Posted on Sign and Sight is an interview with Claude Lanzmann, the fabled creator of the 9 1/2 hour documentary film "Shoah" about the murder of the European Jews in the death camps.
Lanzmann, according to the introduction by Max Dax has an impeccable Leftist provenance:
"The 83-year old was a Resistance fighter, a signatory of the Manifesto of 121 against the war in Algeria, he was a member of the red circle surrounding Jean-Paul Sartre, he was Simone de Beauvoir's partner for many years and is currently the publisher of Les Temps Modernes, France's left-wing intellectual conscience."
In 1994 he released another long documentary, "Tsahal", a film about the Israeli army. The new release of this documentary includes a discussion between Lanzmann and Ehud Barak.
I found interesting Lanzmann's sober look of appreciation and respect for Israel's military power and ethos. I recommend reading the whole interview.
Here is a key passage:
In "Tsahal" I also knew exactly what I wanted to tell: the creation an army, the construction of an army, the creation of courage. This army represents a victory of the Jewish people over themselves. There had never been a Jewish army before. My film tells how Jews took their fate into their own hands to avoid ever become victims again. I show how they overcame the victim role and overcame a mental predisposition.
In the Israeli army life is valued higher than anything else. And yet every soldier in the Tsahal is prepared to give his life. Unlike other armies of the world, the soldiers of the Tsahal do not die for the glory of their fatherland, they die for life alone. You should not forget that the genocide of the Jews in the Second World War was not just a murder of innocents. It was also a genocide of the defenceless. My film describes the path to overcome defencelessness. It describes how the Jewish people empowered themselves with weapons and it describes the psychological metamorphosis that the people had to undergo, in order to build an army like the Tsahal, in order to be able to defend themselves, to be able to kill.
For decades, young Israelis have been growing up with the insecurity of knowing that no-one can guarantee that "Israel will still exist in 2025".
In this interview Lanzmann clarifies in no uncertain terms the repeated mistake made by nearly everyone who cares to weigh in on the I/P conflict, that Israel seeks to justify its very existence by making political fortune out of the Holocaust. Not so. Says Lanzmann, and I agree. Israel has vowed that the Holocaust was the last time the world witnessed the extermination of defenceless Jews. Israel makes sure that Jews living within its borders will never again be victims.
I know this is a troublesome concept for many Far Leftist Jews, represented by the likes of Rabbi Lerner, Richard Silverstein, Norm Finkelstein, Jerry Haber, Jews Sans Frontiers, to name but a few. They appear to prefer, seriously, the diasporic Jew. Hannah Arendt was sympathetic to this hankering for righteous powerlessness, up to a point, as she elaborated in her 1964 interview for German TV:
"..one pays dearly for freedom. The specifically Jewish humanity signified by [Jewish] worldlessness was something very beautiful... it was something very beautiful , this sundering aside of all social connections, the complete open-mindedness and absence of prejudice that i experienced... Of course a great deal was lost with the passing of all that. One pays for liberation. I once said in myLessing speech. . .
Gaus : Hamburg in 1959 . . .
Arendt: Yes, there I said that "this humanity... has never yet survived the hour of liberation, of freedom, by so much as minute" You see, that has also happened to us.
Gaus: You wouldn't like to undo it?
Arendt: No. I know that one has to pay a price for freedom. But I cannot say that I like to pay."
Arendt is a courageous thinker who is not easily frightened by the cards dealt by reality. Surely it is not a desirable condition for Jews, or any human group for that matter, to live in a state of perpetual guardedness, on the cusp of existential disaster, the way Israelis are required to do. But, she says, this is the price paid for the loss of the condition of defenceless victimhood. In a way, once Israel has lost its victim status, it has also lost what Bertrand Russell called the fallacious claim to the superior virtue of the oppressed.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Sunday, July 12, 2009