This Week’s Sobering Tally

A flowless Mediterranean this morning, azure and marble like. A swim, I am sure I will replay in my mind for months to come. The heat has broken and a tender wind blows and sighs.

But this week somehow starts somber. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the ebb and flow of life’s fickle moods. Perhaps it’s something more. It’s as if the week’s tally is rigged to jolt.

I ramble in this post. Forgive me!

Three newborns abandoned in trash bags, left to die or be saved, I don’t know which, in Lebanon. They made it–for now. One of them, we are told, was saved by a stray dog.

Searing temperatures in Arizona and Texas, in Spain and Italy, in Iraq and Iran, in Egypt and Sudan…, warming ocean waters depleting oxygen, dead fish by the thousands on the American Gulf Coast’s shorelines, all a tiny sample of nature’s growing intolerance of human folly.   

The Shorelines of the Gulf Coast, Texas

Meanwhile, in countries where every manner of injustice prevails, a few of us are furious that over there, in Sweden, some idiot wants to have a Quran burning party. But you can tell this trick–their insults and our fury–has become old. Beyond that tiny theater where each side plays to the other’s tomfoolery and pretends to take a stand, none of us really gives a shit either way. 

Terribly wicked times in Palestine, as always, but the way the trends read we are upon a time even more dire: a rapacious Israeli state in cahoots with marauding settlers; a spent Palestinian Authority (PA) holding on by a thread; occupied Palestinians all pain and rage as they see another Nakba coming.  We ask ourselves, when is it all going to end, and when will this beleaguered people have its moment in the shade of a good day?   

Play, rewind, repeat in Palestine

I read a couple of days ago Seth Anziska’s review of The Only Woman in the Room, Pnina Lahav’s biography of Golda Meir in the London Review of Books. A description of Meir’s visit to Haifa right after the 1948 war caught my eyes:

She arrived at the port in Haifa to the sight of ‘children, women, old people, waiting for a way to leave’. She asked the Haganah commander to take her round the city. Outside a badly damaged house in Wadi Nisnas, they saw ‘an old Arab woman … carrying bundles of what were probably all her possessions’, according to Klagsbrun. ‘When she saw Golda, she burst into tears … Golda looked at her and dissolved into tears also. The two women stood there facing each other and weeping.’ In a meeting with the Jewish Agency executive, Meir said she ‘could not avoid thinking in my mind’s eye that surely this must have been the picture in many Jewish towns’.

Despite this, Meir was in no doubt about what should be done by the government to decide the fate of the 750,000 refugees created by the Nakba.

This is what Edward Said meant when he wrote of the Palestinians and Jews as “a very rich, also very tragic, also in many ways desperate history of extremes—opposites in the Hegelian sense…”

Golda Meir in 1948
Arab Refugees Crowding a Britih Ship Carrying them to Acre

By sheer happenstance, right after the Meir review, I came upon the Start-Up Nation Central’s recent survey of Israel’s technology sector. It encompassed “734 founders and CEOs of startups and managing directors of venture capital funds representing a sample of 521 firms in the Israeli tech ecosystem… Among the respondents were 615 leaders of startup companies and 119 investor executives.” A growing lack of confidence in and commitment to Israel is the story that emerges. The tech sector constitutes upwards of 16% of Israel’s GDP, approximately 50% of its exports, and 25% of its revenues from income tax. Its workforce is a robust 400,000, 11% of the population. The declared reason for the angst is the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul. The underlying theme is the supposedly changing character of Israel.

If the findings are accurate and the trends hold, then we are upon an inflection point in that country, one entirely of its own making. As I was looking at the results, I thought about Golda Meir and wondered whether any of the surveyed Israeli techies who might soon be packing up realizes that there was always a straight line running from her to ministers like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, the rising stars of this “new Israel.” I wondered if Meir herself would recognize that line and draw a different lesson from her encounter with the Palestinian woman in Haifa.

And then, by the end of the week, the very personal dovetails with the communal, delivering news you never ever want to hear. A loved one has a form of cancer. It’s not life threatening, thankfully. But he is the latest in a series grappling with the same. None of us is young anymore–well, in the strict meaning of the word, that is. But the accumulation of the years compels the inevitable questions. Those that none of us really wants to answer just yet.


On Another Note

Recently, I listened to UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers interviewing Edward Luttwak about mainly Ukraine and China. Every fascinating insight the American author and strategist offers, with plenty of insider info, runs contrary to what we are told by the usual roster of Western analysts and pundits.

The gist? Ponder peace sooner than later in the case of Ukraine, and war sooner than later in that of China.

Have  a listen!

And once you’ve read this post’s tally of human cruelty and listened to Luttwak, salvation this Sunday may well lie in Robert Harrison’s rendition on Amor Mundi, Love of the Worl, as always on his Entitled Opinions podcast. Heads up: once you’re done with it, you will find out you need to listen to it again–and again. 

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