Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The word usually applies to a seat in a theatre, or a WC, such as on an airplane. It can be far more sinister, however, such as occupied France, occupied Tibet, or occupied Palestine.

Arthur Neslen has written an illuminating book called “Occupied Minds”. Mr. Neslen interviewed fifty Israelis, with determination to achieve a wide variety of perspectives. I think I know why he entitled his work as he did, since virtually none of those interviewed (with the possible exceptions of the anarchist and the Mossad agent), actually understood the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Some were able to criticize and even condemn what the Israeli Defense Force had become, acting as an occupation force, with the task of subjugating a population bent on freeing itself from occupation. Even the man whose family had moved to Safed (in the northern Galilee area of Israel) in the fifteenth century, and complained about Arab violence, used an occasion of violence (in 1929) which occurred twelve years after European Jews declared their intention not merely to move to Palestine but to take it over. The Balfour declaration in 1917 made that clear to Palestinians, and Ahad Haam criticized the colonial behavior of Jewish settlers fifteen years before Balfour. The Israeli couldn’t understand that an indigenous people didn’t want to be occupied or dispossessed.

An equally intriguing collection of essays is entitled “Wrestling with Zion”. Written by liberal American Jews they deal with their conflicts over Israel’s actions and policies. The essays make clear how conflicted American Jews can be over the actions and policies of the nation-state which claims to act on behalf of Jews the world over (rather than on behalf of all its citizens).

An observation made by one of the interviewed Jews in Seth Farber’s “Rabbis, Radicals and Peacemakers” is particularly illuminating. These are opponents of Israel, and one of them observed that a substantial portion of the American Jewish opposition to Israel is homosexual; Farber asked why that was so. The respondent answered that once one disenthralls oneself from one set of tribal lies (regarding homosexuality), it is much easier to disenthrall oneself regarding tribal myths about Israel.

Therein is the “key”, to disenthrall oneself from the myriad of tribal and cultural myths which dictate which truth and truths we can embrace. These constructs, “myths” (and the mass media which modifies them for other purposes) determine the parameters of thinkable thought, and what lies “outside the mainstream” is not even considered. This constitutes the truly “occupied mind” --in Israel or America.


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