25 February 2007

I shouldn't....but....a couple of questions re: Israel

Given the way things blew up over at Ffb during the debate over Carter's new book, it is with some trepidation that I pose questions about the state of Israel. But I'm not trying to provoke. I'm genuinely a bit confused and would love to hear responses from ye brilliant readers.

Richard Cohen, in an article about the dilution of the charge of anti-Semitism, writes the following:
[...concerning] the current, ahistorical context for Israel. For many, [Israel] is no longer the orphaned waif of the Holocaust [#1] but the bastard child of Western colonialism [#2].

My questions:
  1. Semantics: does 'orphaned waif' just mean orphaned orphan? Come to think of it, doesn't 'bastard child' really just mean bastard?
  2. Logic: aren't #1 and #2 completely compatible? Can't the state of Israel be both a product of the holocaust (a response to its horrors) and Western colonialism (a creation of its errors and crimes)?
  3. History: why would thinking of Israel primarily through the lens of #2 be ahistorical compared to thinking about it through lens #1 – doesn't he have it exactly backwards? Doesn't the history of colonialism give a broader and deeper context for understanding the plight of European Jews and the creation of the Israeli state? Isn't the simplistic idea that Jews were 'given' the state of Israel as some sort of 'compensation' for the Holocaust a more ahistorical way of looking at the situation? Isn't this the view that extracts from history and context, the view that considers the situation as crime and recompense in a timeless, ahistorical sense?

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Jeff says you're dead on.

Thought I'd pass that on.

I'd argue, on the semantic level, that one can be a waif without being an orphan, or an orphan without being a waif. A waif is especially an orphaned child, but could also just connote a stray. And one can also be a bastard without being a child (I know several of these, albeit in a different sense of the word "bastard")-- although not without being an offspring, which is a little closer to what he meant.

Your point about predictable, over-used figures of speech is well-taken, though.