Saturday, January 10, 2009

What Is Happening in Gaza: Lack of Collective Conscience in Israel

I feel that what is happening in Gaza, the bombings and killings of innocent civilians on such a large scale is unconscionable on the part of Israel. It is not that I think the Palestinian people are without responsibility in this situation. Palestinians as a people are not totally innocent of a kind of collusion with Hamas, after all it was the Palestinian people who fairly overwhelmingly put Hamas in power in The Gaza Strip. But my take on it all says that people living in what is a basically occupied territory though Israel does not admit this fact have good reasons to want to fight what they see as their sworn enemy- The State of Israel. Israel claims it has no vested interest in hurting Palestinians as a people and that its gripe is with the anti Israeli forces of Hamas which advocates the destruction of the State of Israel. But Israel's move into Gaza is very reminiscent of the War it commenced in Lebanon in 2006 which ended in very little results for Israel and caused great resentment of Israel around the world.

It appears that Israel's citizenry is also divided on the wisdom of sending Israeli troops, tanks, and soldiers to engage Hamas militants and inadvertently to affect the entire Gazan population with what appears to be massive bombing raids and tank
driven battles in the densely populated areas of Gaza. The media people to a person covering the Gazan War albeit from a distance seem sickened themselves by the events transpiring day by day. It does appear to be David against Goliath and American and Western media tends to identify at least on an emotional level with the Davids of the world. Roseanne Barr is quoted as saying "The destruction of the Jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in Gaza," Barr writes on her blog. "Exactly as its Nazi mentors did to the Jews of Warsaw, Israel now bombs innocent civilians who have been imprisoned in concentration camps in Gaza!" She continues, "The Zionists look German! The Palestinians look like the Jews of Poland! The Jewish people have destroyed themselves in Gaza." She also calls Israel "a Nazi State" bent on torturing the souls of the Jewish people". Roseanne has a way of getting to the core truth of a contentious issue that is hard to dismiss. I don't want to agree with Roseanne or really accept her seemingly exaggerated pronouncement that this is the beginning of the end of Israel. But on another level, Roseanne is right, the seeds are planted, the route chosen clear, the answer: " Brutal Warfare" is totally and outrageously wrong. Jews of conscience all over the world must arise in ever larger numbers and protest this abomination.

The Movie The Reader (Kate Winslet's performance is Brilliant)

I just saw the movie
The Reade
r. I hesitated before I made the decision to go see The Reader because I knew I might come back from it kind of depressed which is what happened to me after seeing it. The storyline has been retold so many times in other reviews that I will only mention the simple highlights. There are two main characters, a former female guard of a Nazi concentration camp and a 15 year old boy who is depicted as both an adult by Ralph Fiennes and the young man he used to be is played by David Kross. The fact the main female character (played by Kate Winslet) named Hanna was a former prison guard "responsible" for the deaths of many Jews is unknown to the young nearly 16 year old, Michael, who is seduced without any protest by Michael into a sexual relationship with rather one way romantic overtones (romantic feelings of Michael toward Hanna" . During the entire relationship, Michael reads books to Hanna. Later it becomes clear that Hanna is illiterate and uses people to read to her and then disposes of them. As a law student, Michael takes a legal course on the Holocaust from a Jewish Professor and finds himself at a trial which takes place in 1966 where Hanna turns out to be one of the 5 defendants on trial for the murder of 300 Jews as a result of a fire in a church where Jews were held during the Long March away from Auschwitch. Hanna is sentenced to life in prison and serves 20 years. She is the only one of the 5 defendants handed down a long sentence because of a series of admissions to the court that may or may not be "factual" in terms of intent to kill.

The movie is more about action and inaction and human intent than about the Holocaust. It highlights the dilemma of people being caught in situations where there is an expectation of a moral action without a specific understanding of the whole picture which none of us ever really have at any one time. As a result of his early relationship with Hanna and assumedly other factors also, Michael becomes a man unable to share intimacy with others. Hanna cannot see the whole picture (achieves a conscience) until near the end of her life and when she does, she does take action. Michael lets guilt and confusion over his relationship with Hanna take over his whole life. Near the end of the story, Michael goes to New York City to talk to a Holocaust survivor whose Mother was a witness at the trial of Hanna. He appears to be on a quest to make some kind of amends for both Hanna and his own behavior. The woman survivor responds to Michael in a very matter of fact way. She sees him through the only lens she can. She is not unkind nor is she kind to him. The woman survivor is a truthteller or is she? One line that stands out is "Do you think the camps were some kind of university where we went to learn something. There was nothing to learn there as there is nothing there, nothing. " ( I am paraphrasing)

Another troubling aspect of the movie which we are supposed to be troubled by is the reality that Michael is still involved emotionally with Hanna. He cannot let her go completely. The woman Holocaust survivor seems in much better emotional shape than Michael. She knows the Holocaust is always there but she moves forward every day and lives her life. The Holocaust is her past. In Michael's case, Hanna is still in his present and until he lets go, nothing really can move forward in his life. If you are looking for answers to the why of the Holocaust, there are glimpses there too. You can see simple answers in the person of Hanna played briliantly by Kate Winslet. Answers are there plain and painfully simple to understand through Winslet's performance.

Sharon Raphael