Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Refuseniks – Chapter 3
(For those who haven’t read the previous chapters: Chapter 1; Chapter 2)
I seem to have seriously aggravated a refusenik. He takes offense at my calling him a “supposedly enlightened, self-appointed Don Quixote-type who feels superior and therefore above the law” without taking the time to get to know him and hear what he has to say. So I read what he had to say, on his blog and at an Amnesty youth and student conference in Dublin, March 2003, and was once again reminded of a piece of wisdom of Meryl’s: Do not blog when angry (And if we’re on the subject, Bish tells me not to forget this other little gem: Do not shop for food when hungry). The difference between his blog post and the speech he gave in Dublin is amazing. It’s hard to believe that it’s the same person. This is what anger does to us. The guy in Dublin I can relate to. I don’t agree with him, but I can relate, and respect.

I think our refusenik friend (the blog one) may have read my post rather hurriedly and skipped my personal ramblings about floating embroidered velvet. Had he read it carefully he would have realized that I regard myself as no less a “supposedly enlightened, self-appointed Don Quixote-type” than him. Maybe even more. Even in my post-embroidered velvet version. I even ridicule my own feelings of superiority. It seems he hasn’t taken the time to get to know me and my motives, either.

People like myself may be regarded as mainstream in our little puddle, but we are widely regarded as dangerous monsters in the big wide ocean. In that ocean, it is the refuseniks that are the accepted ones, the good guys, the acclaimed heroes. The things I said yesterday about influencing middle Israel are all very well, but I suspect the refuseniks, not each one personally, not our friend here, but on an organizational level, are far more interested in the effect their actions are having outside of Israel. Our friend has actually supplied proof of this (Why doesn’t he supply the translation of the speech he gave in the Youth Center in Dimona development town? Oh, he never gave one?).

So here I am, a little puddle creature, daring to fare the rough seas of the ocean, their ocean, where it is they, not I, that rule the waves and the deep alike. You see, I am quite aware that my Don Quixote days didn’t end when I hung up my meditation cushion (I’ve got it down since, but I’m lapsing again). I do see the futility of spending all this time and energy writing this blog. I know I’m having no affect whatsoever on the tidal waves of hatred and anger, justified or otherwise, crashing onto Israel’s shores from all four quarters of the earth.

I know I will never persuade any refuseniks of this, but in my view, however noble their motives, their actions are contributing considerably to those tidal waves.

I’m a bit tired of this argument and had meant to stop now, and not bring it up again, it is the Sixth Candle of Hannuka and Christmas Eve, after all (There must be some positive floaty energy in that), but I just wanted to mention one more thing. My friend, the refusenik, in his anger, said something in his post that I found extremely unfair, especially coming as it did from one who, just a sentence or two beforehand, admonished me for generalizing and judging him, without first getting to know him and his motives. He said “The mainstream, and we both know it, doesn't know one side of a gun barrel from another. Most able Israeli males don't have to bother about refusal, because if they do any service at all, it’s a 9-5 in Tel Aviv.” He is saying that those who oppose refuseniks are those who do not bear the equal share of the load, with regard to army reserve duty. Well, I don’t know it. This is a gross generalization and besides sounding suspiciously bigoted, it just doesn’t stand up. I personally know far too many people whose lives contradict it. Besides, I thought we were talking of people who were refusing for conscientious and political reasons. I am aware that there are many who object to having to do so much reserve duty, while so many others are exempt. But that is an entirely different matter. I know of a lot of people who complain that they find the burden of their reserve duty unbearable, independently employed people, for instance. Not only their lives, but also their civilian livelihoods, are put on the line with every call up notice. But they wouldn’t dream of refusing to serve for conscientious reasons. It is very wrong and extremely misleading to connect these two issues.

Later: Said refusenik has contributed a recipe for making your own Hummous. All is forgiven.

Update: More on this - Zeev Schiff in Haaretz.