Still in a lazy mood, I'm just dropping comments here and there to dispel some of the boredom and doldrums of the late summer holiday (stores are already displaying winter clothes, for heaven's sake, don't they have some pity?):
@ Engage: a response to Jonathan Freedman's sadness over Israel's boycott law
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
August 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm
“A grotesque violation of the basic right of free speech, it makes it illegal not just for an Israeli living in Tel Aviv to boycott, say, goods produced in the West Bank but even to advocate such an idea. At a stroke, it undermines Israel’s repeated claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”.
This is what I mean about standing on a very narrow bridge. ”
With all due respect, I don’t think Jonathan understands Reb Nachman of Breslov’s brilliant metaphor.
The song Freedland refers to is a nigun by Reb Nachman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic dynasty.
“Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od,
v’ha’ikar lo lefahed klal.”
And translates as follows:
The entire world is but a very narrow bridge,
and the main thing is to not be afraid, at all
In the song, and unlike Freedland’s expansion of the metaphor, there are no “sides” to this very narrow bridge. This bridge is all there is. A bridge over a very deep chasm. It’s a song about fear and life. Fear that impedes life, that gets us closer to the chasm and darkness. Letting go of fear means having a chance at life, but life that no matter what will still be lived on a very narrow bridge.
I don’t understand the relevance of this great poetic thought to Freedland’s problem with Israel’s boycott law.
I find Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini’s thoughts about it much more pertinent:
“… there are clauses in the law that are justified. Those are the clauses that disallow benefits for organizations that support the boycott. Whoever maintains the position that Israel deserves to be boycotted does not deserve any benefits from the state. Just as in the case of the first, and discarded, version of the “Nakba Law”, which suggested that those who commemorate the Nakba be censured, the final bill which passed, and rightly so, denied any funding for such commemorations by the state.
Israeli ethos has fostered a very special type of entitlement. As in the case of the painter who joined a Canadian campaign of boycott against the city of Tel Aviv; he returned home to receive an award from the city of Tel Aviv for his artistic achievements. And like hundreds of artists from the same political persuasion who demand money from the state to explain to the world that Israel is a pariah state. They are free to speak and preach as much as they like, but not at our expense.”
Perhaps, instead of speaking of “grotesque violation of the basic right of free speech” (the kind of language he shares with the boycotters’ he ostensibly opposes), Freedland should really exert himself to imagine what kind of existence Israelis have, on that “very narrow bridge” stretching over a chasm, and what they need to do in order to remain suspended over that chasm and continue to be. Freedland, it seems to me, thinks like a typical Englishman in Orwell’s times: from within the glorious safety of an island protected by a very powerful navy.