Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jerusalem - a poem by James Fenton

To hear the British poet James Fenton read this work in full, click this link here. Excerpted from New Selected Poems (2006)

Stone cries to stone,
Heart to heart, heart to stone,
And the interrogation will not die
For there is no eternal city
And there is no pity
And there is nothing underneath the sky
No rainbow and no guarantee –
There is no covenant between your God and me.
It is superb in the air.
Suffering is everywhere
And each man wears his suffering like a skin.
My history is proud.
Mine is not allowed.
This is the cistern where all wars begin,
The laughter from the armoured car.
This is the man who won’t believe you’re what you are.
This is your fault.
This is a crusader vault.
The Brook of Kidron flows from Mea She’arim.
I will pray for you.
I will tell you what to do.
I’ll stone you. I shall break your every limb.
Oh, I am not afraid of you,
But maybe I should fear the things you make me do.
This is not Golgotha.
This is the Holy Sepulchre,
The Emperor Hadrian’s temple to a love
Which he did not much share.
Golgotha could be anywhere.
Jerusalem itself is on the move.
It leaps and leaps from hill to hill
And as it makes its way it also makes its will.
The city was sacked.
Jordan was driven back.
The pious Christians burned the Jews alive.
This is a minaret.
I’m not finished yet.
We’re waiting for reinforcements to arrive.
What was your mother’s real name?
Would it be safe today to go to Bethlehem?
This is the Garden Tomb.
No, this is the Garden Tomb.
I’m an Armenian. I am a Copt.
This is Utopia.
I came here from Ethiopia.
This hole is where the flying carpet dropped
The Prophet off to pray one night
And from here one hour later he resumed his flight.
Who packed your bag?
I packed my bag.
Where was your uncle’s mother’s sister born?
Have you ever met an Arab?
Yes, I am a scarab.
I am a worm. I am a thing of scorn.
I cry Impure from street to street
And see my degradation in the eyes I meet.
I am your enemy.
This is Gethsemane.
The broken graves look to the Temple Mount.
Tell me now, tell me when
When shall we all rise again?
Shall I be first in that great body count?
When shall the tribes be gathered in?
When, tell me, when shall the Last Things begin?
You are in error.
This is terror.
This is your banishment. This land is mine.
This is what you earn.
This is the Law of No Return.
This is the sour dough, this the sweet wine.
This is my history, this my race
And this unhappy man threw acid in my face.
Stone cries to stone,
Heart to heart, heart to stone.
These are the warrior archaeologists.
This is us and that is them.
This is Jerusalem.
These are dying men with tattooed wrists.
Do this and I’ll destroy your home.
I have destroyed your home. You have destroyed my home.

[Hat tip to Mr Thursday-on a Monday! - for the link to these verses.]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Waste and Squandered Opportunity

Just about everywhere in the Middle East there has been movement — stirring, remarkable, uneven — as the region breaks old chains of despotism and seeks its slice of the modern world. But Palestinians and Israelis remain stuck in their sterile and competitive narratives of victimhood, determined, it seems, to ensure past rancor defeats promise.

It’s been a year of terrible waste,
concludes Roger Cohen in the New York Times.
The waste is staggering and the looming train wreck appalling.

Meanwhile, as 4500 Arabs and leftists marched together in Jerusalem to support Palestinian statehood, Haaretz's Yossi Verter lambasts Bibi Netanyahu for his wobbly leadership. He points out how in the Knesset, settlers now appear to be setting the agenda by passing the Boycott Law, introduced by the rightwing MK Zeev Elkin.
MK Ahmed Tibi ‏(United Arab List-Ta’al‏) asked Elkin if his passion for enacting legislation of this kind had to do with his being beaten up as a kid. The immigrants, veterans and newcomers alike, sometimes carry unpleasant memories from Mother Russia or from the torment of trying to integrate in Israel.

As the left continues to crumble and be increasingly irrelevant, the parliamentary right is becoming ever more militant against the Arab public, “the professors,” the Supreme Court, creative artists, so-called intellectuals, donors from abroad and so on.

In the past Israel’s right wing was characterized by grace and decorum, as decreed by Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and by grace and courage, as per the Betar anthem.

These days, Benjamin Netanyahu is not ashamed to take the floor and declare that if not for his support of the problematic law, it would not have come to a vote. If so, why didn’t the government sponsor it?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Israel vs Israel - a documentary

Religious nationalism in the world's sole Jewish state sometimes rubs against the sensibilities of progressives, aka "self-hating Jews" by many of their critics. This documentary film examines some of the disparities and complexities of Middle Eastern democracy, free speech, and security. Hat tip to Angela for the link.