Posted by: Sk | February 14, 2009

1 Israel and the apparent extravagancies of freedom

Whether you want it or not, you can’t, everytime you are confronted to something unknown, avoid remarking striking differences and what seems to you bizarre incongruencies deriving from the fact you don’t understand exactly the meaning of something. If you are used to these little exercises of mind (what in common, what the difference), every trip to a foreign country may become an eternal ressource for never ending questionings.

I’ve been three times in Israel (1993, 1996 and 2003) and although you have always to fight in your unconscious against some kind of horribly fixed ideas (imagine my mother said when I first asked her ‘what a jew was’, that they were people with long noses and very gripped, and even if it is true that she was almost always joking I tended to take her considerations very very seriously and thus started searching jews through this somewhat charicatural description, and was horribly disappointed when I discovered Shiri had no long nose at all, although the second aspect of the description might have fit her …). On top of that, European mass media tend to describe the situation in Middle Orients through the tag ‘poor palestinians I don’t dare saying how bad these Israeli are’ and you are obliged to forget all these subliminal messages by submitting to highest principles of hospitality (thing I always did, even in France I fundamentally and traditionally was not very devoted to) saying you are not there to criticize people who are offering you the possibility of invading their surroundings.

Although the perspective Israel appeared to my eyes was a very particular one, as arriving twice walking from far away (once from Paris and once from Ramses, Egypt), so that your eyes are used seeing things you may not see otherwise, the contrasted confrontation with people acting in completely different ways, gave already then the impression of a high diversity with an undetermined unifying principle. In fact, Israel would wake up more the awareness of a miserably failing church than the evidence of an accumulation of people with long noses, and there were even two or three anecdotes that would even push me in time to reconsider my washed brain point of view on things through a different angle. I will thus not forget the day when we arrived dying of hunger (thanks to far in the mountain hidden Carmel monks who wouldn’t offer even … payed hospitality) to a kibbutz on Saturday where unluckily there was no shop and it was on top an orthodox one, and they wouldn’t move a finger. Whether it was our quite desperate hungry allure or a deeper sense of pity for humanity, finally a woman stood up and brought some kind of marvelous food we utterly enjoyed and for which we didn’t know how to thank the people in question. Similarly an event ocurred near Nazareth, where we arrived to a closed kibbutz late at night, having lost our path somewhere and finding no other place to sleep than what seemed a park in the darkness. In the morning we were woken up by an older woman who was almost shouting telling us it was a memorial to the holocaust, so that we felt all of a sudden horribly ashamed and I lost myself in excuses saying that it wasn’t visible at night. Soon after, having obliged everyone to get ready as quickly as possible out of the mists of dawny sleep, the woman came back again and invited us to her house, the family’s name was Klopstock, I remember, where she prepared breakfast and almost obliged us to take a shower and her husband spent about three hours talking about his memories from before the war. And many other such little stories which were balanced by others less sympathetic but allowing to get a general picture of the whole.

From then on I started studying the strange configuration of these people and nation and got thus confronted to the following facts: during the Kosovo war, news in Greece said one day Israel had taken position against the intervention. The day after the new was denied. After several years, two other informations struck my attention. First, that a transexual Israeli singer had been kicked off some Eurovision show and lost the award as being ‘discovered’ transexual. Second, that during the Irak intervention, where Israel had openly taken position in favour, there was a group of ‘in favour of Irak’ people in Haifa, opposing itself violently to the intervention against official politics.

The first information opened unbearable abysses. But true. The states in question did they not allow chirurgical intervention in order to change gender, stupidly arguing that a woman was to be determined by a simple sexual characteristic (or viceversa: but didn’t the thing not go so far as to have to be confronted to information saying that a hungarian couple would proceed to double change of gender, him to her and her to him?)? If they did, and the person having thus proceeded to a change was allowed to write on an official document ‘woman’ or ‘man’ depending on the result of the intervention, why would it be possible to ban someone from anywhere if it be discovered he/she was a transexual? The fact that Israel would drive the consequences of the meaning of the value of the information provided by an official document to its last consequences seemed to reveal the absurd politics of others who, on the one hand, allow those changes and enrichen some chirurgians this way, and on the other hand push those people to marges of prostitution and criminality as not offering any specific way of integration into society. A possibility is never a realization: and to be given the possibility of changing gender does certainly not mean that what is associated to the attractive concept of man or woman as figured out by these people becomes real once having changed actually the gender, as a woman is not only a sexual characteristic but a social being acting inside of a whole through determined patterns that are mostly inherited or transmitted by education.

Although, consequently, I have never agreed with such ‘eksipnades’ (silly intelligence) laying on Goya’s ‘los sueños de la razón producen monstruos’ (reason’s dreams give birth to monsters), I have always had on the other hand deepest respect for actual states of fact, even more so if they were legal. You can’t but not admit that the phenomenon is produced legaly and thus, you have to deal with it. The hypocritical position of those countries who allowed, without thinking of the consequences, were to my understanding the real monstruosity and not the person mislead by a determined social environment and … an obvious lack of thought.

The same happened through the second questioning. A country surrounded by potential ‘ennemies’ taking a dangerous position in favour of something that may produce the deepening of animosity, is a country you may think the less tolerant towards possible deviating political positions, and though, there they were. My mind drifted back to the Kosovo war and the horrible absurd boring monotony of the official position through newspapers and tv and radio and everything, so that it happened even that people defending Milosoviç were supposed not to be allowed into France, absurdity that reached its peak when France decided in August 2006 to make a legal crime out of a political position (those who refuse the armenian genocide, which is to say, the Turk, are from now on to … be put into prison in France!). And thinking of that I couldn’t but remember a disgusting article of a so called albanian intellectual, Ismail Kadaré, attacking Greece on basis of ‘historical expansive tendency’ and this first page in ‘Le Monde’. I went through the whole ‘Monde’ and there were 572 articles saying exactly the same and this under ‘debate’, ‘opinion’, ‘reader’s voice’, etc. Of course, at the end, my wicked mind would have reason enough to laugh, when University mate Anne Hélène Nicolas would take the question of the Kosovo war to Henry Verdier, who was supposed to be better informed. Thus, a historical meeting took place at her appartment, where the former, her life companion Alexandre Abenzour, she and I, were to solve the question whether France had said ‘in favour of autonomy’ or ‘in favour of independency’ of Kosovo.

Anne Hèléne had told me that she had had some kind of quarrel with Henry Verdier and very french, she conducted the conversation to somewhat troubled waters, reminding Henry of his passionate love affair with … Kadaré’s daughter. (Very seriously I stayed and though, my ironical consciousness immediately thought, ah! they sell their daughters as whores in order to publish first page in Monde, and kept my obvious propagandistic thought for further transmission in Greece.)  Henry Verdier was thus plunged into some kind of pit of bad consciousness, as Anne Hélène kept reminding him that even passionate love affairs should respect the social environment, and finally, when Anne Hélène had really but really managed to push the other against the wall, somehow red and confusing his words, I profited of the ocasion in order to ask whether he had promised autonomy or independence to his beloved, and he tried to put an order into his troubled thoughts and some minutes passed, and finally he said: “autonomy, of course”. “You’re no man if you are lying,” I replied, and considered the conversation as finished.

Strangely, even if Jaques Lang had really dreamed of independence it was heard little after that ‘of course, independence was completely impossible, and kosovars should enjoy their well warranted autonomy’ (a little contaminated by the falling atomic radiation, by the way, but who’d mind). Although I could never establish the real link between Henry Verdier and Jaques Lang I couldn’t but remark some kind of slight connection, reason for which Anne Hélène Nicolas got up many steps in my personal mausuleum of living and dead heroes, arriving almost top first for her, to my understanding, genial intervention that day.

Memories apart, it is an evidence that the arising question of how far freedom of speech should be conditioned by political or financial intentionality was clearly put by Israel those days, to my understanding. (It’s true that for all my admiration I couldn’t but consider the excessive freedom as almost kamikaze …) On the other hand, it is obvious that freedom of speech should be conditioned by a certain number of real rules avoiding law being infringed.

Now, which particular feature of this country may have been at the origine of the posibility of such a debate? I’m still trying to answer to the question.



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