This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Aberrational all, those Jews in Judaism, Christians in Christianity, Muslims in Islam, secular folks turning away from the “progress” of modernity. Such turning begs the question: When does aberrational become the norm?
We know from history that at some point what was once marginal becomes the center. Often it is too late.
The race for survival is on. Many believe it’s a different race than the perennial one. In this race there isn’t room for error but error there is. The major global challenge of climate change isn’t being met. It won’t be. It’s anyone’s guess if the scientific charts will, in the end, map our collapsing destiny.
I cannot believe it will come to this. Perhaps because I can’t function if the end, collapse, is clear. Urgency is the clarion call for sure. Yet urgency can only go so far. We need a routine, a practice that embodies where we need to move to. We have to move there ourselves. We can’t wait until the world catches up.
Is this true with Israel/Palestine? Israel/Palestine and Jerusalem in particular is the world in microcosm. Its history and glorification by billions of religious followers make it a symbol difficult to turn away from.
As much as the land and Jerusalem need to be de-centered, it won’t be. As much as we might wish for Jerusalem’s (un)holiness to be unmasked, we can’t waste our breath. There isn’t enough justice breath to go around.
Traveling Jewish, I can see this in myself. Isn’t it time to give up the old histories, the historic battles and identity grievances that fuel new cycles of violence and atrocity?
Some justice travelers preach an identity-less gospel. It certainly needs to be heard. But if we win the world and lose our (particular) soul what will be gained?
Is it worth the one state in Israel/Palestine if Jewish and Palestinian particularity vanish into a universalism that carries its own demons?
Of course, the One State solution doesn’t have to diminish Jewish and Palestinian particularity. Yet few who yearn for one state join this issue. It’s an issue worth considering.
Once the universal is achieved another round of subversion will inevitably be necessary. After all, the universal and the elites of a secular democratic Israel/Palestine will also gravitate toward power. How then will that more enlightened system be challenged as discontinuous and mangled? What resources will be available for the deconstruction needed?
No particularity is simply individual – including individuals that only see themselves as universalists. All particularities project themselves beyond the individual. All individuality has a collective dimension. There isn’t any such thing as universal. Most often “universal” is a particularity gone viral.
So South Africa as a model, yes, and BDS, yes, and the movement toward One State, even if it is primarily rhetorical. Still in this latest venture, we should remember where we come from. It is a clue to where we’re going and when, at certain times, the obvious isn’t attainable and even ultimately desirable, it might help us remain on the narrow path of resistance.
So while others – and for good reason – throw their identities to the winds, some of us should hold fast. Where we come from can provide the roots of resistance when needed in the future. You never know when retro and often violent identities might come in handy to combat the new imperialism that will arise even with the very best of intentions.