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.
On Father’s Day, despair is everywhere. Is there room for a note on hope?
We look for hope in our lives and our world. We need hope for ourselves and for others. Within darkness, we are called to find light. We are called to gather light and share it with others.
Have you ever been called upon to encourage others when you are deep in despair?
Of a friend who had committed suicide, Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist, wrote in his diary: ‘Give me a human face.’ For Dostoevsky, the human face represented hope.
Viewing an interview with a veteran of the Israel/Palestine movement, Norman Finkelstein, and recognizing that the despair in his voice is matched by the despair on the ground of Israel/Palestine, how do we keep hope alive?
Can one have hope without being Pollyannaish? The hope for a Two State solution is over and the One State option, at least as a shared secular, democratic secular state, has never been further away than it is now.
If any facts on the ground are obvious, these are. They have been obvious for decades. I have come to the conclusion that both the Two State and One State option has been foreclosed since the early 1970s, if not before. Since that time we have had one state in Israel/Palestine – Israel from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River. That is how it is. That is how it will remain – for now.
Why, then, the delay in recognizing this situation? Was it because we were too wrapped up in the Holocaust, in our Jewishness, in driving our point home, in competition to be considered the top dissident Jew?
Was our dissident Jewish voice the only one we were able to hear?
Finkelstein said that BDS was like a cult – you’re either on board or you’re out. Perhaps. But there been other “cults” – the Tikkun cult of the 1980s and early 1990s for example. Are the Two Staters a cult?
We know that the expanded state of Israel isn’t just Israel’s doing. There’s been plenty of collusion, starting with the United States, but also major players in the Arab world. If there’s any conspiracy in the world, it’s the conspiracy against the birth of a real Palestinian state.
Why didn’t we realize this sooner? Why did we place so much credence in others? Self-interest is a nation-state game as much as a personal one. Tell me what nation-state has an abiding self-interest in the birth of a viable Palestinian state. If you can’t do that, then tell me what nation-states, including in the Arab world, have a self-interest stake in the birth on one state, Palestine/Israel.
Taking all of this, why not accept the end of Palestine as fate?
Because history is open. We never know when history will provide another path. Our job is to be ready to seize the moment. When everything looks bleak, a change may be right around the corner.
True, often as not, we turn the corner and life is the same. This still doesn’t mean fate is the arbiter of our existence. History remains open, especially when it seems closed.
Veterans of the movement should stay alert to the future which is already arriving. Much of the future is the same. Some of it is different.
In light of Finkelstein’s reflections, I read Max Blumenthal’s recent posts with interest. In the latest, he analyzes the Israeli link to the recent Big Brother surveillance affair. It’s good stuff. He is making connections that are important for all of us.
Reading Blumenthal’s post and looking at his webpage, I realized he is representative of the next generation of Jewish dissent. Blumenthal is focused in a dispassionate and analytical way. Rather than ideology or theology, he sifts through data, researches connections and writes them in a way that is available to the broader public. He is also creative and active in disarming ways. He uses the tools of the new media creatively. Blumenthal with others like him are readying us for that moment when history turns.
When history turns, we’ll need all hands on deck and a memory of what has come before. The failings of the past must be recognized but enfolded in the broader arc of compassion for those who struggled before the turning became evident.
After all, history doesn’t turn by itself. History is us turning. Against the grain.
The Jewish prophetic comes in many forms. Despair is one of them but only if it ultimately testifies to a future beyond the present.
The Jewish prophetic continues to explode in our time. This is a sign of hope, indeed, amid the despair that is suffered and real.