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.
Here they are at Shimon Peres’s 90th: Bill Clinton live and Peres via his text. Take both in small doses.
Clinton’s video is short and Peres’s text is too. I still find it difficult getting through them. The narcissism is overwhelming.
Granted, we’re all self-involved. But when we go over the line, there’s a problem.
As I listened to Clinton and read Peres, I asked myself where their narcissism comes from. I’ve decided it comes from somewhere else.
If “somewhere else” sounds elusive, I understand. I’m trying to wrap my mind around why they drive me up the wall.
Is it narcissism plus innocence that makes it so difficult? After all, we’re dealing with intelligent people. The worst case scenario is that Clinton and Peres are being disingenuous – like Samantha Power. They’re doing whatever floats their boat.
With Power it’s obvious. She’s on her knees but knows better. Clinton and Peres know better, too. Yet with them, I have a sense that they believe their story.
Perhaps that’s the difference between a wannabe politician like Power and true politicians like Clinton and Peres. She doesn’t believe. They do.
That’s why I cut real politicians some slack. Politics is like show business. Negotiating real life and acting is complicated. Sometimes you take your character home with you.
Here’s a small dose from Peres:
When I was a child, Israel was a legend more than a reality. She emerged from a dream, and today she has surpassed that dream. From the depths of the Holocaust we rose to heights which reach far beyond the horizon of history. It did not happen overnight. It was a long journey which came at an unbearable price. We have known seven wars, we endured them all by virtue of our sons and daughters, by virtue of our soldiers, and by virtue of the parents who raised them. We gathered the exiles from the four corners of the earth, and became one people. We built a vibrant democracy and a diverse society. We made Israel a global hub for hi-tech, science and creativity. We turned a refusing land into an inspiring oasis.
Here we have it – the Holocaust, the price paid for the creation of Israel, the ingathering of exiles, democracy and diversity, hi-tech and the desert blooming. More or less, this is the Jewish understanding of Israel.
How much is real? How much is fiction? When the curtain goes up, the distinctions don’t matter much.
Since Peres has been there from the creation of the state of Israel and been involved in many decisions, if anyone knows the truth, Peres does. Does he?
Now add Barbara Streisand and her honorary doctorate at Hebrew University.
Though the media latched on to Streisand’s thoughts about how poorly women are treated in Israel by the ultra-Orthodox, they missed her hope for the future of Jewish-Palestinian relations. It’s a doozy.
Streisand’s model for the future of Israel is Hebrew University where “Jews and Arabs sit together in classrooms, sit together in the cafeteria and learn from the same professors.” She wishes the “world was more like the hallways of Hebrew University.” For Streisand, Hebrew University is proof that people from different backgrounds “can live in peace.”
I love her model “Arabs” walking the hallways. Is Streisand waxing nostalgic about her high school years in Brooklyn?
Coming from somewhere else. That might be another angle on the narcissism problem.
Are Jews always coming from somewhere else even when they’ve ostensibly returned home?