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Scholar David Shulman on the Gaza Bombings


July 2014
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“Sound of silence” was sung by simon & garfunkel back in 1964. Whenever the song fills the air, a sense of serene and tranquility is imparted upon its listener although its lyrics talk about sadness. this ‘silence’ sung by the nightingale duo, is far from the deafening silence that the world is displaying on the Israeli palestinian tit-for-tat following the recent murders of 3 Israeli boys and the revenge killing of a Palestinian boy.

Professor shulman’s account of the death of one of his students struck an involuntary memory in my own mind of another Arab boy, whom I had in one of my French classes. a straight-A student, whose name I will not easily forget, not because he was smart as a whip, but because of the sad story he told the class the day I asked him, and all the other students: “d’ou venez-vous?” (Where do you come from?) followed by “Pourquoi est-ce que vous etes venu aux etats unis?” ( why did you come to the US?).

This is how we marry new vocabulary of nationalities with new verb conjugations in class. Students are eager to use the French language to tell others about their country and identity. And since my class is always multi cultural with lots of students either first generation-whatever-their-nationality or born here, it is always fun learning about the origins. We don’t only learn about the French and francophone worlds, but often enough about countries we have never had to wonder about, like Palestine.

these lessons give students (and us, professors), a platform on which to use/speak french, and by the end of the semester we know a good deal more about human geographies than we’d know otherwise. But this day the sound of silence uttered by my Palestinian student had a weighty sadness compared to his camarades de classe, who laughingly told the class why they were here.

This 18 or 19 year old student had been immediately sent to the US a few years prior following his brother’s murder: the brother was gunned down by Israeli police on the streets for not having ID right before my student’s young eyes.

In restless dream he walked alone
narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘neath the halo of a street lamp,
he turned his collar to the cold and damp
when his eyes were stabbed by the flash of a bullet light
that split the day
and touched the sound of silence!

the other students gasped in loud disbelief as the sound of his words trapped in silence struggled to find their way out of his memory and into the classroom.

His story finds an echo in Joachim prinz’ words: “…the most important thing that I learned in my life is that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. the most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence.”

Not the student’s silence nor his parents’ who sent him here for a safe life. But the silence of the world while this kid and his brother’s silence (and others’) is punctuated by sirens, rockets, explosions, and death. The tragic problem is the silence of the world which has put blinders on. The world which has become deaf because it prefers not to hear about the reality of the situation; the world hearing without listening, and not daring to disturb the sound of silence. A world too heavily drugged by propaganda and news spreaded by the powerful with deep convictions that all Muslims are bad. This silence of the human herd which has become the drug that keeps them pacified while hatred rages on between Palestine and israel, like a cancerous cell. The growth of this silence by watchers-by whose minds continue to be detonators of xenophobia, bigotry and senseless killing on both sides of the strip.

And when I see this cancerous silence broken with “there won’t be peace in the region until the palestinian’s love for their children is greater than their hatred of israel” I then wonder which is preferable:
Silence or speech?

I wonder what such people would say if they learned that Palestinians do love their children as much as any other country, much like this family forced to send their young son so he may live to be loved longer by his parents who fear that he may be shot down because of his identity or because he isn’t able to tell adult police his name; whose story that day filled the air of my classroom with more silence.

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

The following is a report from the indefatigable Prof David Shulman, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prof Shulman works on the history of religion in South India and poetry and poetics in Tamil, Telegu and Sanskrit. David Shulman writes as protests inside Israel increase, as do right-wing attacks on the protestors. This report has been circulated by Prof Louise Bethlehem of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Jews demonstrate in New York Against Bombings Jews demonstrate in New York Against Bombings

July 12, 2014 Umm al-Ara’is, Susya, Bi’r al-‘Id, Ma’asara

Business as usual in the South Hebron hills. There’s a war on in Gaza, but that too is business as usual, the meaningless biannual ritual in which both sides gleefully smash one another before reverting to the status quo ante. The Israeli media are drowning us in words, a vast and raucous flood, and the government is putting out its familiar, mendacious statements; perhaps in…

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  1. rhettlowe says:

    Everywhere we look in “the Middle East” we see the incalculable human suffering brought about by the marriage of politics and monotheism. In survey after survey, a clear majority of both Israelis and Palestinians favor a permanent peace settlement with two nations, one Israeli and one Palestinian, living side by side; the so-called “two-state solution.” The prospective borders for this hypothetical arrangement have even been agreed on. Now, the question is this: if a majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace and agree in principle on a plan that would ensure it, why has there been no such agreement? The answer is that religious extremists on both sides refuse to compromise. In Palestine, Hamas and their allies have made clear their intention to erase “the Zionist state” from the map and push the Jews into the Mediterranean. The Hamas charter reads like a Nazi diatribe. In Israel, the extreme right-wing religious fundamentalists are increasingly controlling the agenda of the ruling Likud Party. Their ambition is a 100% (conservative) Jewish state encompassing all of mandate Palestine. Arabs and Muslims have no place in this Greater Israel and many on the extreme Israeli right accept the use of violence as a means of realizing this goal. In short, the religious fanatics and fundamentalists on both sides have effectively obtained veto power over any peace deal. Again and again, a permanent peace deal has seemed so close only to be sabotaged by those who believe that they are doing the will of God. Remember that when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, who brought his country closer to peace than any leader before or since, was assassinated, it was not by a Muslim, but by an Israeli Jewish extremist with a fanatical hatred of Muslims. We may hope for and work for the final goal of peace but it is difficult to be optimistic when one surveys the political landscape in this part of the world and the increasing power of those who believe that, since they are doing God’s will, absolutely nothing is forbidden them.

    • You’re right and absolutely so! I’d forgotten that religion is the bloodline in such places. Opium of -not only the masses- but everyone else, incl outsiders. Outsiders support I mean. Religion aside, some outsiders fly to israel even when el al has been barred from entering israel. But that’s another religion using its force: equally strong & powerful; it’s called money. When one is no longer mayor of ny, one can damn well fly when and where he wants in support of israel! So yes! powerful forces like religion and power can effectively make this war go on forever. But an eye for eye only makes the world blind ( says another two-state solution man-Gandhi). And those with eyes that supposedly see, see red, not peace or peaceful resolution.

      • rhettlowe says:

        Increasingly, the two forces you identify, religion and wealth/power, are being fused.

        From The New Yorker Magazine, Aug. 4, 2014

        Last week, Reuven Rivlin, the scion of an old, right-wing Jerusalem family, took the oath of office as Israel’s President. The post is largely ceremonial, but there was meaning in the occasion. Rivlin was replacing Shimon Peres, who was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1994, for his role in forging the Oslo Accords. Peres, who is ninety, is a champion of the two-state solution. Rivlin is a champion of the Israeli settlers. As he has put it, “I wholeheartedly believe that the land of Israel is ours in its entirety.” Tragically, it is Rivlin’s absolutist view that is in the ascendance for so many, both in Palestine and in Israel.

        Contrast the uncompromising zeal of those in privileged positions (politicians; the rich) with the pragmatism of those ordinary people whose lives have been devastated by this conflict. I was watching the news the other night and there was a brief interview with an English-speaking Palestinian gentleman. He was standing in the middle of the rubble of what used to be his house, all his worldly possessions destroyed. The reporter who was conducting the interview asked the man if he thought peace was possible between the warring parties. I expected the man to explode with (understandable) rage and rail against the country whose air force had demolished his home and killed his neighbors. I expected an angry statement of how there can never be peace, etc. Instead, the man emphatically said that there could be peace tomorrow. That it would, in fact, be easy. “Two countries!” he said. “Israel and Palestine.”

        Perhaps if those in positions of power were not safely ensconced in their ivory towers and protected by armed guards, if they had to suffer like the great mass of ordinary people, they might be more amenable to compromise.

  2. nytimes has an interesting article on the israeli-palestinian conflict. writer believes that much of the discussion of the Gaza war is based on the supposition that it is still 1979; based on the supposition that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a self-contained struggle being run by the two parties most directly involved; based on the supposition that the horror could be ended if only deft negotiators could achieve a “breakthrough” and a path toward a two-state agreement. But it is not 1979. People’s mental categories may be stuck in the past, but reality has moved on. The violence between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, may look superficially like past campaigns, but the surrounding context is transformed.

  3. “This corrosive Israeli exercise in the control of another people, breeding the contempt of the powerful for the oppressed, is a betrayal of the Zionism in which i believe” says writer whose forbears were oppressed, gassed, and who are now reigning terror over Palestinians.

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