This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Was the creation of Israel, like the Egyptian revolution, an exercise in magical realism? Is the Holocaust, when employed in a distorted way, remembered in the same way?
In the creation of Israel – ethnic cleansing. In the Holocaust – mass death. Neither are banners for the creation of a (real) future.
Distorting reality is not only for novels. It’s the way of the world. So it seems.
If magical realism is the way of getting things done – if by magical realism we mean excusing, neglecting or transcending the suffering that surround us – then the magic will inevitably be dispelled by the history which narrates suffering. When this transpires the magic-creating realists are stripped naked. They are left with the exercise of power. Without the magic, power escalates its demands for submission.
We have seen this in Egypt during the past two years. We have seen this in Israel over the last decades.
We would love to think that the exercise of power is limited and is destined to be (successfully) opposed. Is this real or magical thinking?
Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.” But the magical realism we’re dealing with now is less strange than thoroughly predictable.
Thus the Egyptian military is widening its crackdown – and as the New York Times reports, broadening the definition of Islamist. Yes, now liberals are being rounded up and being accused of what they hate. This should remind us of book burning in former times. The lesson: soon the books burned will be the ones you love.
Indeed with the Egyptian military having the upper hand, the crackdown on all dissent will deepen. Meanwhile the United States and United Kingdom – vultures as they can be – are circling Syria. Of course, they’re promising that there won’t be “our” boots on the ground. Is that a way of magically believing that massive suffering won’t occur because the ones who suffer aren’t “ours?”