As a ceasefire takes hold in Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians remain two peoples haunted by their own history – ABC News

Posted By on May 25, 2021

Jacques Derrida spoke of people who have the bread of apocalypse in their mouths. These are the people formed by history haunted by history, as Derrida would have seen it.

History is a ghost returning over and over.

Derrida asked: "What does it mean to follow a ghost?" We are "persecuted", he said, "by the very chase we are leading ... The future comes back in advance: from the past, from the back."

This week we have been reminded of how history haunts us with the renewed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: a conflict rooted in history and tied to identity. On one side Israelis who carry the Shoah the Hebrew word for 'catastrophe' to describe the Holocaust in their souls.

Words alone cannot capture the horror of the killing of six million Jewish people in Nazi death camps.

For Jewish people who have vowed "never again" the homeland of Israel is a haven against a world of persecution.

The Palestinians are forged by the Nakba catastrophe in Arabic when 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. People exiled longing for a homeland of their own.

This isn't to compare suffering but to say that suffering matters to those who have suffered.

I know of this. As an Indigenous person I was born into my own people's history of invasion and colonisation and our struggle to survive.

Throughout the world there are peoples whoknow a dark history. Peoples who each carry what the Polish poetCzeslaw Miloszcalled "the memory of wounds".

AP: Adel Hana

Ours is an age of identity. And as the Indian philosopher and economist,Amartya Sen,wrote at its worst, "identity can also killand killwith abandon".

Sen had seen the violence of Hindu and Muslim in his own country. "For a bewildered child," he wrote, "the violence of identity was extraordinarily hard to grasp."

Dividing ourselves, he said, puts us in boxes: it "miniaturises" us.

There is always tension in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but recently they have intensified and this week, they erupted.

Yet it is so seductive. We seek the permanence of belonging and we cling to those with whom we share history. The pull of history, the memory of wounds, is irresistible.

Throughout our world, those who have been displaced, slaughtered, persecuted bind themselves to historical grievance.

We pit ourselves against each other: separated by race or faith or nation.

These have been the conflicts of our time. The conflicts I have reported around the world.

There are those who seek to find a common humanity yet there are others who wrap themselves in history and identity.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin speaks of the collapse of the Soviet Union as the great catastrophe of the 20th century. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan reminds his people of the end of the Ottoman Empire. Donald Trump came to power promising to make America great again. And in China, President Xi Jinping pledges to avenge the hundred years of humiliation by foreign powers.

Can we ever truly escape the past?

In his 2017 book, In Praise of Forgetting, journalist and philosopher David Rieff challenged the adage that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Rieff, who had covered the wars of the Balkans also wars of identity knew that at times we could havetoo much history. He warned that "thinking about history is far more likely to paralyse than encourage". He sayswe risk turning it into a "formula for unending grievance and vendetta".

As James Joyce someone who struggled with the weight of Ireland's tragic history wrote: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."

In his Nobel laureate speech, Czeslaw Milosz said: "Crimes against human rights, never confessed and never publicly denounced, are a poison which destroys the possibility of a friendship between nations."

Israelis and Palestinians are divided by their own history. What chance of a two-state solution Israel and Palestine existing side by side when the possibility of peace shatters against those hard questions of history?

What should be the borders of those states? Who owns Jerusalem? What of the holy places of both faiths? What are the rights of return of Palestinian refugees?

Watching the events of the past week, I have turned again to those writers like Milosz, who offer a light in the darkness.

In his Nobel speech, Milosz confessed that he had "felt the pull of despair, of impending doom, and reproached myself for succumbing to a nihilistic temptation".

I know that too well.

Poetry, Miloszsaid, preserved his sanity and "in a dark age, expressed a longing for the Kingdom of Peace and Justice".

It is hard to hear poetry when the bombs are falling and the rockets are firing but mercifully now there is a ceasefire and with it a hope there may yet be a chance that a new generation of Israeli and Palestinian children will not be raised with thebread of apocalypse in their mouths.

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As a ceasefire takes hold in Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians remain two peoples haunted by their own history - ABC News

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