18 MAY 2016
I am half way through “The plot against America” by Philip Roth. The book is a dystopian alternative history to the Second World War where Lindburg, an American with Nazi sympathies wins the American presidential elections instead of FDR winning a third term in the office and keeps the USA neutral instead of fighting the war alongside the allies. The book is written from the point of view of a seven-year-old Jewish boy who sees the fascist and anti-Semitic tendencies flare up in the following period.
The story so far has got me thinking of how much different the realities of Jews and those of me and many Arabs. Their experience of antisemitism and our of Zionism and occupation. It takes a concerted effort for someone with my background, and I have put that effort over many years, to feel a purely human sympathy taking off from my mind what I have been taught and know about how Israel has turned the plight of the Jewish people into an oppression machine so I can feel the pure sympathy for Jews who are not part of that and who have themselves suffered from the oppression of others.
It has been said repeatedly that Israel is more akin to the Nazis that to the Jews it claims to represent while the Palestinians are more so to the Jews who are oppressed. This is one of the sad twists of history that has very little prospect of a solution in the absolute absence of people with enough sanity and perspective.
When I ran the 12 hour race a couple of weeks ago, there was a loud man with Middle Eastern features who’s name is Moti, I assumed that he had North African origins but just before the start line he came and said hi. I instinctively started speaking Arabic and he answered in broken and accented slang. He asked where I was from and so did I, he said Israel and I contained the visceral impulse to show any unsavory expression on my face. Later on the race, we came across each other a few times and encouraged each other. I never new how far he went but really wanted to do a little better at least. If we have failed to win in war or in politics, I might as well run a little bit harder for all the Palestinian friends I have who lived their lives as refugees. I ended up beating him by 6 kilometers.
Yesterday, a passage in Roth’s book nearly brought me to tears. The boy is describing his father’s anger when he was insulted in a restaurant for being a Jew, he had defiantly stood up and argued. He was insulted and injured and couldn’t quite take up the fight. I could feel the anger bubbling in my own veins and remembered all the times I was insulted for things that were so innate to me and couldn’t fight back, all the visa officers, all the racists, and all the bigots.
This, I can pretty easily identify with. I hope we live to see no more antisemitism or any other form of antihumanism.