The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cruising for a bruising....


Wide and I are about to head off into the roiling cauldron of Israel and the OPTs, in less than a week. 2006 was, quite rightly, designated a year of crisis for the region by UK governmental reports and the media alike. And over the past few days, a further addition to the already pitiable situation of the OPTs has re-surfaced; the very real prospect of an inter factional civil meltdown of the two Palestinian political parties- Hamas and Fateh. Hopefully the talks brokered by Egypt will diffuse the situation; but it's difficult to know exactly how much use either party will be in easing the suffering of other Palestinian civilians.

As an organisation, the governing body has the right to administer education, health care, environmental protection and other essential civil functions. And yet, whoever rolls out on top of this scrum (democratically elected or not), they may not be able to carry out even these most basic of duties- tax revenues for this being currently withheld by the occupying power. So the doctors, policemen, teachers and dustbin men have not received a salary since March 2006. Amazingly, the strikes and closures only started a few months ago.

How does a nation function when it has no legitimate source of income? When the goodwill of its citizens inevitably runs out, who will step up act as the banker? What allegiances will be made? Who else will the state become beholden to? Who, exactly, is the current financial stranglehold targeted at- and do they really have the power to make it stop?

It's a far cry from the countries I visited when I was younger.

I remember Israel/Palestine through a series of flashbulb memories. The view between my father's arms as he swung me over his shoulders, walking down the Via Dolorosa away from a heated bartering session. The stinging sensation of foolhardily entering the Dead Sea with fresh grazes down my legs, and the acrid, unspeakable taste of the water. The coolness of the Church of the Nativity and its damp darkness after the heat of the sun outside. The unmistakable perfume of oranges in the dappled orchards, and the tanned, dusty width of the roads on the crossing to Jordan.

It seems that as we get older, more and more of the layers of comfort are stripped away from our worlds. We become aware of the political maps of areas, a painful palimpsest over natural beauty or architectural splendour. Here is your workplace-where you cannot work. This road is where the school run feels like a gauntlet. Here are the fields that your family can no longer farm. On that hill, someone was killed.

I think the next fortnight will be, for me, a negotiation: internally, with my own idealism, memories and guilt- and externally, with people whose opinions challenge mine- some times diametrically. I'm glad Wide will be with me- so at least I know I'll win some of the arguments!
-my secret strangulation method works every time....


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