[Marxism] An irksome liberal humanist drama

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 4 08:36:40 MDT 2006


Language Watch

The Guardian’s Saturday Review contained a review by James Buchan of a new 
novel by Yasmina Khadra, The Attack. (‘Yasmina Khadra’ is the nom de plume 
of Mohammed Moulessehoul, an Algerian now living in France.)

It gets a largely positive review from Buchan, though from what he says 
about the book it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. It’s about an Israeli 
Arab surgeon who deals with the bloody aftermath of a suicide bombing, only 
to discover that
 his wife was the bomber! The word for this, to my mind, 
is contrived. It’s curiously akin to a bestselling English novel about a 
brain surgeon who is forced into a violent confrontation with a thug, whose 
life has then to be saved by the only medical man available at the time
the very same brain surgeon! Talk about a bleedin’ coincidence

Khadra’s hero is beaten up by Shin Bet, his Israeli neighbours and by 
“Palestinian militants in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Jenin that 
were under siege by the Israeli army.”

This sounds to me suspiciously like one of those irksome liberal humanist 
dramas in which both side are just as bad as each other and true humanity 
lies in the avoidance of commitment. Just as the surgeon in that other 
novel can see through the folly of people who march through the streets 
against war, when they would, if they were sensitive and thoughtful people, 
be going shopping instead. Just as George Eliot constructed fiction which 
showed that working class organisation and militancy was a bad thing – the 
real way to change society was through the human heart. Forget gross 
material inequalities, repression or political organisation – instead let’s 
all hold hands and try to be nicer to each other. And (in the same vein) 
who better to advise us that money isn’t everything than the stupendously 
privileged and wealthy David Cameron?

Star struck F Scott Fitzgerald once gushed that “the rich are different to 
us”. And Ernest Hemingway famously replied, “Yes, they have more money.”

What really set my pulse racing was where Buchan explains that Israeli 
Arabs are “the descendants of the Arabs who stayed behind rather than go 
into exile at the formation of the Israeli state in 1948”. How soothingly 
bland that word “go” is. Buchan makes it sound like an evening out. You 
going to the pub, then? Nah, I think I’ll stay behind.

Three of the greatest propaganda achievements of the Israeli state are the 
concealment of the origins of that state, the construction of an image of 
Israel as a state much like other states, and the representation of Israel 
as the victim rather than as the aggressor. The violence, terrorism and 
injustice of what happened in 1948 are written out of history. And Israel 
is not in any sense like, say, Italy, or Britain, or the USA. The condition 
of Israel as an institutionally sectarian state which comprehensively 
discriminates against its Arab citizens and which for 58 years has been 
engaged in seizing more and more Palestinian land and water is rarely 
acknowledged. Buchan’s anodyne and evasive rhetoric is an aspect of that 
propaganda victory.

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