Exile and the prophetic: Exporting our expertise

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Alice Rothchild’s new film, “Voices Across the Divide” is described as “The Palestinian narrating, and the Jew listening.”  The film focuses on the effects the Nakba continues to have on the lives of Palestinians.  

Rothchild is trying to bring the Nakba home in a personal way. Will Jews and others listen?  It’s a question we should all be asking. Right now, Rothchild is soliciting funds to finish the film’s final editing.  It’s a worthy project.

When I read about the film, I thought: “Palestinians, like Jews after the Holocaust.  Palestinians after the Nakba.” 

After the Holocaust?  I first heard that question in the early 1970s when studying with Richard Rubenstein. His book, After Auschwitz, published in 1966, helped popularize this naming.  Back then, I didn’t anticipate its companion – After the Nakba.

Jews live after the Holocaust and after Israel.  I’ve been speaking and writing about this for a long time.  I haven’t thought:  “Jews live after the Holocaust and after the Nakba.”

Different extremity.  Similar struggle?  What is left for the survivors of mass death, atrocity, displacement – after?

Memorials – services, monuments, museums – are the least of it.  I doubt designations like Holocaust survivor, Palestinian refugee, wounded warrior, Newtown survivor or Boston Marathon survivor mean much to the designee.

Speaking of which, YNet reports that one of every four Holocaust survivors in Israel live below the poverty line.   It also reports an expanded initiative to bring educators from India, South Korea and Cyprus to Israel to study the Holocaust. 

So, in the name of the below poverty level Holocaust survivors, Israel – or American Jews or the United States government or perhaps India as well – will spend boatloads of money to make sure no one forgets the Holocaust survivors whose below poverty life will be hidden from view.

YNet also reports that Yad Vashem and the Israeli government will send mobile Holocaust education units to canvas rural India.  Evidently, Indians aren’t getting the Holocaust message.  Or does Israel want to teach Indians the Israel message via the Holocaust?

Perhaps the Holocaust/Israel message will be delivered with other forms of literacy and medical information in India’s hinterland.  Holocaust education packets to be handed out with AIDS information and condoms? 

I don’t know if the Holocaust mobile units will be knock-offs of the Lubavitch Mitzvah Tanks – yes, they call them tanks.  Mitzvah Tanks would blend marvelously into India’s colorful landscape. 

A JTA newsflash yesterday shared news that dovetails with Israel’s Holocaust missionary work in India. Are they linked – also with the Nakba?

It’s about the saving and aftercare of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  This time Israel is boasting of another form of education it specializes in – caring for victims of terrorist attacks.

Listen to JTA’s narrative:

Minutes after a terrorist attack killed three at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, doctors and nurses at the city’s hospitals faced a harrowing scene — severed limbs, burned bodies, shrapnel buried in skin.

For Boston doctors, the challenge presented by last week’s bombing was unprecedented — but they were prepared.

Many of the city’s hospitals have doctors with actual battlefield experience. Others have trauma experience from deployments on humanitarian missions, like the one that followed the Haitian earthquake, and have learned from presentations by veterans of other terror attacks like the one at a movie theater in Colorado.

But they have benefited as well from the expertise developed by Israeli physicians over decades of treating victims of terrorist attacks — expertise that Israel has shared with scores of doctors and hospitals around the world. Eight years ago, four Israeli doctors and a staff of nurses spent two days at Massachusetts General Hospital teaching hospital staff the methods pioneered in Israel.

According to the New Yorker magazine, every Boston patient who reached the hospital alive has survived.

You don’t have to channel Jacques Derrida to see the textual mining of reports like this is endless.  In the spirit of “what comes around, stays around,” I note three aspects of the first paragraphs of the news item:

1)      The doctors were prepared.  Lesson: Terrorism has been happening for a long time and memorial services aren’t going to stop it.  Be prepared for the next round.

2)      The good thing is that many American doctors have battlefield experience.  Lesson:  The American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have prepared the doctors to treat victims at home.

3)      Democracies like Israel and the United States are envied by the world and will be targeted by terrorists. Lesson:  Israel, a leader in Treating-Victims-of-Terror” technology (TVT), is here to share its expertise with its allies.

It is amazing how much expertise a nation like Israel can acquire while living on the cutting edge of permanent occupation. 

Occupation gives rise to a series of expertise – and exports.  These include security services to protect against terror and healing those whom security failed. 

Add peddling arms and you have a significant percentage of Israel’s exports.

Let’s not forget the Holocaust as an export.  Exporting knowledge of the Holocaust is another Jewish growth industry. 

All of these exports make sense when we factor in that Jews have become experts in memorializing ourselves as victims – in the Holocaust but also Israel as victim – of “terror.”

But returning to Alice Rothchild and her film, how can we listen to the voices of those we displace and occupy if we build expertise around our victimhood?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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