An ode to my leftist friend

You kick off your leather-free shoes, put down your vegetarian dinner. Flick on your energy-efficient TV, munch on organic Goji berries, and flick through today’s mail – a bill for your solar panels and a letter from your sponsor-child. How delightful, you think to yourself.

How delightful, indeed.

You massage your feet and swelling ego. You surf channels and land on the News. You are bored of hearing one bad story after next: A bombing in Iraq; a shelling in Syria; executions by fanatics; refugees in tents; a virus in Africa. Your attention wades. Your mind drifts to the pleasant mundanities of Western living. You check a meme someone uploaded to YouTube. How lucky am I, you think to yourself, to live so far away.

How lucky, indeed.

And then a newsflash involving Israel, a bomb and dead children brings you back to the present. You drop your phone and think to yourself, how is it that David has turned into Goliath. Images of innocent blood rile you up. You jump out of your seat and shout out loud: How could they do this.

How could they, indeed.

You, who have never heard the sound of sirens, of shells and bombs, of rockets and missiles; You, who knows not the smell of war; You, who who knows nothing of risking life for anything. You, whose people have never known existential threat or come under attack. You, who have life so easy, are the quickest to pass judgement.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

You, who treat morality as a principle with no counter. You, who having satisfied a hierarchy of needs, balance all your weight on its top, only to forget its very base. You who lives in a world of ideals, void of reality. You, who always roots for the underdog and think that makes you wise.

The fool doth think he is wise.

You, who are so passionate about the casualties of war, know little of the fifty bloodier wars this generation has seen. You comment and post widely on the subject, yet you never bothered to learn the other side of the story. Your sources are as ignorant as you, for whom all, the story begins when the giant strikes (back).

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

 100 deadliest civil wars and armed conflicts
The 100 deadliest civil wars and armed conflicts since the second world war – Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not make the top 50 (Source: The Economist, 2012)


from the river to the sea
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ (Source: NJ Solidarity)

Between a party on Saturday and a concert on Sunday, you fit in march you fit in. You drape a Keffiyeh on and chant: ‘from the river to sea’, not knowing its true meaning. You speak of divestment and boycott Jaffa oranges, then tweet and text about injustice on an Israeli mobile chip-set. You speak of occupation and of illegal settlements and then go back to your home, snuggle up to your teddy bear, and never know of the monster that lies beneath your bed.

Ignorance is bliss, they say.

You see, six foot under your home, my herbivorous teddy-snuggling friend, are the skeletal remains of the native who once lived there. Hey, it was only two weeks back, you bumped into his nephew. You even put two dollars in his cup. He said ‘God bless you’ and gave you a sad smile. Let me not be the bell that disrupts your peaceful meditation, my Yogi friend.

On second thought, let me ring that bell loud and clear.

You think your claim is better that the settler’s in West Bank?

You have built a peaceful haven, it is truly lovely, your sanctuary, but truth be told, your castle is a nothing more but a glorified settlement – a hundred years on – my occupying friend.

It is true you have no competing claimants. You don’t have a ‘refugee-problem’ because you didn’t leave enough living – but surely, that is no defence.

A tip, as a friend, don’t challenge a Judean in a dual over good title, for your claim will be laughably weaker, whether you call Australia home – or America or Europe, for that matter. All you have is the mitigating fact of the passage of time – but that is no defence.

And of the dispossessed survivors you left, those not locked up in your jails; those who die younger than Gazans under siege; those who sooth your conscious by letting you drop a penny in their jar; those whose babies you stole and vote you denied long after Israel swore in its first Palestinian representative.

So, don’t preach about inalienable rights.

Don’t speak again in condescending tone or quote John Lennon about giving peace a chance, when you can’t even answer a rudimentary question: at what cost? Your token help and faux rage emboldens the warmongers and silences the peacemakers. You, who speak of human rights, marched side by side with those who hang their gays and honour-kill their women. But worst of all, my hypocritical friend, you have let hate grow on you, and to be honest, it befits you all too well. You make excuses for hating, but you hate nonetheless.

To prove my point, let me ask you this – why do battles a few hundred miles away with a hundred times the dead of Gaza do nothing to stir you up into action? Why did you not tweet in 140 characters of less a single condemnation of war in Syria, where as many Arabs die every two months as Palestinians have in Israel for 65 years. Why is it you only act when Israel is an actor?

Answer yourself honestly, even at the cost of an inconvenient truth.

And next time you get invited to that march, stay home and do nothing, or better yet, kick off your leather-free slippers, get some organic almonds and Goji berries and catch up on your history reading.

A critical analysis of the present global constellation- one which offers no clear solution, no “practical” advice on what to do, and provides no light at the end of the tunnel, since one is well aware that this light might belong to a train crashing towards us-usually meets with reproach: “Do you mean we should do nothing? Just sit and wait?” One should gather the courage to answer: “YES, precisely that!” There are situations when the only truly “practical” thing to do is to resist the temptation to engage immediately and to “wait and see” by means of a patient, critical analysis.


Slavoj Žižek, Violence, First Picador Edition: August 2008)


About the Author
Eli Bernstein grew up in Israel and now resides in Perth, Australia. Among other things, he is a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs and politics.
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