David Hare must’ve been asking himself this very question lately. Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children has garnered all the attention recently among British Israel-bashers and their intellectual followers. Her play has been performed all over the place, it has been the object of harsh criticism for its simplistic view of Israeli history and utter veneration for “speaking truth to power” (what truth? what power?). Caryl Churchill has left her colleagues far behind. She’s been hogging the spotlight.
So David Hare, another of Britain’s illustrious intellectual playwrights, got the chance in this week’s NYRB to vent his own frustration at the Israeli “apartheid-wall”. He calls it a monologue, lending a theatrical veneer to his rant, which others might simply call an op-ed piece.
I won’t pick through its every sentence. I’m not an authority on the subject, though I have seen it, and what I saw at the time (2004) was mostly a security fence. There was a section of high concrete wall, and it was explained to us that this was a built in a place where Palestinian snipers used to shoot Israeli motorists from their rooftops. Those Israelis are always exaggerating–eh, Mr. Hare?
To his credit, Mr. Hare admits that the fence has done its job by curbing Palestinian suicide bombers. He quotes his Israeli friends’ dismay:
“I regret it.” “I’m ashamed of the wall.” “I drive for miles so that I don’t have to see it. But it works. 80 percent of terrorist attacks against Israel have stopped. Have been stopped. Am I not meant to be pleased about that?”
Indeed, are we all not meant to be pleased about that? In Mr. Hare’s Israel, there are good Israelis–who are ashamed at having to protect themselves against genocidal fanatics–and bad Israelis–who do the protecting. Hare enjoys the company of Israeli intellectuals like himself, who discuss over tea and cakes how many meters of Palestinian farmland were confiscated in order to protect Israeli civilians from an endless terror campaign against them for the crime of being Jewish. He loves Israeli self-doubt, the mark of a true Jew. He, like his colleague Mrs. Churchill, despises Jewish self-defense. This is a crime worse than the sixty-year Arab-Muslim war against Israel’s existence.
Here is Hare on Hamas, in a perfectly polished gem of willful ignorance:
Hamas isn’t very nice. You wouldn’t be nice if you lived under permanent siege.
To be fair, Hare was speaking about Hamas torture of Fatah members in Gaza. So he knows they’re not nice guys. One assumes he’s done his homework, too, and knows about the way Hamas operates: booby-trapping homes, schools, zoos, using children as human shields, etc…the usual. But he’s not put off by any of that, he’s too much of an intellectual to be shocked by Hamas. He’s positively floored, however, that Israel would take security measures against such barbaric murderers–measures that–holilah!–inconvenience the murderers themselves and the society which supports them unconditionally. Hare makes no mention that the Palestinians of Gaza have been taken hostage by their own elected leaders, and that the failure of Palestinian society is far more the result of their unwillingness to relinquish their fanatical, monomaniacal and self-destructive war against the very idea of a Jewish state in “their part of the world” than it is the result of any Israeli intractability.
But wait, it gets better:
Even Professor Neill Lochery of London University, a friend of Israel, the author, for goodness’ sake, of Why Blame Israel?, has described the security fence as a white elephant. “Already,” he says, “the wall belongs to a bygone era.” Because before it was even finished, before the $2 billion had even been spent, Israeli’s enemies had switched tactics. They had moved on from suicide bombing to missiles, to firing Qassam rockets, which could, if deployed in the West Bank as they have been in Gaza, sail oblivious way up high above the wall, fueled by nothing but sugar and potassium nitrate.
Get it? Before the wall had even been finished, Israel’s enemies had “switched tactics!” Doh!! This is Israel-as-Homer Simpson, a blundering doofus always one step behind the wily Palestinians. Why bother trying to curb mass murder when your murderers will only switch tactics? How stupid of them! What could they be thinking? Of course, the Palestinians only abandoned suicide bombing because it was no longer feasible, because Israel had defeated it as a tactic. This is proof of the determined ingenuity of the murderers, not of the incompetence of the Israelis to forsee every possible attempt to murder and terrorize its citizens. David Hare has it backwards.
There is nothing especially new in Mr. Hare’s monologue. He chills with the intellectual elite on both sides, content to take their observations as hard-won truths. This gives his own insights more clout, being on familiar (and non-hostile) ground. And, as we all know, it’s no great feat of courage to criticize the Israelis. They will not come after you, kidnap you, graffiti your walls or threaten you. They will not wage war against you in any way, except perhaps intellectually. Some of them will even agree with you, whether you are full of shit or not.
Surely this is the mark of a sick society, one which has lost its moral compass in the muck of war. Eh, Mr. Hare?