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Via Dolorosa (2000)

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Articulate - even eloquent - but hopelessly wrong
21 August 2016 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

I missed his performance of Via Dolorosa in New York but was intrigued by what he thought of Israeli/Palestinian issues and therefore rented the DVD of his performance.

Many of Hare's expressed assumptions are false. Thus, for example, though Hare may be nominally Christian, Hare believes that Christianity no longer has any essential meaning for Westerners; I don't know why - he seems only to speak for himself. And thus, the Jewish settlers' application of religious belief as a basis for anyone's "real present day world" belief about politics or morality is treated by Hare with "slap on the forehead" incredulity. It is offensive, and more indicative of Hare's absence of religious belief than of anything peculiar about the settlers, to hear Hare speak of religion as an absurd basis for action or belief.

Time and again, Hare states the central problem for Israel as the necessary primacy of a certain consciousness, set of attitudes or "thoughts" over mere "ownership" of "stones" (i.e., sovereignty over land). It is apparently this reluctance to cede ownership of territory that Hare believes is at the root of the mutual enmity of Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Hare assumes that the Palestinians' central desire is mere sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip - and with these desires granted, all will be well: Arabs may want stones - Israel should not care about them.

Yet even by this double standard, Hare is mistaken. if the Arabs formed the PLO years before 1967 with the express intention of destroying any Jewish homeland in the Middle East - and in fact the vast majority of Arabs sought the eradication of Jews from Palestine before 1948 - then what does this say about Hare's assumption that somehow relinquishing control over particular land acquired in 1967 would end the enmity? But the desired conclusion of the Arab "struggle" is the termination of a Jewish state - check any opinion poll.

The majority of Jews in Israel have no descendants who ever lived in Europe - they or their parents or grandparents fled from elsewhere in North Africa or the Middle East. Hare gives no sign of understanding this - and sees Israel somehow as an offshoot of Europe. It was not the absorption of the West Bank that caused Jews to be persecuted and expelled from the rest of North Africa and the Middle East.

Thus, Hare's astonishment that some Israelis could disagree with the Oslo Accords in 1993 because those accords contemplate the emergence of a Palestinian state, is strange when the existence of such a state would constitute another step in the intended destruction of Israel.

Hare is also blind in his reference to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as "conquered territories". All inhabited territory on earth has been conquered from other peoples. E.g., England IS conquered territory - certainly from the time of the invasions by Jutes, Angles and Saxons through the Danes to the Normans. They didn't leave.

Following World War II, within a few years of the creation of Israel, there were expulsions of people from territories, and expropriation of property, on a vast scale around the globe - in Tibet, in Inner Mongolia, in Taiwan by the retreating Nationalists, in the Sudetenland by the Czech government. Such expansion and contraction, the emergence and disappearance of peoples and states are true throughout the world and throughout history.

Thus, even if Hare were correct in his assumption that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian enmity were the cession of the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- --why is Israel (a very small country) alone to be required to lose much if not most of its territory? Simply because they failed to force the Palestinians to emigrate to surrounding Arab countries? This makes little moral sense.

Hare also speaks of the terrible poverty in the Gaza Strip. There is poverty - but neighboring Egypt and Jordan are more impoverished. Indeed, the West Bank is the most affluent non-oil producing Arab majority area in the world. If the Arabs in the West Bank are indeed wealthier there than in neighboring countries - and continue to live there rather than emigrate - obviously the humiliation of checkpoint searches (and who can say THOSE are unnecessary given the horrors of the violence against civilians?), is insufficient to motivate people to improve their lives by moving. There's no Iron Curtain preventing emigration.

Hare strangely appears to assume that a nation's sovereignty should never cost the lives of those in its defense. At one point, he repeats the statement by an Israeli military officer that though Israel had lost 20,000 lives to violence since its creation, the loss had been justified by the creation of a sovereign country for the Jews. Hare sees this as somehow wrong - an improper elevation of "ownership" of land and of "stones" over human lives and "thoughts".

Would Hare say that the vastly greater losses by the USSR in World War II were not worth it to avoid the loss of "land" (i.e., the country) to Germany? How much of the USSR should have been given up to Nazi Germany to avoid those losses - because its "real value" lay in the performance of Tchaikovsky's symphonies or the reading of Turgenev, rather than there mere "stones" of Russia? The preservation of sovereignty always costs lives - many of them - and if successful, is deemed worthwhile by survivors.

Hare's assumptions that religion is a terrible basis for conduct and belief, that acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute the whole of Palestinian desires, that Israel's acquisition of these areas was somehow different from all nations' acquisition of their own lands, that defense of the homes of countrymen constitutes a wrongful elevation of mere stones above the "intellectual heritage" of the people - all strike me as very wrong-headed.


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