Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On This Blog's Name

OK, I admit that titling a movie blog with a phrase that is bound to offend, outrage, or just plain confuse the Reader is inherently Hipster Ignorance for some.  But I think it is worthwhile to transcend our own mocking 'politically correct offended status' to get to the heart of the matter, that both Israeli and Palestinian national cinema are hinged on ethnic cleansing.
First, Zionism, the ideological and social movement that colonized Palestine in co-operation with several European Imperial powers, is based in the ethnic cleansing of Jews.  For example, Benny Morris cites Russian Pogroms in the first pages of his history of the conflict as an antecedent to Zionism.  The role of British interests regarding imperial trade routes and petroleum markets played a major role in a Colonial Power taking advantage of this persecution of the Jews so to maintain capitalist hegemony in the region, culminating with the British Mandatory period.  But the Nazi Holocaust was a moment that was the final catalyst for the founding of the State of Israel, and not just in pure sympathy to the plight of European Jews; there was a fundamental understanding between the United States and Israel that geo-strategic and trade benefits were vital to American hegemony.  With the fall of the British Empire effectively, America was designated as the superpower to maintain capitalist dominance in opposition to the Soviet Union, and it was furthermore the most powerful by default because, unlike Europe, the American nation itself was never under enemy fire.  In this instance, it was regarded as fundamentally beneficial to all parties involved if a Zionist-created government were to gain power over the region, as opposed to either Soviet-backed or, out of perhaps a deeply Orientalist view, possibly Palestinian, or 'Arab', as they were called in the era.  Out of this, of course, came the exiling of Palestinians, called 'transfer' in political documents.
What lies at the heart of my thinking here is that you can see a sense of causal relationship between the Nazi genocide and the founding of Israel, but it is also worthwhile to recall that the Zionist colonizers had been in Palestine since 1880.  When we do this, Zionism is seen as a tool of the British Empire, an implement in a policy that was mirrored around the world until the Divestment.  What is striking is the blatant de-humanization of the Zionists as people by those who took advantage of their persecution so to better preserve trade routes following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  And by this de-humanization, of men like David Ben-Gurion or women like Golda Meir, they in turn were socially compelled by their persecution and abject apartheid conditions in Europe to impose this same persecution upon another people.  This is not absolution, it is an image of depravation due to desperation only to be seen in the pits of Auschwitz.  But this in turn brings us again to the exile, 'transfer', what Ilan Pappe calls an 'ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians'.
It is called the Nakba, marking also Israeli Independence Day.  For one people, a Jewish nationality founded is the end of the Palestinian's nationhood, and to deny this reality of their respective cinemas, to not see these cinemas as two sides of a coin, is untenable to me.  Now, for many involved in the political debate about how to resolve this modern disaster, there is a great deal of emotion attached to the Shoah and the Nakba as events.  Perhaps understanding the idea of these cinemas as being symbiotic is offensive to some, to which I can only reply that most Israeli and Palestinian 'political activists' of the professional sort are equally offensive to me.  These are harsh realities, and the trauma defines these national cinemas.  But the healing of wounds includes recalling mutual victimization, sharing, and identifying with others, and the cinemas do carry that power.  Was Zionism a purely nationalistic and evil enterprise?  No, it was due to immense religious and social persecution in Eastern Europe in part, partly out of fear of assimilation in Western Europe, and those fears were legitimate in that era.  Was the exiling of the Palestinians equivalent in method and morality of the treatment of Native Americans in Plymouth or the Cherokee?  Yes, and it was done by both pre-Statehood militias and the Israeli military with a brutality as horrid.
Shoah is a Hebrew word designating that part of the Nazi holocaust which ethnically cleansed, imprisoned in slave labor camps, and finally exterminated the Jews of Europe.  While the Nazi holocaust also included millions of more, including Gypsies, homosexuals, Slavs, and others, the concept of the Shoah takes on theological significance for some, political advantage for others, especially according to Norman Finkelstein.  Nakba is Arabic for catastrophe, and its use was originally suggested as a direct political counter to the word Shoah.  As such, the schematic itself is based in not just nationalisms and self-preservation, but refined political analysis.
Ilan Pappe states in his Preface to THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE that, while he can certainly understand as a Jew the impulse to assign a name like Shoah or Nakba to such an atrocity, it is vital, in a historical materialist sense, to name both the crime and its perpetrators, calling it the type of war crime or crime against humanity it truly is.  However, while this point certainly strikes me with truth, something else about Pappe's book impresses me every time I revisit his writing, and it is how similar his writing tone is to that of American revisionist histories regarding colonialism, such as BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE or A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.  The persecution of the Puritans was smaller for many reasons than the pogroms, but the dialogue of the persecuted who said they would 'redeem' the land is exactly alike.  As such, my own insights are derived from previous scholarship on American cinema relating to our own history with Native Americans, including 'Manifest Destiny' and 'Opening the Frontiers', like in the classic films by John Ford.  Furthermore, and with some emphasis, don't we all understand that part of going to the movies is about the sort of idealizing that allows for high philosophy?  To watch cinema and analyze it is a critical and textual analysis of major media.  I see myself therefore removed from controversy as such.
In the case of the Native Americans, the 'peace process' was implemented, and they continue in the Bantustan existentialism we granted them at the close of the Indian Wars.  Perhaps those lessons can help us before it is too late for Israel and Palestine?

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