionate, basilican voice made to persuade even in the absence of logic or reason, “next year you will be my guest in Israel and we will go together for coffee and hummus in Gaza City.” “Bulli,” I replied, using the nickname permitted among friends, “next year we will be lucky to have coffee and hummus in Haifa.” And the following year, almost to the day, not only was Israel coming under rocket and mortar attack from Gaza, but Haifa itself was ablaze under Hezbollah missile fire, its citizens, far from relaxing over coffee and hummus in peaceful outdoor caf├ęs, sweltering in makeshift bomb shelters.


And a conclusion:

...one of the distinguishing features of the left — and especially the Jewish left — is that it is immune to the lessons of experience. There seems to be no real awareness of the Islamic intention to turn the ancient Jewish homeland into a kind of territorial palimpsest overlaid by Arab culture, like those original Hebrew texts, fragments of prayer books and medieval Hebrew codices, that have been largely erased and written over by Arabic texts. This is the political fate that reprobate Israeli writers and journalists are busily tempting. But one would have hoped that Yehoshua, perhaps Israel’s most brilliant writer, was capable of finally understanding what he and his countrymen are up against.

As reported in Palestinian Media Watch for April 30, 2009, Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub has eloquently explained the Arab point of view: “If the Jews left Palestine, would we start loving them? Of course not. …They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing.” Has Yehoshua paid attention? Apparently not. He continues to believe in “the road to peace,” despite the “ordeals” along the way, with an enemy that will never relent in its efforts to eradicate the Jewish state from the face of the earth.

We must respect him for his consistency if not for his acuity. At the same time, we recall what Emerson said about consistency, whose virtues are sometimes overpraised. As for myself, I am wondering whether, two to five years from now, A.B. Yehoshua will be able to enjoy coffee and hummus anywhere in Israel at all.


That was David Solway,



Canadian poet and essayist and author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity who is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon.

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