Tuesday, November 11, 2003

"I always think," says Alec Guinness in that most wonderful of films, The Lady Killers (definitely high on my list of all time greats), "that the windows are the eyes of a house.” He goes on to say, quoting someone else I think, that eyes are the windows to the soul.

I look at the windows of the apartment building next to my workplace. The windows, typically, are no more than square holes in the wall, with no frame, embellishment or ornamentation of any kind. Windows in Israel, like many things, are often not very lovely.

Israel is a young society, a mixture of cultures. Unlike other cultures made up of immigrants, in Israel there is no one dominant culture that all immigrants feel obliged to assimilate into. There was, once, sort of, that of East European immigrants. But the (Jewish) immigrants from Muslim countries did not accept this Eastern European hegemony, and sure enough, it has slowly and gradually been eroding. And so a new creature has come into existence, who is not the continuation of anything that came before, but something new and unique. The Israeli. The Israeli has not yet developed mannerisms and rules of behavior as a result of many years of living together as a society. He is an uncut and unpolished diamond. People are often wounded when coming into contact with his rough edges.

It has become fashionable on the Blogosphere lately, I've noticed, to discuss how nice, polite, and well-behaved Israelis are (not!). Gross generalizations are nonchalantly slung about. It's not just what you've been doing over there, you seem to be telling us. It's more than the question of what is disputed and how to solve things. It's that you are just not nice. We don't like you, neither as a people, nor as individuals.

I get the feeling that this question of our niceness is an existential one. If we are not nice we have no right to be. Most people would rather we ceased to exist as it is. Our being such an unpleasant bunch must make this so much easier on the conscience.

Wouldn't it be perfect if someone could just press the delete button and we'd all be sent to the recycle bin?

What does that mean anyway? How are deleted documents recycled? Is it the energy that was used to create them that is recycled, or some sort of potential? But I digress (I love digressing every so often, just so I can say “But I digress”. It’s so deliciously pompous).

Digression over. Back to the subject of much beloved Israelis.

How does it feel to be superfluous? How does it feel to be so utterly unwanted on a global level? I know you're not interested. I know you'd rather not hear. So much easier to think about us as some distant, not nice, undeserving figures with blurred faces. I'll tell you anyway.

It does not feel good.

Why are you complaining? You ask. Always whining, you lot. You brought this on yourself. Who asked you to go there anyway? You could have stayed in those nice camps for displaced persons we built for you after World War II; you could have continued to be carefully-unobtrusive, second class citizens in Iraq and in Syria. And even now, all you have to do is go away, just crawl under a rock or even better into a deep hole in the ground (we'll help you dig) and we'll be off your backs, honest. We'll forgive you for everything, even for the cardinal sin of daring to exist. Maybe, if you're nice.

Update: More about why Israelis are Israelis, by people who have researched this, among others.

By the way, one of the things that provoked this post was reading about this opinion poll, in the morning newspaper.