Monday, May 23, 2005


When I was a boy (a gentile boy I should add) I had an image of the the kibbutz as the fulfillment of the idea "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" and a home available to anyone who chose it. Indeed when I went to University at 18 I remember being a little in awe of a 19 year old first year contemporary who had lived in one during a gap year after school.

So in my lifetime, the popular perception of Isreal has changed from a Utopian socialist project to an oppressive, even vindictive, insular state. Why has the image changed? How inaccurate was the old image, and how accurate was the new? I don't know. I have never been there and I am not sure that I have earned a publishable opinion.

What I have learned is this. There is nothing inevitable and eternal about the current conflicts in the world and conventional opinion is no sort of guide to anything.

Look at the photograph above. It shows a future king of Iraq and the President of the World Zionist Organization. Early in 1919, Emir Feisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann signed the Faisal Weizmann Agreement which established Arab acceptance of the Balfour Declaration.

Feisal was the friend and brother in arms of Lawrence of Arabia. (They were portrayed by Alec Guinness and Peter O'Toole respectively in David Lean's film.) He was also the son of Hussein ibn Ali, the Grand Sharif of Mecca.

How might the world have been different if the Arabs hadn't been sold down the river (to the accommodate the French I might add) in the Paris Peace Conference later that year?

No comments: