Ballet Russe, Zionism, and Terror

March 22, 2012

In my recent post of Richard Francis Burton’s translation of two short tales from Scheherazade’s 1001, I included a picture of Ida Rubenstein, a figure from fin de sièclela Belle Époque history who was new to me.  She was born to a wealthy family of Russian Jews, came to dance late, for a ballerina, that is, and made a big splash with Leon Bakst and Nijinsky.  Her début was a private performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, in which she danced through the seven veils to the nude.  She was denounced by the Archbishop of Paris for dancing as Saint Sebastian in a ballet scored by Debussy, with costumes by Bakst.  Sacrilege!  A Jew and a woman depicting the martyred saint!

During WWII, she fled France for England, where she helped escaped Resistance members, and was intimate with Walter Guinness, her sponsor and sometime lover.  He was assassinated in 1944 by members of the Stern Gang, a terrorist organization of Zionist Jews trying to dislodge Britain from Palestine.

Stern Gang is what the Brits called them, but they referred to themselves as Lehi, but also as ‘terrorists’ and, according to Wikipedia,  may have been one of the last organizations to do so:

An article titled “Terror” in the Lehi underground newspaper He Khazit (The Front ) argued as follows:

Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah,whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: “Ye shall blot them out to the last man.” But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier. We are particularly far from this sort of hesitation in regard to an enemy whose moral perversion is admitted by all.

There we have it.  Infatuation with The Cause, with Violence, with The Nation.  Sound familiar?  On the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the Lehi made overtures to Nazi Germany, offering to assist in its war against the British in exchange for allowing the free emigration of Jews to Palestine to join the nation-building cause.

The more I learn about the history of Zionism, and its role as a foundation of Israeli society, the more disgusted I become.  Former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, was a member in good standing of the gang.

Again ..?

January 12, 2009


The image above shows the barbed wire fence that marked the boundary of the Krakow ghetto in WWII.  Am I alone in having the sickening feeling that Gaza perversely echoes hideous enclosures like these?

No, I am not equating the two:  there is no organized plan to exterminate the inhabitants, nor even to abuse and starve them.  But Gaza is a small, restricted place in which there is little work, much poverty, and no hope.  It is a stinking, garbage strewn place with poor sanitation, hardly any economy, and a lot of angry, desperate people.  It is pretty much walled in…the distressing irony of Israel having created a mega-ghetto is almost too depressing to contemplate.

Some unpleasant facts and questions:

  • The bloodthirsty fanatics in Hamas who launch rockets at Israelis have killed a couple people.  The Israelis have killed or injured hundreds of civilians.  Isn’t proportionality a goal of armed conflict for ethical people?
  • Knee-jerk supporters of Israel are dismayed by negative “world opinion” of Israel fueled by TV images.  Should people not get upset at the sight of civilians being killed?
  • It is not much talked about, but in the 1890’s and early 20th century, many Jews were not very enthusiastic about Zionism, at least not in Palestine.  A fancy delegation sent to look the land over famously telegrammed, “We have met the bride-she is beautiful, but she is taken,” meaning that people were living there already!  All such misgivings are forgotten now.
  • Oh well, is there a nation among us that does not have injustice, expropriation, and brutality intimately woven into its birth-history?  (Ask the Native Americans!)  Why should Israel be any different?  Six million Israelis aren’t going anyway so it’s no use talking about “what was.”  They have as much right to be there as anyone else right now.
  • Millions of Arabs and Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, so it’s no use pretending that one more kick in the teeth will send them packing.  No use talking about non-negotiable principles.  Everything in politics is negotiable.
  • Yep, simple choice.  Keep killing one another, or stop and talk.  Is talking to terrorists giving in?  What is gained by not talking with them?  Does anyone honestly believe that they can stop the attacks this way?
  • Does anyone honestly feel that firing some crummy rockets at Israeli towns is going to bring on a Palestinian state?  Yep, they’re nuts, just angry young men whose who lives have been lived through this political conflict.  Israel deals with them from a position of strength.  And those poor civilians are held hostage to the armed forces of them all.