Report: The Current State of the Straying "Jewish Country"
Report by Koichiro Kokubun on Takanori Hayao’s talk “The Current State of the Straying "Jewish Country"”
Koichiro Kokubun wrote his comments about Hayao’s talk under the title “The Hope-Principle”、focusing on the issues of the change in the demographic composition of Israel, the separation wall, the activities of Picture Balata and the support of the olive harvest by a leftist group.
It became clear that the concept of “Jew”, originally an indication of religious belonging, now seems quite ambiguous after its use to define a nation by the anti-Semitism and its reverse use for the creation of a Jewish state. The state was created by gathering Jews from around the world by the Law of Return, on a territory populated by Palestinians, part of whom became refugees, part of whom remained to live in Israel. However, facing the high birth rate of the Palestinians, the Jewish state is accepting people of Jewish background. Around the half of those from Russia, are Christians and do not easily adopt Hebrew. The fact that Jews from Ethiopia, who also respect the Old Testament, are not given the same standing adds a racist dimension to the problem. In addition, the tendency now is to hire low-wage workers from South-East Asia to replace the Palestinians. The second generation of these workers will raise new questions about Israel citizenship.
As for the separation wall, it is not unknown in Japan, but seeing it on photographs has a different impact. Listening about the problems caused by this wall makes one’s anger turn into sadness.
The wall does not simply divide the Jewish settlement and the Palestinian district, but it also cuts through olive fields, between a house and the olive farm of Palestinians, so that in some cases the producers cannot harvest their olives. According to the government permission can be issued to cross the wall, but actually it cannot be easily received and is valid only for one day. The separation wall is built by concrete blocks around 10 meters high. Its ugliness can be well expressed by the comments of a friend of mine that it looks like an enormous item of mass production. The wall also continues inside the Ibrahim mosque in Hebron, a temple with the tomb of Ibrahim, or Abraham. After 29 Palestinians were killed by a sudden gun fire in 1994, the temple has been divided in two by a wall and separate entrances were built for the Muslims and the Jew. Ibrahim/Abraham is a saint prophet both for the Jews and for the Muslims, but in a very symbolic way his body now is divided in two.
Within such a bleak picture, there are several activities that could attract our attention, Picture Balaca among them. This activity has been inaugurated by students, preparing to become photojournalists. They allowed Palestinian children of the refugee camp of Balata to express themselves by giving them cameras or making them write. Hayao and his friends have organized an exhibition of photo-panels of this activity in Japan.
The suicidal bombs attendants are usually carried out by teenagers, who neither have a radical policy of their own, nor have been brought up in activists houses. Groups, organizing suicidal attacks in the majority of cases lay their eyes on desperately roaming youngsters, and tell them that they have been selected by God. This is a situation that cannot be understood by just saying that the Palestinians are driven into such a bad state that their only choice is suicidal attacks. Even if Picture Balaca does not give hope to these children, it at least tries to prevent them from utter despair. A young girl has written “I am not a terrorist, I am Palestinian”.
Hayao also introduced the activity of a Marxist group that supports the olive harvest. As I mentioned earlier the separation wall sometimes divides the farmer’s house from his olive plantation. Permission is required to cross the wall, but it is difficult to get one and it only allows one to cross the wall once a week between 7am and 4pm like this. It is not possible for one family to collect the entire crop at once. This group gathers volunteers to cross the wall by bus in order to pick as much as possible of the harvest in a day. The same group also supports Palestinian women in their training to acquire a job. Borrowing Hayao’s words, this leftist group is a rare case, reflecting the economic, ethnic and gender problems at the same time.
Yasuo Kobayashi, who was chairing the talk mentioned in his introduction about the need for “empathy” among those working in the humanities. Even if there is nothing we could do right at the moment, at least we could show “empathy”… This expression was probably directed at the suffering people in tragic conditions. However, after listening to Hayao’s talk, Kobayashi said the following: Israel is really an unhappy country. For the sake of only one idea, “Jewish State”, the country has been continuously destroyed, and this very destruction becomes the only condition of its existence. Trying to sustain the country only for the sake of one idea is not completely foreign to the Japanese, who tried to sustain the country only for the sake of the imperial system. And we are still living in a country with an imperial system…The empathy mentioned in the beginning of the talk, slowly turned into a dark empathy of those living in Japan towards the state of Israel. In Annapolis almost parody-like peace talks are held (almost as a domestic problem of US). A member of the above-mentioned leftist group has reportedly said that “Palestinian independence” will not bring peace to the region. It is true, but the harsh reality of the ideal for a bi-national state, of which Edward Said talked in his late years – introduced in Japan by Hayao in the journal Critical Space – is not narrated as a beautiful ideal, but as a negative alternative.
To Kobayashi’s question: “Where is Israel’s hope in your view?”, Hayao answered: “ I don’t see one”. Having said this, he added: “Probably in the growing of the activities of the group I introduced to you”.
It is hard to discover hope. I am sympathetic to Said’s idea, but this sympathy is undermined by a lack of knowledge about Israel’s reality. And yet, if there is hope to be seen, it is in the existence of scholars like Hayao, who convey Israel’s situation. Once this situation is conveyed, one cannot deny the possibility of “empathy”. It has appeared in me. I can see the principle of hope at work in the very act of conveying the facts. (Koichiro Kokubun, Excerpted translation: Dennitza Gabrakova)