Why do we write?

Why do we write?
Comment: Netanyahu's victory in the Israeli election poses the question why we bother to write after the triumph of the antithesis of our humanity, asks Hamid Dabashi.
6 min read
23 Mar, 2015
Oh, the humanity [Getty]

The news of Binyamin Netanyahu's latest victory in the apartheid state of Israel was no surprise at all, and yet it was deeply troubling. Two questions arise from that simple fact. Why was it troubling, and in light of the enormity of such an electoral calamity how is it that we continue to write? What else remains to be said?

Shouldn't such disasters just force us to pause and wonder for a while? To dare to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, requires a modicum of hope, foregrounded on trust, that the banality of this vicious circle must one day come to end. How is it that even after witnessing the facile

     Netanyahu's victory was not surprising because the majority of Israelis are delusional fanatics.

mendacity of yet another Israeli election (in which the most fundamental fact of the robbery of another people's homeland is systematically ignored) we can continue to muster courage to write?

Netanyahu's victory was not surprising because the majority of Israelis (namely those who voted him back into office) are delusional fanatics who have worked themselves into a frenzied stupour to murder more Palestinians, steal more of Palestine, wage war against Lebanon, Syria or Iran, and do whatever other murderous mischief is necessary to convince them from within that self-propelling hurricane of death and destruction that they are right and the whole world is wrong.

But that frightful recognition is not sufficient to preempt a sense of morbid terror at the sight of Netanyahu's victory. The lingering question persists: how could any decent human being vote for this warmonger propped up by an even more bellicose billionaire called Sheldon Adelson?

Netanyahu's openly and boldly racist campaign warns Israelis that "Arabs" are being bussed by the left to vote against him, which is like a US republican candidate warning that "Blacks" are being bussed to vote. He categorically promised that Palestinians will never have a state of their own. Yet he proceeds to win the Israeli election.

"The rule of the right is in danger," Netanyahu frightened his followers. "Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes. Left-wing NGOs bring them in buses."

Could a politician be any more racist - is racism even a vice in Israel?

Throughout his campaign, according to reports, Netanyahu has accused foreign governments of funding NGOs, or non-governmental organisations, to undermine his leadership. But in the last four days, the prime minister moved even further to the right, culminating in a statement last Monday that there would be no Palestinian state if he was reelected.

Could a Zionist be any clearer that they lie through their teeth when they pretend they want peace with Palestinians? Is cheating and lying even considered an act of moral depravity in Israel?

What is left to say? This is Israel: a deeply and pervasively racist, bigoted, warmongering, land-grabbing, murderous, conniving, apartheid settler colony, staging itself for the whole world to see.

"As an Israeli," Bradley Burston wrote in Haaretz, "I am ashamed that my prime minister is a racist." But what would that admission entail, and thus what does it exactly mean? "All this week," Burston mourns, "he made us one consistent promise: In his coming term as prime minister, there will be no hope. It is one promise that we have all come to believe he can keep."

No hope in what? No hope in Netanyahu, no hope for peace, or no hope in Zionism having ever having had any design than to steal the entirety of Palestine and continue with the ethnic cleansing of its inhabitants? What is Netanyahu doing or planning to do that Israeli prime minsters have not done since David Ben-Gurion? Why single out and demonise Netanyahu and thus seemingly exonerate the very idea of Israel, the very project of Zionism?

These questions are for Israelis and the Zionists to answer. The more urgent question for the rest of the world is to wonder how and what to write after a calamity like the enthusiastic and decisive victory of a barefacedly racist warmonger like Benjamin Netanyahu?

From the political to the existential

The question is no longer political. It is existential. You may think the world that has seen monstrosities like Hitler and other mass murderers in power would be immune to being shocked by the election of yet another petty, gaudy, racist warmonger to power. But it is not - every dram of evil we witness in our own lifetime and with our own eyes diminishes a much heavier and healthier fragment of our humanity. We lose sight, vision, viability, by being witness to such atrocities. To write is an act of defiance against this frightful abyss.

No Muslim ever voted for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or Osama bin Laden, but millions of Israelis go to the polls and vote for Netanyahu.

Every time a vile and violent, corrupt and corrupting, politician stands up and says "I", the effrontery morphs and darkens the shape of any opening horizon of hope through which we might one day find our way to deliverance from this darkness. The resounding victory of Netanyahu in Israel is no less a terrorising act than the Islamic State group's (IS) destruction of the very sites of human civilisation in Iraq. They both assault the very fabric of our humanity. To write is to rebuild our confidence that we can combat criminality every step of the way we walk towards a saner posterity.

There is a very basic difference between the emphatic victory of Netanyahu in Israel and the rise of the IS in the Arab world. No Arab or Muslim ever voted for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or before him for Osama bin Laden, while millions of Israelis actually go to their polls and vote for Netanyahu. Yes indeed, there are thousands of Israelis who are deeply troubled by the results of this election. But they all seem to be oblivious to the fact that the whole Zionist project, just like the militant Islamist project, is morally corrupt and politically bankrupt. To write is to articulate the terms of this systematically repressed reality.

This is where the task of thinking and talking and writing announces itself. On this frightful precipice when we see Netanyahu waving to his admirers (much as when we see IS thugs putting a hammer to an ancient relic of our humanity) writing is no longer a choice, or even a responsibility. It is the breathing sign of a healthy humanity that refuses to yield to barbarity.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.