Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Deir Yassin Day 2012 in London

(With thanks to Stuart Littlewood

Deir Yassin Memorial, Finger Lake,
Geneva, New York
On April 23 inLondon, Deir Yassin Remembered and The General Union of Palestinian Students will be commemorating Deir Yassin Day 2012. Deir Yassin Day commemorates the Deir Yassin massacre of April 9th 1948.

Not the only massacre at that time and by no means the worst, Deir Yassin signalled and has come to symbolise, the dispossession of the Palestinian people and their continuing exile.

April 23 is also the birthday of Miguel Cervantes creator of Don Quixote and of Roy Orbison creator of “Only the Lonely” - and a man who, just when you thought he could go no higher – up an octave he’d go.

It’s also the birth- and death day of William Shakespeare – highly appropriate for a man known for his immaculate dramatic structure and pleasing endings.

But in England April 23rd is above all, St. George’s Day. St George is the patron Saint ofEngland and strangely, St George was a Palestinian.

George hailed from the Palestinian town of Lydda, turned into an airport in 1948 and named Lod, and named again after the great ethnic-cleanser David Ben Gurion. Like Deir Yassin itself, the story of Lydda could serve as a template for all the expulsions and massacres of 1948.

At Deir Yassin the perpetrators massacred over a hundred villagers and burned their bodies. Others were loaded onto trucks and paraded through the streets of Jewish Jerusalem, then taken to a nearby quarry and shot. Orphaned children of Deir Yassin, dragged from under the bodies of their dead and dying relatives were taken and dumped, dazed and bleeding, in a Jerusalem alley.

At Lydda the Israelis massacred 426 men, women, and children; 176 slaughtered in the town’s main mosque and the remainder driven into exile.  Forced to walk in the summer heat, they left behind them a trail of bodies – men, women and children.  It was the Palestinians’ very own ‘Trail of Tears’.
And, just like at Deir Yassin, the town of Lydda was repopulated with Jewish immigrants, the name Hebraised to Lod and, like the name Deir Yassin, the name  Lydda was wiped off the map.

At our commemoration DYR and GUPS will be joined by the Palestinian Delegation, the Palestinian community of the U.K. and many British and other supporters. We will also be joined by Abu Ashraf, now of Azaria but once of Deir Yassin - because in April 1948 Abu Ashraf lived in Deir Yassin and, on April 9th at the time of the massacre, was a few days short of his eighth birthday.

So, it’s fitting that our commemoration be held on April 23rd, St. George’s Day; in London, the capital ofEngland, and led by Abu Ashraf of Deir Yassin.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Once a Jew....

We’re all agreed then, we’re all anti-Semites now but lurking underneath are the questions: What is a Jew? And, once a Jew, always a Jew?

Up till now, or at least for the last 6 or 7 years, I’ve seen Jewish specialness as a voluntary condition (albeit a pretty hard one to shake off) and I’ve noticed that it ranges all the way from the religious Jew’s ‘light unto the nations’ to the Marxist Jew’s “workers of the world unite”.  But in the discussion on deLiberation around the article “We’re all anti-Semites now”” some opposition was voiced – and from some surprising sources.

Gilad Atzmon reminded me that my comparison of a Jew to a cauliflower wasn’t quite right. A cauliflower lacks consciousness, he said, and is therefore unable to relinquish its cauliflowerness but, by implication, a Jew can.

But he also noted “that Jewish culture lacks the means to restrain Jewishness-something to do with an inherent exceptionalist structure.” So, it’s in the nature of Jewishness to find it hard to give it up. I’ll buy that.
Then Dr. Andrew Mathis a prolific Jewish/Zionist commentator, pointed out that Edith Stein’s conversion to Catholicism did not stop the National Socialists from assaulting her as a Jew. As Dr Mathis himself said, “You can deny your Jewishness as much as you want, but someone is always going to come along and remind you anyway”. I’ll buy that too.

 But Dr. Mathis also told me that I’m Jewish because my parents were Jewish and when I asked exactly what was it I had inherited from my parents, he answered in a word: Identity.

 “But surely”, I protested, “I can relinquish that identity”,

To which he answered “Ask Ernst Zundel if you can do that. Or Ingrid Rimland.”

So it seems that Ernst Zundel and his wife Ingrid, two supposed ‘Nazis’, also don’t see things quite my way.

And it’s true. In an email exchange with Ingrid some years back she reminded me of the story of the scorpion and the frog crossing the river toParadise.  The scorpion tries to persuade a frog to take him on its back.  "But" says the frog,  "You're a scorpion. If I carry you on my back, you'll only sting me and kill me."
 "Of course I won't sting you." answers the scorpion, "If I stung you, you'd die but I'd also drown, so what would be the good of that?"  Finally the frog agrees and the scorpion climbs aboard and off they go.
Halfway across the river, surprise, surprise, the scorpion stings the frog and, as both frog and scorpion sink beneath the waves, the frog, in his death agony looking first to heaven, then to the scorpion asks, "Why, why, why?”

To which the scorpion replies, “Why? Because  I’m a scorpion.”

So, for Ingrid, just as a scorpion will never change, so a Jew will never change, simply because they can never change.

So, once a Jew…?

Now, a lot of people are now going to be jumping up and down yelling "Racist!" and "Nazi!" And certainly, when Ingrid first suggested this, I was a bit put out myself.   “Are you saying that a Jew is a kind of human, like a scorpion is a kind of insect?” I asked.  To which she answered "Come on, Paul.  Did I say that Gentiles are like frogs?  Fables are shortcuts to facets of human nature.”

Well, I certainly don’t believe that a Jew will forever act in a certain way, but still, figuratively and allegorically there's a lot in that tale. Jews often do seem to share certain chracteristics and they do seem remarkably resistant to change.

But why?

I suppose Ingrid and Ernst would say that different groups who have lived together for a long time will inevitably develop some shared characteristics.  For example, I remember once when she claimed that, like so many Germans, she had no sense of humour (actually, she does and it's quite delightful) and, when I protested, she asked me whether I had ever met a German stand-up comic (BTW, there is one now on the circuit in Britain but his celebrity rests very much on the fact that he's a German) I think she also asked me if I had ever met a Jew who could write a poem to a tree.

Another time I was describing to her how, at times I found it quite thrilling to be the centre of attention.  She thought that this was very Jewish indeed (I can't disagree), but that for her, being the centre of attention was what she most disliked.  She wrote how she had on so many occasions appeared before huge and rapturous audiences and each time, as they applauded, her heart was as stone. This essential difference between us was she felt, partly due to our respective Jewishness and German-ness.

Did I agree? Not entirely, but it was interesting and there is some truth in it.

I think people like her are far more subtle in their thinking than is often thought. They believe that these characteristics are the product of many subtle and interacting factors - including some biological ones. After all, people who live together, breed together.

Of course none of the above means that all Jews are funny and self-obsessed or that all Germans are dour and diffident or anything else for that matter...... or does it?

So there we have it from three totally different sources – A celebrated artist/anti-Zionist activist, a Jewish- Zionist academic/activist and a couple of ‘Nazis’ - Once a Jew, always a Jew.

What do you think?