Sunday, June 6, 2010

Promises promises

Yes, I know this is supposed to be a books blog, and yes I know that every time I resolve to stick to that focus I stray almost immediately, and yes I'm aware that a great many of my recent posts have had to do with Palestine, and not always with any literary angle. Well, you know, this is Read Red, and sometimes the Red takes precedence over the Read. If I were not paying a lot of attention to the Palestinian struggle at a time like this, I would not be much of a communist, (and as a Jewish communist I have a special responsibility); ditto if I were not getting myself to as many of the protest demonstrations as I can rather than holing up in one of my favorite reading nooks or writing long, time-consuming blog posts. At the same time, I know that one of my frequent, probably pretty annoying by now, refrains here is how I intend to write a fuller, clearer, deeper post about this or that, mostly about questions about reading and writing and political struggle, the most recent of these my intent to lay out some overall observations about Zionism and why you, as a freedom-and-justice-loving, racism-and-oppression-hating person, should oppose it like I do. So yes, I will do that, when I can, just as yes, I will keep doubling back to all the other questions the mulling of which is part of this blog's purpose.

I just can't promise when. There's that labor history class to prepare, and there's a chapbook contest to which I'm preparing an entry, and there's work, including three nights of overtime coming up.

Of course, I wouldn't be me if I weren't currently reading a book, even if only in the snatches of time I can grab on the subway to and from work. Last week I announced my intention of getting Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco. I did, and while I was at it I also picked up Sacco's earlier book simply titled Palestine, and this is what I'm now reading. These books are not, as I'd thought, graphic novels. They're nonfiction. Graphic reportage I guess you'd call them. Palestine, which I'm about halfway through, is Sacco's account of his experiences there in the early 1990s, during the first Intifada (uprising). I'm going to hold off writing about it until I've finished reading, and maybe until I've finished the Gaza book too.

But I will say that it's winning me over, as I'd hoped, to graphic literature. The form is extremely compelling, at least in this book. And it's jolted my memory: I did read and appreciate Art Spiegelman's graphic books Maus and Maus II, which tell the story of his parents in the Nazi holocaust, back when they came out 20, 25 years ago. It's fitting, or ironic, or something, I guess, that after reading and not being much impressed by a few other graphic books in the intervening years, the next one that wins me over is this one, about the terrible crimes being committed under the pretext that Israel and its actions are a justified response to the crimes of Nazism.

Zionism has nothing to do with the Nazi holocaust, nor was Israel created as a reaction to it. Zionism, the ideology and the project, emerged in the late 19th century, over 40 years before the Nazis rose in Germany. It was from the start a deeply reactionary movement and it always, until after World War II, had very little support from Jewish people, most of whom were impoverished workers, most of whom were supporters of labor unions and/or socialism. The Jews of Europe wanted to organize and fight. Many of them wanted socialist revolution. They did not want to give up on resisting anti-Semitism--a key tenet of the Zionists was that European anti-Semitism could never be defeated--they did not want to flee to some faraway land and steal it from its indigenous inhabitants. All the propaganda about Israel having been created as a counterweight against Naziism is pure opportunist fakery. In fact, even after European Jewry was nearly annihilated, most survivors did not choose voluntarily to go to Palestine.

So OK, more when I can, with sources cited and books recommended.