Speaking Difference

Recurring in many different places over the short last while, Joshua Simon’s edited contribution to Sternberg Press’s Solution series, Solution 196-213: United States of Palestine-Israel, circumscribes the situation in terms both critical and full of hope. Perhaps as a method of speaking difference, Simon offers the following proposal in his introduction:

The State of Israel defines itself as a democratic Jewish state. Its sovereignty is underlain by Judaism as ethnicity, religious orthodoxy, and nationality. The subordination to the ethnic, religious, national, and security discourses blocks any attempt for civic and class discourses to happen. These discourses are actually able to open up new and varied alliances that transgress the national, ethnic, and religious conventions that dominate the political reality…the solutions in this book operate within inhabited fictions and embodied narratives. They use speculation and invention as critical tactics for destabilizing the beaten, antagonistic identities while also suggesting new alliances and new horizons (8-10).

Augmenting the notion of civil society to disregard (or cross over) the distinction between Israelis and Palestinians may increase interdependencies between groups of people who otherwise understand themselves in opposition. For instance, mothers could band together over a shared concern around peace, so that their children would not be raised in an environment of civil war and hate. It’s a simple suggestion, but despite a history of displacement, or as Simon characterizes it, “a thesis of hope and an antithesis of pain, together creating a synthesis of history,” there are many shared concerns amongst the people who live in the region. Articulating these may move them into being, as the basis for policy decisions or personal actions because it acknowledges that there is a common good to organize around.

This work will  be hard and conceivably frightening, in part because there is a large chance of its failure. So many efforts before to conjure peace have failed. And yet, confronting this risk of being wrong seems like the only way to maybe be right, or to offer a solution that might move beyond conception and into the intimate lives of people.


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