Thursday, 7 June 2007

We need to understand this

The internet is over-populated with opinions about the Middle East – so I’ll make this short. The fortieth anniversary of the Six Day War has received surprisingly little attention this week (maybe Big Brother has eclipsed everything else in the media).

Surprising, because the resulting Israeli occupation of the Gazza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem is one of the defining moments of our age.

A while back Cherie Blair, not someone I usually have much time for, got herself into trouble when on a visit to Israel she said that she could understand the desperation of a Palestinian suicide bomber. Sadly in these times of rampant chest banging, seeking to understand rather than empty rhetoric about the ‘war on terror’, is not going to make you popular.

I’m not interested in trading nationalisms and competing claims to the land. The Native American gem comes to mind that people arguing over land is like fleas arguing over who owns the dog they happen to find themselves on. But there is no stronger motivation than having nothing left to lose. And that must be exactly what it feels like to be a second-generation refuge in what was once your own country, abandoned by your former allies and the international community.

To understand what the injustice in Israel/Palestine means in human terms I would recommend Joe Sacco’s comic- book ‘Palestine’. Like Art Spiegelman’s comic-book of the Holocaust ‘Maus, it more effectively conveys a complex message than many more weighty tomes. Both should be standard texts in every school.

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