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9/2014

Welcome, English speaking foreigners, to my blog!


Welcome, English speaking foreigners, to my blog! I have taken an editorial decision to translate a post once a month, in favor of all those who do not speak Hebrew and see references for the blog in Facebook. For those not yet familiar with the blog –It details my life in Israel as a father, husband, reformed Jew, PhD candidate in the law faculty in Haifa, Misgav resident, and an extreme leftist in a place where this kind of politics is way out of fashion.

 

Here goes, then. Hope you survive. If you gave me the courtesy of a visit, make a little extra effort and leave a comment -

 

(The following post was posted on August 27th)

 

It is not only in the political and military arena things have gone terribly wrong, but the PhD thesis has also gone astray. A combination of administrative problems and some hostile remarks made by these and others has almost wrecked the PhD ship, and this happens after I have written a hundred and four pages, some in fluent Ottoman Turkish!

 

I'm awaiting the return of F. (My instructor) from her travels to settle these issues in a meeting. I am optimistic that the meeting will put me back on track, from which I strayed recently. Off the track? Rail crash. In any case, my very own personal mentor, the very lovely Professor of whom I am a research assistant, hinted that I had to follow Roland Barthes, and catch the paradigms in flight. I was not familiar with the quote, but the subtle hint was absorbed. At once I have moved aside the Ottoman law books, the decisions of the Rabbinical Courts in the thirties, the fascinating Schwelboim case, and even this book on the chief rabbinate S. sent me. I have to disconnect from everything and find inspiration elsewhere. So I spent several days with 'Eichmann in Jerusalem", Hannah Arendt's classic, whose advantage is that I read it a long time ago, the relationship between the book and the subject of my dissertation is loose or nonexistent, and Hannah's wicked writing always inspires me. I thought maybe while reading something unrelated, the missing paradigm will fly at an altitude so low that I can reach out and pluck it as Barthes advised.

 

Incidentally, I have recently watched Margarethe von Trotta's movie of Arendt. For some reason it was broadcast a few times this week in the 'Yes2' film channel. It gave me an itch  to read again the book. I have to note, however, that Barbara Sukowa is a very comely woman, and her Hannah Arendt is charming and beautiful. The original arendt wes less comely and charming, I believe, having watched several clips in youtube in which she appears. But she is one of the most original and bright thinkers I know.

 

 She can be a deadly bore, Hannah. For example her book on Kant (which I have purchased for a whole 79 NIS) – if I thought I knew something of Kant or Arendt, I was in serious doubts after 30 pages. I can't promise that I managed to read any further. Or the 900 page long "Origins of totalitarianism" – I think the mere volume of the book is frightening. But in "Eichmann in Jerusalem" someone pissed her off, and she shoots happily at all directions. Calling this horror show 'amusing' is a bad Shoah joke, but one can not remove one's eyes from the book as it unfolds.

So here goes. I have found a few ideas for the theoretical part of the dissertation, but these are halfbaked notions that need some work and require reconsideration, and will mainly be used as footnotes to a footnote. Overall, I did not find a single paradigm, in the sky above or in hell below. I renewed my acquaintance with the gentlemen Eichmann, Wisliceny Krumey and Co., which is not a pleasant one, and looking through Arendt's eyes into Eichmann's empty mind (according to Arendt) is not pleasant to say the least. I have yet to decide in the argument between Arendt and Gershom Scholem on 'love of Israel', although recently I'm inclined slightly to the side of Ardent, after almost converting to Scolem's side as a result of spending many hours talking to Professor Jablonka. The last two months have admittedly removed a large amount of the 'Love of Israel" from my system. Maybe it's just temporary. But one insight I have got to share here -

 

Throughout the book, Arendt repeatedly describes Eichmann's method to convince foreign governments to surrender the Jews. He began with asking for Jews who were devoid of citizenship, who entered the country as refugees, then persuaded them to surrender people naturalized in recent years, and finally as psychological barriers were broken one after the other, those countries willingly surrendered Jews who were citizens living in the country for generations. This pattern was broken - and the Jews were saved - only in countries that treated stateless refugees humanely, like Bulgaria, which refused to surrender a single Jew, citizen or stateless.

 

How shocked was I when I thought what would Arendt think of Israel's attitude towards African refugees. True, the in the last two months were very busy killing and being killed, and the horrors of news such as the burning of the Arab boy in Shoeifat eclipsed the old horrors, but still, "Saharonim" jail, in which the refugees are interned without a trial, is still in place, and the way Israel treat African genocide refugees has not softened just because the country was busy in massive killings Elsewhere. To the question what would we do if a Sudanese Eichmann came, demanding the refugees' extradition, I do have an answer, and that answer is not pretty. So quickly have we forgotten! This is probably the litmus paper test. Having failed this test, I'm not surprised we also fail other tests. Maybe we should start from here. Pass this test, and move on.

 

Having shared this insight, I may proceed with the post.

 

I have concluded that the problem lies not in the paradigm or the methodology, but in the accompanying music. I write, mostly, with the song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd playing in a loop in the background. There is something mutually reinforcing between the rhetorical twists of my dissertation, the twisted Ottoman texts themselves, and the convoluted guitar played by Van Zant. I ignore the right wing lyrics and let myself be Hypnotized by the guitar. Not anymore. It's all lynrd Skynyrd's fault. Dissonance is too great. It is impossible to write a truly progressive doctoral dissertation listening to degenerate southern rock with the Confederate flag flying in the background.

 

A bid is hereby declared for truly worthy background music. Till then – play it, Ronnie! 

 

נכתב על ידי , 1/9/2014 21:12  
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