Thursday, December 13, 2012

History Is Complicated

History is a complicated thing.

It is complicated because history is simply the lives of people lived out.  

What makes it complicated is when we peel back the onion, as my Princeton history teacher calls it, we find that it is a delicate balance of whose story gets told and through what lens that story is filtered.

Such is the case with Palestine.

We were recently discussing (MOOC-style, coursera.org, History of the World Since 1300) WWII and all the events that led up to it, the things that happened during it, and the nation states that resulted.  

One can not talk about WWII without mention of the Nazi's regime building in Europe which resulted in the eradication of the Jews from Hungary, Germany, Poland, and all points surrounding the empire to the gypsies, disabled, and anyone else not Aryan.  

The lens since 1946 has been one of sympathy for the Jewish people who suffered during the Holocaust and the survivors who lived with the nightmares and the descendants who remember what happened in 1938 -  Kristallnacht  .  It was unspeakable.

History sometimes tells the convenient stories of the scribes who witness it or the propaganda of the governments that orchestrate the events.  

When the newly formed League of Nations carved out a spot to put the Jewish refugees who were now stateless during a time in history when lines were being drawn and states were being made - again - they forgot about the people who for centuries had already been in their state - the Arabs, the Palestinians.

I am a visual learner and as such, stumbled upon a Hulu exclusive drama entitled The Promise.  I decided to watch it since we had just finished the lectures about the British soldiers in places many Westerners know little about - Gaza, Hebron, the West Bank, Palestine.  

The drama depicted the other side of the page that is often left unsaid or unspoken - the atrocities committed by the Zionists, the settlers, in their quest for statehood against the peoples that were already there,.  The atrocities that continue to this day.

I watched and listened to the betrayals, the outright killings - British soldiers shot in broad daylight by Jewish men (not a military yet) to a Jewish orthodox woman calling an orthodox Arab woman a whore - both women were covered in headscarves, long dresses, modest - just to intimidate, Jewish schoolboys throwing rocks at Arab school girls.  The Jewish independence day is also the Arab day of mourning.  I watched entire homes blown up with memories and possessions inside so the Jewish settlers could build bigger and bigger estates, driving the Arabs further and further up into the mountains with less and less land.

My heart and head raced during the lectures and the six hours of the drama (four parts) that were based on a young British woman who took her gap year in Israel with her young British (and Jewish) friend who had to go back to Israel to do her two years of military service.  The British girl found her grandfather's diary and through his writings, traveled back in time to the mid 1940s. The show depicted Palestine then and now and the things that happened in establishing Israel, the things that displaced one people to help another people have a home.

The other day, while musing about the show and the place of history and the recent events in Palestine (UN granting statehood), I posted a status that essentially said History is complicated and involves humans. In one instance, a people are persecuted and in fear of it ever happening again, seek a homeland to no longer be persecuted, yet in seeking that homeland, displace those who have been there for centuries, and end up being the ones who do the persecuting. It is very, very complicated and muddied as the years go by. Is the killing that happened to one justification for the killing of many?

It bothers me because I have friends who are Jewish and friends who are Muslim.

I am a preacher's daughter so I, like many American Christians, was raised to have sympathy for the Jewish people, to remember the Holocaust, to be empathetic, to go to the Museum, to remember so it would never happen again.

History, as I stated, is complicated because people are complicated.  

What about the Holocaust of the slaves in the Triangular Slave Trade? Or the Serbs? or the Turks? Or the Armenians? or what is happening in Africa now or what about the atrocities of what happened to the Chinese at the hands of the Japanese during WWII?  The onion, is smelling and messy and more and more layers lead to more and more questions.

The movie, like the class, left me feeling a bit sad, yet hopeful.  Is it possible for people to put down a centuries old hatred to simply exist on this planet as human beings when the question of "why?" never seems to be adequately answered?

Why?

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