JULY 2006

Professor Yehoshua, a talk in the Writer's Centre, Dublin in June.
review by Jocelyn Braddell, editor

Black listed by the Ireland Palestine Support Group because I attended this talk and subsequently the reading a week later by amir \or at the Writer's Festival Project Centre, I certainly feel obliged to write on some matters of interest in regard to the Professor.

Initially I was surprised by the first enquiry on the agenda by the presenter who asked Yehoshua about the rapid activity subsequent to the explosion of a suicide bomb - that all sign of a corpse, of blood of destruction is cleared from an Israeli site immediately. I had not at the time realised that his latest book is about such an event. However I felt that Yehoshua's reply might have made the audience ill at ease - he spoke of Israeli tradition that ensured natural death a respectful rite and military death, likewise a traditional rite honouring the soldier .... however, he said, the Israeli authorities have not thought about the sudden death of the anonymous citizen, the man at the bus-stop, the pregnant woman in the bus; these people killed before the eyes of the public are some kind of embarassment to the authorities - thus all evidence of the tragic event must be hidden at once and the lack of tradition repressed.. In my notes, thinking on the moment, I myself suggest that such a reaction is a counterfeit explanation of the bad publicity that a successful Palestinian hit must bring about in Israeli consciousness. I had not expected the interview to launch into political matters - but ofcourse such was not the intention and words followed that discussed the technique of writing, and the particular rhythms of Yehoshua's practise, the dreaded initial stage of a project.

Inevitably the psychology of characterisation for the writer came to the fore - how ever Yehoshua dismissed this with a perjorative explanation that "knowledge of psychology gives people the impression that they know everything there is to know - but that is a total error and every characterisation must be considered as a unique case - for that is the truth, the psycological labyrinth cannot define a type that is a paradigm. Knowledge of psychological schema does not eliminate the question of morality on either side of a tragic event.

There followed a discussion of marriage dissolution that is confined to the writer's social interests that sheers well away from the borderline political discussion that seemed tempting to follow up. However a question was asked about religion and Yehoshua observed that people cannot get answers from literature for their spiritual problems and seem to be turning to fundamentalist religions.

A reference was then made to the messages we had received in the Press that Prof. Yehoshua had deeply offened American Jews by saying that they were not Real Jews as they wore the coat of the American and could not devote themselves to the true Jews real interests which are the social and political affairs in Israel. He had m ore or less asked them what they were afraid of as although the numbers of Jews living in Palestine had deteriorated from 4-6 millions in ancient times to a mere million - however the numbers of Jews counted among the global members of the diaspora had now reversed this disaster and now ensured Jewish survival in the Middle East . Thus there is nothing to make them feel insecure in their adopted country or any need to assimilate with that country as all their energies should go to the survival of the Israeli nation. He said "It is an obligatory relationship" Well infact ofcourse anyone interested in Jewish matters knows that from time immemorial jews have completely failed to assimilate in the cou tries of their dispersion casting in that manner a calamitous veil of anti-semitism around themselves. It has only been since the second World War that young Jews have been marrying outside their tribal relationships and altogether casting off any interest in the Middle East to which they feel alien.

Professor Yehoshua went on to discuss the influences of the American writer Faulkner and the Jewish writer Kafka on his work. Kafka he said, was "living for the world" and of Faulkner he praised his multi-monologues and writing in "several layers" that very much attracted him.

Asked about his interests in the indigenous inhabitants of his country he maintained that the Arabs were always very important to him, whether Israeli Arabs or Palestinians. Referring to a short story of his called Facing the Forest in which there is a close relationship between a solitary writer and an Arab who, revealed latterly, as a man who had had his tongue cut out - he intended to totally repress any sense of plot in the story, an impasse of time and place that restrained any argument that would have terminated the stress and depiction of the writer in the story. In alternate aspects he said that he had a great interest in Arab medaeval poetry and he believes that it is up to every individual Jew to learn and try to understand the Arab as "We must find a way" to communicate and live with them. "I have empathy with them" he said, "but I see them at eye-level - the same level as I judge myself and as neighbourly as I judge myself"

Incited to continue by emotion as it were he claimed that it is necessary for Israel to make an unconditional retreat from certain areas of Palestine and decrease the level of bloodshed. "I don't approve of this action of constant killing" He went on to discuss the large numbers of Russians that are now in Israel who came there not as Jews but only because they had a distant relative or grandparent who had been Jewish. They now have their own political poarty under Lieberman. And the Ashkenazis - what of them? Here with a rapid excitement he broke into a complaint that the Ashkenazi's do not commute or socialise with the Sephardic Jews who are the original tribes of Jews that history in the Bible describes. Almost rising from his chair he reached up his arms instead to claim that his problem with them is that only a small group of Ashkenazis rule and control within the Government. "Bravo" I cried out from the audience, my interuption faded immediately in his rapid talk !With a hint of emotion he eased into his acceptance nevertheless of the Russian Christians amongst them. The Russian Orthodox Church, that was melding its culture with the Jews. Also he set the pace again into a rapid complaint about present conditions in Jerusalem that he insisted should be declared an International Religious City, that must be stabilised and recognised internationally by Law. Jerusalem he said can never and must never be a culminating political problem .

And thus his talk came to an end and everyone went off for a glass of wine. Eight policemen waited outside but not to arrest any of us, and we did not have to pass through the airport scanner in the hall a second time incase we were now bringing out any lethal thoughts.

Professor Yehoshua is a Sephardic Jew and it would have been nice to start a discussion about new investigations by Genetic Analysis. Recently in the newspapers it was announced that a genetic scan of a large number of Ashkenazis had come up with this result: 78% of them proved to be exactly genetically similar to Spanish Sephardic Jews. Into this debate we could have mentioned the possible fallacy of their link with an unknown race of Kazars who long ago disappeared but were reported to have a King who converted to Judaism. Details were long ago discussed by the writer Koestler and drawn out by him into an inclusive conversion of an entire tribe. This fantasy of which there is no possible proof is apparently enough for European Jews to have adopted the name of Noah's grandson as their tribal resolution. Ashkenazis who presently pay no attention to the work and social problems of their indigenous relatives - just as the following paragraph indicates:

For months, the deliberate firing of hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians in towns such as Sderot and other Gaza-area communities has hardly elicited a yawn outside Israel. The fact that most Sderot residents are working-class, dark-skinned Sephardic Jews, many of them (or their immediate forebears) refugees from Arab countries that brutally expelled them some decades ago, did nothing to stir sympathy for them. There is simply no cachet and no romance here, no “Save Sderot” marches,... not a whiff of censure of the Palestinians.

might in the future have to record this "unfortunate" result very widely both in the diaspora and in Israel itself. Peretz, the new Defense Minister in Olmert's government is a native of Sderot who will now be the traditional scapegoat of the Ashkenazis who must isolate and disarm the people of Gaza.A problem that is now exacerbated by the very political existence of Gaza which has taken a "prisoner of war" in a daring an technically military exercise - demanding the release of children and women from Israel's gaols where hundreds are held without trial in both cruel and unhealthy conditions.

Amusingly enough Raymond Deane (IPSC)diffused his leaflet of protest, in reference a week later
to Amir Or, the poet, ("that should not be taken as a criticism of the poet's work"). Or had already, with a portrait of himself as a romantic young man, made a stupd racist remark in a letter to the Irish Times, in that Israel "as the only democracy in the Middle East" demands respect, and refused the offer that the ISPC had made to pay his fare to Ireland, and ensure his rejection of Arts Council finance. The poet's verses were monotously polarised between "Yes" and "No" in many alternatives that gave them no certain merit of individuality.
So Raymond what is the excuse for your climb-down and why should you chastise Senator David Norris who tried to disabuse your protest against Professor Yehoshua and the Writer's Centre in the Teacher's Club, Parnell Square?

poems by amir or...


The perfect murder has no reasons, he said,
the perfect murder needs only a perfect object,
as it was in Auschwitz.
Not the crematoria, of course, but as it was
afterwards, outside working hours.
And he fell silent
looking at the froth on the beer
and taking a sip.

The perfect murder is love, he said.
The perfect murder doesn’t require anything perfect
except giving
as much as you can.
Even the memory of gripping the throat
is eternal. Even the howls that rocked my hand,
even the piss that fell like grace on cold flesh,
even the heel of the boot awakens another eternity,
even the silence,
he said,
looking at the froth.

True, a decent job frees a lot, but
a perfect murder doesn’t lose
a drop,
like the lips of a child, he explained,
like sand and froth,
like you,
sipping and listening.

© Translation: 1997, Tsipi Keller


I look through the monkeys’ eyes,
as they play with my skull in the treetops.
I’m lifted with the eagle as he flies
because my entrails are in his;
in the belly of the earth
I crawl with worms
who ate my eyes out of my sockets;
I am green, I grow in the grass
That my rotting flesh makes rich.
O my body
How you have grown!


It was not in vain that we awaited the barbarians,
it was not in vain that we gathered in the city square.
It was not in vain that our great ones donned their official robes
and rehearsed their speeches for the event.
It was not in vain that we smashed our temples
and erected new ones to their gods;
as proper we burnt our books
that have nothing in them for people like that.
As the prophesy foretold the barbarians came,
and took the keys to the city from the king’s hand.
But when they came they donned the garments of the land,
and their customs were the customs of the state;
and when they commanded us in our own tongue
we no longer knew when
the barbarians had come to us. 

In contrast Professor Yehoshua's short stories, The Continuing Silence of a Poet, are worth a read to pick up the bleak mesmerising problem of a writer in his own land - there is no faulting him in narrative cowardice, and as for poetic synthesis the silence is an expanse of time passing through the lines like a knife amid the debris of fear, stagnation and dross. That stagnation that reels through his stories is surely created by the Ashkenazi inheritance of Europe and America - that deadly black sense of security that must prevail over everything.Jocelyn Braddell©

Genetic tests indicate that Ashkenazim Jews are also the direct descendants of the Israelites, and their DNA confirms their ancestry from the ancient Middle East. Genetics studies show that Ashkenazim Jews are more closely related to Yemenite Jews, Assyrian Jews, Sephardic Jews, Kurdish Jews, and Arabs than they are to European peoples, and that hardly any intermarriage or conversion has occurred to affect the Jewish groups over the centuries.*

When the Khazarian rulers converted to Judaism (and also before), they established religious freedom, which was a determinant fact to attract those persecuted minorities in Europe and the Islamic countries to immigrate into their kingdom. Besides the Jewish population already living in Khazaria, a large number of Jews persecuted in the Byzantine Empire and other areas fled to that land of freedom and prosperity. Jews came to Khazaria from Central Asia, Caucasus, Balkans, Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and even from Western Europe, as documented by al-Masudi, Sa'adiyah Gaon, the Schechter Letter and other accounts. The Arab writer Dimashqi wrote that these refugee Jews offered their religion to the Khazars and that they "found it better than their own and accepted it".* Jewish immigrants quickly outnumbered the native Jews of the kingdom.

.......The great majority of the Jewry, which had until then lived under the shelter of Arab rule, fled eastward to escape the new inquisition in Spain, and reached Ukraine, Poland and Russia, where they met with Jews who had been continuously migrating there from Germany since the
11th century c.e. Most of East European Jews migrated from the west to the east of the continent, and were not descended from the inhabitants of the Khazar Empire.

Polish "shtetl" life is completely extraneous to the Khazars.
The majority of Polish Jews came from the west, not the east.

There are no places in Poland that may recall Khazar origin.
Most Ashkenazi Jews have Germanic, not Khazar, surnames and customs.

There's not any relevant trace of the Khazarian language among Jews, on the contrary, the Ashkenazim's tongue, Yiddisch, is evidently of German origin.*