Friday, December 27, 2013

Ohana's Jousting Or, A Knight in Dulled Armor

David Ohana, using an academic's trick, rehashes a six-year old article.  In Haaretz, he publishes this:

High on a hilltop: Are the settlers modern day crusaders?The Jewish settlement project in the West Bank poses a danger to the Zionist project.

Ohana is a professor who teaches history at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva and the author, amongst other books, of “The Origins of Israeli Mythology” published by Cambridge University Press which is described so (perceived errors of syntax by me left in place):-

We claim that Zionism as a meta-narrative has been formed through contradiction to two alternative models, the Canaanite and crusader narratives. These narratives are the most daring and heretical assaults on Israeli-Jewish identity, which is umbilically connected to Zionism. The Israelis, according to the Canaanite narrative, are from this place and belong only here; according to the crusader narrative, they are from another place and belong there. On the one hand, the mythological construction of Zionism as a modern crusade describes Israel as a Western colonial enterprise planted in the heart of the East and alien to the area, its logic, and its peoples, whose end must be degeneration and defeat. On the other hand, the nativist construction of Israel as neo-Canaanism, which defined the nation in purely geographical terms as an imagined native community, demands breaking away from the chain of historical continuity. Those are the two greatest anxieties that Zionism and Israel needed to encounter and answer forcefully. The Origins of Israeli Mythology seeks to examine the intellectual archaeology of Israeli mythology, as it reveals itself through the Canaanite and crusader narratives.

To the point, Ohana writes:

The second challenge to Zionism emanated from Arab historians and statesmen. Beginning from Israel’s War of Independence, they drew a parallel between the Crusaders and Zionism, between the Christian colonialism of the Middle Ages and Jewish nationalism in the 20th century. From their perspective, Zionism as a colonialist movement encouraged European settlers of Jewish descent to seize control of lands that were already settled by native Palestinians...The Zionist-Crusader analogy documents (or imagines) conquerors coming from Europe in the belief that the land has been promised to them, but who eventually will yield to the logic of the place and, defeated, disappear back to their countries of origin. 

That belief of a disappearance or eventual withering or a defeat of the Zionist enterprise is what is relevant.  But Ohana upgrades this perception, writing

The settlement of about one-tenth of Israel’s Jewish citizens over the Green Line is liable to change the character of the State of Israel...we have been witness to nothing less than a mutation that is distorting the essence of the Zionist ideology, the intention of its progenitors and the deeds of the first Israelis. Borrowing a concept from the natural sciences, we can say metaphorically – not biologically – that what we have here is a genetic code, and there are mutations in the generational transference.

This use of genetics is, of course, not racial although I think if I used the terminology I would be branded as a racist.

What's bothering Ohana?

The occupation and the settlement enterprise are eating into the potential neighboring state and barely leaving it territorial space – that is, a possible basis for the establishment of a normal sovereign state. In this way, even if a lean, noncontiguous Palestinian protectorate is established in the future, its irredentist demands (for the return of sovereignty over territories across the border) will obviate its normality – it will resemble a volcano that is about to erupt at any moment.

Well, in the first place, since Israel has been trying to get the Pals. to set up that state, and the failure lies in the Arab outlook that Israel should not exist, are we nevertheless knights in shining armor?  A la Ohana, we "Crusaders" could be jousting ourselves out of a homeland.

He then proceeds to noisely clang:

The Canaanite character of the settlements across the Green Line was apparent from the very first settlement, Kfar Etzion...From being a symbol of the longings of the members of Kfar Etzion, who were forced to abandon their home in the wake of the War of Independence, the tree became a ritualized fetish....In 1967...the space around the tree became a neo-Canaanite center of worship...[and] the Canaanite names Gush Emunim chose for its settlements, such as Kiryat Arba, Elon Moreh, Kedumim and Karnei Shomron...[as a symbol of] the settlers’ Canaanite character in preferring the Land of Israel over the Torah of Israel and the State of Israel...

In another section Ohana really dirties his armor:

...But the settlers are not only neo-Canaanites. They are also a type of Jewish Crusader...The settlers imagine themselves as potential refugees, if the territories are returned. That is a cheapening of the term “refugee.” The 7,000 or so settlers who were evacuated from the Gaza Strip in 2006 are not refugees, but still Israeli citizens who moved from place to place. The settlers, like the Crusaders, settled on the hilltops...They do not cling to the land and to farming, but to fortresses and citadels...With their religious colonialism, the settlers are bent on liberating holy tombs in Nablus, Hebron and Bethlehem, which were taken over by foreigners, just as Pope Urban II called for the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre...

And the Arabs who became "refugees", many needing only two years residency for this qualification, were Jordanian citizens.  So what?  This is deep academic thinking?


No comments: